Built on a Solid Foundation

Holt’s Family Preservation program in Ethiopia

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”–Matthew 7:25

By Ashli Keyser, managing editor

In the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses a parable to speak about faith and trusting in Him. He discusses two builders, a man who built his house on an unsteady foundation of sand, and the other who built his house on a rock – a firm foundation of faith and trust.

While the two houses in Jesus’ sermon serve as metaphors for obeying the word of God, I couldn’t help but ponder this parable as I observed two very different houses set atop a small piece of land in southern Ethiopia. Standing in front of one structure was *Ejamo, his wife, *Almaz, and their five children, waiting for our team, including Holt President and CEO Kim Brown, to arrive.

I had seen this family in a photograph, just over a year ago, and was taken aback by how different each of them looked today. The parents no longer had gloomy expressions of hunger on their faces. The children no longer wore tattered rags of clothes. They each stood, happily, in front of their new house, a strongly built hut, made of durable wood and thickly packed mud. Flowerpots lined the windowsills – a mother’s special touch to a home that she could be proud of.

To the right of the family stood another house – a weak and dilapidated hut made of eucalyptus leaves, straw, and misshapen pieces of wood and branches – a house that looked to be more of a nest than a home suitable for two parents and five children. Today that nest-like shack serves only as a devastating reminder of what this family’s life once looked like and what it will hopefully never be again.

What an amazing moment for Ejamo, I thought. Showing off his family’s new and improved house to Kim Brown and the rest of our team. “Look what I’ve accomplished, look what you’ve helped me to accomplish.” The smile on Ejamo’s face matched his equally large 7-foot frame. This family, no longer weak and wanting – like the broken-down house they once occupied – has made a fresh start and stands strong beside their house, a new beginning and a renewed hope.

“We are going to help this family,” said Phil Littleton, Holt’s senior vice president, standing with Ejamo in 2009, in the beginning stages of Holt’s intervention. “We are going to give them what they need to build a better life for themselves.” Continue reading “Built on a Solid Foundation”

Holt Adoptee Camps

A mother’s perspective

When my nine-year-old declared there was “no way” he would go to Holt Adoptee camp for a whole week, I was disappointed. I was sure it would be a good experience, but he didn’t want to sleep away from home. I considered the usual parental options: persuasion, bribery and coercion! Fortunately, I soon discovered Holt’s day camp. Not only was this one-day camp much more acceptable to my eldest, but because the age range was from 5-16, his younger siblings could participate too. And parents were welcome!

The kids and I arrived at Camp Angelos promptly at 9 am, and Harry immediately spotted a friend from home on the basketball court. Before I could even apply sunscreen, he was off, disappearing into a crowd of black-haired, rough and tumble boys. Five-year-old Betty darted across the lawn to the playground. Theo, who is 8 and quite shy in new situations, walked with me to the registration table. Camp leaders Michael and Steve greeted us with friendly smiles and gathered the parents and kids into a big circle for some icebreakers. It was refreshing to be in a group of families similar to our own: kids of all complexions, with parents who resembled them very little, performing motherly and fatherly duties – encouraging, cuddling, slipping away for potty breaks as needed. Many of the kids were reserved at first, but the staff’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Steve invited the younger day campers to team up with a group of older, week-long campers – veterans now, with three days of Holt camp under their belts!  And all the day campers, except one, followed their new teenage mentors onto the lawn for games and icebreakers. Theo stuck to me like Velcro, and I was grateful that the staff and other parents were totally accepting. He participated gamely in the adoptive parent workshop, writing a list of words that described his parents and another that described him (“Mom? How do you spell ‘good climber’?”).  But when one of the camp counselors invited him personally to join in a game of freeze tag, this was too tempting, and I didn’t see him again until lunch!

While the kids played and participated in age-appropriate workshops about race and adoption, the parents were invited to consider adoption from our children’s point of view. We heard from teen and adult adoptees and had the chance to listen, ask questions, and share our own experiences with race and racism. I took home an uncomfortable truth: all of our minority kids, regardless of country of origin, experience racism on a regular basis. Both positive and negative stereotypes, as well as nosy and inappropriate questions about where our kids are from or “what” exactly they are, are upsetting to our children. Adoptive parents often want to minimize these encounters, but we need to acknowledge them. Continue reading “Holt Adoptee Camps”

A Strong Will

by Robin Munro, senior writer

Meihekou, China – At the end of a winding dirt road in Meihekou – a city in Northern China’s Jilin Province – behind a green door decorated in red for luck, a teenage girl spends her days engaged in the usual teenage activities. She text messages her friends on her cell phone. Chats online. Listens to music. Paints her long, manicured fingernails in sparkly purple polish. And dreams of her future.

