a Daughter for mother’s day {5k+1} – [announcement!]

Exciting news to share with all of our friends out there!!! We finally found our daughter!!!

Sounds a bit funny to say that out loud, I mean, it’s not like she was ever lost… But  after 15 years of dreaming & praying, over the last 4-5 of those years Mark & I actually began to think it was possible to have a daughter. (Of course, by ‘have’ I mean ‘adopt’, don’t get confused here. *wink*) Now here we are, in the midst of the miracle we always hoped for – God has shown us His timing & His path to adopting our daughter, the one He led us to, who is living in a Foster home China right now. Just a short 8 hour drive up the coast from us… We know who she is, we fell in love with her smile & her laugh, & we know her name!

Now we are officially ‘Pre-Approved’ to adopt a specific 4-year-old girl, who is more precious than words!!! Mark & I first saw her face last December while scrolling through list after list of “waiting children”, all with at least one “special need”… We want to tell you all everything about our sweet girl so you can enjoy the rest of this new adventure along with us… However, due to the regulations that are in place to keep orphans & their information safe, we aren’t allowed to tell you very much until we are almost ready to go get her. ((Praying that will be by the end of THIS year!)) We can’t tell you exactly where she is or even her given name… & we especially cannot share her pictures online yet. As soon as we can though, you can be sure we will!

ajk signsSo, in honor of Mother’s Day & this wonderful news – we want to share something just as special as her picture… Her new name! A name is very important, especially to God. He puts a lot of emphasis on giving meaningful names in the Bible. Many times, when there is a new beginning or a new life for someone, God gives them a new name to emphasize the changes He is doing in their lives… We also have taken great care in naming all of our children. We especially want our little girl to start her new life with a new name that brings her hope & freedom & eventually, we hope it brings her closer to God.

We also hope when you read our daughter’s ‘new’ name that you will think about & pray for all the other orphans who still need families. Maybe one of them is meant to be in YOUR family. Maybe they are just meant to have your prayers until their family finds them… Consider this:

“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names
They are easier to ignore before you see their faces
It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms,
But once you do, everything changes.” 

– from Radical by David Platt

Now for the fun part – we have chosen a fitting name for our sweet little miracle girl:

ajk2bAnnaBelle Janae Kwong

Anna: a Prophetess in the Bible, a woman of worship, prayer & dedication to God, a woman who recognized Christ! (Luke 2:36–38) {also, Anna is MY middle name!}

Belle: French/Hungarian – Meaning ‘beautiful’. German/Spanish – Meaning ‘intelligent’. {just found out, Belle is the name of my ajkStep-Father’s late paternal grandmother!}

Janae: feminine form of the biblical male name Janai. – Meaning ‘God has answered’, ‘God is gracious’ or ‘gift’

It comes with a ton of fun nick names to choose from too! Anna, Belle, Elle, Ellie, AJ, Nay Nay, etc.

Please pray that God will continue to provide the finances for us to go get AnnaBelle! Before we committed to the adoption, we prayed for God to confirm that He wanted us to move forward. When we felt He had, we paid our application fee. When we were accepted, there was a very fast deadline for the first $3,000+ in agency fees. We prayed again, knowing if God provided for the need in the short time, it must really be His will & plan for this girl to join our family! Miraculously, God provided almost $5,000 in less than 2wks! Isn’t he great!!! Since then, He has continued to provide & over half of the fees/expenses have already been paid. Now we are praying for the remaining $20,000 that will need to be paid before we are finished with the adoption. Please pray with us!

Yes. That IS a lot of money. It is simply the cost of adopting internationally these days. The cost of a life… And we KNOW that God will provide it because He has told us He will. He has confirmed it by already providing through many of His children, isn’t the Body of Christ a wonderful thing?! — We can’t wait to pay every penny it will cost for our daughter’s life! SHE’S WORTH ALL THAT & MORE!!! Mark & I & the boys are so excited to go scoop up our little AnnaBelle & bring her home! If all the timing works out, we should have her just in time to bring her home to the States on our next trip – then she can meet so many of you that will have helped to pray her home to her Forever Family!!! Don’t you agree that every little one deserves a Forever Family to love them forever?!

