Wait...What are you guys doing???

Team Huss is going on a GREAT ADVENTURE!  Our purpose is to know Him and make Him known.  Here are some answers to questions you might have...

What is DTS?
The best description of what it is can be found in this short video: https://vimeo.com/178657032.

DTS stands for Discipleship Training School.  YWAM (Youth with a Mission) is the organization that does DTS.  There are MANY different DTSes offered at over 200 different locations around the world with focuses anywhere from photography to fitness to performing arts to blazing trails to unreached people groups to medical missions and the list goes on.

“DTS is a full-time, residential course, consisting of 11-12 weeks of classroom training, an 8-12 week outreach, and 1-2 weeks of debrief. It’s an exciting season of discovery, as students receive fresh revelation of God’s love and an understanding of their unique calling within the Great Commission. Students then live their calling by going into all the world and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19)!

Outreach is where the lessons you learned in the classroom become heart reality. Your faith will be challenged to be expressed in action. It’s an opportunity to serve others and share your faith with people who may never hear the Good News otherwise. It’s a journey with Jesus – and a huge step of faith to let Him guide you… even to the ends of the earth.”

Which DTS are y’all applying for?
We have applied for the Family Discipleship Training School in Kona, Hawaii.  The way YWAM describes it is “the Family DTS is about reaching the nations and transforming communities by developing mission-minded families and launching healthy families into international missions. Our goal is to see the end of divorce in the Body of Christ so that their marriages and families will bring glory to God in all they do and so that future generations will be raised to know the Lord.”

Why Kona?
The YWAM Kona campus is obviously in a gorgeous setting (here is a video of the campus: https://vimeo.com/157811508), but that is not why we chose to apply here.  The program that our kids will attend while we are doing our classroom work is called Foundation School, and it is unique to YWAM Kona.  It is a small-scale DTS for ages 4-17 where “the children will learn how to hear God’s voice, understand Jesus as a role model and God as our father.  Plus, your children will have the privilege of guest speakers from around the world coming to the classroom to teach.  This school will definitely give the children the Truth in tangible ways they may have never heard before.” 

Here are a couple of videos that explain more about Foundation School: 

Testimony from 8-year-old boy: https://vimeo.com/174274871

Kids talking about Foundation School: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRKoHprf62Y

When will you go?
We have applied for the session that runs April 5 – August 17, 2018.

What about school?
We are working with our kids’ schools to ensure that they can get full credit for the 2017-2018 school year.  At Foundation School, they are focused on the child’s heart change, not so much the academics.  However, they spend 1 hour a day on schoolwork that we send from home.

What about work?
Ben will apply for a leave of absence with HFD.  If it is declined, he will possibly have to resign.  This is not a decision we make lightly.  We have covered it in prayer, and we know that God is calling us to this right now in our lives.  Is it risky?  Yep!  But that’s what following God is all about.  Taking steps that seem crazy to others, but that we know we are meant to do for His kingdom.

Why now?
Because we know God is telling us to do this now.  It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

Why at all?
Ben and I both grew up in families where sharing the Good News of Jesus was what we did.  Both of us have grown up serving people in our communities as well as taking the Gospel internationally.  As a young adult, I took a 15-week course called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” that woke me up to missional living, whether at home or abroad.  And of course our eyes became wide open to the orphan crisis as we grew our family in a very unconventional way over the last 6 years.  So this is just another step in obedience to the unique calling that God has on our lives.

From the beginning of our marriage, Ben has said that he saw us serving overseas as full-time Kingdom workers.  His plan was that we would GO after he retired so that we could live off his pension and not have to “bother people” for funding.  Well, God had other plans for us!  Ben did some soul-searching and realized he was holding tightly to the “security blanket” of his job and needed to let it go to fully put his trust in God.  (Then his pension was completely taken away thanks to the mayor of Houston.)  And God wouldn’t let up on me about this Family DTS that I heard about from another family last year.  So we prayed, we listened, and we’re obeying.

What will you do / where will you go after DTS?
That’s a great question!  So far, God hasn’t revealed that next step to us.  For now, we know for sure that we are meant to apply for this Family DTS in Kona.  And we will continue to pray and seek His guidance for our next step.  As of today, we don’t have plans to sell the house and cars since we do not know if we will need to come back to Texas before being launched into the full-time mission field.  We’ll keep you posted. 😉

Will you stay with YWAM?
That’s another great question!  We are not sure at this point, but either way, this is top-notch training that we know will help prepare us for GOing!  We have also heard from others who did this training that it was an incredible time of healing for their family.  We know that God has big things in store for Team Huss!

