Friday, December 2, 2011

A little goes a long way

Oasis Haven staff had known Bryan and Leza for about a year. Newly married, they were one of four couples in their Journey to Adoption course at the beginning of the year.

Leza began volunteering her time in the office a few days a week and Bryan became a regular visitor to the Oasis Haven offices. Through their involvement, Bryan and Leza had heard about a little girl named Khanya. They knew that the Oasis team was praying very hard for an adoptive family for her. They also knew that with her age – seven – and being declared mentally retarded with no clear diagnosis, Khanya had little chance of being adopted and also little chance of realizing her full potential without an adoptive family.

When they came forward and told us that they knew that Khanya was their daughter and that they wanted to adopt her, the Oasis team was overjoyed. Since that day in July, Bryan and Leza steadily prepared for Khanya to come home—sharing with their family and friends, meeting with social workers, preparing her room—creating a home and a brand new life for Khanya. One step in this preparation was to make a special book for Khanya with photos of Bryan and Leza, their house and Khanya’s room, grandparents and extended family members, and special details about themselves. This book would help Khanya to get to know them and to a know little bit of what to expect. The book was beautifully handcrafted with loads of photos and activities for Khanya. On the very last page, Bryan and Leza made a special puzzle so Khanya could count the days until she met her new mommy and daddy.

When “Auntie” Bev gave Khanya the book, she took one look at it and said, “My new family.” As she looked through the pages, she literally glowed with joy and anticipation. This was her family, the one she had been praying for, the one she would be going home to.

These are the kinds of life events that are made possible by the amazing ministry of Oasis Haven. I've just one month left in my Jubilee year, one month left for my Jubilee for Joburg celebration. As the year draws to a close, would you consider one of your year-end giving destinations be the Oasis Haven kids in South Africa? Just look at what can happen when you do! 
Donate US dollars here: 
Oasis Haven US
PO Box 28362
San Diego, CA 92198
WRITE JUBILEE FOR JOBURG in the check memo line. Gifts are tax deductible.

Thanks for making the dreams of little ones of a forever family come true. . .

Friday, August 26, 2011

Everytime I hear this song I have to stop what I am doing and just ponder if I am giving away all the love that I can to a world of lonely and hurting people. And when I think of the little ones at Oasis, I know this is all they want - to be loved by a forever family just for who they are:

Love these words:
"I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew..."

It's not too late to give a gift of love to the children at Oasis Haven. Address is at right. Children are at right... way across the sea to the right in Johannesburg.

Thanks for partnering with me.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Update from Johannesburg

"Coming home to a pile of clothes specially chosen by “mom” was a big treat for the children in the Oasis Family Homes. The girls modeled and walked the catwalk with all the flair and drama of a Parisian fashion show.

Two-year-old Kamogelo carefully took his new shoes and set them neatly in the cupboard to keep them clean and safe. Phalesa came to school the next day telling his teacher, “Look at the new pants my mommy bought me!"

Unfortunately, the children in our homes do not often get new clothes, especially clothes bought just for them with their tastes and personalities taken into consideration. We are so thankful for the many in-kind donations we receive of gently-used clothing, but there’s something special about something new bought just for you by someone who cares for you and loves you deeply.

Children need moms and dads who know them better than anyone else. Someone who knows their favorite color and the way they like their eggs, their favorite cartoon and whether they are a morning person or a night person, their favorite song and their dreams for the future. Every child belongs in a family who will love them more and know them better than anyone else. It’s one of the reasons we are committed to adoption as the best possible solution to South Africa’s orphan emergency - because every child deserves a family."

Not every person can an adopt an orphan, but everyone can make a difference to an orphan. I am more than halfway through my Jubilee For Joburg campaign. Help me raise $5,000 during my 50th year - my Jubilee. Your gift is tax-deductible.  The address for a US donation is
Oasis Haven US
PO Box 28362
San Diego  CA  92198 
Write Jubilee for Joburg in the memo line!! Thank you for partnering with me.  Together, we can change a life. . .

Friday, May 27, 2011

Called by name

Last Friday at a beautiful wedding, I met a wonderful family of highly creative people. I became fast friends with Laurra Fitzgerald of Coldwater Media, both of us good friends of the groom's family but we had never met before. A sweet twilight fell over our table as we became friends, two artitsts - one a writer and the other a singer/songwriter - who love God, love art, love our kids and husbands, and have a heart for the orphan. It is my pleasure to bring to you this morning this amazing music video of Laurra's song, "You're Not an Orphan."

