Harder Family

Harder Family

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Countdown Begins

Psalm 68:5 "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling."

The official countdown has begun. We are 15 hours from leaving for China!!!! The suitcases are packed, special gifts and count down chain for the girls are in place, paperwork is filled out and packed, school work is planned, extra meals are frozen in the freezer... As much as I am looking forward to the trip, I'm also going to miss my kiddos at home. It's hard to not miss them when every day they remind you, with a sad face, that you are leaving in X days. To help them with the transition, I wrote each of them a personal note and bought them a new coloring book (I love the Dollar Tree). Every Saturday, they will open a special gift (a $4 movie from Walmart) so they can have a fun family night with Wayne. I'm hoping that these little gestures will help them while they wait at home for my return. 

One specific prayer request that we have been praying over the last few weeks was for us to get in contact with DJ. It was very important to me that I get to have DJ see my face and try to feel out his feelings about being adopted. Although the orphanage had told us he was excited, I wanted to be sure for myself. After many WeChat requests and prayers, at 11:30pm on Saturday night, we got a call from DJ!! Although I was half asleep and couldn't comprehend most of what he was saying, it was evident that he was excited. He asked to see Baba (Wayne) and smiled from ear to ear. After our brief conversation, since we couldn't really communicate, he texted me that he is very excited and can't wait to come home! Since that conversation, he tried calling me again at midnight last night (which I didn't hear). I cannot believe that in less then a week, he will officially be our son!!

As long as my VPN works in China, I plan on blogging each day we are in China. So if you'd like to follow our adventure in China, make sure to follow the blog and read about what is happening each day. 

Please pray for our journey to China: both travel to China and within China. Please also pray for the boys. Adoption is a beautiful picture of our spiritual adoption and it is a beautiful thing, but adoption is also hard and messy. Our boys will be losing a lot when they are adopted - everything familiar to them. They will lose things like their friends, their foster family, smells that are familiar to them, people who constantly speak their language and understand everything they say, food, etc. I cannot imagine all the emotions they will be going through as they are excited to have a forever family, but in gaining a forever family, they have to lose all these things they have known their whole lives. That is one reason why I want to make sure that I document our trip well - from the sites of China to the emotions. I want to make sure that we have a record of memories to look back and remember this hard, but special time with our boys. I was very thrilled today to learn that we will be getting pictures of DJ from when he was younger. His file from China only had recent pictures. It broke my heart to think that I would not be able to put together some kind of memory book for him of his early childhood. Hopefully we will get something like this for Shan Chen as well.

One additional prayer request that you can be praying along side us is for the foster families. It is our desire to stay in touch with these special families that played such an important role in our children's lives over the past few years. I know that DJ's foster family is excited that he is being adopted, but they have also had a hard time saying goodbye to him. Please pray along side us that God would some how work out the details so that we can stay in touch with them and Lord willing, even be a witness and testimony to them as well. Thank you to everyone who has prayed over our boys and who is praying for this trip. We know that prayers have moved some mighty mountains in our lives and we look forward to the beautiful story that God is weaving.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Traveling to China

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

On February 9, we received news from China that we were approved to travel to China to get our boys. I have waited to share the news until I received our itinerary from our agency. A week from today I will board a plane for China and will begin a whirlwind adventure to pick up our boys. When I saw our itinerary, it made my head spin a little. Fortunately, China approved us to pick both boys up in one week (this saved us 6-7 extra days in China). This resulted in a crazy week of travel. We will be traveling approximately 2,300 miles over 5 days!! My goal is to absorb as much as I can about China while I am there and see as much as we can of the provinces we will visit. I want to have pictures and memories with the boys from their country that we can look over later. 

Since receiving word about travel, it has been crazy around the house. I have been packing, teaching, prepping school work for the kids while I'm gone, cleaning house, and working on the last little bit of paperwork for travel (I don't think there will ever be an end to all of this paperwork). Trying to pack light for a 20 day trip is not easy, especially when you will be in two totally different climates. Beijing and Shandong are much colder since they are up north (it will be like Chicago). Sichuan and Guangzhou are more warm (like Florida). As much work as everything is to get ready, it is very exciting. We are bringing our boys home!!!

