Always Hope

 

In our years of waiting to build our family, we would often lose hope that it would ever happen. We would question if the word hope even existed. And when we started seeing others build their family, we would often feel defeated and hopeless in our journey.

While we were waiting, I went on a missions trip with our church. At the end of each day, we were asked where we saw God working in our daily task. We knew the question was coming so we began to look for God working throughout the day. Our answers varied—sometimes we saw God working in a conversation with a person, sometimes it was through a kind act, or sometimes it was God creating something sacred in us individually. It became the start of something new for me–to look for God in the daily. He’s already there….but when you look for God..you see God clearer and you don’t miss a moment. You have a perspective change.

I began to write down where I saw God in the daily moments and interactions. He was in the little notes left by my husband, He was in the conversations I had with friends, and He was often found in my workplace…a homeless shelter. He was reaching me in ways I never noticed before. He was in moving in my daily and creating beauty all around me….and I finally began to see it.

As I began to see Him more clearly, I quickly saw where He was leading me. He was leading me back to hope. Step by step..….He knitted our story together. He knew our future child and her birthparents…..He already knew how our story would unfold. Seeing God and being thankful in God for what he has done, grew my confidence of what he’ll continue to do, both in the daily and in the bigger moments. This ultimately rekindled my hope. We seek Him. We thank Him. We build our hope in Him.

You have to create your own hope…and hope for me came from creating a thanksgiving spirit. When you become thankful…you become hopeful. Always. And being hopeful will completely change your perspective of the adoption process. We have to protect our view of the process, because adoption is the most beautiful adventure this mama has ever experienced. Always Hope.

World Down Syndrome Day: “Leave No One Behind”

This year on World Down Syndrome Day 2019, the charge and call of action for every person with Down Syndrome and the advocates who support them is to tell the world to “leave no one behind.” Every person with Down Syndrome is capable, deserving, and worthy to live a full life with equal opportunities. In a world where many are self-focused and driven in their own paths for life, our brothers and sisters with Down Syndrome often face exclusion and discrimination and are often “left behind.” This is especially true for our waiting children.

I had the chance to sit down with an adoptive family, Ross & Tamara, currently in the process of bringing home their two-year-old daughter from South East Asia for an interview. Here is a snippet of what we discussed.

  • What should other families considering adoption know about Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome is often looked at in a negative light, but there is life and life abundant in parenting a child with Down Syndrome. Above all, she will be our daughter first, our daughter who also happens to have Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome will be a small part of her journey here on this earth, but it will not define her journey. There are opportunities to live a full life and many children are capable of holding jobs, driving cars, and going to college. Yes, parenting a child with Down Syndrome might add more to your life with things like speech therapies, visits to the doctor, and advocating for schooling, however, parenting a child with Down Syndrome will add more to your life in other ways; filling your heart with joy, having a love for others, and caring for the least of these. A verse that we have been praying over our family has been Psalm 68: 5-6; “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling, God sets the lonely in families.”

  • When was your heart first stirred towards parenting a child with Down Syndrome?

My heart was first stirred towards parenting a child with Down Syndrome when I read the article, Where Have All the Kids with Down Syndrome Gone?. The article focuses on the increased rate of abortion when a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is given. As a pro-life family, we want to walk in truth and walk in action. If we are fighting for pro-life, we should also fight for the children that are waiting and take action to support them. For us, that means adoption, for others, that might mean advocating.   

 

  • What does your community and support system look like?

Our community does not have many families that are parenting children with Down Syndrome, however, we have found several online communities and forums that are so supportive and available to answer all of our questions. Our church community has also been very supportive! They have come alongside of us and are praying and patiently waiting for the arrival of our daughter into our community. Our local Regional Center and school district offer plenty of early intervention and educational resources that we are so excited about accessing once our daughter comes home!

 

Let’s stand beside our friends with Down Syndrome and be a part of leaving no one behind! Here are a few links to increase your knowledge of Down Syndrome and to advocate for our friends. Let us know some of your favorites!

