Friday, January 31, 2014

Chrystyna



Girl, Born Jan 17, 2002

SIGNIFICANT RISK, PLEASE ADOPT ME SOON!!

Chrystyna is a beautiful, brown haired, brown eyed girl
who deserves a chance at a better life!  


This is one of the two pictures on her profile when I first "met" her in December, 2010.

Her official orphanage papers say she has 
developmental delays/difficulties from birth,
 but nothing more specific than that.  

It is possible she has FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). 

"Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition that results from alcohol exposure during pregnancy. Problems that may be caused by fetal alcohol syndrome include physical deformities, mental retardation, learning disorders, vision difficulties and behavioral problems.
"The problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome vary from child to child, but defects caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are irreversible."
(This could be the cause of the "developmental delays" at the beginning of her profile.)

Yes, this sounds a bit "scary" -- but, really, in God's sight,
and in the light of Romans 3:23
("For all have sinned,
and come short of the glory of God.")
don't all of us have (spiritual) "developmental delays / difficulties from birth"?

Sin was not "our fault."
We were born into it,
and yet --
Christ left heaven and came to rescue us!
He knew we were worth it!

These things are not Chrystyna's fault, either.
She was born with them.
Is someone willing to rescue her?
She's worth it!

Her biological mother was deprived her parental rights in December 2004.

This means she probably lived with at least her mother until just before her third birthday in January, 2005.

Chrystyna has at least one biological sister (whether full of half is not stated), Karen

Unfortunately, Karen turned 18 in January, and is no longer available for adoption. 
However, she was in the same region as Chrystyna before she aged out, 
which means that an adoptive family could possibly connect with her 
while adopting  Chrystyna, 
and (hopefully) establish some kind of permanent contact.

What kind of memories (if any) does Chrystyna have of her mother? 
Her sister, Karen?
 any other siblings that might be out there? 
Extended family -- Grandparents? aunts? uncles? cousins?

Was it alcohol that split her family, 
caused her mother to loose parental rights, 
and separated her from her mother and sister ?

and the biological father is not known. 

This is sad -- but it doesn't make Chrystyna any less valuable.
She still has a heavenly Father Who loves her more than she knows,
and
It is just one more reason why she needs an adoptive family!

At some point, not too long after I first "met" her, (probably 2011?), she was moved from the institution back to a much better facility, with better care -- and her condition improved somewhat.
In 2012, her condition seemed to be improving.
By 2013, it was starting back downhill.
(Below is an updated picture from 2013)



You can read the rest of Chrystyna's profile
(including more details on the updates mentioned above)
here.

Is it possible that your family,
or another family you know,
would have a spot at your table for this young lady?

Would you be willing to pray about it before you say a flat out, "No"?

You can read about the adoption process HERE.

International adoption is expensive. 
But
nearly half of the in-country costs for her country have already been raised!

Chrystyna has
$10,617.28 (1/31/14)
$10,628.98 (2/4/14)
$10,646.98 (3/16/14)
$10,754.98 (5/6/14)
in a grant fund
to help cover the cost of her adoption.

If your cannot adopt her 
(and there are many valid reasons why families are not in a position to adopt!)

Could you share her picture and her need --
On social media?
On your blog?
With your friends?
At church?

Could you donate to her adoption fund
to make it easier for another family to adopt her?
(No donation is too small, and even small donations add up!!)

Could you pray for her?

I have been praying for both Karen and Chrystyna for over 3 years,
sporadically at first,
 but daily for over a year.

Would you join me?

And, while you're at it, could you please pray for Julie, too?
(5/6/14 update): Julie has passed her 16th birthday now, 
making her "too old" to be adopted, 
but she's still a special, struggling teen, and still needs our prayers.


If you're concerned about adopting an "older child," 

you might find this blog

(by a mother of 4 adopted "older girls")

 helpful!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Julie: An Urgent Situation



(Note: If some of my facts are skewed, please let me know, by either posting a comment or by using the “contact” form on the right sidebar, and I will make appropriate corrections.)

This situation is a dilemma for us poor humans, but it is NOT a dilemma for GOD!!

Michelle, who blogs from the perspective of a very recent older-child adoption, agreed to help me "spread the word" about Julie. (She has a lot more blog readers than I do.) She posted the first two paragraphs of this post here, along with a perspective that I can't come even close to matching.

