Saturday, April 24, 2010

Proud Mom & Dad

We just opened the envelope that announced that "A" was accepted into the Jr. National Honor Society. We are so proud of our baby girl! Imagine, coming into this country just 4 years ago; her English vocabulary was about 20-25 words. Now she's consistently on the honor roll.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


We agreed to do this story for the Virginian Pilot several months ago, actually before we realized the extent of any issues with our son. As we spent 3 days with the reporter, I asked her not to make our son's issue the main point of the story since it is NOT the main point of our everyday lives. (I guess that part of our story is what sells newspapers, not a story about God's love in our family)

In talking to the reporter after seeing what was printed, she did say that the editor cut all of the story about Me, Juan andthe other 6 kids..... again, issues sell!

I am disappointed because we wanted the world to see a great adoption with lots of kids and for the most part life working well--

Please take my word- we are an everyday, run-of-the-mill adoptive family with all of the ups and downs that go alone with it. What we wanted to see in the story, was the strength we draw from each other, the closeness we've developed over the years, the hurdles we've crossed so far and the faith we have that our Lord will get us over the hurdles we well come to in the future. There are many, many families out there with similar circumstances, but not all have been able to see their blessings yet.

Please continue to pray for any adoptive family that your know. They need strength, faith, peace, wisdom, and joy.

Blessings, Pam

Monday, April 19, 2010

We are in the Virginia Pilot!

We were asked to have our story told a few months ago- Here it is-- in full.

The children’s mother was supposed to be dead, or at least on her deathbed
Pam and Juan Johnson had traveled more than 7,000 miles to Ethiopia to adopt her three children, to give them new parents and a new family.
Yet the couple was in Addis Ababa, staring at a recent picture of their new children’s mother. She didn’t look sick; she looked young and healthy.
The adoption had already gone through. The Johnsons were free to take the children home to the United States.
“We’re sitting, looking at each other,” Pam Johnson said. “What do you do?”
The Chesapeake couple knows they’re not the first people to run into problems with Ethiopian adoptions – the country is the second most-popular foreign destination for adoptive American families, behind China.
International adoption can be a murky world. Periodically, the State Department will issue warnings about adopting from certain countries – Nepal and Guatemala were recently put on the list. While Ethiopia is not, the licenses of several Ethiopian orphanages were recently revoked, and the U.S. Embassy there just put in place stricter visa processing requirements.
Some Americans who have adopted from Ethiopia say they’ve been given the wrong baby. Some mothers expecting healthy children have wound up with very ill ones.
Still – a healthy mother giving away her healthy children was something the Johnsons weren’t prepared for.
Justin, Zoë and Davis were the Johnsons’ third set of adoptions. They adopted three siblings from Ethiopia in 2006 and a boy from China in 2002 . The new additions also were siblings, ages 11, 8 and 7 at the time. It was May 2009.
The Johnsons had been sitting in the courtyard of the halfway house, where children go from the orphanage to wait for their new parents to arrive. They were signing papers when a worker, flipping through the children’s files, came across a picture.
Who’s that? Juan asked.
Their mother, Pam remembers the worker saying casually . Justin jumped up and pointed out his mom, along with several other relatives in the picture. The Johnsons asked for a copy , as their hearts sank. They still keep two copies in their files, with each relative labeled in pen on the back.
Once back home, Leah, the Johnsons’ oldest adopted daughter from Ethiopia, would sometimes mention strange things Justin had said to her in Amharic , their native language. He’d talk about being able to go back to Ethiopia any time, and say that he was just in America for school.
“Oh, he couldn’t think that,” Pam would tell her.
“Well, mom, that’s what he said,” Leah would reply. Then, shortly after Christmas, they were sitting around the dining table when Justin mentioned he thought he’d be going home for the holiday. He asked to call his mother.
Pam remembers him saying: “ Mom wanted me to call . We haven’t talked to my mom. ”
Pam shooed the other children out of the room, as Justin told her about his concept of adoption. He was coming to America only for school, to get a good job, he said. He would be able to see his mother on vacations, and talk to her regularly. There was no mention of having new parents, joining a new family. Soon both of them were crying.
He went up to his room and lay on his bed, sobbing, while Pam sat with him, not knowing what to say.
All those times he’d been talking to Leah, “we’d thought he just didn’t understand,” she said. “But in reality, we didn’t understand.”
The Johnsons’ Dominion Lakes home feels like a busy and happy place. On Fridays after school, when there’s no soccer practice, seven children romp around the backyard on skateboards and bikes, sometimes so loudly that it draws over other children to investigate.
Joey, 10, practices his skateboard tricks on a plastic ramp. He was a tiny, 24-pound 3- year-old from Hunan Province in China who could barely walk when his parents adopted him. Now, he comes home bragging about how many push-ups he did that day.
Jaden, 8, can be found in a massive tree in the back yard, with Zoë, now 9, scampering up after him.
Davis, now 8, and Justin, now 12, might be playing soccer with other kids from the neighborhood, while the two oldest girls, Leah, 17, and Analyse, 15, chat on the phone, or take a walk.
Pam and Juan say they’re still very pro-adoption. Joey, for instance, is a happy kid. They do feel a little uneasy about their first Ethiopian adoption, when they got Leah, Analyse and Jaden. They said they were told the children were very poor, were headed for lives in prostitution and that they ate only one meal a day.
Turns out, none of that was true, the children would later tell them. Their parents were dead, but they had wealthy relatives who could have cared for them. But the girls and their brother have happily settled in with their new family.
Even with their third set, it’s not so much Zoë and Davis that the Johnsons are worried about – at 9 and 8, they seem young enough to take this in stride.
But Justin …
The issues in his adoption have made them question his littlest gestures.
Is he just naturally shy? Or is his shyness a sign he can’t bond with his new family? Are his downcast eyes just how he’s used to interacting with adults? Or do they indicate an unhappiness his limited English can’t give voice to?
And they can’t stop worrying: What does his mother know?
“You feel like unintentional kidnappers,” Juan said.
They’ve put their second set of children into group therapy, which they think has helped them open up . They encourage talk about Ethiopia at dinner. They’re trying to address the issue head-on, they say.
“We don’t want to pretend none of this happened,” Juan said. “But we don’t want any child to feel like we don’t want them, or that they shouldn’t be here.”
“They’re here,” Pam said. “And we will take very, very good care of them.”
A lawyer for the Johnsons’ adoption agency, Curtis Bostic, said it is the Ethiopian government that deems a child an orphan and adoptable – not the adoption agencies – and the agencies have almost no contact with biological parents. The government provides information about the child’s background, he said, which agencies then provide to potential adopters.
When parents adopt through Christian World Adoption, he said, they sign a form at the start that says the information they’re provided about the child that’s going to join their home may not be true.
“We know that sometimes it’s inaccurate. You need to investigate within yourself as to whether you’re willing to continue with an adoption knowing that you may not have” correct information, he said. “If you’re an adoption agency you have to trust that a parent will take this seriously, wouldn’t you think?”
Yes, he says, there is risk in these adoptions. “You either accept the fact that on occasion you’re not going to have entirely accurate information, or you leave children to die in Ethiopia,” he said. “Those are the two choices.” As far as Justin not understanding that he was being adopted, Bostic said he can’t speak to how that would happen – if, indeed, it’s true.
It’s not easy to talk to Justin about his experience. He’s quiet to start with, and can get quieter when the subject of Ethiopia comes up. His English isn’t great yet, and it can be hard to tell how much he understands. Still, he doesn’t seem angry – he seems resigned. He was upset after that first conversation , but after that “I just stopped thinking about it,” he said.
He believes his mother is expecting to hear from him. He knows the number, he said. He could call. But he isn’t planning to.
The Johnsons say they have no intention of contacting her either. They think the worst thing that could happen is that they call her, and she demands her children be sent home right away – what would they do then? There are no procedures for sending a child back to Ethiopia.
You don’t give back your biological children when they’re not what you expected, Pam said. They’re trying to think of this the same way. “No matter what dishonest things were done … these kids are here for a reason,” she said. “I’m going to hold on to that.”
Alicia Wittmeyer, (757) 222-5216,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Forgiven Forgive