Resources about Down Syndrome and Parenting children with Down Syndrome:

https://www.heatheravis.com/the-lucky-few-the-book

https://reecesrainbow.org/

https://www.ndsan.org/

Alone: Keeping Siblings Together

 

 

 

A couple of years ago my husband and I got hooked on a survivalist reality show.  The feature setting this show apart from other survivor type shows is that the contestants were entirely alone.  They were responsible for everything (including filming).  Dropped off unaccompanied in a remote area, the participants hunted and foraged for food, built shelters, and risked their lives for the grand prize.  The only margin between remaining in the game and going home was voluntarily sending a call from a satellite phone, in which they were immediately removed. Faced with wild boars, wolves, and poisonous berries…and yet the most common call on that satellite phone was made because competitors were feeling alone. Desperately missing their families, many grown men and women pressed the button on the phone to get home.

Something these contestants quickly learned is the innate human need to not be alone.  Some hit the button after 40 days and some after only 24 hours, but a majority hit it in despair to see family, hug family, feel the safety of family.  The most prepared and capable people of being alone, simply cannot.

Imagine now, a toddler boy.  Bright eyes, long lashes.  Chubby hands and smooth skin.  He is not a wilderness survivalist, but he too has no familiar shelter.  He is suddenly in the home of strangers.  He too wonders about food.  The afternoon eases into evening.  When the lights go out, fear grips this little boy in the scariest moment of his life.  In tears, he turns over his shoulder looking for the one consistent person in his life, his little sister.  The home he does not know, the adults he does not know, but his sister, his sister is like a thread of his own fabric that cannot be unraveled from him.

There is no stress-free way for a child to be placed in foster care.  Abuse or neglect leads up to the removal and the removal itself can be very distressing.  Just like the contestants in a contrived TV show, these kids long for reliable food, safety, and most of all to not feel alone.  In many cases, every effort should be made to keep sibling groups together.  As you can envision, not all foster families have the ability to accept multiple children at a time.  How sad for the toddler boy who looks over his shoulder and doesn’t see his sister. He reaches for the hand he knows, and it is not there. That satellite phone seems like a luxury in life’s true survival situations.

Psalm 68:6 tells us, “God sets the lonely in families.”  We think the foster family must be where God is setting them, but truly, if children have siblings, then in some regards they already have part of the family to not feel lonely.  Nightlight’s Homes for Hope house is making an effort to ensure that siblings stay together during those initial nights, when fear grips as if wild animals lurked outside.  Having a home devoted to emergency sibling placements is a safeguard against the fear and loneliness throughout the transition.  If adult survivalists use the satellite phone to get to their family, how much more do children need family in their reality?

Nightlight and Adams County Social Services have opened two homes designed to provide safety, comfort, and security to children in foster care at a time when they are most vulnerable: immediately after being removed from their family. This new model of foster care, called Homes for Hope, is designed to provide temporary foster care for children in emergency situations. A large focus of the program will be keeping sibling sets together. To learn more about Homes for Hope or the process to become a foster family contact Meaghan Nally at mnally@nightlight.org, call (970)663-6799 or visit https://www.nightlight.org/colorado-homes-for-hope-program/.

God’s Call to Single Parenting

 

I have always known that I wanted to adopt. Like many women, I assumed that it would be after I was married. However, God had a different plan for me, and I continue to be blessed beyond anything I could have imagined. I am a single mama of two precious boys, both adopted from China. We are now in the process of adding a little princess to our family. Trusting God to build my family has been one of the most faith-building and awe-inspiring things in my life.

I work in a neonatal intensive care unit. When I was still in training, I came across a picture of my first son. God made it quite clear that he was my son. I am so thankful that God was faithful to speak loudly and clearly enough that even my feeble faith at the time could follow Him. It seemed illogical. I was in training. I was single. I was very stretched financially. And the child he showed me was a 5 year old boy. Weren’t single women supposed to adopt little girls? To top it off, this child was deaf, a special need that I wasn’t prepared for. No one in my family knew sign language and I knew that he NEEDED extended family if I was to adopt him as a single mama. Time after time, God moved mountains. Family members were learning sign language, finances came through at the last minute, and my precious son Samuel has now been home for 4.5 years. Beyond all explanation, this child who had no language for almost 6 years is now a fluent English language speaker.

