Archive for July 2013

Are you ready for some BBQ?

Don’t forget! This coming Saturday is our Mystery Dinner! If you like lasagna and a good murder mystery then be sure not to miss it! Contact Jennifer or Arturo for tickets before they sell out.
Is everyone getting excited about barbecue? I know I am! In just 12 days our church, Cheviot United Methodist Church, is hosting a BBQ Benefit Dinner & Ice Cream Social to benefit CUMC’s Adoption Ministry.
Earlier this year the CUMC community decided to start an adoption ministry. In making this decision they also made the amazing decision to funnel all money collected for this ministry toward the adoption of our children. They have also opened their hearts, wallets, and facilities to help us make our various fundraising events the success that they have been to date. We are so excited to bring our children to such a supportive community. Thank you! (You can read about our other events here.)
The barbecue dinner that’s happening on August 11th is featuring the barbecue of Tom Green who has made himself famous at our church not just by his generosity and good cheer, but also by his amazing barbecue. Admission is $10 and will include not just barbecue chicken and pulled pork but also potato salad, baked beans and corn bread. In addition we will have an ice cream social for all you ice cream lovers out there.
Tom is donating his time and his special barbecue sauce toward our cause but he needs people to help him prepare some of the food. We also need people to help with setup, clean up and serving. We have about half the number of volunteers we need and I’m confident that we can make up the rest in the coming days. If any of you are interested in helping out and have time, please contact either myself at ccellist (at) gmail (dot) com or Deborah Wood at deborah (at) thewoodfamily (dot) name to sign up for a spot.
Here is the updated list of spots that are still open:
Set-up (1 open slot) (Thanks to Doug Rife, Betsy Robinson and Dan Maret for signing up!)
Clean-up crew (6 open slots) (Thanks to Doug Rife, Tom Kindervater, Sue Kindervater and Chuck Cummings for signing up!)
Coffee maker (1 open slot)
Food preparers and servers (6 open slots) schedule as follows:
* Bread making duty (Saturday August 10th, 3 open slots)
* Potato salad making duty (Friday August 9th, 1 open slot) (Thanks to Betsy Robinson for signing up!)
* Baked Beans making duty (Friday August 9th, 1 open slot)
* Sunday food prep and serving (Sunday August 11th, 1 open slot) (Thanks to Lynn Krebs, Marcia Lucas and Missy Wittich for signing up!)
Thank you again for your continued support, and I hope to see you all there!
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Square Dancing Fun!

Don’t forget! This Sunday is our next concert at Cincinnati Christian University! You can view details about this concert at our events page.

If it seems like every other post is an expression of thanks it’s because these days we have so much to be thankful for! When we began this journey on March 31st we knew we would need others’ support. This is why we joined and began attending various adoption support groups. We consulted a counselor and an adoption therapy specialist. We even made an appointment to talk to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital International Adoption Center. We reached out to friends and family, telling them about our intentions, our reasoning, and why we are called to do this.

We also started brainstorming ideas for how to fundraise for our adoption. As we talk about here, we always knew funding this adoption would be a challenge, and we hoped that these same friends and family would be willing and able to support us in this regard as well, both by contributing with donations and by participating in our events.

The response overall has been tremendous! Not only have we been blessed with an active participation on the part of our friends in our events, we have the good fortune of being good friends with some wonderful, creative people. As I mentioned in this post, it was our friend Heather’s idea to have an auction.

In an equally amazing manner, our friend Cindy Bennett came through by offering to organize a benefit square dance for us. Jennifer and I had often daydreamed about having a benefit square dance but never quite felt right asking for this, so when we got Cindy’s call we were floored by the suggestion. We enthusiastically accepted and offered to do whatever we could to help.

Cindy quickly enlisted the help of Ron and JoAnn Bertram as well as her husband Dale. Between the four of them they lined up a venue at Dale’s nephew’s church, New Burlington Church of Christ, and lined up callers, cuers and line dance callers. Jennifer also had the great idea of having a dessert contest (I am a big fan of dessert!) as well as highlighting some of the items available for auction.

Even though the dance took place on a Saturday afternoon, it was very well-attended. We had people from Venus and Mars, Skirts and Shirts, The Nest, Sunshine Squares, and Frontier Squares attend. Since this was billed as a family event our callers and cuers did a wonderful job calling dances where everyone could participate. The dessert contest was a delicious success, with JoAnn Bertram’s dessert taking first prize.

JoAnn Bertram, dessert winner!

JoAnn Bertram, dessert winner!

The square dance raised an eye-popping $800. This included not just the entrance offering but also people’s “Split the pot” winnings, which they graciously donated to our cause.

Once again we were shown how amazing our friends are, how loved our children are even though they haven’t arrived yet. No one has met them, but like us, they are in love with them already.