We hope you will check back with us as we share more updates on our adoption journey! We have a long ways to go yet, we only have half of the paperwork phase finished. So there is much busyness around here, getting ready! The boys are very excited too, I’m sure I’ll write more about that another time…

ajk announce1 copy

If you or anyone you know would like to help us with our adoption costs, we do have a couple of ways you can do that. Please just shoot us an email & we will fill you in! (mark.kwong@na-link.com) We are overjoyed to know our daughter will soon be home!! Thank you for your love & encouragement! You all are some of the best people on the planet & we love each of you so much! We’re praying God’s grace & blessings over your families today!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

-JK

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thanks disney… NOT

Training up my children in the way of the LORD, not the way of the mouse. Discussions on the Disney Channel always make me glad we left the country & don’t have cable here in HK. We actually only see what we purposely record online & then make special time to view, which is not even on a weekly basis; maybe LESS now that our TV broke yesterday… LOL! I totally agree with the below comments on the Disney Channel programming… While I do let my boys watch Good Luck Charlie & Jessie on occasion, the catch is that I’m watching with them & we discuss the negative attitudes as we go. The rule at our house is, if you learn negative behavior from ANYTHING, out it goes. They all agree to this for their movie, music, tv & friend choices. I believe it’s very important to teach our children to use their own discernment & I totally agree that when it comes to Disney, much discernment is needed. Thanks Disney, for giving me so many chances to teach my kids what NOT to let into their growing minds! 
These days, less is more friends. Discernment is KEY. Training is needed so our kids will be wise as serpents & gentle as doves, both now & as adults.  -JK
Re-Blogged from “Life Inspired” – original post

Between Us: An Open Letter to the Disney Channel

No More Disney Channel copy

Dear Disney Channel Executives,

My daughter Journey has recently become a fan of the Disney Channel.  She just turned 7, she has officially outgrown Nick Jr. and since Nick seems to show SpongeBob all day, she has moved over to the Disney channel.  At first, she was pretty much only watching Phineas and Ferb.  Eventually, she started watching the rest of the line up including Good Luck Charlie, Austin and Ally, Shake It Up and Jessie.

The more she watched, the more I realized that all of scripted shows on the channel have one thing in common—all the storylines center around pretending to be something you are not or lying to get what you want.   I also realized that just about all of the episodes are recycled sitcom storylines from 20+ years ago with the same premise.  The pet that dies (or gets lost) and is replaced.  The favorite item that is mistakenly given away and has to be retrieved by any means necessary.  The boy who pretends to be someone he’s not to get the girl or vice versa.  While the setting, faces and fashion has changed, the stories are basically the same.

So much of our world has changed in the past ten years alone.  Yet Disney continues to promote shows built around formulaic characters that reinforce negative cultural and gender stereotypes.  There’s the doofus dad (Good Luck Charlie, A.N.T. Farm); the scheming brother (Good Luck Charlie, Jessie, Wizards of Waverly Place); the not too bright best friend (Wizards of Waverly Place, Austin & Ally).  But the worse show on the channel by far is Jessie.  A show about self-absorbed absentee parents that have left a flighty, inexperienced nanny and lazy butler to care for their culturally diverse adopted brood that represents as many stereotypes as it does ethnicities.

I am also concerned about the portrayal of mature subject matter between some of the characters.  Girls and boys regularly pursue each other and sometimes end up in relationships.  While this may be appropriate for teenagers, I don’t think it is behavior that should be presented to children around my daughter’s age.

At first, I thought it was my fault for allowing her to watch a channel that was programmed for older children.  But after a bit of research, I realized that Disney Channel is programmed for kids ages 6-14.  The obvious way to solve my dilemma with your programming would be to change the channel, and believe me that is exactly what I did.  When I made that decision, I sat my daughter down to explain why she couldn’t watch the channel anymore.  She was upset about it, but she did agree that most of the characters make bad choices at one point or another.  “But mom, they always fix it by the end of the show,” she said.  This is the message that our children are getting—that no matter how many times you lie, scheme or make bad decisions, it will all work out in the end.  Of course, anyone over the age of 7 knows that is simply not true.

With three Disney channels, I am asking that you consider airing programming on one of them that is suitable for kids ages 6-10.  Or at the very least, a block of programming during after school hours that features shows like Phineas and Ferb, Gravity Falls, and Disney feature films, as well as age appropriate scripted shows.