Within the first year of coming home, Samuel began to pray for a brother. I should have known then what was coming! I wasn’t ready AT ALL. We had just moved to a new state where I knew no one so that Samuel could attend a school for the deaf. But God was moving. One year later, I began the process to adopt again, I thought this time for a little girl. Once again, I had no idea how God was going to do this, financially or otherwise. Three days later, a friend texted me the picture of a little boy, asking if I had seen him on the advocacy websites. On that same day, my agency called with a referral for a little girl, exactly the age and a manageable special need that was on my heart. A few minutes later, I stood at my computer and I saw the most beautiful, perfect little face pop up on my screen. She was a vision and I knew instantly that she wasn’t mine. I sobbed and sobbed. What was wrong with me? My heart kept pulling to the little boy in my text message. Seriously God? TWO BOYS? As a single mama? I thought for sure I was not hearing correctly. I called my agency back and asked for time to pray. Three days later, I called to decline the little girl’s file and accept the little boy’s but my faith-walk wasn’t over yet. This time God didn’t “write on the wall”. This time, it was a still small voice that I really wanted to drowned out. But HE gave me courage to walk forward. That most precious little boy was in my arms in FIVE AND A HALF MONTHS! Start to finish, this was the fastest journey I had ever heard about. God provided social supports and the necessary finances in the way only God can do. Once again, He provided where I saw no way. And my Averey? He is the cuddliest, most affectionate child I have ever met. He is the perfect, funny, light-hearted balance to my serious, determined first son. They are the family only God could build.

Then in September of 2017, Averey started praying for a little sister. It took awhile for his brother to come around, but then they ganged up on me. And here we are, at another cross-roads. I have no more idea what God has in store this time than I did the other times. Samuel has graduated from the school for the deaf and both boys are attending a public school for the first time this year. We were able to move to a smaller community closer to friends and family and things have settled into a nice even pace again.

Like with Samuel and Averey, God led to my daughter. Our precious little girl (“little sister” as we refer to her at home) is waiting for us in China and we are well on our way to bringing her home. God has shown Himself already in a million ways like only He can. It gets harder each time to figure out the finances of adoption. I have expired my retirement, I just bought my first house ever with zero down and am still paying on my college loans. It seems risky at worst, unwise at best, but I have seen HIM through this process more clearly than I ever have before. He has changed me, shaped me, and molded me through the stretching of my faith. He has built a village around us and continues to do so. I continue to pray for His guidance and His provision. It is a scary thing, walking into adoption as a single parent. I watch my boys sleeping at night and am in awe that I get to co-parent them. They love to tell people who ask, “My daddy is God.” I guess that pretty well sums it up.

 

— Amber (Adoptive Mom)

Feel Good Friday: Gunter Family

 

We are Joe and Kaley Gunter. We are coming up on 11 years of marriage. Adoption has always been something we wanted to pursue but just never knew when we would pursue it. After three years of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant we knew the Lord was calling us to begin pursuing adoption.

We began our adoption journey with Love Basket, a smaller Christian adoption agency who later merged with Nightlight Christian Adoption Services in March 2015. This agency stood out to us at an adoption fair because of the high value and love they placed on the birthparents. We knew we would love to be able to have a relationship with the birthparents of our child if they were open to that, so the fact this agency counseled birthparents along the journey to make sure this was the right fit for them confirmed this was the agency the Lord was calling us to use. We started our paperwork and training in March 2015 and due to several reasons, some including the merge of agencies, knowing the Lord was calling us out of our ministry position in Louisville but not sure where He was leading, and then our move from Louisville KY to Magnolia MM (which required us finding an assisting agency to complete our home study in Mississippi) all of our paperwork was finally finished in February 2017 and we were ready to be matched.

On March 2nd we received a call from our caseworker stating that she wanted to show our profile to a birth mom but the expenses would be more than expected due to birth mom being privately insured. We told her to show our profile because if the Lord saw fit for this to be our child then He would work the financial aspect out. Then we prayed, trusted, and waited. The following day we headed to Hattiesburg for a date day and got a phone call from our caseworker. We knew she would let us know either way the decision the birth mom made regarding us parenting her child. So when we saw our caseworke’s name on our phone so many emotions were flooding us. She informed us we had been chosen to parent a two day old baby girl and of all the states she could have been born in she was born in Kentucky, Louisville Kentucky at that.

