Last month was an amazing month for me. I had been praying for a way to help the children on Reece's Rainbow for awhile. I was particularly burdened for one child, Olga, after seeing her picture and reading about her on my friend Stephanie's blog.
One night, as my husband was drafting a letter to family and friends, asking them to consider praying for and giving to Olga, I was searching the internet for ideas on how to help these children. As I've said before, we are not in the position to adopt for a number of reasons. But both Sam and I felt that there was still something we could do for these helpless children.
What I stumbled upon was an amazing blog..about a woman who has a heart for orphans and a passion for God. Her post, The Most Important Post I Have Ever Written, sparked a fire in my heart and a desire to do something radical to save Olga. I don't even think we've begun to see the fruit of what her post inspired in my heart and in the hearts of so many others.
I have since seen Adeye, the blog author, raise awareness for so many other children, and she continues to inspire me to do the same. I asked Adeye to do an interview with me, because her story is amazing, and I know you will be as moved by it as I am. If you haven't had the privilege of doing so already, please meet....
I am a South African living in the USA. Blessed daughter of the King of Kings, wife to the most amazing man in the world and mommy to seven sharp arrows. Three sons the good old fashioned way, two special needs princesses from China, and our most recent adoptions--two angelic treasures with Down syndrome from the Ukraine. We're a crazy about Jesus, learning daily about total surrender, inner city dwelling, passionate about adoption, home schooling family.
1) How many children do you have and what are their ages ?
We have been blessed with seven children--three biological boys and four adopted daughters: Connor (11), Kellan (10), Haven (10), Hannah-Claire (8), Cade (6), Hailee (5) and Harper (3).
2) How did you and your husband decide to adopt the first time? What made you decide to do it again?
We were missionaries in Australia when I read an article in a magazine about the plight of Chinese girls. I was horrified to learn about the “one-child policy” in that country and how so many baby girls got abandoned simply because families desperately needed their one and only child to be a son. God used that article to break my heart in two. Living in Australia, it was not possible to adopt from China. Still, the seed was planted in my heart.
About two years later the Lord moved our little family (our only children were Connor and Kellan at the time) to America. I was pregnant with our third child. After Cade was born, and we thought our family was complete, God began to speak loud and clear about adoption—something we had never considered before. He was very specific with us. We felt led to look into a special-needs adoption of an older child. As we began to research adoption, a whole new world opened up before our eyes—the world of the reality of the fatherless.
And so the journey began. One we never saw coming our way.
We traveled to China in 2006 to bring our beautiful Hannah-Claire home. While we were there we got to visit an orphanage run by Americans which was full to overflowing with children with various special needs. Anthony and I cried like babies throughout the entire visit. God used it to break our hearts for the things that break His. We left that day knowing that something in us had changed—and our lives would never be the same again.
We returned from China and made a promise to the Lord that our hearts and our home would always remain open to the children He would add to our family.
3) What can you tell us about raising multiple children with special needs? How difficult is it day to day? How has adopting children with special needs affected your other children?
You know, it’s a crazy thing. God has done such a huge work in my heart over the years. I was definitely one of those mamas who was pretty nervous during my pregnancies—constantly wondering if my babies would be born “healthy” and “normal.” I so clearly remember asking Anthony to count fingers and toes the minute they made their entrance into the world. “As long as they are healthy, that is all that matters,” I used to tell friends when they asked me about my babies in the womb. I never thought that I would ever have what it takes to parent a child who struggles in life.
Little did I know the journey the Lord would take us on years later.
Special needs adoption has been nothing but a joy and an absolute delight for me and my family. I cannot even begin to tell you how incredible it has been as we have embraced the children the Lord has given us. God has changed us from the inside out. He has put His heart and his passion for the orphan inside of us…and we will never be the same again.
I believe with all my heart that God equips us to fulfill the things He calls us to do in this life. If “special needs” is part of the plan, He gives us everything we need to do it well with excellence.
Parenting our four children with special needs has been an incredible blessing. We have all learned along the way. Most of all we have learned to refuse to see disability and to see the ABILITY that is within every child.
