Friday, October 11, 2013

Continuing Education Credits

We are so thankful that several of our local adoption and foster care licensing agencies have agreed to offer credits for your attendance at the retreat in September! Please contact your own agency or organization for more details on that. Below is a list of our breakout sessions (each one hour in length) that might be helpful for you in submitting your requests for credit.

The Transracial Family: Biblical wisdom and practical experience from adoptive moms Susan Norris and Jennifer Junkin on transracial adoption (Session #1)

The Ministry of Orphan Care: Invaluable information from Altar 84 co-founders Polly Bice and Jodie Frye on building an orphan care ministry through your local church (Session #1)

Honoring Your Child’s Story and the Birth Family: Lifeline's Traci Newell (and adoptive/foster mom) will discuss ways to honor birth parents as well as ways to handle discussions with your children about their adoption or foster care stories (Session #1)

 Our Beautiful Mess: A Time for Foster Moms: Encouragement and practical experience from foster mom Catie Lumpkin (Session #2)

This is Hard! The First 6 Months Home: Excellent wisdom from adoptive mom Deidre King and Kelly Curry (of the UAB International Adoption Clinic at Children's Hospital) on what to expect in the first 6 months home with an internationally adopted child (Session #2)

An Honest Look at HIV and the Orphan: Medical facts and practical wisdom from adoptive mom Suzanne Mayernick (of 147 Million Orphans) and Jenny Clark (from Project Hopeful) (Session #2)

 African American Haircare: Practical hair help for moms adopting or fostering children of other races from Lifeline's Felicity Blunt (Session #3)

Love Never Fails-Nurturing Attachment: Encouragement and education for adoptive and foster moms on practical ways to promote attachment while also connecting with children who are in foster care or have been adopted. This session will be taught by Kristin Lowrey and Lisa Keane from the Alabama Baptist Children's Home. (Session #3)

Sustaining Marriage Through the Adoption and Foster Care Journey: Fun and supportive session with Gwen Oatsvall (from 147 Million Orphans) on nurturing your marriage during the difficult journey of foster care or adoption. (Session #3)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What a weekend!

In all our born days, never have we been more tired yet so full of joy. From our worship team to our sponsors and vendors to our speakers to every single one of you who attended, we thank you ALL from the bottoms of our hearts for the many roles you played to make the Unfailing Love Retreat such an incredible weekend.

We cannot tell you how much we loved being in your company. You are our favorites, foster and adoptive mamas, and we think you make an amazing tribe.

We are overcome as we think of how much the Lord has done in each of our own hearts and lives through the work of this retreat. He has changed each of us in ways that we could never explain in one little bitty blog post. All honor and glory are God's, and we are so honored to have had a front row seat to His theater of provision and sovereignty!  

Now, we really would love to hear from you all regarding your own personal thoughts and reflections on the retreat. Please complete this survey (you can do so anonymously) to help provide some feedback that will be very helpful for our planning team!

We say this without hesitation: we love each and every one of you so very much. Thank you for honoring us with your support of this very special weekend!

Also, one question we have already received time and again is how you ladies can get ahold of Gary's and Stephanie's "We are Waiting" song. Just go to iTunes, search The Station Praise Band, and then select Track #4 on that album. Comment, email, or Facebook us if you have trouble finding it. That song has meant so much to so us, and we are so happy to see it encourage you all as well!

"We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our trust in You."
Psalm 33:20-22

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Partnering Sponsor: Walk 153

In the book of James, James tells believers that pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  As the number of children going to bed each night without a mother and father keeps rising to an estimated 153 million orphans in the world today, we believe James words challenge us now more than ever before.  That’s why Walk 153 is so important and it’s why we need your help.
So what is Walk 153?  The purpose of Walk 153 is to raise awareness of the orphan crisis in the world today.  On Sunday, November 3rd, we challenge you to WALK with us as a commitment to the calling in James.  Believers will join together at Hoover High School, Buccaneer Stadium, and walk for 153 minutes reflecting on the need for orphan care.  Yes, we will be walking, but there will be lot of music, food, and inspiring testimonies from families that have already adopted or our in the process.  IT WILL BE LOTS OF FUN!
One focus of Walk 153 is to help children around the world be united with their forever families.  Walk 153 is a tremendous resource in providing adoption assistance to families in the process of bringing their children home.  Last year, we were able to help support the adoption of 4 families.  Praise the Lord, He has given us a new vision and a way to help more families bring home their precious child.  If you are interested in learning more about how Walk 153 can help your adoption, visit our website at
Walk 153 also partners with ministries around the globe to provide orphan care.  Last year, Walk 153 provide orphans in Uganda with tables and chairs where they can have meals, study God’s Word, and do their school work.  Monies raised have also provided textbooks for these children to be able to increase the quality of their education.  We also provide mosquito nets for orphans which is critical to their survival.   This year, we hope the money you give will help buy bricks to build a school in a village in Mundri Sudan where currently Christian children are denied the opportunity to learn.  There are so many needs, both here and around the world!   Walk 153 will continue to partner with orphan care ministries and our commitment is to always give 100% of all monies raised to adoption assistance and orphan care.  Our grand total raised last year was over $30,000!  And we give GOD ALL THE GLORY!
Does the call in James challenge YOU to care for orphans?  Will you join us on Orphan Sunday, the first Sunday of November, to walk for 153 million orphans who desperately need your help?  Thank you for supporting Walk 153…because the number keeps rising.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vendor Spotlight: Both Hands