If you came from her site, skip the first two paragraphs below. If you didn't come from her site, please go read it first, before reading the rest of this post.

Julie lives in an orphanage in an Eastern European country.  Her Reece’s Rainbow profile says she “was placed in an orphanage a few years ago.” (“A few years ago” means “a few years before December of 2010," as her profile has not changed since I first read it then. She would have been no more than 12 when it was written, possibly younger).

That means she spent at least the first few years of her life living somewhere other than an orphanage. With her parents? With grandparents or some other family member? Were they happy years? Were they sad years? What traumatic event landed her in the orphanage? I really don’t know. One thing I do know: Transition to an orphanage = loss to the child. Loss of family. (Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and possibly older and / or younger siblings.) Loss of home. At the age she might have been, loss of friends. Loss of familiar surroundings. Loss of any kind of stability.

I also know that her orphanage days are rapidly nearing their end. Adopted or not, she will soon leave the orphanage behind forever. If she isn't adopted, her days there are numbered. It might be as soon as her birthday in April, or she might be allowed to finish out the school year, and remain there until summer – orphanage “graduation.”

If she has done well in school, she could “graduate” to a “trade school,” which does have a “dorm” for the students to live in – but (if I have my facts straight), those “dorms” are rife with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Given that she was “about 3 years behind her agemates” in school 3 years ago (which has probably not improved since then) she might not “qualify” for trade school.

As I understand it, “not qualifying” for trade school puts her out on the streets. No job (and an “orphan” label that makes it hard to get one, even if she had the appropriate skills, which she probably doesn’t.) No money. No place to live. (It gets very cold in her country in the winter!!) No way to buy food. No one to turn to for help or advice. Sound bleak? It is. A very high percentage of young people who “graduate” from the orphanage do not live to the age of 20. The majority of them turn to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and / or crime, in a desperate attempt to survive. (I've read these statistics somewhere; I'd link to them if I could find a source. If you know one, please let me know. Thanks!)

Julie does have a window of hope, albeit a small (and, at this point, rapidly shrinking) one: International adoption. Parents who are willing to take a leap of faith, and invite this teen to be part of their family. Her clock (see the countdown ticker at the top of this page) is rapidly ticking towards “doomsday,” so the process needs to be started ASAP. Like, NOW. (After you take time to pray about it, that is.)

While there is still time for a family brand new to adoption to rescue her, the sooner you can get the process started, the smoother it will be. There is a "best order" for doing things, and making sure nothing is overlooked.

The full adoption process for her country can take 6-8 months, or longer, from the first contact with your social worker until the plane with her on board touches down on US soil. Obviously there isn't that much time left between now and April first. (Not knowing which day in April she was born, the only “safe” assumption is April 1.) Fortunately, the entire process doesn't need to be finished by her birthday. Since it is a US law (not a law of her country) that sets the “age 16 cutoff date,” the adoption can be finalized after her birthday, as long as appropriate paperwork is filed with the USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Service) before then. The folks at Reece’s Rainbow (RR) can walk you through the process. (Please read this page carefully  before you contact them, though.)

Finances. Yes, International Adoption is expensive. Like around $25,000 (yes, that’s 25 grand) from Julie’s country. And that’s just airfare and “in country” costs (housing, transportation, food, facilitator fees. That kind of stuff.) Even families who are fully capable of financially supporting a child once the child is home rarely have that kind of cash just hanging around in their closet collecting dust.

Remember, though, that unwilling human hearts are a far bigger problem to the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills than a few pieces of human currency.

Before you read farther, please go back to the top of this post and re-read that sentence in red and green type. Remember that God is not bound by what looks impossible to us.

This is where the “dilemma” comes in. If you look at different children’s profiles on the RR website, you’ll notice that most of them have an adoption grant fund at the bottom. Julie’s does not, and there is a reason: It has been a long time since RR has had any kind of updated information on Julie. Like (probably) none since whatever was written when she was first listed, at least three years ago. The assumption is that she is still there, and still available, but RR doesn't know for sure. Because of this, they are not comfortable raising funds for her until they either get updated information or a family steps forward to adopt her. (This last bit of info is based on recent direct communication between me and an RR staff member, specifically discussing Julie’s lack of a grant fund.) 