For our own children, adopting these sweet girls has honestly been the best thing that we could ever have done for them. Seriously! They are learning to serve, to love, to think about others before themselves, to be generous, to give sacrificially, to be patient at all times (even when they don’t feel like it) and to love with all their hearts. It’s been good in every way for them. The positives far outweigh any negatives. Our children learn every day that people matter and that being a servant of the Lord begins right here in our home.
We homeschool all of our children, so our home is always busy on any given day. Our littlest girls are never without arms to hold them and kids to play with them. It has worked well for our family. Sure, we do have our challenging moments, but they really are few and far between. We simply would not have life any other way.
4) Your post, "The Most Important Post I Have Ever Written" is what inspired me to do a giveaway in December. Tell us about that post ...and what happened as a result.
That was such a hard post to write. When I returned home with Hailee and Harper my heart ached for the children that I left behind. Particularly the children in Hailee’s room. It was such a different adoption to our Chinese adoptions—where you don’t frequent your children’s orphanage. In Easter Europe I spent nearly seven weeks visiting my daughters every single day. I got to know the kids there. They crept into my heart.
Learning all that I did, I just had to get photos of the children in the room known as a “laying room” where Hailee was. I felt strongly that I would come home and try to advocate for them. There were three children in that room who I wanted to see come home. Two others were not adoptable.
In July last year I posted about the conditions in the “laying room.” Without going into too much detail (because I would never want to jeopardize anyone else’s adoption by publicly stating too much), I shared about the kids I left behind who could still be placed in homes. Praise the Lord—one family stepped forward to adopt the two little boys.
But. There was another little love whom I knew would be extremely hard to place in a home.
“Yulia” was diagnosed with a very rare genetic disorder known as “Cockayne Syndrome.” Essentially it is a condition where she is aging very prematurely. Most children do not live beyond their seventh birthday. I lay awake for weeks wondering who in the world would ever go for Yulia. I tried so hard to tell myself that it would never work, and I would be wasting my time advocating for her. I gave God every pathetic reason in the book as to why it was just a bad idea…and I should just forget about the whole idea of finding a family for her.
But the Lord would not let me off the hook that easily. One day it came to me. I needed to host a fundraiser on my blog. Yulia needed a fantastic grant. That would help a family get to her sooner. In faith, we bought an iPad and I poured out my heart in a blog post…and then hit “publish” before I could chicken out.
Oh my goodness, the Lord blew me away. In less than five days we had raised over $20,000 for Yulia’s adoption. The money was coming in so fast at the end that I ended up rushing to take down the little fundraiser widget so that too much money would not come in. Crazy. Due to the way the funds were going to be disbursed to the family the maximum amount could be $20,000. I just knew that I knew at that moment that a family would come forward.
Sure enough, it was not long before I got a call from a friend of a friend. They wanted Yulia! They didn’t care what was “wrong” with her—they only knew that she was their daughter and that they needed to get to her as soon as possible, given her illness.
I have since met Julia’s family. They live just one hour from us. Since they began their paperwork, they have added another little boy to their adoption. And, their good friends whom we have met, are also adopting two little boys from the same orphanage.
God has been so good. Our daughters’ orphanage is being emptied of its special-needs children. We rejoice!
4) You could literally write a book on what you saw at Hailee and Harper’s orphanage. Can you please share from your heart here about what life is like for the children in that orphanage and others like it?
There truly are no words to describe it. My eyes were opened to a world I never knew existed.
While in Eastern Europe adopting our daughters, I ran into obstacle after obstacle. What is usually a fairly easy and uncomplicated process turned into so much more in my case. There really are no guarantees with adoption. You have to go into it being prepared for anything, and know that God is working through those obstacles on your behalf!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I can truly look back now and see the hand of God at work. I now know that my extended time in country was all part of His plan and purpose for my life. Spending many days in the orphanage gave me so much time to SEE with my own eyes the reality that so many orphans live with day in and day out. I knew God had used the experience to change me forever—and that I would try as best I could to be a voice for those I left behind for the rest of my life.
It seems that there is some point in an orphan’s life where they get separated into different rooms. “Healthy” children will be grouped together with a few of the higher functioning children who have special needs. Our Harper was in a room with a few typically developing children, even though she has Down syndrome. Hailee, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. There is one room in every orphanage which I believe Jesus would call the room for the “least of these.” The room He must weep over. The dreaded “laying room.”