We will never forget the moment we first laid our eyes on our daughter. To experience a moment you have prayed so many years for was overwhelming. She was and is the most beautiful little girl we have ever seen. We immediately fell in love with her and felt a closeness to her.

For four months our journey was fairly smoothly waiting to finalize, but then in July 2017 our story took a turn. Keeping details private, we spent 13 months waiting to finalize our daughter. This by far is the hardest journey we have ever endured, but I can say wholeheartedly I would not change our situation. Through this we learned in a way we never have to truly rely on Christ and lean on Him, even in the times we were in despair and shattered. We clung to the truth that her birth mom chose us to raise her daughter and that before the Lord created her, we were chosen to parent her.

There are so many little details the Lord has orchestrated in our story. If I could sit down with you face-to-face, I would tell you all the ways God worked behind the scenes in the little details and how truly great His faithfulness and kindness is.

All of the waiting was ordained, and we may never know the reasons our daughter’s story started the way it did. But we know the truth of this quote “Waiting time is not wasted time” The wait was long at times and there was questioning on how the Lord would provide financially for our unexpected journey to finalization and how long it would be until she was legally ours. But God truly showed up in all the hard. We learned the meaning of “all we have is Christ” when life makes no sense. A vital truth that will carry us on through this earthly life. God being who He is, showed up financially and the month after we finalized our daughter our adoption process was paid in full!!! We are so grateful for the generosity of others on our journey and the village of people God has surrounded us with. Adoption can be messy and hard at times, but it is also beautiful and worth it all.

 

Human Trafficking: What Part Can You Play in Prevention & Spreading Awareness?

 

Saroo was lost. He panicked at first and then started to wander through India by himself at just five-years old. In the 2016 film Lion, Saroo is depicted as hungry, disheveled, with a blank stare behind his big-brown eyes. He’s completely alone and vulnerable. At one point, a group of men try to kidnap him along with other children living on the street. Later, Saroo senses that a woman and another man trying to befriend him are not safe either. He manages to escape them too.

It’s a heart-wrenching story, and a reminder that the human trafficking industry preys on the most vulnerable. People who have adverse childhood experiences, who experience homelessness, and undocumented immigrants are the most vulnerable to exploitation. Human trafficking can seem like an overwhelming and distant problem, but awareness can make a difference. January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Right now is a great time to consider a few simple steps we can take to stop human trafficking. Steps that can make an impact.

Begin to understand the problem.

The United States Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It’s estimated that there are over 40 million men, women, and children from all over the globe – including the United States – who are currently trapped in modern-day slavery. It can take the form of sex trafficking, forced labor, forced marriage, child soldiers, or debt bondage.

Learn the warning signs.

There can be warning signs that someone is trapped. Victims might experience poor living conditions, poor mental health, poor physical health, or lack of control. Are they fearful or submissive? Do they have visible marks or bruising? Are they living with their employer? Are they not in possession of identification documents or lacking access to them? Are they unable to speak for themselves when asked questions? Do they have tattoos or branding that signify ownership? When we think something is wrong, we can make a report to social services. The National Human Trafficking hotline is 1-888-373-7888. Help is available.

Decrease demand.

When it comes to forced labor, we can buy less and buy from second-hand retailers which is more than your local thrift shop these days. This decreases the demand for quickly produced, cheap goods. We can also support ethical brands, brands that employ survivors, and look for the fair trade label on products we purchase. There are even companies like DoneGood which recommend ethical shops to empower consumers or apps like Good On You to help us find what we need while following our convictions. What we spend money on is an indication of our values.

Seek justice.

We can promote, make donations, and volunteer for organizations that are making a real difference in local communities and around the world. Just one example is International Justice Mission (IJM) which combats slavery, trafficking, other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, holding perpetrators accountable, and transforming broken public justice systems. We have a voice. At the government level, there is legislation that can protect victims and hold traffickers accountable. A resource for learning more about current legislation related to human trafficking is Polaris Project.

Participate in awareness campaigns.

Wear Blue Day is on Friday, January 11th when people can simply wear blue in acknowledgment of human trafficking victims and survivors. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center asks participants to post pictures on social media with the meaning behind this act of solidarity for them. Dressember is a campaign when advocates wear a dress every day during the month of December to raise awareness and funds for several organizations in the fight against human trafficking.

