Friday, October 29, 2010

Free Shipping!

Hey Friends!

Just wanted to let everyone know that today is the last day to order one of our shirts for this shipment.  What is even better is that Dolka Pots is having free shipping today - woo hoo!!  That means you can order one of our shirts plus some other adorable items and not have to pay shipping, score! :)

We have been battling a vicious little bug at our house, going on four days now.  Please pray it leaves us alone ASAP!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and a Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"A very special Christmas Story"

Jimmy B. Pool Written Christmas, 2003.

Christmas came early for us in 2003. On November 11, my wife Carol and I returned from Russia with Elaine Sorrell Pool, born November 1, 2002. The adoption was complete and little “Ellie” was home!

Ellie is the granddaughter of the late Fred and Sorrell Pool of Roanoke. Ellie is named after Sorrell and her other grandmother, Elaine Walton of Selma.

In July of 2002, we began the adoption process with a trip to Villa Hope, an adoption agency in Birmingham, Alabama. Originally, we considered adopting from China, but at the time, the SARS epidemic was spreading around the world from that region and getting in and out of that country was extremely difficult. The case worker at Villa Hope recommended that we consider a Russian child. It sounded good to us, and the process began.

There was a great deal of paperwork to complete, home studies of our home in Montgomery conducted, and clearances by local , state, and federal agencies obtained. The final paperwork was submitted to Russia in the Spring of 2003.

In August, we received word that we had a “referral,” meaning that the adoption agency in Russia had matched us up with a child. We were given a video tape and medical records on the girl. This tape and the records were reviewed by a pediatrician in Montgomery who specializes in medical care for internationally adopted children and also by a physician at The International Adoption Clinic located at UAB Hospital. The doctors’ opinion was that Ellie was doing fine considering she was premature and had been in an orphanage for seven months.

Soon thereafter, we were informed that there was going to be a change in the government hierarchy in Kazan’ Russia where Ellie lived. The agency needed to speed things up, and a court date was set for October 28. If we didn’t come over before then it would be well into 2004 before we could get Ellie, and in all likelihood, we would have to travel to Russia twice to complete the adoption.

Many arrangements had to be made. Carol had to ask for 3 months leave from work. I had to arrange for my law practice to be “put on hold” until late November. Carol’s boss, Claude McCartney of Southern Union, was very accommodating and shared the excitement of the impending addition to the Pool family. Clients, fellow lawyers, my partner Johnnie Smith, my legal assistant Becky Moulton and the local judges bent over backwards to make the adjustments for me, and all of my court work was postponed. Finally, visas to visit Russia had to be obtained from the Russian government.

Fortunately for us, we had saved Delta frequent flyer miles for many years, and were able to redeem them for First class round trip tickets. Delta also offered a huge discount for the return flight for adopting couples, only requiring that we have tickets ourselves, and pay the taxes on an extra ticket for the baby. The baby does not have a seat on the plane, so it’s very good we had first class tickets, because Ellie had to ride in our laps. Cramped coach seats would have been a nightmare for the 3 hour flight from Moscow to Paris and the 9 hour flight from Paris to Atlanta.

On the afternoon of October 19, we drove to Atlanta and left for Russia. There was a brief layover in Paris, then a connecting flight on Air France to Moscow. We really liked the food on the Air France flight, I declared it “the finest food I’ve ever gotten on an airline.”

It took a total of 13 hours to get to Moscow, arriving at 6:00 p.m., local time on the 20th. Moscow is nine hours ahead of Montgomery, meaning when it is noon in Alabama, its already 9:00 p.m. that day in Moscow. Customs check-in was totally uneventful, the stoic Russian soldiers methodically stamping the passports and visa papers with hardly a nod at each person coming through.

The first glimpse of Russia was at night, but Moscow is a big city with lots of lights, and very Westernized. Advertisements for American goods are everywhere, but everything else is in Russian. There is much legalized gambling in Russia, with video poker parlors scattered throughout the country. The Russian language is very hard, made harder because their alphabet is not even the same as the one used by English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and many others.