Both Hands Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to “serve widows, orphans, and adoptive families.” Both Hands purpose is to help people raise funds for adoption funding and orphan care, while serving widows through home improvement projects.

The journey leading to Both Hands has been decades in the making. When both of his parents passed away in a car accident, founder JT Olson and his four siblings found themselves orphaned. He was taken in and raised by an aunt and uncle, and now completely understands the need for millions of children in orphanages all over the world to find loving families and homes.

Decades later, while sending letters out to friends and family asking for sponsorship for a golf charity, JT received a reply letter from a friend that said, “JT, if you told me you were working on a widow’s house, I might sponsor you. Nice cause, but not my money.” A few years later, JT heard about another friend’s adoption costs and unveiled an idea. (Hear the full story here –

Each Both Hands project starts with a team of volunteers who work on a widow’s house. Most of the time they do light repair, painting, de-cluttering, cleaning and landscaping. The team of volunteers also sends letters to their contacts requesting sponsorship for the day while they work on the widow’s house. It’s very similar to asking people to sponsor a 5K race or golf event; however, with Both Hands projects instead of playing, volunteers work on a widow’s home. Local merchants donate the supplies for the repairs on the widow’s house. The money raised through Both Hands projects goes to orphan care and adoption funding.

Click here to see an example project video -
To date, Both Hands has raised over $2,850,000, helped 303 widows, helped bring 325 orphans closer to forever families, enabled over 8,000 people to serve widows and orphans. Both Hands has completed over 290 projects raising funds for adoptions and orphanages around the world.

There are millions of orphans in the world and while we can’t change the world, we can make a world of difference to some. One of the main reasons people don’t proceed with the adoption process is because of the huge price tag, often times between $15,000-$30,000. Our vision is that there will be Both Hands projects happening every weekend, in every state in the US.

Every Both Hands project serves a widow through home improvement projects. The part that can change is how the funds are used to bless an orphan. Both Hands projects can be held to raise money to fund a specific family’s adoption cost, a church’s adoption fund, an orphan care initiative, or to continue the vision of Both Hands.

For more info please visit

Aimee SipeOperations ManagerBoth Hands Foundation
Mobile 615.480.4282

Both Hands mission is “to serve widows, orphans, and adoptive families.”
Our purpose is to help people raise funds for orphans while serving widows through home improvement projects.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vendor Spotlight: Rooted in Love

When I began the process to adopt from Ethiopia in February 2011, I had no idea that God would use the process to do SO MUCH MORE than I ever expected. We have yet to finish that adoption but we are waiting, with the hope that only comes from Christ, for that glorious day! In the meantime, God has “birthed” a ministry that is “rooted in love” and based on Ephesians 3:16:21.
I had always felt restless as to how I could make a long-term difference in missions worldwide from right here in Alabama. Through our adoption process, I learned about a number of ministries around the world who are using sustainable income initiatives as a means to share the Gospel of Christ. I began to purchase gifts for friends and family from those organizations and developed relationships with the missionaries behind the initiatives. I started following along with their journeys and watched the work that God was doing through them! I realized that most of the ministries’ had a great need for help in marketing their goods. It didn’t take long for me to sense that God was calling me to be the one to help!
I started Rooted in Love in September 2012 as a Missions Boutique that partners with Gospel-centered fair trade organizations. The goal is to provide meaningful shopping opportunities locally, and bring hope to families worldwide.
Rooted in Love currently partners with 9 different missions organizations in 8 different countries. The desire is not to make Rooted in Love a “brand,” but rather to be a voice for our partner organizations. The preferred method of shopping &marketing is through home shows. This allows us to tell the stories of the artisans and ultimately share the gospel of Christ in your very own living room. From time-to-time, we also set up as a vendor at craft fairs and local festivals. It's a fairly easy task once you grab people's attention with the adorable and trendy hand-made accessories made by artisans around the world!
So many organizations focus on poverty-alleviation today, and while that’s a good thing, it’s not the best thing. Our partner organizations have taken the hard route. Instead of just giving someone a handout and expecting them to want to accept Jesus as a result, these organizations have invested time, money, and their lives to not only meet needs, but teach these people a new way of life. Their relationship may begin with learning a craft, but as we all know, if you work with someone day after day, you develop an authentic relationship with them. After time, they become skilled in their craft, and needs begin to be met, but more importantly a trust develops. As that trust is built, a relationship forms, and the Gospel can land on fertile soil!
I can’t wait to meet you at the Unfailing Love Retreat, and experience some meaningful conversations and maybe a little shopping that is “Rooted in Love!”
"I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being
rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to
grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ really is, and to know this love
that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now
to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power
that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all
generations for ever and ever!" Ephesians 3:16-21

