Whenever I am asked to share our adoption story, my first thought is that this is just our uneventful life – what do we really have to share? Yes, we’ve adopted, but, to us, that is just the wonderful way God chose to grow our family.
We didn’t have to overcome crazy obstacles, there are no “wow” factors or crazy twists and turns. But, as I was recently preparing to speak at an Orphan Sunday event, what a joy it was to revisit the journey we have had! And it has been such a gift to be reminded, once again, how personally and lovingly God guides us down the paths He has for us.
God uses many things in our lives to grow us closer to Him. He used adoption in our lives as one of those things.
My husband, Bob, always had a heart for adoption, and we would talk about it off and on in our early years together. Then, we started our family, had 3 kids in 4 years and life was busy. We still talked about adoption now and then and decided if we ever had a 4th child, it would be through adoption. This brings us to almost 15 years ago – our youngest was 18 months old and we start feeling the baby itch. So the topic of adoption came up again.
The thing is, I had avoided the topic as coyly as I could over the years. My personality leans to the practical side of things. I’ve always been more comfortable with “predictable”. I had worked in the Social Work field and I knew that adoption rarely fell into the “predictable” category. I was fearful of the “what if?” and was avoiding the conversation. My husband never pressed me, but now and then asked me to pray about the subject. I would be non committal. Finally, he called me out a little bit and asked me if I had been praying about it – I said “no” – he asked me to please make it a matter of prayer and I said, “No – I am not going to.” Not my proudest moment, but that’s the truth.
As you can imagine, I spent the next couple of weeks feeling very unsettled in my spirit. I am so thankful for a husband who was listening to God, leaving me time to wrestle over it on my own. He didn’t say anything more to me. We didn’t argue about it. Life just went on. A couple weeks later (after a lot of justifying my reasons to myself) I thought, “OK, I am just going to pray about it, and hopefully I can tell Bob the answer is no and we can move on.” That afternoon while the kids were napping and Bob was at work, I, with fear and trepidation, prayed about it.
Literally in that moment, God gave me a tremendous GIFT.
My fear vanished and my heart was literally overcome with a deep need to get to my baby and bring them home – wherever they were.
I was so very humbled by this. God didn’t make me do this thing I feared. He made it the overwhelming desire of my heart. For me, on a very personal level, this was a life altering lesson on the character of God and his deep, deep love for me personally.
Then, it was on. Research, lots of prayer, more research. We felt called to China. We did the paperwork like it was our job. Sixteen months later we found ourselves in a Civil Affairs office in Nanning, China being handed our beautiful 11 month old daughter Anna. We were overwhelmed by God’s goodness to us. While we were still in China, we looked at each other and said we knew we would do this again in a few years.
We came home, had a relatively smooth transition and found our new normal. Fast forward about 8 months and we were at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert and he was talking about adoption. We looked at each other and said, “Why are we waiting?” We came home, prayed about it and started the process again.
We completed our paperwork over the next 6 months and turned it in. Things were slowing down considerably with adoptions in China by this time. The wait times were growing every month. There are lots of waiting children in Chinese orphanages with mostly correctable medical needs of some sort. One afternoon, Bob told me he thought we should consider adopting a child with some medical needs. My reaction, to my present day embarrassment, was, “What are you doing? Do you remember where I was at a couple years ago and now you are pushing my comfort zone AGAIN?”
More fear, more what if’s, more wanting to stay with what felt comfortable. But, I literally felt God was saying to me, “Are we really going to do this again? Do you not trust me? What do you know to be true about me?”
I more easily surrendered my fears to God this time. He IS trustworthy – I knew this. He gave me peace as we once again found ourselves trusting God to help us find the right path.
Only God knew who our son Joe was at this point. As it turns out, while we were praying about whether to start our second adoption, a 3 month old baby boy was brought to an orphanage in NW China. We are overwhelmed by how God was working out all of the details before we had a clue.
Although Bob was the one to bring up adopting a child with some medical needs, he was the one who struggled with fear in this department. It was his turn to be stretched. There are many, many children born in China with cleft lip/palate. We knew nothing of what medical attention this would need and, to Bob, it felt too far out of his comfort zone to tackle this particular unknown by choice. As it turned out, I grew a very tender heart toward children with this issue and was actually hoping that this would be the medical need that our child had.
We received our referral for Joe in April 2006, and, indeed, he had cleft issues. We were ready! In August 2006 we found ourselves in Xinjiang, China picking up our very scared almost 2 year old son.
Our time in China this time around was not the fairytale it was the first time. There was immense grief and gut wrenching sorrow happening with our son and he wanted no part of us.
We know that God cares deeply for the orphan and hurting child. He is present in the suffering and offers comfort. He promises to not leave or abandon the orphan. At that moment, we were His instrument of comfort. We felt very much like we were on holy ground walking Joe through what was an excruciating transition for him. Our experience has been that our relationship with Christ deepens immeasurably when we share in His pain as we walk with a hurting child through their pain. We felt like the arms of Jesus in that hotel room, comforting this broken boy, and it felt like we were part of a very holy, intimate time with Jesus. It was one of the most difficult experiences of our lives, but, what a GIFT to us.