In downtown Moscow, up the street from the Kremlin and Red Square, is the Marriott Grand, a very luxurious hotel with everything one could get in the USA, except that of the 150 television stations on the “satellite”, only a handful were in English. We later found out that the TV in Kazan’ was even worse, with only 3 stations in English; Euronews, BBC News, and MSNBCEurope.

At a hotel registration in Russia, one must first surrender his or her passport, which is necessary for the hotel to register the visitor with the government, and after about an hour, the passport is returned.

On Tuesday, the 21st, we met Victoria, a lovely 26 year old Russian girl, who would be our coordinator and guide in Moscow. Victoria works for WorldChild, the adoption agency which partners with VillaHope, and has offices in Moscow, Falls Creek, Virginia, and other places around the globe. Victoria spoke perfect English, having graduated from the University in Moscow with a degree in English. She was a proud Muscovite, and extremely knowledgeable about the history, tourist sites, and shopping bazaars in the city.

Mixed in with more voluminous last-minute paperwork, we toured Moscow for 2 days, seeing the Kremlin, Red Square, Gum, Russia’s tomb of the unknown soldier, and many other sights. Gum, the huge mall adjacent to Red Square proved to be a delightful shopping experience. And I bought a fur hat from a street vendor, who insisted on being paid in American money, $20.00 for the rabbit hat.

On Wednesday night, the 22nd, we met Natasha, also with the agency, who would accompany us to Kazan’. Natasha’s English paled in comparison to Victoria’s, but was understandable. The next night we boarded an Aeroflot airliner, for the 1 ½ hour flight to Kazan’. The food was not good on Aeroflot, and some of it was a complete mystery.

The Kazan’ airport is cold, dark, and stark. There is not a carousel for luggage. The restrooms are like indoor outhouses, and there are hardly any signs giving directions. Natasha led us off the plane, through the “terminal”, and to the drivers, Alex and Alex, two young Russian men who were drivers for the agency. Alex #1 spoke pretty good English, and provided some insights into Kazan’, Alex #2 did neither.

The drive into Kazan’ was somewhat unnerving. The roads are narrow, hardly lit, and for the most part, unmarked. In Kazan’, about 30 minutes from the airport, it wasn’t much better. It is a cold and sad city. Interestingly, Kazan’ will celebrate 1000 years of existence in 2 years, while Moscow is only 800 years old. Lots of Kazan’ showed the antiquity of the city. There is construction going on in Kazan’, but also lots of desolation and destruction.

We stayed at the Guiseppe Hotel. Mr. Guiseppe is Cicilian, and many times we wondered how on earth a Sicilian got 500 miles into the heart of Russia, and had a hotel to boot. Guiseppe is loud, friendly, and thoroughly likeable, and a terrific cook, as we later learned.

Accommodations were nice, though dated. The hotel room was very large, with a sitting room with a full sized refrigerator, living, dining, and bedroom combination, and a full bath with a shower and a tub. In one corner of the bathroom was another piece of equipment, baffling us. At first, I thought it was a bidet. On close examination, there was a hot and cold spigot, and a drain plug. Later, we found out that the commode looking fixture was for foot-washing!

The clerks in the hotel spoke broken English. In the adjacent Guiseppe Pizza Parlor, only one person in 19 days in Kazan’ spoke English.

On Thursday, October 25, we finally got to meet Ellie. The trip was a 30 minute ride in the BMW belonging to Alex #1. Alex also had a small Russian hatchback, which would travel better in icy conditions, which we soon learned, would be necessary. The trip to the orphanage was very depressing. The citizens there lead hard lives, are for the most part very poor, and most don’t smile. The streets are dirty and poorly maintained.

Orphanage #2 in Kazan holds 100 children under the age of 4. The orphanage was bleak to say the least. Ellie was in room #8 of 10 rooms. Every piece of clothing on her had an “8" embroidered on it. The children stay bundled up in 4 or 5 layers of clothes. The caretakers are pleasant, but with 1 or 2 caretakers for 10 children, individual attention is at a minimum for each child. Ellie had an engaging smile, and our hearts rose when we saw her. She came to us, we hugged her, and it was love at first sight. She’s teething so she flashed a toothy grin. We hugged her and talked to her and played with a stuffed animal. The hour flew by. Off we went in our car back to the hotel. We had free time until 4:00 when we went back to the orphanage. In the afternoon, we got to visit for 1 ½ hours. The 1/2 hour ride to and from the orphanage twice a day was played out almost daily until Ellie was released to us on November 8.