In spite of the dire circumstances some of the most vulnerable children in the world face, including the little ones at Oasis Haven whom I love so much, none of us are truly orphans. We share a Father who loves us and calls us by name.

You have a father who loves you and holds you close to His heart. . .

I am almost halfway through my Jubilee Year and nowhere near the halfway mark in the $5,000 I want to raise this year - my fiftieth - for the children of Oasis Haven. It is true we all have a Father. But we do not all have a home and a family. Every child deserves that much. Please help me mark my Jubilee with a renewed effort to make it possible for the children of Oasis Haven to be adopted into forever families. The address at right is easy to use, it's right here in the States. And every dollar we send makes a difference.

God bless. . .

Friday, May 13, 2011

Starting the Conversation

Recently an Oasis Haven staff member sat down to tea with one of the housemothers who had just returned from her monthly weekend off. As they chatted, Mary — the housemother—shared the children’s struggle in understanding her and her husband’s need for the weekend of rest and renewal.

Frequently the children tell them “You’re our parents you can’t leave us, who will take care of us? We’re your family, you can’t take a break.” This conversation was a reminder that at the end of the day the most that Oasis Haven can do as an organization is model family. Their houseparents can’t promise the children in their care 24 hours a day and seven days a week. They can’t promise them forever.

This is part of the reason why Oasis Haven believes so strongly in adoption. Every child deserves a family, a family that can promise forever.

In an effort to support our focus on adoption they have added two new board members who are adoptive parents themselves. Dave and Debbie Keehn were the first American parents/family to legally adopt a South African child. Their son is now the youngest of three children. He is a thriving, confident, and amazing three-year-old who has transitioned exceptionally well into his new life in Orange County, CA.

If you would like to know more about adoption, or if you would like to know more about the Keehn family’s journey, please contact Debbie Keehn.

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." — Mother Teresa

Friday, May 6, 2011

At Oasis Haven, their desire for every child is to be part of a loving family forever. As they work toward that on a daily basis, they simultaneously work hard at trying to model the family to every child. This is not an easy task. Being a houseparent is an extremely demanding job, resulting in occasional turnover of staff in this role, which in return has an emotional impact on the children.

Recently it was parents' evening at the school. Lungi was so excited for her new houseparents to attend. She carefully laid all her books out on her desk in the classroom. On top of the pile was a folded letter addressed to “Mom and Dad. The note read:

Dear Mom and Dad
Thank you for coming. I hope you enjoy looking at my books.
I love you so much.
From Lungi

A simple note from a girl to her parents. The underlying message though was evident. Lungi’s houseparents have only been at Oasis Haven a few months, but she already loves them so much. Her deepest desire was evident—to be a normal girl in a family where her parents love her enough to take interest in her school work. This is something most children take for granted but for the children in Oasis Haven homes, this is something they would not have without this over-arching-commitment to family.

Won't you join me on my Jubilee For Joburg journey? In a couple days it will be Mother's Day. Perhaps in honor of your mom or the person who mothered you, you could help support Oasis Haven's goal of giving every orphaned child they meet, a forever home.

Friday, April 29, 2011

‎"The more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed." ~ Bishop Richard Chartres, the Royal Wedding, April 29, 2011.

Friday, April 22, 2011

People are fairly similar no matter where you go

Today I am visiting with my good friend and Oasis Haven US board member Lori Kimball, who traveled to Johannesburg last fall to visit the Oasis Haven homes. 

Lori, what prompted you to become involved with Oasis Haven?

First, I love children!  Teaching kindergarten for 20 years solidified my appreciation of little ones and the need to help protect them.  I had also partnered with a Zambian man who was helping educate and find families for orphans in his home town.  One thing lead to another in that “GOD Way” and I when I heard Beth talk about Oasis at Bible Study I was enthralled.  Later, when visiting Oasis in Joburg, the light bulb really went on, and now I’m hooked!

How did your trip to Johannesburg affect you?