Now our family had grown from 3 to 5 kids in a short amount of time. We felt “done” and knew that China did not allow families to adopt with 5 or more kids in the home. But, 9 months later or so we felt a stirring once again. This time we both prayed about it with no hesitation. We prayed about it for awhile and both felt like God wanted us to move forward, but where? I don’t know why, but we assumed something would change and we’d go to China.
You, see, when we started getting involved with China, I made it my mission to read and learn anything I could about the orphan crisis there, the why’s and how’s. And it was heartbreaking. The things I learned literally broke me inside. My worldview was opened and I now knew so many things I didn’t want to know. I felt such sorrow – not just for the children, but for the moms and dads, the country itself and the brokenness of it all. When faced with another adoption, possibly from another place, I actually asked God to make it China so I didn’t have to learn about and care about another broken place with heaps of sorrow and different reasons for their orphan crisis. But, He gently led us to Ethiopia.
Again, looking back, it was during this time of praying and deciding that Elijah, then almost 1, was brought to the orphanage. God was bringing our family together once again.
As we learned all we could about Ethiopia, we found a different country, with different circumstances, but the same sorrow. And, our son was there so we needed to know, needed to open ourselves up to the pain of caring about this beautiful country and its beautiful people. Once again we went through the tedious paperwork process, and in July, 2008 we traveled to Ethiopia to bring Elijah home. He was 2 ½ at the time and was quite wary of us, but ready for a family.
We settled in, found our new normal and life moved on. We did our best to bring awareness and be advocates in our church and community. We attended Adoption and Orphan Care conferences, kept learning all we could. Then, in 2010, we were at an adoption conference and both felt we needed to pray about stepping out again.
So, we did. And a few days later, we talked about it and found it strange that neither of us felt like God was asking us to adopt again. We were a bit relieved, honestly, because we had 6 young kids and life was full. However, 2 weeks later, we found out we were expecting. Pretty shocking to us! And, our sweet Faith was born in July 2011.
In late 2014 we were once again attending an adoption conference. We realized we had assumed we were done and hadn’t asked God what he wanted from us. So we prayed about it. We felt God was calling us to consider adoption again. By this time we both were at peace and very content to know we were in God’s will.
We were excited, but, in our mid 40’s, adding #8, it’s kind of a tired, subdued excitement. ☺️
We still maintain a relationship on a regular basis with our adoption agency as we have to do reports for our kids periodically to send back to their birth country, so it was easy to get started again.
Ethiopia was now closed to adoptions. We started out in the Haiti program. Doors closed rather quickly because of restrictions Haiti was putting into place. We were offered a switch into the China waiting children program for boys. We were already so familiar with this program that we didn’t hesitate.
The whole process went quickly and we received a referral for an almost 3 year old little boy with cleft issues. We were overjoyed and travelled to Xian, China to bring David home in March 2016.
This boy has been such a gift to the whole family. A year and a half later, not one of us can even get over how God blessed our obedience with this little package of pure precious.
I had been quite sick for several years, each year worse than the one before. Things were really bad off and on right at the time we felt called to this latest adoption. We were at peace with it, but our families were not. My doctor was not. I didn’t improve through the whole process. A couple months before travel, my doctor, out of kindness and genuine concern, said he felt the best thing to do would be to not go through with the adoption. We had this conversation while I was lying in a hospital bed not knowing how I was going to manage it. However, we never wavered because God had clearly called us to this and he hadn’t called us away from it, and we loved our son. We chose to trust God with my health and He saw me through. Another GIFT as our faith was strengthened once again.
Looking back over the past 15 years since we started our first adoption, the story we have to share is not about adoption itself, but about God’s faithfulness. Our life is just our life. It is our normal. Our kids are just our kids, not biological or adopted, just ours. Clefts and the ongoing medical procedures they come with are part of our normal (I think back and wonder why this was ever a big deal to me).
We sometimes hesitate to share our story because we never want our kids to feel singled out. And we NEVER want them to misunderstand and think that our doubts and struggles and fears were EVER about them. Our fears and hesitations were all about our journey to a deeper intimacy in our relationship with God.
I want my kids to always understand that their part of the story is about God’s unending love for them in all circumstances and about our deep longing to go to the ends of the earth to get them and bring them home because they are OURS.
We know everyone is not called to adoption. What does it hurt to ask God if it is what He wants for you? He will not say yes if He doesn’t want it for you.
But, if God is asking you to step off a cliff, He will catch you and explode the blessings in your life and grow your relationship with him in the process.
Hold your plans loosely. God’s plans may scare you or overwhelm you, but they bring freedom and joy that you will miss out on if you do not follow His path. And when you are leaning on God, He will meet you in a deeply personal way and that is a GIFT you do not want to miss out on.
Sarah Ord is a down to earth, fun-loving #winningwife and proud mom of their 8 GIFTS.