RR may not have any “up-to-date” information on Julie, but GOD does!!!! He has the hairs on her head numbered, and monitors every breath she takes.  HE has a thousand ways of figuring this situation out that we poor mortals have never even thought of

Before you start throwing stones at RR for not keeping their records up-to-date, though, please consider that none of the US-based RR office staff (the ones who post updates to a child’s online profile) actually live in Julie’s country. I don’t know how many, if any, of them have ever even visited it before.
  •  They have little or no direct access to any kind of (official) records, other than what they received when the child was first listed, and getting additional information can be next to impossible in some situations. (Some institutional directors are very anti-adoption, and deliberately sit on unfinished paperwork, to keep the children in their care from being adopted.)
  •  For the most part, RR office staff has to depend on in-country facilitators (local people who work with adopting families while they are physically there), missionaries, and / or families who are adopting another child out of the same orphanage, for any additional information.
  • Sometimes adopting families get to mingle with other children in an orphanage, sometimes not.  Some orphanages confine prospective families to a small area with only the child they are adopting, and give them little or no access to any of the other children living there. (This would prevent them from having additional information about other RR-listed children in that institution to forward on to the home office.)
  •  Facilitators probably keep so busy working with currently-in-country adopting families that they don’t have time (or finances) to go running around the country keeping up with all the kids listed on RR’s site.
  •  Many of these orphanages are in very remote locations, and I can tell you from seven months (2004-2005, and I doubt it's improved) in an Eastern European country not too far from Julie’s that gas is outrageously expensive in that part of the world. Expensive enough to make our highest US prices look (to them) like 99 cents a gallon would look to us.
  •  Not all facilities have missionaries close enough to work with them. Some directors want no part of missionaries or anyone else entering “their” institution, and refuse to grant them access even if they are close enough. 
Again, this presents a real dilemma to us humans. A dilemma that could easily send a potential family looking for “easier” kids – kids with frequently (or at least recently) updated information in their profiles, and lots of money in their grant funds. (I am sure there are people “out there” who would be glad to chip into Julie’s fund, once it is established.)

But then – none of this is Julie’s fault. None of this halts the clock, or puts one extra second of time between now and her 16th birthday. None of this changes her desperate need for a family to take a (larger-than-normal) leap of faith, and step forward immediately.

We do need to keep in mind that God sees a bigger picture than we do, and He may have reasons that go beyond our limited comprehension for keeping Julie’s information unavailable to RR, reasons we will never understand this side of heaven.

Is this is a complicated situation? Yes. (As I suspect dozens of adoptive families will testify, any International adoption is complicated!) Is it an impossible situation? NO. Is Julie worth whatever it takes to bring her home (or to at least give her the opportunity to come home)? Absolutely! We need to go forward on our knees, and, with every “roadblock,” first submitting our wills to God, and second, checking our lives against the blessing of His written word, to make sure there is nothing in us that would prevent Him from working in our behalf. After we have done this, we can rest in His wisdom, trusting Him to work things out however He sees is best. 

 God is bigger than this problem!

A family would also need to keep in mind, and be mentally and emotionally prepared for, the possibility that Julie might not be still available (for any one of many reasons outside Reece's Rainbow's control or knowledge), and that she might (as other older children have done), say "No" to adoption after a family does everything they can do, and actually meets her.

If you are even remotely considering inviting Julie, or any other "older child" to become part of your family, I would like to encourage you to visit Christie at Parenting that Heals. Christie and her husband, Mike have four adult sons. They have also adopted 4 older girls, one from US foster care (if I remember right), one directly from Eastern Europe, and two already in the US from disrupted International adoptions, one of whom was disrupted twice. I have read Christie's entire blog, start to finish, and I have been blessed. While every situation is different (and, with no personal adoption experience, I am definitely "on the outside looking in"), I believe she offers insights into the "whys" of behaviors that so often crop up in International adoptions, as well as some very practical "how to's" for dealing with them, to help you see that, with God's help, this is "doable."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Julie -- a bit more information



I've added this information to the bottom of the post I made yesterday about Julie, but am also putting it in this new post, for those who have already read the earlier post, and might not go back to it.

Families with even the slightest interest in adopting Julie should start at the Reece's Rainbow Adoption Process webpage -- and they should start IMMEDIATELY! Even though the adoption process doesn't need to be completed before Julie's birthday, there IS a certain amount of paperwork that needs to be in place before she turns 16.

(I've never been down the adoption road personally, but I've read this in other blogs posts advocating for "about-to-age-out" children.)