The trip was surprising.  I prepared for sadness and despair, but instead found joy and hope!  True, there are an overwhelming number of orphaned children, but likewise, amazing hope for those children in places like Oasis Haven.  The kids that live in the Oasis homes are happy, fun-loving and so resilient!  We were fortunate to meet with the children’s HIV doctor, since half of the kids are HIV positive.  She explained that the AIDS epidemic is finally getting the attention and funding that it needs.  The children have excellent care and can look forward to living a long, healthy, and happy life.  Lastly, witnessing the adoption of three of the children I met in October has lead to such overwhelming joy!

Did it change you? In what kinds of ways?

Yes and no.  I’ve gained a greater appreciation for our lives here in the U.S., yet developed a love for South Africa, too.  It’s an amazing place, so indescribable, there just are no words.  I would love to go back and explore more.  I also learned that people are fairly similar no matter where you go.  We have our different customs and ways of living, but our desires are the same.

What is something about these little ones at Oasis Haven that you think would surprise most people?

Their resiliency!!  I know they have hurts….how could they not?  Yet, they appear so happy and content with their Oasis family.

What kind of difference can the average person here in the United States make in the life of an Oasis Haven child?

Any support no matter how small goes such a long way in South Africa!  The more children we can save, lovingly care for, and adopt out to “forever families” the better!  We might not save every child but we can make a huge difference for those we reach!

What will you remember most about your trip?

The faces of those beautiful kids!

Susan here: You can make a difference in the life of a child who longs for a home and a family. Join me on my Jubilee for Joburg journey! I am raising $5,000 for Oasis Haven in this, my 50th year! Make my Jubilee jubilant, would you? All the details are right here. . .

A blessed Easter to you all. . .

Friday, April 15, 2011

The latest from Oasis. . .

"A reality for all of our children is that every so often they need to make a court appearance in order for their court orders to be extended.
It is always quite a difficult time as we are not 100% sure how to fit this into their lives in a natural way. What we have found works best is to prepare them using language they can relate to so that they are not fearful before the magistrate.

Recently Khanya and Bheka needed to attend court for this reason. Before we went we spoke about how we were going to visit a lady because she wanted to see that they were healthy, happy and well-looked after.

Both Khanya and Bheka were on their best behaviour. The magistrate entered the room and immediately tried to put the children at ease. She went through all the formalities and then asked Khanya if she still wanted to live with her house mother. Khanya instantly replied, “No!” We all looked at each other and wondered at her response. The magistrate then asked her where she wanted to live.  Khanya replied, “With my new family!” Instantly we understood.

Recently she had seen two other children from her family leave to be with their adoptive families, and she was now waiting expectantly for hers. Although we try our utmost to be family to every one of our precious children we fall short simply because we are not able to offer them the permanency of adoption. Our dream for each one is that they will soon find their “new” family forever!"

Join me on my Jubilee Journey to raise $5,000 for the little ones at Oasis Haven, won't you? Let's make some dreams come true. . .Your gift is tax deductible. Address is at the right. Write JUBILEE FOR JOBURG in the memo line. God bless!

Friday, March 25, 2011

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything that I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
~ I Corinthians 13:1-3.

Why we do what we do and how we do it matters as much as doing what we do. Helping others when it is in our power to help them is not just our duty, it is love in action. . . 

Friday, March 18, 2011

"At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing - but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection."
Mother Teresa

Friday, March 11, 2011

A new mommy for Lerato

I am happy to bring you the story of Lerato today, from the most recent Oasis Haven newsletter:
"It was a little over a week since we heard the official news, and we were waiting expectantly for the arrival of Lerato’s adoptive mother. It had been a week full of excitement, with lots of speculation from Lerato and the other children about what her new mommy and her new life would be like. The excitement only heightened by the adoption of another little boy that week.

When asked what day it was, clever Lerato exclaimed, “It’s Monday!” “But, Lerato, what day is it?” “It’s Monday,” replied Lerato, slightly annoyed at the obvious ignorance of the inquirer. “But, Lerato, what is happening today?”

Lerato’s eyes lit up and her smile widened, “I get my new mommy today!”
Lerato’s mother brought with her a small suitcase and a doll. When she opened the case she found it stuffed full of little dresses and accessories for her new doll. Mother and daughter enjoyed time getting to know each other as they dressed the doll in one outfit after another. When it came time to leave, Lerato said a quick goodbye to her housemother and jumped into the bus, eager to begin her new life with her new mommy.