Adopt.

We know that stressful or traumatic childhood events including abuse or neglect, and homelessness create more vulnerability to exploitation. Youth in group homes are actively recruited, and social workers are trained to recognize the signs of recruitment. At-risk children long for family. Adoption can protect children and young people who are the most vulnerable to human trafficking.

Like all stories of adoption Saroo’s story is emotional and layered. A couple from Australia adopt Saroo from an orphanage, and as a young adult he begins to explore his origins. The movie walks us through an incredible, inspiring, positive healing process with closure – which we know is not always the case for everyone. But it also shows how one life could have taken a very, very dark turn if not for the investment of the man who noticed him on the street and took him to authorities, the people who prepared him for adoption, and the couple who adopted him into their family.

Creating a Life Book For Your Adoptive/Foster Child

 

 

 

Creating Lifebooks for our children is one of those things in life that some parents follow through better than others, like sending out Christmas cards. The desire is there, we’ve pictured the outcome, we understand the appreciation it will bring others, and some have gotten as far as making a Shutterfly account. But then, before we know it, it’s December 24th, December 25th, January 1st, January 30th and we’ve convinced ourselves that next year we will do better.

I get it, life is busy, especially now that we’re parenting. But unlike Christmas Cards, that are eventually thrown away or tossed into a drawer, Lifebooks serve as  lifelong tools for our children. It connects a child with their past. It helps them make sense of their experiences, the good and painful. It’s a vehicle that facilitates discussion about the often-messy circumstances leading to their adoption, helps navigate their grief of losses and past traumas, and aids to dispel magical thinking or false beliefs that somehow they caused the separation from their birth family.  All of which, if handled correctly, contributes to strengthening a child’s positive self-identify.

Through a quick internet search, you can find a lot of wonderful resources about creating a Lifebook for your adoptive/foster child. Most of the blogs and articles are better than I could ever recreate. Here are some of the highlights that I’ve learned from my thirteen years working in the adoptions and foster care field.

 

  1. Lifebooks are not reserved for the Pinterest parent. Lifebooks are not meant to be perfect or even pretty. They are filled photos, artwork, words, historic information and journal entries. No Shutterfly account needed. Use a book were pages can be added and rearranged, such as a three-ring binder.
  2. Don’t know where to begin? Start with important dates and places. Stuck again? Search the web for template pages and ideas. Iowa’s Foster and Adoptive Parent Association IFAPA has created over seventy free life book pages for foster and adoptive families and social workers to use. http://www.ifapa.org/publications/ifapa_lifebook_pages.asp
  3. Do a little legwork. I know of one fost/adopt family whose daughter attended twelve schools in only eight years. To help fill in her story, they retrieved the names of the schools from former case workers and spent one summer visiting each school, taking photographs of the schools and asking the school offices for their daughter’s yearbook picture.
  4. Involved the masses. Contact important individuals from your child’s past and ask them to contribute notes and memories. These people may include case workers, foster parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, etc. Even if you don’t have many contacts from your child’s past, you must have had contact with a social worker who facilitated your adoption.
  5. Involve your child. The life book is for your child and in order for it to be a useful therapeutic too., they must contribute. When they are young it may be a drawing they made of their birth family. As they get older they can contribute more. They also must be allowed to handle it, carry it around, land ook at it when they please.
  6. Remain honest. A Lifebook should provide a child the truth about their own life history. The story can become more sophisticated as the child grows older. As painful as it may be, recording the reasons for the child’s adoption is important because truth dispels false beliefs that a child may otherwise have that they caused the circumstances that led them to be separated from their birth family and false guilt that may affect their self-worth. Lifebooks also allow for feelings, complicated and real, such as how much a child loves their birth parents and positive memories living with their birth family even when those parents may have been neglectful, abusive or primarily absent
  7. Leave lots of blank pages to continue to document your child’s growth, development, school progress, hobbies, and relationships etc.

The simple fact is there is no right or wrong way to make a Lifebook, but by not doing a Lifebook you’re missing a powerful way to positively impact your child’s sense of self and the way they view their past, present and future. It’s also a great way to deepen the parent/child relationship. The Christmas cards can wait until next year, your child’s Lifebook should not.