If you can't adopt her, but you could help spread the word, I would really appreciate it -- and, I'm sure, Julie would appreciate it too . . . if she only knew . . . !.

I've contacted RR about a donation button for her, and will post those details (in another blog post, so check back) as soon as I can. In the meantime, the more people who see her face, the better chance she has of a family finding her before it is forever too late.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Julie




This picture has been posted ever since I first saw your sweet face . . . over 3 years ago.

That means you were no more than 12 when it was taken -- maybe younger.

About all I know about you is what is written in your Reece's Rainbow profile:

Julie (That's a pseudonym, to protect your real identity)
Girl, Born April 1998 (I don't even know what day your birthday is -- April 1 . . . or April 30 . . . I hope April 30, as it gives you a few days longer for your family to find you.
That means that, in roughly 4 months (depending on when in April your birthday is), you will turn 16. In the US, kids look forward to turning 16 -- they can get a driver's license. In your country, "16" has a totally different connotation, especially for "orphans"! It means that you will be forever unavailable for a US family. I don't know if other countries allow young people over 16 to be adopted or not.

Here's what your Reece's Rainbow profile says:
Love this beautiful Pippi Longstocking!    Julie is a sweet, quiet, but energetic, redhead with big blue eyes and freckles.  When she was placed in an orphanage a few years ago, she did not want to speak.  Now she expresses herself reasonably well, with an occasional stutter.    She studies and recites well in her orphanage, but she is about 3 years behind her agemates.  She controls her actions well, is calm, likes to work, draw and play with toys.  She came to a 3-week summer camp in America and lived with a family, who thought she might have brain damage.  Julie was very patient in adult company, played nicely by herself or with other kids, showed determination and stamina in learning how to ice skate mostly by herself, and loved the water park, descending the steepest, scariest slide with gusto.  Julie has a sense of humor and a hearty laugh.  With a good ear for language, she should be able to learn English just fine, once a loving family gives her that opportunity.  She wants a family of her own.

I just committed to being your Reece's Rainbow ("RR") "Guardian Angel." That means I'm supposed to try to raise money for your grant fund, and I'm supposed to try to find an adoptive family for you. 

The only problem is -- RR doesn't seem to be accepting grant funds for you right now -- something about your paperwork? Does that mean you can't even be adopted if a family steps forward for you? I really don't know. I've e-mailed them to find out.

Since I don't have any "social media" accounts (no FB, no twitter, no . . . ), and this is a brand-new blog, which very few people read, where do I even start? On my knees, I guess. I've been praying for you off and on since the fall of 2010, and seriously (every morning and evening) for over a year. 

God knows all about you. He loves you, even though you probably feel like He's forgotten you, if you even know about Him.

I guess I can ask any of the few people who might read this if they would help me out . . . share where ever and however they can. Maybe do a feature post on their blog, which probably has a lot more readers than mine does? (And then leave a link to their blog post in the comments below, so I can thank them -- and read what they wrote?) Advocate for you on FB, twitter, and whatever other sites they're on? Whatever other creative ideas they have?

Maybe I can ask some of the bloggers I regularly follow (who don't know me, or anything about my little blog) if they would shout for you?

Ultimately, it only takes one family to really see you, and decide that you belong in their family.

Since it's my bedtime, I guess I'll have to put this problem in God's capable hands, and see what else I can do . . . tomorrow.

Good night, sweet Julie.

Additional note, added Thursday, January 16:
Families with even the slightest interest in adopting Julie should start at the Reece's Rainbow Adoption Process webpage -- and they should start IMMEDIATELY! Even though the adoption process doesn't need to be completed before Julie's birthday, there IS a certain amount of paperwork that needs to be in place before she turns 16.

I've never been down the adoption road personally, but I've read this in other blogs posts advocating for "about-to-age-out" children.

If you can't adopt her, but you could help spread the word, I would really appreciate it -- and, I'm sure, Julie would appreciate it too . . . if she only knew . . . !.

I've contacted RR about a donation button for her, and will post those details (in another blog post, so check back) as soon as I can. In the meantime, the more people who see her face, the better chance she has of a family finding her before it is forever too late.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Romanian Mountain Climb

(Adapted from a talk originally given at a camp meeting in western NC in May, 2007)



See this little white rock? (This is an iPhone picture of the real rock in my purse, and is pretty close to actual size. The picture is a little whiter than the real rock, though.) It doesn’t look like anything special, does it? If I tossed it on the ground here in North Carolina, and someone found it later, they might think it was pretty, and pick it up, but they would have no way of knowing where it came from, or how it happened to be there. However, this particular rock has a story behind it. I carry it in my purse to remind me of a very special hike I took several years ago, and the lessons I learned on that hike.

