by Connie, mom to Kinley (2) and Kooper (13) adopted from China at the same time
In August of 2003 when God instantly gripped the hearts of my husband and I for the orphan, we had no idea where He would lead us. We knew He was calling us to a task much larger than ourselves, but no doubt it was His call, so we jumped out of the boat head first, trusting Him to provide everything we would need.
Six and a half years later He has grown our family by five China-born children, in addition to our three biological children.
Our recent journey is the most miraculous for our family. In August 2008 we were earnestly seeking the Lord for direction in serving Him, when we once again recognized the tug at our hearts to add to our family through adoption. With $250 in our savings account, we started the new Hague process to bring home a ‘special needs toddler under the age of 24 months,’ just three months after arriving home with our 2 year old son.
We finished our paper work as quickly as the new process would allow, and our dossier finally went to China in April 2009. The Lord had begun to open our hearts to much greater medical needs than we had ever considered, and ultimately our ‘checklist’ grew quite large. Little did we know that on April 13th He would grip my heart for something we had never, ever considered: an older child near aging out, plus a toddler.
My husband committed to pray about it and let me know when the Lord had clearly spoken to him. I realized then that this journey is not at all about what I can do, but rather all He is able and willing to do through me. One week later we called our agency to ask if it was possible to do such a thing. I was excited and afraid to make the call because we had no idea what we were asking or if our request would be granted…and if granted, what then? We really had no stipulations other than, ‘you know that boy who is 13 and will soon age out, that would be our son.’
Fortunately, our agency had enough faith in us to make the request. The next morning we received the referral of our 13 year old son! We were so certain this was God’s plan that we didn’t even look at his picture. We reviewed his file, which was five years old, and told our agency he was our son, as long as we would still be allowed to adopt a toddler, whose referral we had yet to receive.
China agreed to allow us to adopt two children at the same time with the caveat that we submit both LOIs at the same time. Nine days later we received the referral of our daughter who would soon turn 2, and though we were approved for many needs, her only reported medical need was a repaired cleft lip.
During our six-month wait to travel for Kinley Grace and Kooper, we sent gifts to both children, especially Kooper, so he would know he had a family waiting on the other side of the world to bring him home. We devised a safety plan, researched the children’s needs and began to seek out other families who had adopted older children. Kooper’s information was sketchy at best, but we knew God would prepare us for whatever was ahead.
In October 2009 we were expecting our travel approval and still had one obstacle to overcome. The Lord had stretched our initial $250 as far is it would go, but our duo adoption costs were exceeding $50,000 and we still needed $21,000 with no further resources. We had completed every grant application we could get our hands on, held a huge garage sale, made and sold candles and adoption decals. We had cut the cable, eating out, new clothes and still were short. We began our first extended fast, seeking the Lord’s guidance on whether we should make our specific need known. We live in a very small town, supposedly our economy is in crisis and so many had already contributed to the ransom to bring our children home.
The most amazing thing happened! On October 6th we held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. We planned for 300 people, and prayed that God would show up in a big way. The weather was cold and the attendance was lower than expected, but that didn’t faze God. At the end of the day, our pastor tallied the money, and we had $21,115!
On October 21st, we landed in Nanjing and were told we would meet our son the same day! This was the moment we had been waiting for, and suddenly this boy we knew very little about would be our son, forever! As it turns out, he didn’t know any English, and we used creative ways to communicate. We immediately bought a translator, but if we had it to do over again there would be no translator. It ended up being a device that caused a lot of confusion, miscommunication and finally an issue of control for Kooper.
Five days later we traveled to Hangzhou to receive Kinley Grace, and I remember thinking, ‘how can it get any better? Can we really be any more blessed?’
Kinley was less than happy to meet her new parents, and once she settled down she began a five-day shut-down. She didn’t talk and wouldn’t let me put her down except at bedtime where she slept next to me. Of the few pictures we had of her while in the orphanage she never smiled, and we wondered what deep secrets lay beneath her sad expression.
As the honeymoon wore off and we were two weeks into our three-week trip, our joy turned to doubt. For one day we began to fall prey to the lies of the Enemy. We actually wondered if our children would be better left in China. One of them refused to come out of her shell and the other we couldn’t communicate with. As we had done throughout this journey, we bowed our hearts to the Father who had planned long ago to set these children into our family, and we regained perspective and the strength to persevere.
We discovered that Kinley indeed has an unrepaired hard palate, and Kooper has an undisclosed medical need requiring surgery. Surprisingly, these aren’t the things that we feared as much as our own weakness and inability to complete the task before us.
We’ve been home three months and a lot has happened in that time. Kinley Grace has become a bubbly, energetic and social toddler. Kooper is learning how to become part of a family, and we are home schooling for the first time.
Initially, we put Kooper in public school for two hours of ESL each day, and in January we enrolled him full-time. However, by the end of the second week we noticed he was no longer interested in family activities and avoided sibling contact. We recognized that he was seeking the approval of his peers and disassociating with his family and immediately decided to take him out of school and educate him at home. This has completely changed our family dynamics, but we are learning to adjust to a structured schedule while allowing the flexibility for spontaneity.
Kooper has learned to depend on us and is gradually understanding we have his best interest at heart. In a few weeks of home school he has learned the alphabet, numbers to 100, recognizing three-letter words and subtraction, which he’s never done before. He’s also reading a book for the first time in his life. We don’t look back, and we don’t look too far ahead. We focus on the present and celebrate each small victory.
We’ve seen the gospel come to life as never before. Daily we draw strength from the Lord, and daily He grants the grace we need to extend to our son. There have been some very difficult days, but we realize that nothing we endure compares to the sacrifice He made for us. He loved us when we were unlovely and when we rejected Him. He is teaching us to do the same with our son.
Our decision to adopt has been from an eternal perspective, but from a practical point of view we realize that with Kooper’s lack of education and life skills, he would not have thrived, or possibly even survived, in China. This knowledge has burdened our hearts for older children. I would encourage any family whom the Lord has burdened for older children to follow in obedience and trust that He will provide ALL you need. He will place before you other families who have traveled the same journey, and they will be a treasure! We believe 2 Corinthians 3:5 ~ Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
There are challenges, but the blessings outweigh them all!
We can’t even count the mountains God has moved to bring our five children home in the last six years. He has pruned our hearts, grown our faith and stretched us beyond imagination. We can’t wait to see what’s around the corner!
Feel free to visit the family's blog HERE.