How Do You Celebrate “Gotcha Day”?

 

The term “Gotcha Day” has been used for many years by adoptive parents to celebrate the day their adopted child became part of their family.  We recognize that not everyone appreciates this term.  Some people instead call this special day “Family Day,” “Adoption Day,” or something similar.  Regardless of what you call it, this is the day that your adopted child became yours for forever.  Why is it important to celebrate this day?  It’s important to celebrate your child and to recognize that your child came to you in a very special way.  It’s important to celebrate the child’s heritage, birth country, and birth parents.  Your child establishes his identity through embracing who he is and where he came from.  Celebrating this day reveals to the child that you are aware of the culture and history of his background.  It also enables you to recognize the importance of the child’s birth parents and their love for him.  Everyone appreciates the opportunity to celebrate their child and the way their child came into their family.

Families choose different days to celebrate.  Some celebrate the first day the child was put in their arms.  Some celebrate the court hearing that made that child officially a part of the family.  Some celebrate the first day that their child met their whole family.  It doesn’t matter what day you choose.

In some families, the child may not be comfortable celebrating at all.  They may have negative feelings associated with the adoption process or parts of it.  In these cases, another option is to celebrate National Adoption Day (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) with family and friends.  The focus in such a celebration can be on adoption in general, and such events can help reduce the stigma surrounding adoption as well.

How do you celebrate “Gotcha Day” or “Family Day”?

The Marvin family celebrates “Family Day” by recognizing their son’s birth country.  In The Congo, people celebrate special days by purchasing Fanta Orange soft drinks in glass bottles.  The family has incorporated this tradition into their “Family Day” to give their son the ability to appreciate his culture.

The Inabinet family recently celebrated their 4-year-old son’s domestic adoption “Gotcha Day” by explaining to him in greater detail his adoption and that he has two mommies and two daddies.  The next day the adoptive and birth families came together to celebrate Preston by spending the day at the zoo together.  Preston was able to celebrate his adoptive family and still recognize and know his birth family.

Other ideas for how to celebrate this special day are as follows:

  • Create a book of the adoption journey and read the book to the child every year.
  • Look at pictures of the child’s birth family or birth country.
  • Go to a restaurant related to your child’s culture.
  • Mail a care package to the orphanage your child spent their early years in.
  • Tell your child stories of your visit to his birth country or the days leading up to his birth.
  • Be intentional on this day to create new memories and record them in a special way.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Take a picture as a family.

“Gotcha Day” or “Family Day” celebrations do not have to be elaborate, as long as they are meaningful to you and your child.

Feel Good Friday: Reunification in Uganda

It was only yesterday that we welcomed baby Grace into our home.  She was born a preemie at 7 months and her mum plus sibling both passed away at birth. She weighed only 1.2 kgs and was still very under-developed, even the hospital didn’t expect Grace to make it.  She was feeding through an ng tube and her skin was so pale.  We spent the whole night praying that she would survive.  She was severely dehydrated and needed lots of care and feeding.  We fought, prayed and believed for Grace’s miraculous survival.  Little did we know that Grace was as much determined to make it as we were.  She was a fighter.

Today we celebrate a miracle as we see grace being reunited with her biological father.  We are in awe of this great and amazing journey of hope. Grace has grown into a beautiful and happy girl who is full of energy. She is a feisty girl and will fight her way through any crisis.  She is very strong willed, fearless, and opinionated.  She has a smile which is contagious, when she chooses to show it. 

Who knew that this little girl could actually be here to tell her story?  Who knew that this tiny baby would grow into a lovely and flamboyant beauty?  Who knew that even when people give up on you, God can actually redeem and restore?

Grace was loved by many.

We are so proud of the girl she is today.  We are so thankful for what God has done and continues to do in her life.  We are so grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to change her story.  We are so grateful that our hope was not in vain.

Grace was inconsolable on the day of reunification.  It was difficult to see her in tears as we said our farewell, but we were comforted that she was in the hands of her parents who were excited and very grateful to have her home.

It was a hard day for grace and her nanny as they bid farewell

Grace will always be loved and remembered in the home.  Her smile and energy are missed every day.  God has indeed been good and we can boldly say Ebenezer. 