From November, 2004 through June 2005, I had the privilege of spending seven months in the beautiful country of Romania. I lived at the Medical Missionary Training school associated with Herghelia Center of Lifestyle Medicine, but I taught at the elementary school in the village of Câmpeniţa, about 5 kilometers (2 miles) away. The first part of my stay there, I had a ride all the way to and from school every day. Then, for a while, I walked the entire distance both ways. The last two or three months I was there, I walked about a mile down hill (some of it pretty steep) to the bus stop in Herghelia village every morning, and rode the bus the rest of the way to school. Every afternoon, the process reversed -- except that the hike back to where I was living was up hill instead of down hill. When I first started walking in about January, I had to stop and catch my breath multiple times between Herghelia Village and home. By the end of the year, I could cover the entire distance without stopping -- even with a backpack loaded with books, laptop, and whatever else I was taking home with me.

The last weekend before I came back to the United States, the medical missionary students and teachers went on a camp out, with the plan of climbing to the summit of one of Romania’s highest mountains on Sunday. I don’t remember the name of the mountain, but Ludo, one of the Romanians on the hike told me (when I was originally preparing this talk) that it is in the Fagaras Mountains. (It would have been a day or so hike into the mountains to reach the base of the tallest mountain, and there wasn’t time for that.)  I had become friends with the students and teachers, and they invited me to go along. Rachel (a young lady from the same church I attend here in the US) was one of the English teachers at the training school, even though she was younger than most of her students. She and I share some good memories of Romania – including this particular adventure.

Friday afternoon we all piled into three vans, and headed for the mountains. It was quite an interesting trip; one unlike any I’d ever been on before. We arrived in several villages about the time the cows came home from pasture, and they filled the entire road. There was nothing we could do but stop and wait for them to go by. A hundred or two cows who are not in any particular hurry can take a long time to go by!

At one village, we realized that one of the vans had gotten behind the one I was in and another van, so we stopped and waited for it. While we were there, we noticed the stork nests on top of some of the chimneys, and on some special platforms built on top of the power poles. We even got to see a parent bird bring some food to its babies.

In talking to an American (not Rachel) who was in the other van, I learned that, out of the 9 people in the van she was riding in, there were four continents (North and South America, Europe, and Africa) and 8 countries (Romania, Zimbabwe, Brazil, the United States, and four others I don’t remember) represented.

We finally reached our destination – a small chalet perched on the side of the mountain. We girls spread our sleeping bags and mats out on the second floor of the chalet – it was wall-to-wall beds, with a few girls sleeping out on the balconies. If I remember right, some of the guys slept downstairs, and the rest slept in tents in the yard. We had just enough time to get set up and start supper before Sabbath. We cooked outside, and got water from a stream nearby.

Sabbath morning we had a beautiful church service in nature. Rudolph, the student from Zimbabwe, preached a sermon that has stuck in my mind in a way few sermons have stuck. He used Christ’s illustration about the broad road and the narrow road (Matthew 7:13, 14) as the base of his sermon, and talked about the importance of diligently studying God's word, comparing passage with passage, to keep us in the narrow way. 

After a delicious lunch, we hiked along the road to a monastery a mile or two away. I’d never been to a monastery before, and found it fascinating – though I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it right now. It isn’t really relevant to my story; besides, I don’t remember a lot of details.

Sunday morning was the climax of our weekend – hiking to the top of a mountain higher than any I’ve climbed, before (or since). I don’t remember for sure, but it seems like it was about 12,000 feet high. I wish I had actual pictures, but I don't. The ones below are from Travel Guide Romania, on the Internet, and are from the general area, but not from our hike. 

We drove to the beginning of the trail, parked the vans, and started hiking. The first part of the hike was easy. I remember remarking to Rachel how much the scenery reminded me of North Carolina. We were walking on a dirt road beside a mountain stream. Even the plants seemed similar to what we’d see around here. Although our hike was just beginning, I could see a parallel between the road we were walking on and Rudolph’s sermon the day before. Romania has paved roads (though we’d had to travel some dirt roads to even reach the chalet), but I never saw any multi-lane divided highways like we have here in the US. I realized that, nice as those highways are, there is no way we could get to our destination (the top of the mountain) by travelling on any of them. It is the same way with the “broad road” that the world is traveling on. It might be smooth and easy, but it doesn’t go where we, as Christians, want to go.