To Cindy, Dale, Ron and JoAnn, Jim, Kathy, Sharon, and all who participated … thank you so much! We love our square dancing family and can’t wait to introduce our children to you!

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Thank you Cindy!

Here are some pictures of the dance.


Our callers and cuers, Sharon Murphy, Ron Bertram, Kathy Skinner, and Jim Cox.

Our callers and cuers, Sharon Murphy, Ron Bertram, Kathy Skinner, and Jim Cox.


Our very good friends Marti and Ed.

Ron Bertram

Ron Bertram

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Susan Kogon perusing some of our auction items.

Susan Kogon perusing some of our auction items.


Cindy Bennett and Bruce Benzing

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Ron and Jim calling together.

Ron and Jim calling together.



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Yard sale!

Don’t forget! This Sunday is our next concert at Cincinnati Christian University! You can view details about this concert at our events page.

Do you like yard sales? Do you live in the Cincinnati area? Well I have good news for you: the Arayas are having a yard sale!


Our home, though awesome to live in, is not very conducive toward having a yard sale so our good friends Suzanne and Rory Powell have graciously opened their home to us so that we could have a successful yard sale. All proceeds will go toward bringing Shawna and Seth home.

Suzanne and Rory live on the west side of Cincinnati and although we don’t want to publish their address publicly, you should be able to see signs pointing to the sale along Boudinot Ave. between Werk and Harrison Ave. The weather calls for intermittent rain throughout the morning, but hopefully it will hold off enough for us to welcome visitors. If you live in Cincinnati and have a relatively free Saturday please come! We will be manning tables between 9 and 2pm. We will be accepting credit cards through PayPal Here, but bring cash to maximize the amount that we can use for our adoption (PayPal charges overhead fees for using their services).

God bless, and see you there!

Rory & Suzanne

Rory & Suzanne

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A successful first concert – and a heartfelt thank you!

To all our friends who live in the Cincinnati area or are planning to be in the Cincinnati area, we wish to remind you of our “You Are Loved: An Adoption Ministry Concert” this Sunday, July 28, at 3pm. It is taking place at Cincinnati Christian University Chapel and will feature many local musicians, including Melinda Hickman, Rory Powell, Elliott Smith, and Jennifer and me as the Araya Duo. Admission is a suggested $10 donation. A love offering will also be collected.

To those who attended our last concert at Cheviot United Methodist Church on July 7, thank you so much for attending! We were so blessed by the attendance of over 100 people, raising over $2600 toward the cost of our adoption. The music was wonderful, with selections performed by Marcia Lucas and Carol Gangwer, the Wood family, the Trio Bandito, the CUMC choir, CUMC orchestra, our good friends Emily Wynn, Suzanne Powell, Rory Powell, Kirsten Smith, and many others. One of the many highlights of the program was a special guest appearance by Jiuming Shen, one of the 24 participants in this year’s World Piano Competition.

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The concert was also the kick off for our online auction which you can view here. We had a very successful kick off with over $400 in bids. We are sincerely grateful to Jennifer’s parents Phyllis and David for their help in setting up, but especially and most of all to our good friend Heather Wigle. Heather is both the brainchild and principal planner of the auction. We couldn’t have done it without her. To date we have raised nearly $1000 in bids with our auction. With several weeks left until bidding stops, it promises to be one of the more effective fundraisers to date.

Item 69 c Item 68 a Item 41 c Item 33 b Item 36 c CSO tickets

This event solidified in our minds what we have known for a long time: our friends and family are amazing, and people are amazing. We are so blessed! We never dreamed that this kind of success was possible, but with all of you and God’s help, it became a reality beyond our wildest expectations. This adoption journey has been full of humbling moments from the start, and this concert was no exception.

God bless all of you for your help and support.

Here are some pictures of the concert reception to share with you.

Heather Wigle and Suzanne Powell

Heather Wigle and Suzanne Powell

We couldn't resist...

We couldn’t resist…

Kirsten Smith and Erica Keller

Kirsten Smith and Erica Keller

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Emily Wynn and Natalie Wood

Emily Wynn and Natalie Wood

Jennifer and her mom, enjoying some post-concert refreshments.

Jennifer and her mom, enjoying some post-concert refreshments.

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She’s been seen!

I know I said yesterday I wouldn’t be posting here much this week, but I just had to share this news. Yesterday, a medical aid worker from the US visited Shawna’s orphanage, and she was able to spend the afternoon with our future daughter!