God has been so gracious and good to us through this whole process. On Saturday, we received a letter in the mail, written entirely in Chinese. We had a feeling it was written by one of the boys, but we weren't sure which one since we do not read Chinese characters. Then I realized something amazing. Weeks before this letter arrived in the mail, I had invited a family from church over for dinner. This family just happens to speak and read Mandarin. So hours after we received this precious gift in the mail, we were able to hear what the letter said. Isn't God just phenomenal?? The letter was written by Shan Chen and he told us all about Chinese New Year and asked how we are doing.

On Sunday, I received a message through we chat (a popular Chinese app), that on Tuesday at 1pm there time, we could talk to Shan Chen! That meant that at 11pm last night, I was able to chat with Shan Chen for about 8 minutes. It wasn't super long, but it was wonderful to see his smile and speak with him. He asked me when I was coming to China to get him. It was so wonderful to hear that he was just as excited as we are for his adoption. At the end of the conversation (since he had to to go back to class), he blew me kisses and told me that he loved me. All of the crazy travel will be worth it to hug and kiss this sweet boy again.

I will be blogging while I am in China (as long as my VPN works). So check back to see pictures of our trip and the boys! 

Prayer Requests:
1. Please pray that we are able to talk to DJ before we leave. It has been a little crazy trying to figure out who we need to speak with to arrange talking to him. I just read a text this morning that he now has a cell phone to use, so please pray that in the next day or so we can connect.
2. Pray for safe travels to China, as we are in China, and when we come home.
3. Please pray for Wayne as he will be home juggling all the kids, school, and work. 
4. Please pray that the transition for the boys goes as smoothly as possible. I am preparing for the boys to grieve, since they are leaving everything they have ever known in China. Please pray that communication doesn't get in the way of helping them through the grieving process.
5. Pray that God is glorified through this trip and that every person we meet we can point them back to Him!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Two Year Anniversary

Psalm 89:1 "I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations."

Saturday, February 11th, marks the two year anniversary of Wayne's diagnosis of brain cancer. If you don't know what I am talking about, you can go read old posts from 2015. As I reflect on the last two years, I am amazed at how awesome of a God we serve. I have seen God's hand in our lives and have seen Him move in incredible ways. There is nothing to say but what the verse above says, "I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations!" God has been faithful to us through the good times and through the deep, dark valleys. 

I recently watched a video of someone's testimony of their cancer journey. They said something that resonated with me. They said it is one thing to KNOW that God is good, it is another thing to EXPERIENCE God's goodness in the midst of the dark valley. Wayne and I are so thankful for who God is and how real He is in our lives. Although God still has to continually teach me (I'm a slow, reluctant student), I have started to have my eyes opened to His movement in my life. When you slow down and stop, it is amazing to see all the little (and big) ways God is moving. Matthew 6 talks about not worrying and how God provides for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. I have seen Him show me how much He loves me and how He cares about every detail of our lives. It is so amazing to see how God has weaved people into our lives over the past two years. Take a journey with me and review what God has done in our lives the past two years:

1. When Wayne had his grand mal seizure in February 2015, he was brought to Northwestern Hospital. God worked all the details out when I had to get downtown to meet him at the hospital (including having just enough change to take the train downtown - and I never have cash). Wayne just "happened" to end up seeing one of the top neurosurgeons in the United States. He also just "happened" to have the best neurosurgeon who specialized in brain mapping on his surgery team. Only God could have orchestrated all of those little details.

2. The miracle in Wayne's recovery, Wayne's cancer treatment over the next six months, and the miracle of his health over the last two years. Our last scan in December 2016 came back clear again (praise the Lord). It is Jehovah Rapha's hand we have seen over the last two years in Wayne's life. There is no other explanation except that God is not done with him yet and has a plan for our lives. It can be tempting to say, "Oh, Wayne is doing great because we do x,y,z", but we KNOW it is only because God has decided his time here on earth isn't done yet. God is the one who numbers our days!!

3. In the spring of 2015, God crossed our paths with the Kent family. Jan's husband Terry had just been diagnosed with brain cancer. Jan and I were able to pray for each other and encourage each other over the course of their treatment and cancer journey. Jan has been a huge blessing in my life. She has poured the love of Jesus on me and has been active in helping us during our adoption journey. I am so excited to see how God uses the Both Hands project to give a little bit of the blessing she has given to me back to her. 