After we’d hiked quite a distance, the scenery changed. We went around a bend in the trail – and there was a big snowy area that we had to cross. That was definitely different from anything around here, especially the last weekend in May!

By the time we got out of the snow we were above the tree line. The ground seemed pretty level, though we were definitely still climbing, and the trail was relatively smooth and easy to follow, so we made good time. We stopped for a short visit at a building designed as an “overnight stop” for those hiking more than a day’s journey into the mountains, then continued on our way.

Not too long after we left the hostel (or whatever it was called), we crossed a stream, and the trail took a sharp turn up. At this point, several of our group decided they’d had enough hiking, and that they were going to wait there until the rest of us got back. (If I remember right, at least one or two of them had some physical limitations that made mountain climbing impractical.)

Our nice, smooth, horizontal trail, which quickly became nearly vertical, disappeared into a tangle of rocks of various sizes and shapes. We had to pick our way around and over them for quite a ways. When we finally reached level ground again, we discovered trail markers – and a much easier way up the hill we’d just climbed. I don’t know how we got off the trail; we were probably just so busy visiting and enjoying each other’s company that we weren’t paying close enough attention to where we were going. It’s also possible that some of the early markers and been removed, or were missing for some other reason. It really doesn’t matter how we got off the trail. We sincerely thought we were going the right way; however, the “consequences” (a much harder climb) of us being off the trail were just as difficult as if we’d deliberately chosen to go a path other than the one marked out.  

Our Christian walk is much like this. God has marked out a path for us in His written word. He says, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:30) He has even promised to show us the way, if we’ll only ask. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5) And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

We corrected our way, and did our best to follow the marked trail. Things went well – until we reached an area where snow covered the markers. We really didn’t worry too much about not being able to see the markers, though, because we could still see the footprints of those who had gone before us. Periodically, the trail markers reappeared – but never where we were! They were always off to the side a ways; we had strayed from the path again. We wandered on and off the path several times.

However, just as the person who marked out the trail we were supposed to follow didn’t pick us up and put us on the right path, and hold us to it, so God will not force us to follow His way. In much the same way as we got off our physical path, we can miss the path that God has laid out for our feet. It might be that we are just so busy “enjoying” life, or our friends, or whatever, that we don’t take the time to search out the markers He has given us. Or, we might look at the "good Christians" around us, and follow them, without comparing their ways with Scripture. Just as some of the markers on our mountain trail might have been damaged, removed, or were physically hidden by the snow, it is possible that people we trust have accidentally (or on purpose, though we would hope not) damaged or hidden some of the markers on God’s trail to life, through their own lack of study or their personal desire for another way.

Because we were above the tree line on this part of our hike, our destination was clearly visible all of the time, so we weren’t in serious danger of getting permanently lost, even though the footprints we followed strayed from the trail. However, in our spiritual lives, as in some physical situations, following the footsteps of others can have eternally fatal results.

It really doesn’t matter how we get off the path God has marked out. Neither does it matter how sincerely we think we are following His way if we really aren’t. The “consequences” of following a (spiritual) way that is different from the one marked out in God's word are disastrous, regardless of the reason we are on it instead of on the one marked out in God’s word.  

Eve really believed the words of Satan, but her belief did not save her from the penalty of sin. She disbelieved the words of God, and this was what led to her fall. In the judgment men will not be condemned because they conscientiously believed a lie, but because they did not believe the truth, because they neglected the opportunity of learning what is truth. Notwithstanding the sophistry of Satan to the contrary, it is always disastrous to disobey God. We must set our hearts to know what is truth. All the lessons which God has caused to be placed on record in His word are for our warning and instruction. They are given to save us from deception. Their neglect will result in ruin to ourselves. Whatever contradicts God's word, we may be sure proceeds from Satan. [Patriarchs and Prophets, page 55.2]. 

Not only is our physical life on this earth more difficult and full of heartache and trials when we stray from God’s appointed path than when we walk on it, our eternal life is seriously jeopardized when we choose any way other than the one laid out in God’s word. (Unless we return to following God’s way, eternal loss will be our ultimate destination – and it is much easier to stray than to return. Staying on the path, through diligent personal study and daily surrender, is our only safety!)