Will you be fundraising?
Yep!  Taking this step of obedience isn’t easy.  We truly thought that our days of fundraising were over.  But God.  He had other plans for us.  Looking back at the two adoptions we fundraised for, it is truly in those times that God was the most real to us.  So many times He showed us (through many of you) that “He funds what He favors.”  The total amount is daunting, but we know that He is faithful.  Stay tuned…

The cost breakdown is as follows:

Airfare Houston to Kona for all 9 of us                                                                            $10,000
DTS Lecture                 $3995 x 3 adults (Ben, Lauren, Valik) =                                  $11,985
Foundation School     $1800 x 2 kids age 6-11 (Eden, Callie) =                                  $  3,600
                                        $2700 x 4 kids age 12-17 (Max, Slavik, Zachary, Vlad) =     $10,800
Outreach Trips            $4000 x 9 people =                                                                      $36,000

TOTAL                                                                                                                                    $72,385

All the Ways YOU Can Help!

While it's obvious that Team Huss is passionate about orphan care, we want to make sure you know that there are TONS of ways YOU can get involved!  (Click on the words to take you to the websites)

Support organizations such as:

Make ethical fashion purchases from companies such as:

Mentor an at-risk teen in your area

Get trained to be a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)

Share photos of waiting children on social media:





If we all work TOGETHER to take care of our children, we wouldn't have to depend on the "system" to do it!  Because we all know the "system" isn't working...

My Birthday Wish List

I’ve got a birthday coming up {October 3rd} and wanted to share my “wish list” with you.  Now, before you go thinking I’m being greedy, this time the focus isn’t on me. ;)

My wish for my 35th birthday is that {at least} 35 people donate {at least} $35 to {at least} one of these orphan-focused ministries/families.  If my wish comes true, that adds up to {at least} $1,225 for orphan care!  And that would make for a happy 35th birthday to me!

(And YES, I'm being serious--if you were planning to buy me a gift, DON'T DO IT!  Donate to one of these families/ministries instead!)

The following ministries / families represent all of the facets of orphan care—from prevention and reunification to adoption to post-placement support for adoptive families.   Please consider donating, and if you do, please contact me so I can see if my “birthday wish” comes true.  Thanks, friends!

Orphan Prevention / Family Reunification:
Abide Family Center (Uganda)
Click here to get to know them and donate.

Orphan Care:
Dan & Christi Ucherek  (Guatemala)
$3,000 to raise in 2 months
Click here to get to know them and donate.

[NOTE: all of these families are in urgent financial need for their respective adoptions—and I know all of these families personally, so I can vouch for their legitimacy]

Tim & Maggie Bea Ray (international older child adoption – Ethiopia)
$12,000 to raise in 7 days
Click here to get to know them and donate.

Josh & Aubre Adams (international infant adoption – DRC)
$10,000 to raise in 1 month
Click here to get to know them and donate.

Kirby & Carie Lawson (domestic older child adoption)
$9,000 to raise in 1 month
Click here to get to know them and donate. 

Gray & Leigh Ladd (domestic infant adoption)
$3,000 to raise in 9 days
Donate via PayPal to leigh.ladd@gmail.com and find Leigh on facebook or instagram to follow their story.

Post-Adoption Support:
Click here to get to know them, then follow the directions below to donate.

The donation link on the website isn’t up and running yet, so please make donations the old-fashion way.  Checks can be made out to “Refuge Ministries” and mailed to Refuge Ministries c/o Traci Heim, 6920 W. 173rd Place, Tinley Park, IL 60477.  Please indicate if this is a one-time donation or that you are interested in regular giving.

Can't wait to see the total impact!  

Our Plans for School...and about the language barrier

Quick Recap: we are all present and accounted for!
If you have followed our family on Facebook and/or Instagram, you’re up to date.  If you only follow our blog, I’m sorry—here’s the quick recap: we traveled to Ukraine and adopted our boys during a revolution (total stay was 8 weeks), we had a very busy and fun summer bonding as a family, and now our kiddos are about to start school!

Many of you have asked what we’re doing for school for our boys and how their English is coming along, so I thought I’d give you the low-down. 

Here's the short version:
-English - our boys are rock stars and are doing amazingly well with their English after only 4 months in the U.S.!
-School - Slavik and Vlad are going to public school, Valik is being homeschooled, and Eden & Cal are going to a new church preschool program. 