On Saturday, October 25, we awoke to a huge snowstorm which prohibited travel. The streets were passable the next day, and thereafter. The streets of Kazan’ are treacherous. Traveling them was worth it every day, because each day we became more and more attached to Ellie and the time allowed us for the visits seemed so short. At lunch and in the evenings, we walked the streets of Kazan’. There’s not much to see and do there, the food in the restaurants is nothing spectacular, and the language barrier prohibited much improvisation. Only 2 restaurants had English menus, and their cuisine soon got old after a few visits.

Court was set on October 28. We went with Natalya, a social worker, and we had an interpreter. He was very nice, and tried to give us some pointers on Russian courts. The Judge called the case, we went in the room, and had the most unpleasant experience of our trip. We were treated very rudely and harshly. He had the authority to waive the “10-day waiting period.” He denied the request, even though our local pediatricians had advised that we get Ellie examined as soon as possible. As a result, instead of bringing Ellie home on November 3, we couldn’t come home until the 11th. We were offered the option of coming back home at the end of October, and coming back for Ellie. Carol and I decided that we would not leave Russia without her.

Each day brought us a little closer to coming home, and a lot closer to our daughter. We got news that we could get Ellie on the 8th. Guiseppe decided to throw a party on Thursday night. He started off with pasta, which he made with salmon and 2 kinds of caviar. Then we had a delicious salad. The main course was a shish kabob of 5 kinds of fish and shrimp, presented beautifully. Finally, we were presented with a beautiful desert with Italian ice creams, nuts and cookies. Guiseppe opened several bottles of Sicilian Chardonnay, which complemented the meal perfectly. It was a nice celebration to end our long stay in Kazan’.

Finally, on Friday, November 8, we went to the orphanage for the final time. We took an outfit for Ellie, and the gifts for the caretakers, the administrator, the doctors in the orphanage, and some more folks that I can’t remember.

Ellie was handed to us the same way she came into this world, naked, innocent, and beautiful. We dressed her and took the ride back to the hotel. She did great! She accompanied us to Guiseppe’s restaurant, sat like a sweet little girl, slept all night, and woke up in a strange new world with a smile on her face and our hearts in her hand.

The next evening, we took the drive to the airport. Ellie slept all of the way. We boarded a plane with letters I don’t remember, but it wasn’t Aeroflot. Ellie never whimpered, and the take-off and landing didn’t seem to bother her, we gave her a bottle each time to help with the evening of the pressure in her ears.

We got to Moscow late at night, drove to the Marriott Grand, and welcomed Ellie to the Western world of bright lights, fancy dining rooms, and opulence fit for a queen...compared to the orphanage she had been in since she was 2 months old.

The next day we again toured Moscow, and took pictures of Ellie in Red Square. They were forwarded home and made part of a three part article in The Montgomery Independent. Ellie had become something of a local celebrity in Montgomery.

On the morning of the 10th, we went to the United States Embassy to get Ellie’s visa. She would not be a U.S. citizen until her feet touched the ground in the USA, even though the adoption was complete in Russia, and we were her parents. The most uplifting time of the trip occurred at the Embassy. There is an entire wing of the building devoted solely to adoptions. In the 30 minute time frame we were there, two dozen American families were there with their babies getting visas to bring their children home, and it goes on for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week! Besides all speaking English, a great sensation for us, it is uncanny how much each child resembled one or both of their parents. Of course, I’m convinced Ellie looks like me. If she is as lovely as my wife, her mother, either grandmother, or my sister Freddie, she’ll be a knockout.

On the morning of the 11th, we got up at 3:00 a.m., went to the airport, through customs, and boarded the Air France back to Paris. That trip is 3 hours long. All on the plane oohed and ahhed. Ellie responded with her intoxicating smile.