At 19, she should be preparing to leave her childhood home – to pursue her goals, and explore the world. But for Jie Lin (name changed), dreams remain just dreams. And independence a fantasy. Born with a condition that causes severe muscle atrophy, Jie Lin is, essentially, paralyzed in her arms and legs – they are thin as reeds, skin to bone, and folded beneath her like marionette sticks. As her body grew, it became too heavy for her to move from laying to sitting on her own. Her foster mother carries her to the bathroom. To leave the house, she must be pushed in a stroller.

“Sometimes I feel like I have no future,” she tells Sue Liu, who has known Jie Lin since 2000, shortly after Sue joined the Holt China staff in Meihekou.

Jie Lin has soulful, sad eyes, but her expression is often overtaken by laughter. Her hair is short and shag-cut, her face lovely and wise.

Holt has sponsored Jie Lin’s care since 1999, when she was 8-years-old. That year, as the Meihekou Ministry of Civil Affairs struggled to meet rising expenses, Holt took over funding for the local foster care program. To date, Holt and sponsors have invested more than 3 million Chinese Renminbi, or nearly a half million dollars, into local foster care, which has provided for as many as 60 children at once. At present, Holt sponsors care for 38 children in Meihekou and 22 in neighboring Tonghua. Sponsorship covers basic necessities, including food, shelter and clothing, and is often the only source of income for foster families.

When children turn 18, sponsorship ends. But special needs are common, and many children continue to depend on their foster families – and Holt – for care and support beyond the age of 18.

“What can we do?” Sue asks, worried about what will become of the children who “age out” of sponsorship. Continue reading “A Strong Will”

Holt International Presents the NY2LA Dream Center Tour!

Matthew Barnett, legendary pastor of The Los Angeles Dream Center – one of the fastest growing churches in America – and Holt International present the NY2LA Dream Center Tour—reaching out to communities with an inspirational message of hope and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.  The tour, featuring recording artists Press Play and Coffey Anderson, and with inspirational words by Pastor Barnett, will play in markets as diverse as Louisville, Tulsa, San Antonio, Orlando and, of course, New York and L.A.

Click here for more information and to find a concert near you.  Concerts are free!  No Tickets required.

What Faith Can Do

July 31st marked the 10th anniversary of Bertha Holt’s passing.

When asked how she would like to be remembered, Bertha Holt’s request was a simple one:

“[Remember me] as that lady who loved the Lord,” she humbly replied.

On the tenth anniversary of her passing, it’s fitting to reflect on Bertha “Grandma” Holt’s love for the Lord, her faith in Him, and how that faith has inspired many people around the world to carry on Holt’s mission of finding families for children.

Brian Campbell, Holt’s creative services director remembers Bertha Holt, and how she has inspired him:

I remember watching Bertha Holt at a Holt picnic, one year, as she sat and had her picture taken with hundreds of children of all ages.  I stood there, amazed, listening to her recall the names of the children and sharing a brief story about each one of them. Older adoptees also came up to her, giving her hugs and thanking her for the work of Holt International.  The younger children referred to her as “Grandma.”  She had prayed continually for all of these children while they were in Holt’s care and traveled all over the world to serve them; they were always her top priority.


During a quiet moment, between the visiting and photos, I caught Grandma by herself.  A look of peace and blessing was on her face.  Not a look of pride or pleasure in knowing that she was important to all these people, but rather a look of peace that comes from knowing that she was doing what God had called her to do.

Now, more than 20 years later, I recall that moment with Grandma Holt. I imagine her with me in places like Ethiopia, surrounded by children, listening to their giggling and crying, laughing with them, and cradling and comforting them without hesitation. I ask for the children’s names, take their pictures, touch their little hands and pray for them. Today, inspired by Bertha Holt, these children are also my priority.

After the death of Harry Holt, many thought Holt International would close its doors. But Bertha always had faith that the agency would carry on. “This has always been God’s work,” she said. “If He wants it to continue, it will.”

And it has. What followed, and what remains today, is a 55-year legacy of caring for and providing loving homes to the world’s orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

Evidence of Bertha Holt’s faith can be seen today through Holt employees, working diligently and joyfully for children all over the world, to the hundreds of adult adoptees who were touched by “Grandma’s” life and, most importantly, through the smiling faces of children now home with their loving families.

The mission of Holt International has carried on, and will continue, all because one woman had faith that it could.

The Road to Oliver

a son from the Philippines

“There’s Oliver!” The social worker beamed, pointing toward the living room where two little boys were playing. My husband Sam and I walked inside the small, concrete house, forgetting about the stale, humid air of the tropics. I held my breath as I looked for the boy that resembled the photo we received from Holt. The photo showed a toddler dressed in over-sized clothes and a hat that covered his hair. His round face had eyes shaped like almonds and lips that were round and full.

One of the boys in the room wore an old, red shirt and had thick black hair. His eyes and lips were the same as the photo. I sighed quietly. He was more beautiful in person. Sam and I knelt down to Oliver’s level and took a long look at the child we had prayed for, dreamed of and longed for.