When I read news articles on-line about people who are being accused of, charged with or convicted of a wrong doing, I usually follow down to the bottom where people post comments about the article. What amazes me is the amount of unforgiving, and lack of compassion or empathy there is in the world. Yes, the wrong should be convicted ( I won't go into "proper" punishment), but the writers spew such vile hatred, it shocks me. This is especially true if a victim of a crime, regardless of the crime, is a child. It's as if adults start losing value for every year they go beyond 18.

Now I don't know if it's a tendency for unforgiving people to post comments more than those who are forgiving, or that there are less forgiving people in the world. Now I'm not advocating that we just forgive and forget for everything, but sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that we don't know about as readers of news articles. There are past wrongs, social pressures, financial pressures, psychological pressures, timing issues, or whatever that drive people to do some things that others would not imagine themselves doing...until they have walked in that person's shoes. Do these things make the "perpetrators" innocent or right? No, but our Lord is compassionate even unto those that have gravely sinned against know, like me!

In my own humble opinion, I don't think the Lord would be so harsh if He were sitting in the judgement seats of our courts (or if He were asked to comment on a news article). At least not as harsh as some of these commenters are. I see people talking about how they would kill the perpetrators (or at least how they should die), how they should spend the rest of their lives in jail or how they should be physically punished for their crimes. I rarely if ever hear anyone suggesting teaching, mentoring, possibilities of redemption or forgiveness. I don't see anyone admitting to their own faults (ye rock throwers of olde).