Seeing Lerato off, what we know for certain is that children need mothers. They need fathers. They need loving parents dedicated to their well-being. Nothing can take the place of that in a child’s heart. Watching this precious child enter into her family, we now feel a heightened urgency to find family for the other children waiting for a mommy and daddy of their very own. The very best that we can do for every child entrusted to our care is to make sure that they have a family forever."

I can picture that little girl with her new Mommy. Can you? There is much about the world that sends us to our knees, including the devastation in Japan as I write this.  But there are also places in the world where little lights still shine in the darkness, reminding us not to give in to despair . . . 

Join me on my Jubilee. . .

Monday, March 7, 2011

With. . .

A thought for the beginning of the week:

The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean “to suffer with.” Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” ~ Henri Nouwen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Do it anyway

Wise words from someone who loved extravagantly:

"People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway."

~ Mother Teresa

With the sheer number of orphans living on the streets of Johannesburg - thousands upon thousands - what difference does it make if I help in only a small way rescue just a handful? It matters to that handful.

And it matters to God.

So it matters to me. . .

Friday, February 11, 2011

Freckles in the Water

Ready for a cute story this morning? Recently, five year old Khanya went for a visit to her “special auntie’s” house in Johannesburg.  She desperately wanted to swim but when they got to the pool they realized that chemicals had only just been put in the water and it was looking rather murky.

Her special auntie told her that she didn’t think they would be able to swim as the chemicals would be too strong.  Khanya immediately suggested that they pray about it.  Quietly she closed her eyes and said “Dear Lord, please can you take the freckles out of the water as I would really like to swim!”

I love how young ones turn to God for help as confidently and honestly as if he were their sitting-right-there-in-his-chair Papa. And indeed, for the children at Oasis Haven, God is very much the first father-figure they learn to love and trust.

It's been a month since I have begun my Jubilee for Joburg journey. I want to raise $5,000 to help pay the cost of the therapies these children need when they come to Oasis Haven from off the streets. Some of them have never played. They don't know what it is like to play. Some have never imagined what they would like to be when they grow up. They don't know how to look up to God in hope, or trust another human being to love them like God loves them.

Join me, would you?

We can help take the freckles out of the pool. . .

Friday, January 28, 2011

Today is yesterday's tomorrow

I love this quote by John Wayne: "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. It comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

Everyday we're given is an opportunity to do what we wanted to do yesterday and somehow didn't get to do. We might have run out of time, out of resources, out of courage, out of steam. But we can wake up on the day that follows that day we didn't do what we wanted to do, and there before us are upwards of eighteen usable hours at the ready - unspent and waiting - and even more if we are willing to lose a little sleep.

It's comforting - empowering - to know that the good that I wished to do yesterday, I can still do today. This tomorrow I've been given is hopeful that I will. And hope is a good, good thing.

What will you do with this tomorrow you hold in your hands today?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where it began. . .

Every endeavor begins as an idea; the same is true for Oasis Haven, the wonderful organization I wish to help in my Jubilee Year. Eleven years ago, Lorna Campbell Salmon started Oasis Haven, with Jacky Viljoen, Graham Campbell Salmon and other key members of New Creation Family Church in response to the staggering numbers of orphans on the streets of Johannesburg. They bought the first Oasis Haven home with the intention to find adoptive families for as many abandoned babies as possible.

The government had implemented a moratorium on the establishment of babies’ homes, as it was believed that the large warehouse-type government-run orphanages were sufficient for dealing with the orphan problem. But the leaders of Oasis Haven knew more could be done. They registered as a foster parent-based ministry where key people would be registered, employed and financially supported as foster parents and the work began to find forever families for little ones who had no one, many of whom are HIV-positive.

Seven years later a second home was leased to accommodate older children and to maintain the limited size of the first Family Home. 
By the end of 2008 sixty babies and children had passed through the Oasis Haven homes. A significant proportion of these children have been placed into adoptive homes across the globe. Some have returned to their extended family and a small number have passed away while in Oasis’ tender care. 

In January 2009, Lorna Campbell-Salmon retired and a new leadership team was instated. With this new team, the organization was poised for growth. Oasis Haven restructured around more of a family-oriented approach, resolving to provide a loving family for those who have been utterly abandoned.  This means for those children who are not placed in adoptive families, Oasis Haven makes the long term commitment to be their family. Always.

I love that. A family no matter what. No matter what.