This is the place where those who struggle the most in life are sent. It is the place for children with profound needs—those who are written off as being useless and completely worthless. There are no words to describe the lonely existence these children live day in and day out. The only touch they know is when they are taken out to be fed and and only sometimes when they’re changed. They are never taken out of the room. Ever. Not even for a walk. Those small four walls are all they know. They’re all that our little Hailee knew.
Our Hailee weighed a measly 15 pounds on her fifth birthday. She was unable to chew any solid food and the only means to get nutrition into her was through a bottle. And like the other children in the room, Hailee was continually drugged. Children are given an adult tranquilizing drug to ensure that they literally sleep their lives away. After all, a sleeping child is an easy child.
The laying room is full of little ones and not-so-little ones, with cribs jammed against each other which are jammed against stark walls. All dignity and sense of value is stripped from the children, as they often lie in their own waste for Lord-knows-how-long. Even the fact that boys and girls share each others’ pink and blue pajamas (which is their only form of clothing) is a tell-tale sign of their devalued personhood.
You say, wouldn’t it be a mindless thing to give blue pj’s to boys and pink to girls? But caretakers work there not as a fulfillment of their passion. It’s the job they get, and it’s only that—a job. In inhumanely short supply are hugs, cuddles, warm embraces, the kissing of boo-boos, the cooing of kind words, and tender kisses on sweet little cheeks. Sadly, they receive none of it in their dreary bubble. They are merely plants to be watered and cleaned. But sometimes, these “plants” are even mistreated.
I witnessed things that brought me to tears on a daily basis. Treatment that left me speechless--and on my knees, begging God to make it all better. This could be how our Hailee one day sported a red wound on her little face; a wound that “surprised” the caretakers when asked about it through our interpreter. With the deep groan of a mother’s sadness, I wondered how often and how many other children receive similar treatment or worse on any given day.
Sadly, the worst is yet to come for these angels who waste away in “laying rooms.” Around their fifth birthday they get transferred to a mental asylum—a place where you or I would not even admit our family pet.
The need is desperate. But GOD…
5) I'd love to just sit down and have tea with you for five hours and pick your brain about international adoption....obviously it is a life-changing decision. What advice can you give to families who are hesitant to adopt internationally because of a) finances b) travel and c) whether they can handle the stress of it all.
There was a time in our lives when we too were concerned about those very things. How could we afford it? What about the long travel? Could we handle another child? With all my heart I understand all the concerns that people have about adding to their family through adoption. I would be lying if I said it was easy—because it is not! Like anything the Lord calls us to do in this life, it will require a huge amount of faith, patience, hard work and effort, and trusting that He WILL meet us on the other side. I am convinced that nothing that we are called to do is easy. It is on the road less traveled that we meet Jesus face to face and see His faithfulness in new and amazing ways.
Yes, adoption IS expensive. Ridiculously so. My husband is a Christian minister. We have never earned a lot of money. We have always lived month to month with little, if any, savings in the bank. We knew the first time we stepped out to adopt that it would take an enormous amount of faith—yet God told us we only needed the size of a mustard seed. We raised funds for all four of our adoptions. God provided in ways we never imagined, bringing in a total of $100,000. Every adoption was fully paid for through our fundraising efforts! The Lord was faithful to mobilize His mighty army to help us meet the needs.
Travel varies according to different countries. I know that China and Ethiopia both have shorter travel times. There are many options. A domestic adoption requires none!
Adoption can definitely be stressful. The paperwork can feel overwhelming at times. The key is just to take one baby step at a time. Tackle one piece of paperwork at a time. God’s grace is sufficient. It somehow does all come together at the end. And the paperwork and stress of the whole journey does soon become nothing but a distant memory. It really is a do-able thing. Just keep your eyes on the glorious prize that waits for you on the other side.
Every piece of paperwork, every challenge, every teary night, every longing to hold your child, every frustration along the way…..it is all so very worth it!
I believe that all God is looking for are those who are willing to say, “Yes, Lord.” He’ll take care of the rest.
People tell us all the time how “lucky” our four girls are. Yes, perhaps they are. But the greatest blessing has been for US, their parents. We’re the “lucky” ones.
Stay tuned for part 2!!!
Also- if you missed my "all call" in the post below, please take a minute to read it..I have about 1/3 of the pictures I need as of this post. It's going to be good!