—-Ken and Cathy Nganda (Tender Hearts Baby Home)

Our Adoption Journey: Nightlight Family Testimony

 

This is the story of how we adopted our precious daughter. My wife and I had 10 years of unexplained infertility. We felt in our hearts that we needed to partner with a Christian adoption agency. Galatians 6:10 instructs us, ” … let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” In my opinion, that means choosing to do business with brothers and sisters in Christ when we’re able, as this helps them provide for their families.  I contacted Focus on the Family, which led us to Love Basket, Inc., now Nightlight Christian Adoptions.  We had been waiting 3½ years when we finally got the call from the agency that would change our lives forever, joyfully informing us that they’d found a good adoption match and that we soon would be heading for Kansas City, Missouri. There were many friends and family members praying for us; this covering of prayer meant the world to us. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

Some folks might say we experienced a lot of “coincidences.”  We don’t believe these were coincidences at all. We believe in Emmanuel – “God with us.” God is not an absent landlord, nor does He love us from a distance, uninterested in our lives. We give thanks and glory to God, for we experienced His goodness and grace during our 12-day journey.

 

During the week after we got the phone call, one of my favorite worship songs, which I hadn’t heard in a while, came across my newsfeed: “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan and Melissa Helser:

 

“You split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears are drowned in perfect love.
You rescued me, and I will stand and sing. I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.”

 

As we were traveling to our daughter’s birth place we passed a cornfield along I-70, near Casey, Illinois where there were signs every 100 feet: World’s … Largest … Wind Chime … Next Exit. Casey is a charming little town, with finely manicured Scottish green lawns, and random “Guinness World Record” giant items (“world’s largest” wind chime, mailbox, rocking chair, etc.) on store front properties. There was a cafe that was closed but I pictured us eating here on the way back home with our baby. (I use the generic term “baby” because, since the birth mother wanted the gender to be a surprise, we still didn’t know at that point if we were getting a son or a daughter.)

 

We drove further, spending the night in Effingham, Illinois, where there is a giant white cross, 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide. It is forged out of over 180 tons of steel anchored in an enormous volume of cement, so it can withstand hurricane-force blasts of wind (up to 145 mph). At the visitor center, an older woman, Edie, prayed for us. Edie is the name of my wife’s beloved three-year-old niece. An altar stands in the chapel with an inscription that reads simply, “Trust in God.”

 

After about five hours of driving under sunny blue skies, we arrived at our attorney’s office just two minutes before our scheduled meeting. He had a calming presence, with a voice like Morgan Freeman narrating The Shawshank Redemption. The next day, we met our social worker from the adoption agency, RoNishia, who exemplified Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” She was classy in both appearance and personality, with a warm smile and a voice that was gentle and soothing, yet confident. There in the hospital waiting room, the three of us joined in prayer. RoNishia sat with us for hours, answered our questions, and encouraged us during the anticipation of the birth. Finally, the word came … IT’S A GIRL! Our beautiful daughter was brought to us in a bassinet. Our tiny, dark-haired baby girl, wrapped up in a white cocoon, was handed to her mommy, and through tears of joy, my wife fed her for the first time. It was one of those moments where the demands of life are placed on hold and you are completely loving and living in the present moment. The next two days spent caring for our little one were timeless; we didn’t know what time or even what day it was, and we didn’t care. We could relate to the nurses, listening to their own stories about adoption and their children, thankful to finally be parents ourselves. When the time came to leave the hospital, I was wishing I had brought an armored Humvee. (I’m betting other first-time daddies can relate!)

 

I was anxious while waiting to begin the legal proceedings to adopt our baby. There was another couple there adopting a baby boy; they were naming him Carson. Carson is not a very common name, but it happens to be the name of my brother’s son. Incredible! I was just shaking my head at all the little “coincidences.” It was as if the Lord was saying, “Why are you still nervous? I’ve got this covered!” All legal proceedings went smoothly, but it was nevertheless humbling and nerve-wracking being asked questions by our 4-day-old daughter’s state-assigned attorney.

We visited the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Kansas City. Some 10,000 people witnessed the laying of the cornerstone in 1882. We were dismayed to discover that it was closed, but the cleaning lady heard me tugging at the locked door so she let us in for an unofficial tour. The beauty of the stained glass took our breath away and we had the whole sanctuary to ourselves.