“Family faces are magic mirrors.  Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future.”  ~Gail Lumet Buckley

Monday, January 17, 2011

They have a dream

It seems appropriate on this day we honor the life legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr to talk about dreams. Not the kind you have at night which may or may not make any sense at all, but the kind you have when you are awake and imagining something in the future that seems a bit - or a lot - out of reach. These are the dreams that make you stretch for something good and wonderful on the horizon ahead of you.

Most of us had aspirations as children that may or may not have come true in our adult life. I once wanted to be an airline stewardess. And then a figure skater. And then a dolphin trainer at Sea World. I am none of those things as a grown-up but I am okay with that. I like being a writer. The point isn't that I had dreams and they didn't come true but that I dreamed. 

A few days ago when the CEO of Oasis Haven, Beth Gillig (pictured above with her godchild), and I had coffee during her Christmas break here in the states, she told me many of the children who come to Oasis Haven have never dreamt of the future. Day-to-day survival was the only thing on their minds. In fact, she said, some African dialects have no word for "dream." There are little ones in South Africa who never dream of the future because they can only imagine getting through today.

That's why I am so excited to raise money during my Jubilee year for the therapies these children will have at Oasis Haven as they are restored to wholeness. At Oasis Haven, these kids are introduced to the marvel of dreaming about the future, about imagining life as a grown-up - a concept that is as normal to most American children as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but that is foreign to the orphans of Johannesburg.

Hear this from Beth: "Regularly we depend on the generosity and expertise of medical professionals to help us care for the needs of the children at Oasis Haven.  General practitioners, virologists, and various specialists have enabled us to make sure that no illness, no medical concern has gone ignored.  They have helped us ensure a bright and unlimited future for our children. 

After visiting the pulmonologist with Lerato (not her real name) for the third time this month, I decided to take her for a milkshake.  I asked about her dreams, what she wanted her life to look like some day.  Her reply: “I want to live in a purple house…and my husband will be a prince with triangle hair.”  An adorable story of hope from a child who has a full future ahead of her."

I love that story. It makes me smile. I can imagine a purple house and a prince with triangle hair. Can't you?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What I know of love

Today, January 9, is my birthday and I am 50 years old. This is the year of my Jubilee. This year I turn a page, turn a corner. I am halfway to one hundred. Halfway through. Halfway Home.

As my birthday approached I knew I wanted it to be something that would not make me think about how old I am or young I am not. I wanted my year of Jubilee to be something bigger than the subject of years counted. Bigger than me.

I didn't have to look very hard to find what my heart was searching for. Oasis Haven is an organization in Johannesburg, South Africa whose passion is to rescue abandoned children and place them into forever families. It is not an orphange. It is a place that leads to home. They take in abandoned little ones who literally have no one and nothing. Most of them are HIV positive. Most have expereienced more upheaval, pain and trauma than you and I will see in a lifetime.

A year of Jubilee is a time to celebrate yes, but in biblical times it was a time to set aside, to cease doing one thing and do something else. In this year of my Jubilee I want to set aside my personal desires to raise funds so the children at Oasis can have the therapies they need to overcome the hardest of obstacles. These little ones need everything from psychological therapy to deal with grief and abandonment issues to occupational therapy to play therapy. Some of them have never had the luxury of play or even of dreaming of the future. (see the video at right. . .)

I will settle for raising $5,000 but wouldn't it be great if you and I together could raise $50,000 over the next 12 months? Check out the Oasis Haven website (just click on my yellow house logo at right) and see for yourself the need and the opportunity we have to meet it.

God's heart is bent toward the orphan. And actually, caring for orphans is more than just an opportunity; it is our responsibility - and the evidence of our faith. (James 1:27). We can't all adopt an orphan, but we can rescue them from the streets and dumps. We can care for their bodies and souls. We can restore joy to them while they await placement into forever families. We can do this. We must do this.

It's all I want for my birthday.

Here's the link for the donations page. (When you give, write "Jubilee for JoBurg" in the memo line or write /Jubilee for JoBurg after your name if you use the online giving option. You can also send your donation here: Oasis Haven US, P.O. Box 28362, San Diego, CA 92198.

Join me on the Jubilee journey! Come back to this blog often for updates, stories, and pictures! Email me if you have any questions at susan [at] susanlmeissner [dot] com.