It was in January 2002 when my adoption adventure began. As I was praying about my focus for the upcoming year, I got a mental picture of placing my hand in God’s hand. With my hand open, I let go of everything that I had held so tightly and I put my trust in Him.
In March 2004 a couple in my Bible study group shared pictures of their recent trip to Ethiopia to adopt two children. They spoke of the plight of numerous older children orphaned by AIDS. As I looked at the pictures, my heart was nudged toward Africa. When I saw a picture of a man’s hand with an Ethiopian baby’s tiny hand grasping the man’s little finger, I knew this was the path for me to adopt.
At the same time, I questioned the sanity of a single woman considering adoption. Not ready to make such a major decision, I told the Lord I would spend the next year praying about it.
During that year of praying, various changes and occurrences confirmed my direction toward adopting. Finances became available and my work hours became more flexible. Interestingly enough, every month something pertaining to Ethiopia was brought to my attention in a seemingly unrelated and random way.
The most dramatic incident occurred in October 2004 when I sat down at my desk at work. Before me was the new issue of Good Housekeeping open to an article about Ethiopian adoptions and the very agency that I had been considering, Adoption Advocates International.
As part of my decision making process, I wanted to experience the culture of Ethiopia and see the care facility where the children lived. In January 2005 I volunteered at AAI’s child care center in Addis Ababa and my experience there clearly validated the calling on my heart even though I still wanted to wait through the entire year.
Finally, on April 4, 2005, I knew I had to make a decision. I sat down to pray and read the Bible, asking the Lord to once again give me clear direction. I opened a devotional book and read a section on trusting God. I then looked up the Bible passages referenced. The first one was in 2 Chronicles 16:8:
“Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand.
The next passage was Psalms 91:11:
“He will give His angels charge over me, to keep me in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear me up.”
Upon reading these passages, I recalled my mental picture from January 2002 of putting my hand into God’s hand. I then watched the video I had taped while in Ethiopia, in which one of the children was singing the children’s hymn “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands.” I wept realizing God’s calling for my life was to adopt, and I contacted the agency the next day. In April 2006, I traveled to Ethiopia to bring home my new daughter, TJ, age 11 and son, TF, age 9.
God has provided my children and me an incredible, supportive community of other adoption families. Together with this group of parents we founded Grace Giving International. Our goal is to give back to the culture that has blessed us with our children and to support the children still there through food, education and medical care projects in Ethiopia and Uganda.
I serve on the GGI board of directors, where one of my roles is raising funds for our international projects. Then, while at a work event in 2011, I saw Gigi Hill Bags for the first time. I was impressed by the functionality and design of the bags. Representatives suggested I join them in selling Gigi Hill and I thought, “Now there is a creative way to raise money for GGI.” Subsequently, I signed up and created the sales pitch “Gigi Hill for GGI, putting the FUN in fundraiser.”
The profits from selling Gigi Hill’s beautiful bags have allowed me to support GGI, to take my children on a mission trip in June 2012 to work with the GGI project in Ethiopia, and to reunite with their grandmother. Gigi Hill has helped me make my dream come true. Besides the enjoyment and inspiration I derive from selling the beautiful bags, the job has provided funds for me to take my children back to their native culture and for GGI’s ongoing provision of life essentials for children in Ethiopia.
The mission trip was a profound experience for all of us. My son became great friends with Dinka, a boy his own age. TF gave Dinka some of his own clothes and even offered to pay his family’s rent. At age 16, Dinka is the sole provider for his mother and nine-year-old brother. They were three months behind in their rent ($17 U.S. dollars/month) and were about to be evicted from their mud and tin shack. GGI caught their rent up to date, and TF offered to pay their rent forward. When I pointed out that he was saving his money to buy some expensive headphones, he replied, “That doesn’t matter mom. I don’t need new headphones. I am going to tell my friends that they don’t need new headphones or new cell phones either.”
I continue to marvel at the miraculous synergies that God designs for those engaged in His work and living in His will. It’s true; He’s got the whole world in his hands!
Sandy Tidwell is a nurse and a single mother in Spokane, Wash., who uses profits she makes from a direct-sales side job to support Grace Giving International, a Christian fundraising organization that supports schools and ministries in Ethiopia and Uganda.