One afternoon in February of 2006, I stood in front of a mailbox and said a little prayer as I dropped our application to Holt International. At our ninth year of marriage, Sam and I had walked a long road of false hopes and fertility tests. Coming to a fork in the road, we picked the path of adoption. Little did we know that in the same month I dropped that piece of mail, our baby boy was born across the Pacific in a humble town in the Philippines. Continue reading “The Road to Oliver”

Lines

A father’s poem to his daughter, Quinn—a child in Holt’s Journey of Hope Program

by Robert Flanders

When people ask me to prove that God exists, I show them your picture and tell them about lines. The lines on which our lives travel along the points plotted by the choices that we make. I reflect upon all the choices, some good, some bad, that have led me to the place where I stand now holding your picture. I can only imagine the decisions that your birth parents have made, especially your mother. In an act of desperation and hope, she severed a sacred bond and your lines diverged. Yours led you to the orphanage and, years later, to me. Your birth mother’s life line drifted away, as silent as a ghost carried along by the force of circumstances, into her future and your past.

I remember the day that our lines, and our lives, intersected. I saw your picture and two lines, out of the six billion lines moving through time and space, came together at one point. That point is called love. I’ve seen many pictures of older, waiting children traveling on their journeys of hope but our lines did not intersect. When the Holt worker asked me, “why you?” I did not tell her about lines, I told her about love.

Now the lines of our lives will travel together, parallel to each other in love. I feel certain that God was lovingly drawing our lines so that they would one day come together. I look down at your picture in my hands and I believe.

Older children in Holt’s care need families….click here to view the photolisting for Holt’s Journey of Hope children in China.

or visit our Waiting Child page

“All Things Are Possible”

Senior Writer Robin Munro discusses her experience at a Holt-supported foster care program in Northern China.

by Robin Munro

Jilin City, China—Today, we drove to a small farming village just outside of Jilin City, a forested, mountainous region of Northern China where Holt sponsors foster care for 39 children. Here, amid lush green acres of corn stalks, rice fields and gable-roofed homes, we meet several of the children in our sponsorship program. Ducking out of the rain, we step into an unoccupied house – recently built by the village – where the families have gathered, anticipating our arrival. I am with Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager and assistant to Jian Chen, Holt’s China director; Jessica Palmer, Holt’s Waiting Child program manager; and a couple officials from the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute, with whom Holt has partnered since introducing a foster care project to this region in 2006.

I find a windowsill in which to sit and observe the scene – foster mothers sitting in a circle on the floor, cooing over babies swaddled in blankets as Sue and Jessica assess the children’s development and the foster care manager distributes formula and food. One boy – an older boy of about 9 or 10 – comes over to talk to me. “Hello,” he says in English, smiling. “Hello,” I say back, followed by a couple more simple phrases. He shakes his head, not understanding. “Ok,” I say. And he repeats. “Ok.” He wants to learn, wants to engage me with any means of communication he can find. I give him a thumbs-up. And he lifts his hand to mimic me.

But even this – this universal symbol for a job well done – he can’t use to communicate.   Continue reading ““All Things Are Possible””

Telling Their Stories

Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program, as well as other Holt-supported programs.

by Robin Munro

At the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute – the third orphanage we’ve visited in China – the beds are empty. Except for one tiny newborn who recently came into care, no children occupy the cribs and beds that line the rooms. It’s a lovely building – a home for the elderly, and orphaned and abandoned children, with a central atrium that lets in abundant natural light. It’s a wonderful sight, all these empty rooms – it means all the children who’ve passed through this orphanage are now in Holt-sponsored foster care, a program that serves 39 children in partnership with the welfare institute.

After a short stay when they come into care, the children occasionally visit the orphanage for physical and developmental exams, and rehabilitation training for those with special needs. But their homes are apartments and houses, where they get to experience family life.

Today, we get to meet five children in Holt sponsorship, a program that funds their clothing, food and other basic needs for 350 Chinese Remnibi, or about $55, per child per month – a cost shared equally by Holt and the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute. We enter a room – the only one emitting any sound – and find four boys in motion, bouncing on giant balls or rolling around in soft tubing, teasing each other and making faces. Two of the boys, dressed in matching striped polos and shorts, look like twins. They are foster brothers, though not related, 8 and 9-years-old – happy, hyper, outgoing boys with telltale scars on their lips from cleft lip surgery. Their foster mom tells us they are both their teachers’ favorites in their 2nd and 3rd grade classes, both very popular with other children.

I can see that right away. The older boy, Shen Ying (name has been changed), has a great sense of humor. He jokingly puts on a scarf and exaggerates his smile for the camera. I bet he’s the class clown – sharp, easily bored, requiring constant stimulation. When he lacks engaging activity, I bet he creates it, entertaining everyone in the room. I like him immediately, and think about how lucky the family is that gets to adopt him. Continue reading “Telling Their Stories”