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The Gift Goes On: Choosing a Family Outreach

  • Sharon Beth Brani Crosswalk.com Contributor
  • 2008 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
The Gift Goes On: Choosing a Family Outreach

Editor's Note: November 22nd marks National Family Volunteer Day. Below, Crosswalk.com contributor Sharon Brani shares the blessings she and her daughters experience through their involvement in family outreach. If your family is interested in locating family-friendly volunteer opportunities, resources with links can be found at the end of this article.

It all began in 1993 when I, a single woman in her early forties, adopted a six month old baby girl from Russia. God’s Hand was so evident in even the timing of her adoption. On Christmas Eve of 1993 my life was changed when I became the mother of Noelle. And although many people refer to the blessing that my daughter received through adoption, I have always known that the gift was mine.

The miracle of adoption always shines with the wonder of God’s plan and purpose. There are no accidents. No mistakes. The little one wrapped in a pink blanket was His Touch to my life, breathing fresh hope and healing. He knew all about the pain of my divorce. He knew about the shattered dreams and broken heart. He knew and so graciously provided the gift of a very special child who for years afterward would bless me with incredible joy and laughter.

In 2000, God whispered within my spirit once more that there was another little girl that needed me. I questioned. I prayed. And after long months of waiting and even a failed adoption, I finally came home with my second daughter from Russia. Jenny, too, became His very special gift of grace and love to my heart.  My two daughters continue to bless me and the lives of many others. What precious gifts from the Father’s Hand!  

But it does not stop there. In fact, the story is only beginning.

In late 2007, my girls and I talked and prayed about a family mission for the new year. We tossed about various ideas. We were already supporting a child in India. We participated in the yearly Christmas shoebox ministry where shoeboxes are filled and sent to another part of the world to bless a child at Christmas. What else could we do?

After searching the internet and speaking with other adoptive parents we finally decided to adopt the Shoes For Orphan Souls project led by Buckner International Adoptions in Texas. Their website explained the process clearly so with open hearts we agreed to make this our own project for 2008.

I was so touched when each girl asked to go to the local shoe store to purchase their first pair of new shoes. My oldest, after much deliberation, chose a small pair of white DCs. She not only took them into her church youth group the next day to promote the shoes for children idea but also continues to keep them attached to her book bag. With brown eyes sparkling, she tells everyone that this is only the first pair that she will buy to help an orphan somewhere.  

My youngest chose a pink pair of shoes. As she put them into the shopping cart that day, my mind wandered back to that time long ago when I took a pair of little pink shoes to the orphanage in Russia. Jenny, who was then only two, put them on and walked with joy all around the wooden floor of the meeting room. I could see that she loved her new shoes, but I had no idea how important they were to her.

About an hour later, when the other adoptive parents and I had to leave our children to return to the hotel, Jenny loudly refused to take off her shoes. Although she knew no English her feelings were obvious as she pouted and stamped around the room. The help of an orphanage worker finally got them off her feet that evening only to be given back to her the next day when she left the orphanage to come home.

Little pink shoes. I have them today and often I reflect on their story. Precious memories. And now this sweet girl of eight has purchased her own little pair of pink shoes to give to an orphan somewhere.

But winter turned to spring and our collection of shoes for orphans was small. We felt sad as we looked at our meager pile of shoes on the table. In June God surprised us. We met Tim Janis, renowned pianist and composer, while vacationing in Maine. I shared me website and our mission.

“I’ll put on a concert for you in Culpeper,” he graciously offered. “Just ask people to bring new shoes for children.”  

The idea, which at first seemed only a dream, has now become a reality. People from all around our community bought shoes in preparation for the concert, held in early September of this year. Our hearts are overflowing with praise to God.

How gracious of God to bless our longing. How satisfying it is to see the gift of His Love continue to give in more ways than one.

Yes, the gift just keeps giving doesn’t it?

Does your family have an outreach? Are there ways that you have begun to teach your children to pass on their gifts?  The love planted in my heart many years ago continues to keep giving. I’m sure I have only seen a small beginning of what God plans to do in and through my two girls.

Blessed to be a blessing. It’s always that way, isn’t it?

Resources for Families:

ChristianVolunteering.org and Christian Family Volunteering
According to their website: "ChristianVolunteering.org matches volunteers to volunteer opportunities similar to how job sites like Monster.com work, but for volunteering."

Habitat for Humanity
As noted on their website: "Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. HFHI seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action."

Welcome Home Outreach Ministries
Offers short-term mission trips to Mexico that can accomodate families.

Shoes For Orphan Souls
Join Sharon and her family in supporting this outreach to orphans.


Sharon Beth Brani lives in Culpeper, VA..Her greatest treasures are her Lord and her two adopted daughters. She is a licensed professional counselor and a specialized adoption coach working with adoptive families. She helps the adoptive parent and their children to maximize the adoption process and to enjoy a lifetime of committed love and growth in a healthful family situation. Her website is www.heartprintsadoption.com. She can be reached at sharon@heartprintsadoption.com