What will you be doing in Bulgaria?
The simplest answer we can give you...whatever God asks. Let's touch on that briefly, because that's really the most important part of this answer. The reality is this, God asked us to move to Bulgaria. We've said, "Yes" and everyday since, God has revealed another part of His plan for our family, while we're there.
I know, some of you are bigger picture kind of people. I get it. I'm not one, but I get it. Let me try to share where our hearts are and a little bit of what we hear God saying...
The absolute, most important reason that we're moving to Bulgaria and this is the one I struggle to share the most, because I think, many won't understand. We're going to "do life" with our friend, Toni and her family. We're going to love on them, share meals, laughter, encouragement, time. We're going to build stronger relationships and hopefully, to be someone they can depend on. I know, that some of you will think it's crazy to move a family of 7 across the ocean to simply be available to our friends. It's what God said to do. We find it to be outrageous, as well, but we serve a God who loves extravagantly, gives generously and does amazingly, incredibly outrageous things...think Abraham, Noah, Paul, Jonah. Our lives really aren't supposed to make sense to the world.
All of the other "things" that we'll be doing are secondary to building relationships with Toni, her family and anyone else that God places in our path. Relationships are first and foremost, the most important part of this journey.
Now, for my bigger picture friends, we'll be involved in orphan care. While we were in Bulgaria, visiting the boys' orphanages a couple of years ago, God really began to show us that the orphan problem is way bigger than we understood. Prior to that trip, they were numbers. We were doing our part by adopting and encouraging other families to join us on this journey of adoption. God began to show us that adoption is just one part of the solution to the orphan crisis. Many, many children will never be chosen, many will never even be listed for adoption. They will live their entire lives in orphanages, shut away, without love or the hope of Christ. Adoption just wasn't going to be enough.
Our hope is to build relationships with orphanage directors that will allow us to build relationships with the children living there. We hope to love on them and tell them about Jesus. Jesus loves the little children. All of them, even the ones, shut away and forgotten in orphanages. We want to be his hands and feet and show them his love. We're praying that God will continue to open doors for us to do that.
Another area, we really feel uniquely called and equipped to serve in, is helping change stereotypes about children with special needs and what they're capable of doing and becoming. We are the parents of three children with Down Syndrome, not American born children, but Bulgarian children, who were shut away in orphanages, because they are believed to be "less than." We're praying that God will allow us and our children to break down cultural barriers that exist in Bulgaria. We're praying that God will use us to encourage Bulgarian families to keep their children with special needs. We're believing that by offering to "do life" with them in a meaningful way, that they will feel less alone on their journey.
Adoption is just one part of the solution to the orphan crisis. Partnering with families and educating them about our "extra" special kids is another. We're believing that God is going to open the doors for that to happen and for us to speak truth about how each child is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our King.
We hope to make much of Jesus. We hope to bring him glory. We long to live in a way that points others toward him, toward the cross of Christ. We're striving for obedience and complete surrender to His will for our family. Please, pray for us as God continues to work out the details of this great adventure.
Hidden in Christ,
The Rhodes Family