4. In May 2015, Wayne and I visited Mayo clinic to get a second opinion on Wayne's cancer. It was during this appointment that we were given positive news. Mayo's pathologists said that they believed Wayne's tumor was a grade 3 instead of a grade 4. The best news the doctor told us is that Wayne's genetic markers for his tumor showed that it should respond to treatment. This was great news to have as Wayne began his six months of chemo. After seeing a loved one experience chemo and radiation, it gives you a whole new appreciation and compassion for those walking the difficult path of cancer. We still continue to believe that it is only because of God's healing hand on Wayne that he is doing as well as he is.

5. Fall of 2015, we met another amazing brain cancer survivor that lives about an hour away. We just "happened" to meet them when we parked next to them at Starved Rock. You can read about that God arranged meeting here. God is so good!!

6. My desire when Wayne was battling cancer was to allow God to use our experience to help others walking this difficult road. I reached out to other women watching their husband's battle this horrible disease. I met some phenomenal woman such as Jan, Becca, Alana, Cathie, Rebecca, Michelle, and Mary. I met Mary by "accident". She just "happened" to be featured on another blog that I read every once in a while. I just "happened" to decide that day to read the blog and I read about Mary and her husband Jonathan. I decided to reach out to her and let her know I was praying. I also told her that if she every needed to talk, that I was available. I would not have met these amazing women if it weren't for the difficult journey that all of us have walked with our husbands. It has been encouraging to see their faith and testimonies during our difficult journey.

(My friend Mary me when we met up at Cracker Barrel in Texas January 2016)

7. When you are faced with the uncertainty of life, you start to realize how fragile life is and how you should live every day to the fullest for God. It is easy to KNOW that, but another thing to live it out. God has challenged us over the last 2 years to totally surrender our lives to Him and allow Him to use us as He sees fit. In February of 2016, Wayne woke me up and told me that he had been praying and he felt that God was asking us to adopt two boys from China. If you know our story, you know what a miracle that statement in itself was - only God could orchestrate that!! Wayne wanted to wait until after our family mission trip to Canada before we pursued adoption. A friend just "happened" to post that Great Wall was looking for families to host for the summer. I mentioned it to Wayne and without hesitating, he said YES, let's do it. Little did we know at that time that we would begin the process to adopt in May. It took a HUGE step of faith, but we knew that God was calling us to adopt. God has confirmed this over and over since we stepped out in faith last year. Through this adoption journey God also weaved an amazing family into our lives - DJ's hosting family. Michelle has become one of my dear friends and I'm so blessed to call her my friend!! As we are on the brink of traveling to China to get our boys, we are amazed at God's hand upon this entire journey!

8. In June of 2016, we were blessed to have the opportunity to serve on a mission trip as a family. God used this trip to grow us closer to God and each other. It was a privilege to be able to serve along others from church and help prepare the camp for summer campers. It was hard work, but what a blessing it was to our whole family to serve God together! 

9. In September of 2016, a friend at church told me about a free Chinese class being offered in Beverly (Chicago). Since the girls had a reason to learn Chinese (they wanted to be able to talk to their brothers in Chinese), they willingly decided to take Chinese. This class has been a HUGE blessing to us. Not only have we learned Chinese, but we have developed relationships with the students from China. These students are here in the United States attending school while their families are in China. Through our connections with this program, I have been able to get resources for my trip to China and have learned some invaluable language skills. I am excited to bring the boys to class when we get home and I can't wait to see how God continues to use these relationships in the future.

10. My prayer had been to be in China by December 10th (Shan Chen's birthday). I knew it was a long shot, and yet I knew if God wanted us there, He could get us there. That was not God's plan. I struggled at first with why. Why wouldn't He allow us to get there earlier and bring home our son so he could get the medical help he needs. When November 29th rolled around, I discovered why God had said NO. We were given the privilege of hosting another boy named Parker for a month. Because we were able to host Parker, we were able to meet other people who God wanted to weave into our lives. We met some amazing Christian Chinese families who poured love into Parker's life. They also poured into our lives as well. They even took time to teach us how to make some traditional Chinese food (like steamed buns). I was also introduced to an awesome Christian Chinese community that is only 30 minutes away from our house. Our boys will be so blessed to meet and get to know these amazing people that God weaved into our lives as they waited for us in China.

