Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us
- Ephesians 3:20
We are abundantly grateful to God for answering the prayers of our hearts.
Today we introduce Matthias David Sweet and Elijah David Sweet. Born August 7, 2018 and officially ours May 31, 2019.
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
- Psalm 126:3
There is this time period. With biological children, it is called pregnancy. The time between conception and birth. In adoption, the time frame is unnamed. The time between home study approval and being matched with a child. Like pregnancy, it is full of expectancy, anticipation and impatience to meet your child. Unlike pregnancy, the time is without reasonably expected parameters (ie 9 months). And, unlike pregnancy, the time does not pass with significant physical changes (ie a baby bump). So, what is an expectant couple supposed to do in this time?
That's the question we faced. The energy and determination to finally get our home study completed wore off. The excitement of being approved died down. One, two, three, four weeks passed and the much-anticipated letter that we had been matched with waiting children didn't appear in our mailbox. We knew God had a tangible way to use the love we had already overflowing in our hearts.
The answer was in children who are also in a time period of waiting. Orphans. On a sunny spring day, we spent time with them. Our hearts found joy in their laughter and contentment in their companionship. No matter what label the world gives them, God is so much greater. He cherishes them and calls them His children.
We have no idea what God is preparing for us. Knowing Him and His goodness is enough to say "yes" anyway.
We have gradually built a friendship with our sweet neighbor over the past year. Her smiles brings us joy and we enjoy trading small gifts and special treats. We thank God for a lifestyle that allows time to stop, say hello and get to know our neighbors. Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourself.
Merry Christmas! As we begin our second Christmas season in Bulgaria, we want to take a moment to wish each of you a Merry Christmas. Your prayers and financial support have made it possible for us to share the Hope of Jesus in a dark world. We pray that His birth would bring great joy to your December and the coming year.
We shared in our last email that we are currently behind in our budget due to unexpected expenses since we arrived in Bulgaria. We have made some progress toward our goal of $20,000, but we still need your help. The funds are needed to sustain our ministry through our initial 2-year term, including some additional ministry programs we plan to start in the new year. We are confident that God has placed our family in Bulgaria long-term and we trust Him to provide what we need to continue the work He has called us to do here. Click here to make a one-time or recurring gift to support our ministry in Bulgaria. As always, we covet your prayers during this time. Thank you!
And now for a quick ministry update:
We completed our second Bulgarian classes early in November. Our language study continues at home and early next year with a tutor.
We are taking on a larger administrative support role with the ministry here including the St. John's Home. This month, we're developing a robust financial system to help our team be better stewards. The new platform will track donations and expenditures for each project and will be an excellent tool for the ministry as we grow.
As we did last year, we helped with the assembly of 610 Virtual Christmas Gift Boxes this week (pictured above). It is a magical time. We pray for the children in our church communities in Bulgaria and Macedonia who will receive these gifts in the coming weeks. As they tear wrapping paper and enjoy candy, may His love be more evident in their lives.
By now you probably know that we are in the process of growing our family through adoption. This is an answer to the prayers of our hearts for our entire marriage and long before we met. We have been asked some questions about our adoption since we shared the news, so we wanted to share some more details. There are currently about 10,000 orphans in Bulgaria. The majority of these children are ethnic minorities and therefore have a small chance of being adopted in Bulgaria. We view the adoption as an extension of our ministry here. While we don't know the specific children we will be matched with, we have requested two infants of any gender and race. The timeline is still unknown, but we expect we will have our children in the first half of next year; therefore, we anticipate that we will be back in the US next summer for partnership building. Please continue to pray for each step on this journey. Join us in praying for the babies who will be called Sweets one day, that they will be loved and cared for as we anticipate the day we will be together.
In January 2018, we packed up and moved from Petrich to Kyustendil. We feel so blessed that we plugged into a mature ministry where we could immediately use our gifts, but also have time and space to observe and learn the culture. This past year also gave us the opportunity to see the community around us with Holy Spirit eyes as we prayed for God to show us our next steps. Your faithful support has been precious to us each step of the way.
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month
You have probably read or heard heroic stories of women rescued from sexual exploitation. It is, sadly, a reality of our fallen world. More people live in slavery today that any other time in history. The people who are called and equipped to fight on the front lines are courageous; their work in the precious lives of each person they free is critical.
Fighting modern day slavery is not an either / or battle. While the rescuers do their tireless work, we find our place in the area of prevention. Why prevention? We intimately know the damage that sexual exploitation can cause in a person. We know the hopelessness and distrust. We believe that our efforts are worth saving even one girl from living a life of shame. The reality is that 10,000 girls are taken from Bulgaria each year. It is a hidden, shameful secret in this culture.
In 2019, we commit to following God to the difficult places He takes us. He has placed a passion in us to expose the darkness, to educate Bulgarians about the methods and tactics that traffickers use, and to invest in the lives of the vulnerable around us so that she may know how valuable and loved she is.
As we look toward the St. John's Home opening this year, we cannot imagine the potential that God has placed in each of the girls that will live there. What an honor it will be to come alongside each one of them and encourage the dreams that God has given them, give them space to hope and believe and speak the Truth over them! To whisper in each of their ears, as many times as it takes to believe,
"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." - Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
We have been sharing with our supporters the past several months about our financial need to continue our ministry in Bulgaria. We are pleased to share that we have met nearly 50% of our goal! It has been faith-boosting for us as we trust God each step of the way. Whether you can give a one-time gift or commit to a monthly donation, your help is still needed. Please click here to partner with us.
Nearly a year after we first stepped foot into the Social Services office, we are grateful to report that we have completed all the paperwork, interviews and home visits for our adoption. The Lord has been so incredibly faithful to us on the journey. There have been countless moments along the way that discouragement has crept up, but each time, a gentle reminder of His love has overcome our weary hearts. We are making more preparations for our babies to come home soon. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. We cannot wait to share our joy with you, but, in the meantime, join us praising the One who already adopted us into His family and sealed our eternity with Him!