Friday, August 23, 2013

Vendor Spotlight: Grace to Ukraine

In 2007 my husband was studying the book of James and began to express to me that God had commanded us to care for orphans.  At the time, neither he nor I were entertaining any notions of adoption.  Well, here we are six years later, with 3 Ukrainian teens that we adopted when they were 10, 15 and 16 years old; a six year old son that we adopted domestically 3 years ago; and three additional older children on the way.  Even as our family has grown, we have seen the spiritual and material poverty of those left behind and felt compelled to do more. 

Because of the burden God placed on our hearts, my husband is on the board of The Hands and Feet Project, which builds orphanages in Haiti for the many kids there not available for adoption.  I am Founder and President of Grace to Ukraine, a hosting and outreach program for the orphaned and poor in the former Soviet country of Ukraine.  And we continue our support of local ministries like the Adullam House, where our 6 year old son was cared for.  I say all this to point out the reality that when God calls you to a task, such as orphan care, he provides the avenues and the means for you to do what He calls you to do.

This is nowhere more evident than in our work in Ukraine.  Grace to Ukraine was initially formed as a hosting organization.  We bring orphaned children to Alabama each summer.  It is a tremendous blessing to the children and it also gives the local body of Christ an opportunity to minister across the globe, without ever leaving Birmingham.  Although this was our initial focus, God opened the door for many more opportunities.  We have been able to nurture the relationships formed during hosting with trips to Ukraine as well as dependence upon the presence of missionaries and believers living in the region.  God lead us to an isolated and impoverished special needs orphanage which lacks the funds for disposable diapers or even mattress covers for their bedridden children.  We have covered their beds and are providing a monthly supply of diapers.  God ordained relationships that lead to us sending teams this summer to lead a Bible camp in the area from which we host.  He showed us a way to provide Jesus Storybook Bibles to children in Ukraine in their own language; when you buy the English version from us, we are able to give one to a child in Ukraine.  None of these things were on our radar when we formed Grace to Ukraine.  We would not have even dared to dream this big. 

This summer, 19 orphaned children, ages 9-16 will be in Alabama June 2nd-June 24th.  Many of them will hear the gospel for the first time.  All of them will leave knowing that they are loved.  We will be changed by their presence in our lives and become even more determined to make a difference, for them as well as for those left behind. We invite you to visit our website to see how you and your church might get involved this summer. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Vendor Spotlight: 147 Million Orphans


147 Million Orphans was created over 4 years ago to met the needs of adoptive families and vulnerable children.    It is a way to live out the passion and calling God has placed in our hearts. 

 THIS IS WHO WE ARE ... We are two moms who have a heart to care for orphans everywhere! We met nine years ago as both our families were going through our first adoptions (one domestic and one international) … Thirteen kids and seven adoptions later, we are bound together through faith and mission. We love “doing life together” and accepting the call to speak up for orphans everywhere.  We want to help as many people as possible to see the 147 million orphans as scripture calls them, “…those who have no voice.”   We want to help you find your YES in caring for an orphan ... Could it be adoption, sponsoring a child, volunteering for orphan care ministry, rocking babies at an orphanage, financially supporting someone adopting, or buying 147 products to provide food, water, and medicine?  The first YES is always the hardest, but impacting a child's life and bringing them hope is true JOY!!! Join us as we give a voice to the voiceless ... 

Let me tell you about the purposes of 147  1) To help adoptive families fundraise for their adoption (once you have an approved account with us then you can sell all of the 147 gear at wholesale and make the profits for your adoption).  2) Provide food, water, and medicine to children in need (50% of the profits of 147 go directly to our non-profit foundation to help further the current projects we have committed to) . 3) Present a message that raises awareness about the orphan crisis (we found out very fast that most people are unaware of the orphan crisis and that by seeing a 147 tee they asked questions and received answers.) 

We started simply with a t-shirt and some Ugandan necklaces.  We now have a full line of t-shirts for the entire family, handmade bags, and jewelry from the countries of Uganda, Honduras, and Haiti (each of these projects provide sustainable income the family of that country).  We have recently begun sending serving trips to Honduras and Uganda (please check out our website to find out how you can take your family on a trip that will change your family).  Our hopes are that the trips will grow and that hearts will open to serve children in need.  

We really are just 2 crazy families trying our best to live out / chase / and not trip over the calling God has placed on us ... Adoption and Serving - has been and is the greatest adventure we have ever been on.  

CHASING THE CALL, Gwen Oatsvall and Suzanne Mayernick