After a short layover in Paris, we boarded the Boeing 777 for the 9 hour flight to Atlanta. During the flight, Ellie took a couple of bottles, took a few naps, and during some of the slightly fussy moments, got paraded around the plane. All in all, we thought she did fine. In fact, there were other small children on the plane, some newly adopted, and Carol and I felt that “our baby was the best behaved.” No bias there, simply a fact.

Carol videotaped Ellie’s little feet as I placed them on the floor at Hartsfield she was officially a U.S. citizen! It took about an hour to go through customs with Ellie. All of our papers were in perfect order, and we loaded Ellie into our Yukon XL for the drive back to Montgomery. For the first time in her life, Ellie was placed in a car seat. No one wears a seat belt in Russia, much less a car seat for infants. Shortly after she was strapped in the seat, Ellie fell fast asleep, which she does now, within 5 minutes of getting in the car seat.

During the 2 hour drive back to Montgomery, we made calls to her 2 grandmothers, Sorrell and Elaine; Freddie and Tommy Hill; and our friends in Montgomery. All were thrilled for us.

When we drove up in the driveway in Ellie’s new home, a dozen friends were in the yard cheering and taking pictures. A large banner had been placed in the front, “Welcome home little Elaine “Ellie” Sorrell Pool, and there were pink bows and teddy bears all around.

I took Ellie out of the car seat, she looked around at all of these total strangers, and held her arms out to her maternal grandmother, Elaine, who held her for the next hour, not surrendering her to anyone. We had been up for almost 30 hours, and were totally exhausted.

A few days later, we were able to present Ellie to her paternal grandmother. She took to her immediately, and enjoyed taking a bottle from her and being held. Grandma Pool beamed with delight, and was so proud of her 5th, and latest grandchild, to add to her family, which now includes 10 great-grandchildren.

Thanksgiving was wild in Roanoke. Thirty-five family members had traditional dinner in Roanoke in the Pool house. Sorrell presided over her family, and Elaine came as usual, since she is so much a part of the family. All of her grandchildren were there with their spouses, and 6 of the 10 great-grandchildren.  My aunt, Sarah Wood and all of her family also came, as is tradition on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinner turned into a huge baby shower for Ellie, as she was showered with gifts from her family. We had so much for which to be thankful. Thanks be to God Almighty!

Ellie is now a thoroughly modern American girl. She has been to Wal-Mart, Target, Bruno’s, the malls, 3 Auburn basketball games, and has been held by Santa and Aubie. When her picture was made with Aubie, she turned back around and wanted to go back to him and give him another hug! The pediatricians say she is making up for lost ground at record pace, and is gaining weight the way she should. She is currently on three bottles of formula per day, laced with vitamins and iron, and each spiked with a serving of Carnation Instant Breakfast for the calories and added nutrition.

Ellie’s now looking forward to Christmas, and so are we. There are so many children overseas who have little or no chance in life unless they are adopted. More should consider adoption if they need to complete or add to their family. Our dreams and prayers have been answered, and now our family is complete. Merry Christmas to all!

*Excerpts from the family journal

until later -

j.w. godwin

Sharing others stories

Since we started this blog we have been checking the "stats" for fun to see where people are located that are reading it. Well, much to our surprise people are reading it all over the world which we think is pretty amazing. People in Russia, Germany, Chile, Saudi Arabia, China, etc. have been reading our blog! How cool is that? So we want to make sure that we keep everyone up to date on what is going on. Since we are currently in a holding pattern for the nextstep and nothing very "exciting" is happening to share, we thought we would share some other peoples stories. Our wonderful church, Saint James United Methodist Church, is starting an outreach program for families who are interested in adoption/fostering. There were four families at the first meeting to help get everything "started up." So we asked them if they would mind us sharing their stories on our blog and of course they didn't mind. So I am going to post the first one today of a Russian adoption..... I hope you enjoy.

until later -

j.w. godwin

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Halloween -

Hello everyone – it is almost time for Halloween and we are all getting into the spirit here in Montgomery. We had our “Trunk or Treat” (aka Fall Festival) at church last night and it was so much fun. Olivia was a firefly, and surprisingly she kept her wings on all night, until she passed out from exhaustion.