But then again, maybe I’m just expecting too much from a corporate conglomerate that occupies such a large place in the hearts and minds of children across the globe.  In the end, it’s up to me as the parent to make sure that the content that my child is exposed to is in line with my beliefs and values.  So for now, much to my daughter’s dismay, she is no longer allowed to watch the Disney Channel.
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Parents, do you agree or disagree? If you do, like and share this post.

reaching, touching, Loving {1×1}

Mr. and Mrs. Au (sounds like “ow”) live with their 4 children in a room that is less than 40 sq.ft. Mr. Au works 6- 12 hours day, 6 days a week at the vegetable outlet nearby to earn about $1100 USD a month. That’s what keeps the Au family off the streets, this is how many families in Hong Kong survive. Their rent and utilities often take about 50% of their monthly income. On top of that, Mr. Au has the burden & duty of supporting his parents financially in rural mainland China. We met Mr. & Mrs. Au last November, nine years after they moved to HK. Some of our elderly friends from an older sub-divided flat had moved into the flat where the Au’s live. It was during our weekly visit with these friends, that we met the Au’s & others living there.

Mark & his volunteers took the Au Family to dinner one night last year for their weekly visit.

Mark & his volunteers took the Au Family to dinner one night last year for their weekly visit.

The whole unit is about 700 sqft, divided into 11 cubicles with plywood walls & doors. Each unit fits 1 or 2 bunk beds & a mini-fridge, with about 3 feet of floor space left over. The bathroom, kitchen & laundry ‘rooms’ are all ‘common area’ shared by all 11 units. The Au family is blessed with one of the larger units. Still, they manage to squeeze 3 small children, a teenage boy, mom & dad all into their 30 sqft cubicle, which is almost twice the size of their neighbor’s. They pay a pretty penny for the space too. The average sub-divided unit costs about $1800 HKD/m ($230 USD), which comes to approx. $6.60USD per square feet. To put that in perspective, the rent for our home in HK (about 680 sqft) is only $2.50USD per square foot… Our house in California is currently rented for less than $1 USD per square foot…

1x1 logo copywrightGetting to know new families in need is a regular part of life for us. It’s wonderful to bring groceries & deliver hot meals, but to really know someone & show them you care about them is to really make an impact & offer hope that brings new life! We want to impact our world, one family, one person, one SOUL at a time. {1×1} We have lived in HK for over a year, but we are only now beginning to see tiny, life changing moments that come from years of prayer & faithfully chasing after the dreams placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Ours is not a swift journey nor a race for sprinters, it is a long & meticulous trek… meant to be run with endurance, patience & diligence. Paying attention to details & knowing people by name, caring for the individuals – which one day will make all the difference in the world, even if only to that one special person that God chose YOU to reach, touch or love for Him! We may not be able to save them all, but as “The Star Thrower” reminds us: “It made a difference to THAT ONE!

This family was fairly friendly from the start & the little ones looked forward to the little treats Mark brings on his weekly visits. In conversation with Mr. Au, Mark learned that Mrs. Au had struggled with depression when they lived in China. Part of her husband’s decision to move his family to HK was her health. He needed to go where he could earn enough money for his wife to be at home with the kids, where she wanted to be most of all. Instead of needing for both parents to work, only to never have enough to live on in China. It was clear to Mark, this man wanted the very best for his family & he loved his wife & children very much… So now we pray together for the Au’s often, the Lord puts them on our hearts 3-4 times a week. I enjoy hearing the updates after each of Mark’s visits, since I have only been out to their house once so far.

A couple months after meeting them, Mark invited Mr. & Mrs. Au to bring the whole family to a field trip & banquet day that he had organized through our work. They all came to the Pun Choy event in Jan., except for Mrs. Au who was not feeling well that day. I was excited to see them again & as we went through the different tours, I watched the kids laughing & playing with their dad. Over 300 people that we serve attended the outing, Mark & Kum Gee (“Gum Gee”), his co-worker,  had over 40 volunteers to help keep things in order. (The boys & I were there trying to help, but we certainly need to work on our Cantonese before the next time!) We toured a bakery that specializes in a Chinese specialty called “Wife Cake”. Then we took buses to an older area of HK where we had a walking tour of a “Heritage Village”. It was very neat to see a bit of Hong Kong’s colonial days through the old buildings that connect to each other with tiny, intertwined alleys.