Here's the {much} more detailed version:

Learning English
Background:  Our boys are multi-lingual (Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and English are all spoken in our home) and super smart!  However, when they came home on April 26th, they knew barely any English.  Praise God for His perfect timing of giving us a full summer before we even needed to think about school for them!
How they are learning:  For the last 4 months, we have required our boys to do English lessons for a minimum of 30 minutes a day M-F (we took several breaks when we were on vacations).  Our older two have been doing Rosetta Stone, and our youngest has done a variety of lower-level programs (videos, games, etc.).  We encouraged more TV and movie watching than most would seem normal so that they would hear English even more.  And we limited the amount of Ukrainian videos that our youngest could watch since he struggled the most with learning English.  Now that they are close to starting school and doing activities at church without us around, we have required that they speak to each other in English when we are having dinner together.
Progress:  While we were in Ukraine, we had to use Google Translate 99% of the time to communicate with them.  In the early days home, we had to use it at least a few times a day.  Now we only have to use it for words that are used infrequently (recent example: sauerkraut). 
Verdict:  Our boys are amazing!  They definitely had/have moments of getting frustrated and overwhelmed with learning our language, but they have amazed us with their progress!  I was honestly the most scared about the language barrier with our boys, but God has shown me that it’s one of the easiest things in international adoption! 
Bottom Line:  Because they are our sons, we just know them.  The best analogy I can give is how a mama knows what her newborn baby needs by his/her cries.  We can communicate easily with them because they are part of Team Huss. 
Starting School
Background:  In Ukraine, our boys attended a very small school (their orphanage was their school).  They each had roughly 12-18 kids in their grade level, and they stayed in the same classroom while the teachers rotated in and out.  Team Huss lives in the Houston area where the public schools are huge!
Weighing the Options:  From the beginning, we wanted to ensure that we made our decisions based on the needs of each child.  In other words, all 3 boys don’t have to have the same type of schooling.  We wanted to get to know them before we made any decisions (once again, than you Lord for giving us 4 months with them before we had to make any decisions!).  We wanted to consider all possibilities: public school, private school, and homeschool. 
Ben and I both attended public schools and loved them (he in the Houston area; me in a small town in Louisiana).  We have tons of family members who are public school teachers.  We are fortunate to live in a great area for public schools—they are top notch!  They get ESL support in our public schools, so that was definitely a viable option—the only real downside being the size of the schools. 
Then there is the private school option.  The big pros for that would be the smaller atmosphere and Christian influence.  But cost is obviously a downside there, as well as little ESL support. 
Then there is homeschooling.  For the last year or so (once we started pursuing our boys’ adoption), I started learning more about homeschooling by reading other people’s stories and talking to homeschooling mamas.  There are so many things about it that fit my personality, but we just weren’t sure if it would work with our weird schedules or if our boys would want/need it.  Right before the boys came home, I attended a parent meeting at an amazing private school that combines homeschooling with traditional classroom schooling.  I thought this would be our answer for sure!!  Then I realized that they don’t cater to any “special needs” (ESL included) and that the final testing date for placement was in early July (when the boys would only have 2 ½ months of English under their belts).  I knew that they couldn’t possibly take an all-English placement test that early, so we had to throw that option out (for now). 
Making a Decision:  For our little guy, it became clear very early on that he would do better in a learning environment outside of the home, and he definitely would need ESL support.  We also knew that the elementary school we are zoned for is brand new and within walking/bike riding distance from our house.  Plus, elementary school classes can only have 22 or less kiddos in them, and we knew he would only have 1-2 teachers and wouldn’t have to learn the ropes of moving classes or having a locker, etc.  So that decision was easy.  Slavik will be a 4th grader at Adolphus Elementary!
When “back to school” time started getting closer, it was all our middle son could talk about!  He wanted to drive by and see what school he would attend, he was pumped to get some new clothes for school, and wanted to know all about using a locker and moving from class to class.  His personality is much more extroverted and he just couldn’t wait to meet some new friends!  When he went with me to registration, he was all smiles and decided he wanted to play American football!!  So that decision was easy.  Vlad will be a 7th grader at Bricsoe Jr. High!
Over the summer, we learned that our big boy HATES crowds.  There were several times we changed plans mid-stream because he saw all the cars parked somewhere or all of the people inside a building (think about every Chick-fil-A in the summer around lunch time!).  We also learned how self-motivated he is with his English lesson.  And we learned that his #1 passion in life is soccer, so he is playing with a club that practices 3 nights a week from 8:00pm-9:30pm.  Even with all of these factors, it still seemed like he wanted to go to his public high school (he initially laughed at the idea of homeschool!).  We tried to register him and kept running into issues and delays.  I went ahead and took him to new student orientation (even though we hadn't completed registration), and that’s when his attitude suddenly changed.  When we left I could tell from his body language and look in his eyes that it freaked him out and that he was super uncomfortable.  That night he spoke up and asked me if he could homeschool.  It took me off-guard because he had laughed at the idea only 2 months ago...but then I realized he was serious, so Ben and I discussed it.  There were so many reasons for us to say “yes” to homeschooling him, and the thing that sealed the deal was realizing that we’d get a lot more time with our big boy who could likely be “leaving the nest” in 3 short years.  We prayed about it, talked to him about it, and had the most peace about the decision!  (the same kind of peace we had with our adoptions—even though we know it’s gonna be crazy and new for us, we just know it’s what we’re meant to do right now)  So that decision was easy.  Valik will be a 10th grader at Team Huss school!
Our girls will also be starting something new this year.  I’ll continue to work part-time, but now I’ll spread it over the week rather than work full days 3 days a week.  So, unfortunately, our girls can’t attend the awesome MDO program at our church anymore since it’s only 2 days a week.  However, we’re excited that we found a great church preschool program that is in between Slavik’s and Vlad’s schools!  So that decision was easy.  Eden and Cal will be in preschool at Faith School for Young Children!
Bottom Line:  We will take it step by step and child by child.  We’ll reevaluate each semester to see if we need to make any adjustments and go from there.  We are incredibly thankful to live in a country (and state) that allows us so many education options and the freedom to choose what is right for our kiddos! 
Please continue to pray with us for our kiddos (and us) as we enter this very new territory.  Thanks for loving us!