Eventually we reached the final ascent to the top. Except for our relatively short upward climb earlier, most of the way had been fairly easy. This last stretch, however, really put us to the test. We couldn’t even walk upright – we were literally crawling up the mountain on our hands and knees. Earlier, we’d helped each other over rugged spots; that was impossible now. It took everything we could muster to get ourselves up the side of the mountain; at this point, we had no extra hands to lend anyone else. In our spiritual climb, there are times when we can help each other, but the day is coming when each of us will stand or fall on our own; there will be nothing any of our fellow (human) travelers can do to help us.



Near the end of our climb, I discovered a small white rock glistening in the sun, in the midst of all the loose brownish gray rocks that made our climb more difficult. It reminded me of  God’s promise to the church at Pergamos, in Revelation 2:17: To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.



When we finally reached the top, the view of the mountains on the other side was breathtaking, and well worth the effort to get to where we could see it. We rested a while, then headed back down.



It wasn’t until we were ready to head back down that I realized we never actually reached our goal. The “top” that we reached was actually only a saddle between two peaks. We were so busy enjoying the view that we forgot we weren’t really at the summit we were heading for, and we never made the extra effort to hike to it. The worst part of the hike was behind us; it was a relatively easy trail (probably another half mile or mile) on to one of the summits – but we got so busy resting and looking at the view that we didn’t finish our hike. Some of the group made it, and we would have had time if we hadn’t stopped, but . . . ! By the time I realized I hadn’t made it, it was too late to do it. We had to hurry back to camp, pack our things, and head back to Herghelia. After all – there was school the next day! Is it possible that, in our spiritual climb, we might get sidetracked, and stop short of the goal – only to realize, too late, what has happened? Or, as with those who quit at the first tough spot, do we give up our walk with the Lord at the first “bump in the road,” and never even get close? Do we forget that God has promised to be with us, “even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20)?

The trip back down the mountain was a lot easier than the trip up! Most of the group sat down and slid, descending several hundred feet in a matter of minutes. As Ludo reminded me (when I sent him my original manuscript, and asked if he could think of any lessons I’d forgotten), “After all dangerous climbing on the way down we were sliding on our bottoms down the valley on the frozen snow. I never in my life made such a long slide. I was thinking - how hard it was to get higher and higher - how much we sweat but to get back is a matter of few minutes... And you can start all over again - I mean our character building.  What takes months of struggle and toil to accomplish in spiritual growth can be lost in a few minutes of compromise. (English is not Ludo's native language. He does far better with it than I do with any language other than English, though!)

Think back to Rudolph’s sermon the day before. Would I have been able to enjoy the pristine view from that almost-to-the-top summit if I’d decided to stay “on the freeway”?

Life certainly would have been a lot easier for me if I’d never gone to Romania – but I would have "missed" far more than I would have "gained." Yes, there were a lot of “inconveniences” in Romania, but the blessings I received during that seven months far outweighed the "inconveniences" and "sacrifices." I had to leave all of my family, including my husband, here in the US. (I went first, and John was supposed to join me later, but that never worked out.) However, all of these were only surface troubles. No amount of money can purchase the trust I gained in God’s ability to provide for my every need. Often He provided for those needs by changing my perspective of what my “needs” really were, in ways that, at first, seemed totally unrelated to what I thought I needed but His “better plan” far exceeded my “original” plan.

As we listen to the news, and compare it with what we read in God’s word, we can't help but realize we are very close to the end of time. We are nearing the final push for the summit. I didn’t get nearly as much physical exercise as I should have before I went to Romania, but the exercise I got there, walking back and forth to school every day, prepared me for that hike, and enabled me to enjoy it -- and not be totally exhausted long before I reached the end. Likewise, we may have been depending on our pastors and friends to do our studying for us, instead of really digging in to God's word for ourselves. None of us can do anything about the past, but we can do something about the future. Now is the time for us to be pushing our spiritual muscles to the limit, or we will never make it through the times that are ahead of us. We can’t safely follow in anyone else’s footprints. We can’t depend on anyone else to do our studying for us, any more than I could have depended on someone else's exercise to put me in shape for that hike. I'll guarantee you won't regret whatever effort and sacrifice it takes to be ready to meet Jesus! It will be more than worth it in this life, and even better in the life to come.