Earlier in the day, after church was over, we took Olivia to Frazier United Methodist Church where they are selling some pumpkins and we took some pictures of her, since we didn’t have time to make it all the way out to a pumpkin patch. We hope each of you and your families have a safe and Happy Halloween.
Update on Zoe: We are still just waiting (patiently) on a referral. We hope everyone else is doing well in their adoptions. Let us know the status of everything when you can. There is another family here in Montgomery that we have been blessed to meet during this time and they are adopting a little girl from Ethiopia as well. Well - - - they received their referral last week and it literally gave KC and I both chills. Not only because we know how blessed this little girl will be because she is being brought into their lives, but also because it made it EVEN MORE real to KC and I that we could be receiving that phone call anytime between now and when ever to tell us that we have been referred a baby. So please keep us in your prayers as we patiently wait for God to bless us with Zoe, as well as all of the new families receiving referrals, the families who have referrals and who are waiting to go pick their babies up, the families who are traveling now, and the families who have completed it all and are home with their little ones… or big ones – which ever. God bless.

until later -

j.w. godwin

Thursday, October 21, 2010

God is SO good !

Today is a good day! Thanks to all of the love, support, donations and prayers from all of our friends, family and the many other people who we have never met – OUR ADOPTION IS PAID OFF!!!!
The “ransom”, as we call it, has been paid completely off! All we have to do now is raise enough money for our travel to Ethiopia and back – twice.
Earlier this week Lifesong notified us that some donations had come in to our account, they then told us the amounts that they totaled and we were beyond excited and grateful. It was enough to finish paying off all of the fees that we still owed to Arise, the court fees, international fees, etc. God truly is an awesome God. There was no way that KC and I could have afforded to pay the entire amount for the adoption ourselves.
We had to step out of our comfort zone, which is so difficult for everyone to do, including us, and ask for help. It was even more uncomfortable, because it was asking for money and no one ever likes to do that. But we had faith, prayed about it, and knew that God would handle this minor hiccup and make sure that we were able to get Zoe. We knew when we started this amazing journey that we would come to the moment when we had to ask for help, we just weren’t looking forward to it – but I can tell you from a firsthand experience, all you have to do is have faith. Every time I started to feel down or depressed about the fact that we couldn’t just write a check and pay for the adoption I would remember Matthew 17:20 - "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

So thank you to everyone who helped us get to this moment. We are forever grateful and I don’t think we could ever express our gratitude enough. For everyone else who still wants to help us with the costs of travel, you can always buy a shirt! They are still on sale and will be until November 5th.
As far as everything else and how it is going, we are still in the waiting stage. We are praying and waiting every day for our Arise to call and tell us that we have a referral. Please continue to keep us in your prayers during this time – it is very difficult just waiting. I am a type of person, who likes to grab life by the horns and get it done with, but it is completely out of my hands right now, and it is driving me crazy, yet teaching me so much about patience.

Until the next time –
j.w. godwin

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Attention friends -

If you know of anyone who is also using our adoption agency "Arise for Children" out of Louisville, Kentucky please have them email us or leave a message in our blog somewhere. We are very interested in getting in contact with other "Arise" families. We hope to hear about their trip(s) and make some connections.

Also - there is a MUCH longer blog entry that I have been meaning to post about this, but if you are considering adoption or have questions about it or anything, you should definitely use Arise for Children!!!!!! They are all such amazing, patient, thorough and kind hearted people. If you've ever thought about adoption, now is an good a time as any to atleast look into it. That's all it took for me and KC to take that leap of faith.