11. Parker's original hosting family was unable to host him because of medical issues. We were blessed to meet them in person while Parker was here with us. As we were visiting them, I discovered that their recently adopted son was from the same orphanage as DJ!! Her son actually knew DJ! Her son gave us his phone number and said that if DJ was struggling at all, DJ could call and speak with him. None of this would have been possible if I had been in China in December!

12. Because we didn't travel in December and we hosted Parker, Parker found his forever family. That means, while our two sons waited for us to get them, another orphan will no longer be an orphan but someone's SON!! How beautiful is that??

13. A few weeks ago we received an update on Shan Chen. In his file, it stated that his fatty tumor had grown recently. We talked to the doctor that examined Shan Chen when he was here this summer. He wrote us a letter requesting that our paperwork be expedited to help bring Shan Chen home faster so that he can get medical treatment sooner. Thankfully, the US Consulate approved this letter and our Article 5 paperwork was picked up 8 days early. We are currently waiting on our Travel Approval from China!! That means that I will most likely be in China in a month picking up our boys!!!

14. Our Both Hands project has already blessed us in numerous ways. We have had numerous families step up and offer their help. The biggest blessing came in an email on Sunday. Last Thursday, when we had our Both Hands information meeting, I told Wayne it would be great if we could get our friend Gary to help with the project. We have a couple of bigger painting projects that we'd love to tackle for Jan and we knew that he would be the perfect fit. Before we could contact him, he sent us an email on Sunday saying that he wanted to help. It may seem like a small matter, but to me it was one more sign of God's hand working out all the little details of this adoption for His glory. Gary just "happened" to read our blog and hear about the project and he just "happened" to email me when I was a little down. God showed me once again (see slow learner) that He is sovereign and has every detail in His hands. 

These are just a few ways that God has moved in our lives in the last two years.  I would spend hours recounting God's faithfulness. I have discovered that the best way I can remember all that God has done for me is to write it down (the reason I started this blog). Just as the Israelites set up remembrance stones to remember all that God has done for them, I want to have remembrance stones in my life to recall all the ways God has worked and showed Himself real in my life. I want to testify to the world around me that God is not just a "feel good solution" or a "bandaid", He is real and I have seen Him do some awesome things in my life. 

I look forward to seeing how God continues to weave people in our lives and how God uses this beautiful tapestry of our lives for His glory!!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Both Hands

James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Looking after orphans and widows, a vulnerable group, is something that we as Christians are called by our Heavenly Father to do. I understand that not everyone feels the call to adopt or do foster care, but there are always ways to get involved and help widows and orphans. When Wayne and I found out about the Both Hands organization, we were thrilled. What a great way to serve both vulnerable groups (orphans and widows). 

We are planning our Both Hands project as we speak. Our widow, Jan Kent, lost her husband in November to brain cancer. You can read more about our connection to her here.  I met with Jan this week to talk about projects that we can do around her house. We are working to put a great team of people together who are willing to lend us their Saturday (May 6th) to help complete the projects. We will be doing some yard work (cleaning up spring leaves, pulling weeds, planting flowers, and some general clean up), some repair projects (sanding and painting trim, repairing/replacing a side garage door, mudding and painting a room), and some other maintenance around her house. 

If you are interested in helping us complete these projects, please contact me (rebeccaharder35@gmail.com). We are also looking to find some local businesses who might be willing to donate supplies for our projects (paint, a door, etc). Please let me know if you can help hit the pavement and help us out. 

We are working now to start mailing out support letters to raise money for this project. If you would like to help us with that, please let me know. These projects are such a blessing to both the widow and the families bringing their kiddos home. Since our project entails a lot of outdoor work, we have set the date for May 6th. We will are excited because we will be blessed to have our two boys working with us when we actually complete the project. Hand in hand, both our widow (Jan) and the orphans (who will no longer be orphans), will work together to complete work on Jan's house. I am so excited to see this beautiful picture of James 1:27!!

Widow: Jan Kent

Orphan: DJ

Orphan: Shan Chen

Please join us in praying for the project. It is our prayer that the project not only blesses Jan and our boys, but also impacts the lives of those in Jan's neighborhood. We have seen people's heart soften to the gospel when they see God's people being His hands and feet to a widow and helping orphans. It is our prayer that the ripple effect of obedience to God's call for us to adopt, continues into other people's lives. Below is a video I made for our information meeting last night about the project. The first part is a video made by another family who did a Both Hands project.