Maybe it's just me, but it saddens me on the one hand, and on the other hand, I am so glad that the Lord God is my judge. He is a just God, and a forgiving and compassionate God.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

That's My King

I heard this the first time, this past Sunday in church.
I've listened to it no less than 10 times since then.
It rings in my heart so loudly.

I hope you feel it too.


Monday, April 12, 2010

A Real Dad

I've seen a lot of men "sow their seed". However, it takes more than a 'seed sower' to be a daddy ... it takes a farmer to tend those seeds. That's what a real daddy is.

I've seen a daddy that has sacrificed for a greater purpose.
I've seen a daddy that has put aside his wants for his children's needs and desires.
I've seen a daddy drive a 15 passenger van and no longer look "cool".
I've seen a daddy sell his own things in order to provide for his family.
I've seen a daddy go to work every day - even when he doesn't want to.
I've seen a daddy tuck his kids in bed every night and pray for angels to guard them.
I've seen a daddy discipline his children in love, firmness and grace.
I've seen a daddy on his knees in prayer every night.
I've seen a daddy cry over his children.
I've seen a daddy play soccer with his kids and encourage them from the sidelines.
I've seen a daddy teach his kids how to ride a bike.
I've seen a daddy read books and make up the words so it has more humor.
I've seen a daddy teach his kids how to work hard .
I've seen a daddy lead his family in devotions every night.
I've seen a daddy encourage his kids in their schooling.
I've seen a daddy speak into his kid's destinies.
I've seen a daddy set an example on how to love his wife.
I've seen a daddy model repentance and forgiveness, mercy and grace.
I've seen a daddy who is always home for dinner.
I've seen a daddy say "yes" when his wife says "this one is ours too".
I've seen a man who has fathered his children -
who has cultivated the seed that was sown in his field.

I've seen a man who will open his heart and home up to who ever the Lord sends his way. This man is living the Bible verse that talks about caring for the widow and the orphan. I love this man.

Blessings, Pamela Dawn

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Opportunity to excel

Remember the post when I said that I have to remember being a kid in order to be a good parent? I remember being a kid and throwing things is part of being a boy kid. Throw something, throw it high, throw it far, throw it fast, throw! It's David in us I guess.

Well, today Jaden was trying to throw a strap up into a tree. It was a cargo strap, with a heavy metal "S" hook on one end. The tree is in the front yard. Well, up went the strap, but not toward the tree, it went over the house and on to the windshield of Mom's car!

I came home and the boys were all sitting quietly on the floor in the family room. Curious. When I asked what was going on, Mom just told me to go out and look at the car.

This is what I came home to:
(The dusty dirt is actually pollen just one day after rinsing... welcome Spring!)
Jaden gets a lesson in economics. I'll take it to be fixed tomorrow. Needless to say, Moms don't normally get the boy need for throwing things, but she's forgiving (as long as I get this fixed soon).

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Family Time

Today we went out to OBX for our periodic "fix". We got to catch up with our church family and worship together. My friend Sam spoke at church about "What Does God Look Like?" I love Sam's talks, because he keeps it simple and puts it in your face without smacking you with it. God looks like Jesus. Jesus, when he was here as a man, showed us how he was kind, gentle, loving, non-judgmental, caring, compassionate, passionate, righteous, strong, forgiving, hardworking, and wise. I could go on for a few pages, but I think I got some of the best ones across.

After church we went to our good friend Brenda's house for lunch and talk time. We spent about an hour at the beach enjoying the sun and taking some pictures. Joey said he would love to move back to the beach because his sinuses almost instantly cleared up after spending time at the beach. Then it was the long ride back home.

Even with all of this...this evening was the best time. We ordered Chinese from our local place and ate dinner together. We always try to have "Family Time" after dinner. It consists of trying to get the children engaged in conversation. It will tend to be mostly the older children, but the little ones will add in at times. Today was especially special to me because the girls were talking about how they missed their mom. They shared about her last days, her inability to speak or get out of bed, and seeing her tears as she lay there (contemplating her death, I'm sure). I can't begin to imagine the agony in her heart knowing that they would soon be orphans; the youngest was only about 3 then. They talked about the differences between our cultures. In Ethiopia children and parents almost never tell each other "I love you", or hug, or kiss. Leah can actually remember the last time she hugged her mom not too long before she died. They talked about how Jaden would hide and when he thought no one was looking, he'd go hold his mom's hand as she lay helpless in her bed. They shared about their extended family and about their relationships with them (not good). They shared about their anxiety and anticipation of coming to America, especially after receiving our pictures.

We shared deep deep love tonight, deeper than anything else I can think of. It is times like these that I don't doubt that we did the right thing. It gives me strength and courage. It makes my heart swell to see the love they still have for their mom and dad. It is a love that they are not ashamed of and are willing to share. This tells me (in a strange way I guess), that they love and trust me and Pam, their new mom and dad.

My Jesus loves me, this I know; because my Jesus show's so!