Patiently waiting -
j.w. godwin

Friday, October 1, 2010

Getting it all together

Well friends, we have come to the moment in our adoption where we have to do something that is very awkward and uncomfortable, but yet humbling and honest. It is time for KC and I to start asking everyone to help us fund our trip over to Ethiopia. It is October 1st and we are starting our fundraising efforts – TODAY!
God tells us in His word He has heard the cry of the orphaned and abandoned children (Psalm 10:17, 18) and He has made a way for them to be cared for – through adoption. As believers, He adopted us into His family through Jesus Christ, and did not leave us as spiritual orphans!
Will you invest financially in the life of our child? . . . It will be an investment with eternal return.
All of you know we have felt called and directed by God to adopt a child into our family. We are adopting a little girl from Ethiopia, and will be matched with a specific child hopefully sometime this fall, then travel to Ethiopia this spring to bring her home. As a family, we've been excitedly praying for her everyday and as you all know, we have named her - Zoe Grace!
God desires for orphans of all nations to be loved, cared for and adopted into Christian families - ultimately so they can become saved, and be adopted into His eternal family through Jesus Christ! There are so many things God has used to prick our hearts and move us to adopt, here are a few:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction... James 1:27

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will - Ephesians 1:5

The biggest challenge for us is not opening our hearts and home to another child, but it is in finding the finances to make this happen. We estimate our total costs for adoption fees, document preparation, home study, airfare, travel, attorney fees, etc. to be close to $27,000 - and that's certainly money we don't have just lying around, but we know God is faithful and is leading us to trust Him. By God's grace we've been able to pay the initial fees by practically draining most of our savings and by some private donations.
Honestly, it's a little difficult, mainly because of our pride, to make our needs known to everyone around us, but we also know it's very Biblical to do so. We appreciate your friendship very much and would like you to pray and consider helping us in our adoption. There are three ways you can help:

1.) Prayer - Please pray God will tenderly care for Zoe Grace in Ethiopia until we are able to bring her home, that God would prepare Olivia for the upcoming changes to our family, and that God will give us wisdom, discernment, and insight as we raise Olivia and Zoe to know Jesus Christ.

2.) Financial Support - Will you please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us pay the remaining $10,000 in adoption expenses, to bring Zoe home?
Lifesong has graciously set up a fundraising account for us to raise funds to help pay the "ransom" to bring Zoe home. If you would like to be a part of God bringing Zoe to Himself through our family, you can send your tax-deductible gift starting today October 1st! Lifesong is a trusted organization administering the funds on Zoe's behalf, and will pay the adoption expenses out of fund received. They truly are amazing people and a God send!

Steps to do this:
Please make checks payable to: "Lifesong"
You should write "Godwin/#1549" in the memo section.
You can then mail your check to:
Lifesong for Orphans
Att: Godwin/#1549
PO Box 40
Gridley, IL 61744

3.) BUY A T-SHIRT – We have been selected as the family of the quarter by a wonderful website called Dolka Pots. It was started to help families raise money for adoptions. There are two families chosen each quarter and whatever is bought on the website, you have an option to decide which family you would like to receive the credit and then that family gets a certain percentage of the proceeds from the sales during their quarter. They are also selling and making our t-shirts and we get 50% of all proceeds from our t-shirt sales and that will go 100% directly to travel expenses. So I hope you will take a moment and at least look at our shirt and around on their website. If there is anything that you would like to buy, make sure you chose “Godwin family” when you go to check out. We would really appreciate it. – our shirts are on the page.

I don’t think we could ever say thank you enough to everyone and how supportive you have all been. Thank you for investing in the Kingdom through prayer and finances - it will be an investment with an eternal return! (Matt 6:20). We'll give you an update with a picture of Zoe as soon as we receive it and any other details as we receive them. Please pray this entire process will glorify God and fulfill His purposes!
In Christ,
J.W., KC and Olivia Claire Godwin

A note from Lifesong –
JW and KC have sensed God’s call . . . and have joyfully stepped out in faith and obedience to adopt a child from Ethiopia. As you may already know, adoption can cost around $25,000 and prevents many godly families from adopting. Lifesong believes God has raised up the Godwin family “for such a time as this…” We invite you to support them financially to make this adoption possible. Funds donated to Lifesong for Orphans will be given as an AdoptionGrant to help cover adoption expenses for this child. Your gift is tax deductible and you will receive a tax-deductible receipt. *100% of all funds raised will go directly to cover adoption costs--nothing will be taken out for Lifesong for Orphans administrative costs.