Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NOLA bound!

I cannot tell y'all how excited we are to head to New Orleans next week! So excited I actually decided to write a blog post about how extremely excited I am:)

Although I am stoked to head down there for reasons I will list in a few minutes, I'm also a little nervous.
1. We're traveling with two small kids.
2. We're traveling at NIGHT with two small kids.
3. That means (probably) little sleep, lots of packing and repacking, lots of baking and planning. Baking I can handle, it's the planning I have a problem with. Oh well, here we go!

Why I'm so excited:

1. We get to see our family. Enough said. Adam and I have often discussed since we left how our friends we met in New Orleans are some of the most quality individuals we've ever met, and we love them very much:)
2. Beautiful culture. We can't wait to show Cruz and Javan the French Quarter, the parks, maybe catch some music, etc.
3. The FOOD. Poor North Carolina, you try, you really do. And you do have amazing barbecue and sweet tea - you win that one hands down. But New Orleans whips your tail in about everything else. I will be eating constantly for our entire 6 day trip.
4. The drive. I love traveling. And I really like driving at night, call me crazy or weird, but I do. So, despite my fears about driving with two kids through the night, I'm still excited. (Plus, Cruz now has a DVD player for the car we'll use in emergencies - e.g. when he wakes up in the middle of the night while driving and is screaming his head off - thanks to his Papa John and Grandma C). Yay!
5. Our church. We get to go to Celebration for a worship service at some point that weekend, and we're stoked about that - we've missed our church so much! We also get to see down and meet with the Pastor about supporting us during our time in Africa - another big yay!
6. The Zoo. We love the zoo! We plan on taking the boys to the zoo and several other things at some point during the week. New Orleans has a great zoo:)
7. Snoballs. Much different than shaved ice or slushies or snow cones. I LOVE snoballs. No matter how warm it is, I will be buying a few snoballs. I miss Mr. Austin (although his snoballs aren't the best in town, his sweet personality makes up for it) being right across the street...although my new two-child-having hips probably don't.
8. The Weather. Oh yes, I have actually missed the warm humidity. North Carolina is pretty humid too, but it's been chilly the last couple of weeks and I'm ready to be in the 70 degree weather (which is what it's supposed to be according to the 10 day forecast in New Orleans right now).
9. The Memories. We're also looking forward to showing Cruz his first home again (although he's a little young to understand) and introducing Javan to NOLA. We have such great memories here, we can't wait to show some of those to the boys while we're still in the States.
10. I get to try out some fun new recipes to bring for some healthy snacks for the boys and for us:)

Although there are so so many more reasons I'm excited about going back to New Orleans, these are just a few that popped into my head this morning. Ready or not, here we come!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Through the Eyes of a Child

As an adult, I sometimes find myself envious of my kids...I have two little boys, both still in the “baby” stage (although Cruz already seems to think of himself as grown), and man, do they have it made. In general, children have no agenda, no serious responsibilities, no life-altering decisions hanging over their heads, no pressure to provide for their families - they are expected to eat, play, laugh, sleep, cry when they need something, and poop. No wonder they appear to be filled with so much joy all the time! I have had many incredible experiences with the Lord since I became a Christian, but I have never felt as close to God or understand His love as much as I do now that I am a parent; when my kids were born I finally began to comprehend the love our Father has for us. And most children LOVE life - as I stated earlier, they are filled with joy. One does not have to do much to amuse or please a child, they become enamored with the smallest things and are in love with simply being alive. It makes you wonder when we lose our sense of childlike exuberance...when do we forget to be excited just to wake up in the morning or jump in a puddle? Jesus said in Matthew 18 we are all to acquire a childlike faith, to humble ourselves as children before the Lord; “ 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4. For many children it is easy to maintain the innocence, passion, and humbleness Jesus talked about...but not all.

In cities across Africa and other areas of the world, some children cannot remember a time when their days were not filled with worry, sadness, pain, anger, regret, confusion, hunger, bitterness, and violence. They do not remember running in the rain or feeling their mother’s hug or playing with friends. They do remember the hurting, the threats, the long days and nights, the uncertainty of tomorrow. They are child soldiers.

As early as nine years old, children in many countries are ripped from their homes and forced to fight through various tactics (brainwashing, drugs, etc.) for a cause and people which are not their own. Several decades ago, children were discovered as an invaluable commodity during war efforts, and thousands of children have been used in such ways in the years since. Leaders within the armies who engage in child abduction and the formation of child soldiers, choose to enlist children in their numbers for some of the same reasons I discussed at the beginning of this article - children are innocent, infinitely trusting, easily teachable, and very naive. In many cases children can also “go undercover” and gain access to places that adult soldiers cannot...often slipping into dormitories at schools and abducting other kids. Sadly, because they are so easily abducted and manipulated they are also seen as very expendable.

We can hardly comprehend the terrible things these children go through after they are abducted, but what about after they come out of their enslavement? Many former child soldiers have no home to which they can return, no family

or friends to help them deal with their horrible experience and get their life started again. The children are forced back into society with virtually no assistance or counseling or job training; and the people of the community in which the child soldiers live (understandably) do not know how to handle what has happened, so they usually ignore the children completely. Different organizations and programs have started to pop up in these countries in order to help both the former soldiers and the communities learn to adapt better and help one another. The programs offer counseling (most former soldiers suffer from post traumatic stress disorder), job training, basic hygiene skills, etc.

Several years ago my husband and I felt God calling us to help with the rehabilitation of child soldiers and their communities. God has given the world such a gift through children, through the creation of a new human being, and our hearts are burdened with the knowledge of the suffering these particular children endure. Their innocence and exuberance has been stripped away in many cases, and they have lost their youthful energetic approach to life. It is our prayer to live among former child soldiers and join in the healing process in any way God desires. And you can help too - feel free to call us or email us at any time to learn how you can help support our efforts on the mission field in Central African Republic, or for more information regarding child soldiers, our particular calling, etc.

Adam and Cori Willard


For more information about child soldiers, feel free to check out some of these resources:

Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War by Jimmie Briggs

God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir by Michael S. Sweeney

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children by Faith J.H. McDonnell and Grace Akallo