Opening Doors

IMG_0941Our sweet Hope is so giggly.  The nanny handed her to me today and as soon as she laid eyes on me she squealed in the excited, happy way she does.  I don’t know if she’s ever been that glad to see me so soon!  She is such a joy to be around, and she laughs and smiles more readily than any other child I know.  Other than feeding her, we spend most of our visit just listening to her laugh, and watching her as she smiles her way around the world.  She loves sensations and life and color and people.  What beautiful God-given joy this child radiates.

And yet the time came, as it always does, to take her back to her laying room for another day of nothingness and waiting and longing.  Typically it hasn’t bothered me so much; this life of nothingness is what she is accustomed to, so she will be alright for a couple more weeks of it, right?  But today as I watched her, everything in me just wanted to bring her with us, to a place she belongs, where she can enjoy life every moment instead of just an hour here and there.  And when we got to her room I very much wanted to run the other way.

There are two nannies I know dote on her and take special care of her.  But this was a new nanny today; I always hate giving her back to the nannies who seem indifferent.  Since it wasn’t a “favorite” nanny, I had to hand her back instead of being allowed to put her in her crib.  The door was strangely closed; it’s usually always open.  I handed her back and said my good byes, eliciting a small little glimmer before the nanny turned around.

As I walked away I realized why the door was closed; crying and screaming were coming from one of the tiny babies in her laying room.  My heart broke.  It broke for Hope because I know how much children’s crying upsets her and causes her anxiety.  It broke for the baby because he was obviously in need of something, and the nanny knew that, but instead of comforting or helping him she just closed the door and waited for it to stop.  It broke because I knew there was nothing I could do to take that child or any of the other children in that room out.

Right now that door opens for only one of these children… and that’s our Hope.  She is the only one with a family visiting her, rescuing her, showing her the world behind that cursed door.  I cannot wait to open the rest of the world to her.  And when I think on all these things I am so grateful, because it’s easy to sit here and type the unfolding story of a little girl learning to enjoy life for the first time, but getting here was so much more grievous, complicated and difficult.

I wrote a little in my Q&A Post about how God opened the doors for us to adopt these children, and how His hand was evident every step of the way.  God opened one door after the other, perfectly timed, so that we could be here right now.  I will talk about one particular door that was opened for us to start this process. Hope’s adoption was much more uncertain for much longer, but there will be plenty of time to tell all those stories eventually.

The one in particular I wanted to share, because I was asked (and have been asked this question many times) if our congregation is supportive of what we are doing.  Are they supportive of adoption in general?  Are they supportive of their pastor taking 6 weeks off to go to Eastern Europe?  I have had other pastor’s wives contact me, who are interested in adoption, asking how we managed this, especially since Jake is a first year pastor and just getting to know his people.  All I can say is… God opened the doors.

Whenever I think about our congregation I am so thankful and humbled by the treasure that they are to our family.  I must take a moment to brag on them because without them we wouldn’t be here, and I simply could not think of a better church family to come home to after two long and trying months of travelling overseas for this adoption.  Let me tell you a bit of the story.

Throughout my years of advocacy work I watched many families get burned by unsupportive congregations, not pastor’s families, but just godly, church-going people who desired nothing more than to show Christ’s love to the least of these, to be His hands and feet through adoption.  In some cases churches would not welcome their newly adopted children, or would marginalize them because of their special needs.  Some families would go to their churches for help during their adoptions, a logical place right?  When you are doing the Lord’s work it is His Church who is called to come alongside you!

The typical answer?  “If we help with your adoption then all the members in our congregation will want help with their adoptions.”  People were denied on this and other shallow grounds repeatedly and consistently… If we help you, we’ll have to help other people too.  Even just asking for a space to use for a rummage sale over the weekend, many people were turned away!  How tragic and difficult, that God’s own people do not realize what it is we are here to do.

And so you can imagine my uncertainty as our time at seminary was coming to a close and Jake was preparing to take a call to serve as the pastor of a church.  We had already seen Juri’s picture and had been praying over it, Jake had been given the dream that was a huge confirmation we should move forward but… would it even be possible?  I told a few of my adoption friends about our hopes, but they seemed hesitant to be optimistic knowing our situation and the difficulty with congregations that others had experienced.

As we received our call and began preparing to move I began praying more specifically, “God you know how much I would love to adopt this boy, but if this is Your Will You need to make it happen.  You need to prepare the congregation’s hearts somehow for the idea of international adoption, because for most it’s not even on the radar.  And if they are ready for something like this You have to make it come up somehow in the topic of conversation, because it’s not something we can push on them.”

I felt confident that these things were what we would need in order to move forward.  All the advice was to wait at least a year or two before doing anything so drastic.  (Except for one sweet, adoptive mom and Lutheran pastor’s wife who said “Just wait and see what happens.”  And whose very encouraging story gave me hope that it could even be done!)  I could not move into a church’s parsonage my husband’s first year of ministry and just start advocating for international special-needs adoption right off the bat.  I can have a very decisive personality, which isn’t always a good thing!  We couldn’t make the first move.  We would have to wait.

Fast forward a few weeks and we were moving in to our new home.  Several people from our congregation came to help out.  As we were standing on the front porch of our new home, my mother-in-law and I were introducing ourselves to a lady, who happens to now be a dear friend.  She was pointing out to us their son, saying offhand “He was adopted from Ukraine.”  My mom and I were both surprised (she didn’t know about Juri yet, but she did know of my passion for adoption) and she replied “Well, you two will have a lot to talk about!”  And walked away.

To alleviate the very confused look on my new friend’s face, I began to explain to her about the advocacy work we had done with Reece’s Rainbow and how many of the children I had loved from afar were from that country, etc.  We had a great conversation.  The next day was Sunday and we met two more families  from our congregation who had adopted (one from Guatemala and one domestically).  I talked with the other family more about their adoption, she had gone to the Reece’s Rainbow site and was gushing over how lovely all the children were.

And I just sat there.  Amazed, in wondrous awe of the work that God was doing.  He was opening a door.  A door that no one could have opened but Him.  He continued to work miracles and love into the hearts of our congregation who have been more supportive, loving, understanding and amazing then any Church family I have ever heard of.  What beautiful souls they are.  What a great and marvelous work God has done.  We are blessed beyond words and could not be more thankful.

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