Mr. Au & family eating at the Pun Choy with volunteers & other guests.

Mr. Au & family eating at the Pun Choy with volunteers & other guests.

Last stop for the day was the main event, the Pun Choy Dinner. Basically, it’s a huge pot of enormous amounts of food all cooking together over a small table top burner. While everyone ate, we had our team entertaining & teaching them. There were games & raffles, worship songs & prayer, & then a testimony of God’s faithfulness in the life of someone who had been part of our program in the past… This all ended with a time of fellowship while finishing the meal. Then came the opportunity for anyone that wanted to pray, for anything at all. Mr. Au prayed for his family & he prayed for Christ to change him & his life. He was instantly adopted into the family of God! What a wonderful day for the Au family!!!

Mr. Au prayed over his son & made a decision to follow Christ!

Mr. Au prayed over his son & made a decision to follow Christ while a volunteer prayed for his daughter.

When we go out in the world, we hope to make a difference. When we go home to our families, we hope to make a difference. The difference Mr. Au’s decision is making for his family is eternal. We are excited to walk with him through this time of change & growth. He will need support & encouragement, just like you & I do. This story is not the first of it’s kind, but it is one that touches my heart to the core. So many husbands & fathers make tough choices to help their families, thinking they are doing all they can. Striving in their own strength to get things right & make ends meet, wanting to teach their children right from wrong… Only to find out that it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough without Jesus. But now Mr. Au is getting the help, the peace, grace & power he’s been needing all these years. We’re so happy & excited for him, we’re blessed to be walking this journey with him! You might not think knowing this family is a big deal, but them knowing the Savior IS! When you & I make the time to love others, He makes ALL the difference! And He usually does it ONE BY ONE{1×1}

Recently we brought a Chinese children’s bible to the Au kids. On a later visit, the 5 year old told Mark that they had been reading it together (the 3 younger kids), & sometimes Mom was reading it too. What a sweet family they are! Will you join us in praying for the Au family? We just KNOW that God is doing a miraculous work in our midst, what a great day to be alive, a day when lives are changed & Christ is glorified!

-JK

please Don’t help my kids!

I came across an excellent post on parenting at the park… Our job is to raise confident & capable kids who are strong enough to take on the challenges they face every day. I often wish moms I run into here in Hong Kong would give their kids a chance to learn what they are capable of on their own. Certainly it won’t kill them to carry their own backpack, even if they ARE only 6 years old, it might even make them take pride in their strength & their school… But instead, many kids have a nanny, or a ‘helper’ as they are called, that carries their bag & coat as well. These same kids grow up in a home where the cleaning/cooking is always done & they are never expected to lift a finger – but in turn, they are often helpless & lost in a far off city or even country – w/o the comforts of hired help once they go off to university!

This mom is already a hero to her kids & when they are older, they will be heroes too! – Be sure to click the link at the bottom to go read the rest of what this smart mom has to say!

Dear Other Parents At The Park:

Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you’ve just heard me tell them I wasn’t going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves.

I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up. I am sitting here because I didn’t bring them to the park so they could learn how to manipulate others into doing the hard work for them. I brought them here so they could learn to do it themselves.

They’re not here to be at the top of the ladder; they are here to learn to climb. If they can’t do it on their own, they will survive the disappointment. What’s more, they will have a goal and the incentive to work to achieve it.

In the meantime, they can use the stairs. I want them to tire of their own limitations and decide to push past them and put in the effort to make that happen without any help from me.

It is not my job — and it is certainly not yours — to prevent my children from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.

If they get stuck, it is not my job to save them immediately. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn to calm themselves, assess their situation, and try to problem solve their own way out of it.

It is not my job to keep them from falling. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that falling is possible but worth the risk, and that they can, in fact, get up again.

I don’t want my daughters to learn that they can’t overcome obstacles without help. I don’t want them to learn that they can reach great heights without effort. I don’t want them to learn that they are entitled to the reward without having to push through whatever it is that’s holding them back and *earn* it.

Read the rest of this post by  Kate Bassford Baker

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6

-JK