It is incredibly rare that families going through adoption get updates about their children’s well-being during the adoption process. Another family going through the Eastern European adoption process with us right now previously adopted another child internationally. In that earlier adoption, all the family had about their daughter before meeting her was a single photo taken a year and a half before they committed to adopt her. That’s pretty much the norm, and we already consider ourselves incredibly lucky and blessed to have as many photos of Shawna as we do. It was beyond our wildest hopes that we would receive these up-to-the-day news items and photos of our precious daughter. I started crying when I saw these photos, and I just couldn’t wait to share them with you. It’s incredible to think that in just a few months, we’ll be able to meet her and call her our own.

Note: I am not allowed to post photos of any child other than Shawna. These have all been cropped to remove the other children’s faces, so the photo dimensions are kind of weird as a result. One photo that couldn’t be cropped easily has the other child’s face blacked out. Sorry for the odd photos, but protecting the children and respecting the regulations of the Eastern European government are paramount!

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Notice the cross necklace in her hands? 🙂 We’re hoping this means that missionaries to her orphanage have already shared Christ’s love with her, and we are praying that she takes the message of God’s love and redemption to heart!

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The aid worker had this to say about Shawna:

“I was told she is a good singer and dancer! We blew up some beach balls, and started playing with them, and then she suggested a cool game where someone says something as they throw a ball, and if you would eat it you catch it… so there is lots of accidentally rejecting pizza, but accepting heads lol. She was talking to Jane [name changed], a volunteer she knows about the camps they are going to, and what if something goes wrong, and Jane was reassuring her she could call her. She is just an all around awesome girl!!!”

Evidently someone said something funny :)

Evidently someone said something funny 🙂

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What you can't tell in the cropped photo is that the beachball was in mid-air, headed right to Shawna when this was taken. Evidently she didn't like the sound of the food this time!

What you can’t tell in the cropped photo is that the beachball was in mid-air, headed right to Shawna when this was taken. Evidently she didn’t like the sound of the food this time!

God is so good! I can’t wait to bring this “all around awesome girl” home!

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Working, Working, Working

My presence on the blog this week may be a bit sparse, but please know it’s for a good cause. Arturo and I are leading the group of 10- to 12-year-olds at our church‘s week-long Vacation Bible School. We won’t have much time for blogging. Last night was the first session, and we had a blast! Before the kids arrived, others asked us what age group we had and, to a person, expressed their pity when we told them. But we had a wonderful time. I love kids that age, and I’m so glad we were able to work with them. We picked this age group because these children are Shawna’s age. Working with the children at VBS, even after only one night, has already increased my excitement about meeting and building a relationship with our daughter. Kids at that age are so fun!

Kingdom Rock

Over the 4th, Arturo and I went on our annual vacation with Rory and Suzanne. These two lovely people are some of our very closest friends, and this was our third year vacationing together. We work together quite well as vacation-mates. Suzanne and I are already planning our joint vacation next year, when we’ll be joined by two precious children. SO exciting!

Rory & Suzanne

Rory & Suzanne

Rebecca, one of my fellow “in-progress, soon-to-be adoptive mama’s,” posted this status on Facebook on July 4th. I love it so much I just had to share:

“Happy Birthday, America! Thankful for all the men & women who’ve fought so that I might live in a free country. Praying for all those in the world who do not experience the same freedoms. Can’t wait to bring two of them home.”

I hope you all had a great July 4th, and I’m overjoyed with the prospect that, by the time the next July 4th rolls around, the world will be getting by with two fewer orphans.

We're coming, Shawna!

We’re coming, Shawna!

In the midst of all this vacation and VBS excitement, I’m thick in the planning for our first several official fundraising events. Woohoo!! The Amazing Grace Benefit Concert will take place this Sunday at 3:00 pm at Cheviot United Methodist Church (3820 Westwood Northern Blvd., Cincinnati, OH 45211). The program is shaping up, and the performers are ready to go. It’s going to be a GREAT concert! Add to that excitement the fact that the items for our silent auction will be on display at the reception after the concert, and you’ve got yourself a perfect Sunday afternoon activity. I can’t wait! I hope I’ll see you there.

As if the Amazing Grace Benefit Concert this Sunday weren’t enough, we also have another concert quickly approaching. You Are Loved: An Adoption Ministry Concert is scheduled for Sunday, July 28th, at 3:00 pm in the Cincinnati Christian University Chapel. This concert will include incredible musicians from the Cincinnati area, including symphony members and college professors. The performers are top-notch, and it will be a wonderful concert.

But before the second concert on July 28th even comes along, we’ve got a Benefit Square Dance scheduled on July 20th and a yard sale on July 27th. And that’s just in the next 3 weeks! If you’d like more details about any of these fundraising events, visit our Events page, or email me: jenniferjill.araya (at)

Thank you all for your support of our adoption, and I hope to see you at one (or more!) of our adoption events. They’ll be great!

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