Missouri law requires adoptive parents to remain in Missouri while waiting for adoption paperwork to be approved, but they may go anywhere in the state. We decided to get a head start on our trip home by driving three hours east, to St. Louis. While there, we visited the Cathedral Basilica, completed in 1914; we thought we’d been transported to Italy. Installation of mosaics in the interior began in 1912 and was completed in 1988. The mosaics collectively contain 41.5 million glass tesserae (tile pieces) in more than 8,000 shades of color. Covering 83,000 square feet (almost two acres), it is the largest mosaic collection in the western hemisphere. Next stop was St. Francis Xavier. On June 8, 1884, the cornerstone for the new church was laid. When we first arrived, we had the whole sanctuary to ourselves – again. At the altar, we prayed for the adoption paperwork to be completed, protection on our drive home and, of course, for our precious baby girl.

 

Finally, all paperwork was approved and we were released to take our daughter home. It was a five-hour drive to our hotel in Richmond, Indiana, but we stopped first at the Effingham cross. To our great joy, even though she was not scheduled to work that day, Edie was there. When my wife offered to let Edie feed our baby, her smile lit up the room! No other tourists showed up the entire 45 minutes we were there. Edie had sent a card to our home address after our initial visit, telling us that she and her prayer partner were praying for our adoption. Now she knew that those prayers had been answered.

Last stop before our hotel was Casey, Illinois; I was determined to eat at the café that had been closed on our way west. This time it was open, and we ate together as a family. My wife’s favorite comic book character is Wonder Woman. How often do you see a poster depicting Wonder Woman for the women’s restroom? Unbelievable, but there it was! The real reason I had wanted to revisit Casey was because I had read about a Christian businessman who built Guinness World Record attractions to revitalize the town. He and other Christians bought most of the store fronts so the creations could be placed on private, not public, property. He placed a scripture on each one, knowing tourists would see them and be exposed to God’s Word. Eleven days earlier, I hadn’t noticed the star of David and the Christian fish symbol on the side of the giant wind chime. You can see these creations at www.bigthingssmalltown.com

 

It rained almost the entire last leg of the drive; a five-hour drive turned into seven hours. We passed two overturned tractor trailers that were heading west. Only four months prior, we had bought a used Lincoln MKZ hybrid; we were thankful for the comfortable and safe ride home with an impressive 44mpg.  As I was telling a neighbor about our trip, she said, “All you needed was a rainbow.” I grinned from ear to ear as I showed her this picture I took on our way home.

On Sunday, June 25th, 2017, we took our darling girl to Church for the first time. During communion, there was a worship song that I never heard before called “There is a Cloud” by Elevation Worship.

“Hear the word roaring as thunder with a new future to tell, for the dry season is over.
There is a cloud beginning to swell. Every seed, buried in sorrow, You will call forth in its time.
You are Lord, Lord of the harvest, calling our hope now to arise. We receive Your rain.”

 

The pastor titled his sermon “Joy,” and he showed a video of a song I’d never heard before, but which begs for a smile, “Old Church Choir” by Zach Williams.

 

When the valleys that I wander turn to mountains that I can climb
Oh, you are with me, never leave me
Oh, ’cause there ain’t nothing, there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy
(except a dirty diaper :))
I got an Old Church Choir singing in my soul.

 

I saved the best for last. Listed here are the birth mother’s requirements for the adoptive parents, in her own handwriting:

 

 

 

We paid our house off last year, have precisely two pets, and have a close family. My wife and I are very active (we got to see a lot of places during the waiting stage of the adoption process). We didn’t have a gender preference listed, but deep inside my wife really wanted a baby girl. The one sentence that I read over and over was, “I want this child to be a longed-for gift or answered prayer.” Coincidence? Not a chance.

 

There is a difference between giving up and giving in to feelings of defeat and accepting the reality of one’s circumstances and moving on. I am so very proud of my wife. There were many tears and frustrations in our struggle with infertility, but instead of allowing herself to become jealous or resentful of people close to us who were able to have children, she poured out love and generosity on them instead. The apostle Paul wrote this in his letter to the Philippians: “… I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

 

We prayed, and in His perfect time, the Lord answered. Praise His holy name.