What we really want you to know...

You guys are awesome!  Seriously. 

The prayers, the meals, the hugs, the smiles, the gift cards, the sweet comments, the love.

It's all awesome.  And it's all from you guys.  Which makes you awesome.

Thank you for continuing to be a part of this adoption journey, and therefore, a part of our "team."  We couldn't do it without you. 

So thank you for your awesomeness.  Seriously.

They are coming HOME!

The men of Team Huss are coming HOME!! 

The only thing pending is picking up the boys' passports and going to their final Embassy appointment, which is all scheduled to happen tomorrow (Thursday)!  Their flights are booked for a Friday morning departure from Kiev!

Scratch that.  God had other plans.  They DID get their passports and finish their final Embassy appointment on Thursday (today).  However, they can't pick up their Visas until Friday (tomorrow) morning.  SO, we had to change their flights.  They are now arriving on Saturday afternoon.  The remaining info below has been updated to reflect their new flight.

We want to invite everyone to the airport (Houston Intercontinental) on Saturday afternoon (April 26th) to welcome them home.  They will be arriving at 2:20pm on United Airlines Flight 105 from Munich.  We're guessing it will take them about an hour to deplane, go through customs and immigration, and get luggage; so, they should be walking through the arrival gates at the international terminal by 3:30pm! (that's just my estimate...)

Keep in mind that our boys speak very little English, so don't expect any conversation to happen.  But I'm sure they will appreciate smiles and "welcome" signs.

After the greetings and pictures (Valik is going to hate all of the pictures I plan to take!), we'll head to our house to begin settling in as a family of 7.  So, even though it will only be a bit of time that you'll get to see them at the airport, I know they would love a warm welcome.  And once we're settled and they have adjusted to the 8-hour time difference, we're happy to have visitors so y'all can get to know our boys a bit more.

Thanks for ALL of your love, prayers, and support.  When they land on US soil, our real journey begins...so please keep 'em coming! ;)

Some Cool Dates

Everyone loves a cool "coincidence" story, right?  Well, I actually call these type of things "winks from God."  Things that aren't necessary for Him to do, but He does them because He's in the details and loves us.  These are just dates on the calendar, but they mean so much more to us!     

September 17th
2009 - the day we felt called to adopt --read more about that here (NOTE: it was actually the 16th for us, but with Ethiopia and Ukraine being 8 hours ahead, it was the 17th in both of those countries)
2009 - a very significant time in our boys' story (my vagueness is on purpose...it's none-ya business)
2010 - the day Eden was born in Ethiopia
2014 - the day our dossier for our boys' adoption was sent to Ukraine

April 1st

2013 - the day we began the journey to our boys--when Ben shared with me about his recurring dream (read more about that here)
2014 - the day we stood before a court in Ukraine to officially make the boys part of Team Huss

Back-to-Back "Forever Family" Days (April 15th, 16th, 17th)
April 15, 2014 - the date on our court decree for Valik, Vlad, and Slavik--when the appeal term was over and the boys became forever ours!
April 16, 2012 - the date of birth of Callie Jeanne--she entered the world and became forever ours!
April 17, 2011 - the date we picked Eden up for the final time from her transition home in Ethiopia--forever in our arms!

NOTE: Those in the adoption community will realize that these back-to-back dates also mean that our adopted kiddos experience their "trauma-versaries" at the same time.  This is going to make for some interesting Springs from here on out...please pray for us to be able to give them the support they need.  For those not familiar with that term, it's such an interesting and sad thing that children from hard places deal with.  Their internal clocks just know when something traumatic happened in their life (for international adoption, that can be when they were separated from birthparents, when they leave their birth country, etc.).  Their behaviors get really cray-cray during this time (my scientific explanation), and they often don't know why.  Even kiddos adopted at birth will deal with this.  Eden was home with us when she was 7 months old and she still has major trauma-versary behaviors (we're going through it right now, so please be patient with me as I parent her during this time).