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Oct 14, 2015

Each year in November, we mark National Adoption Month by celebrating families who have opened their hearts and homes to children in need and also by increasing awareness for the world’s estimated 144 million orphans. Families are especially critical for older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs. Every child deserves a loving family, and Paul and Judi's story is one of many that illustrates the difference a family makes for a child with special needs. 

We began considering adoption even before our biological children were born. We had parents who sponsored children abroad, neighbors who adopted a Vietnamese refugee, and church friends who adopted from South Korea. Drawing us further was the picture adoption provides of God’s love for us when He welcomes us into His family. When our youngest son was 1, we felt the time was right. We attended an informational meeting at Bethany and began praying about how God would lead us.

We knew we wanted to pursue a child with special needs, and when close friends adopted a daughter from China, we asked a lot of questions about their experience. This not only nudged us toward international adoption, but also gave us peace that this was something we could do.

During the application process, we completed forms identifying what medical needs we’d be willing to consider. We really didn’t know the range of needs out there or what we could reasonably handle with four small children. It was emotional to look through lists of medical conditions—knowing children with these often critical conditions were waiting for families—and decide whether our family was equipped to provide the care a child would need.

Our Bethany caseworker called and said she had found a child she believed to be a good match. When we saw his photo and file, we knew he was ours. We were briefed about his medical condition and the care he would require, and in August 2012, we welcomed Joel home. He is now almost 5 and halfway through a sequence of four surgeries.

A month after Joel arrived, we started the process to adopt Zachary. We were unfamiliar with his medical condition, but we learned he would require a strict diet and that failure to maintain it could cause permanent damage. During the 13-month adoption process, we arranged to send special foods and formula so the orphanage could provide his needed nutrition. Today, at 3, he is growing stronger and shows no signs of complications.

As we entered into adoption, we had fears about how it might disrupt our family. We wondered how it would change the feel of our home and what we might have to sacrifice. But we have been blessed to see the way all our children have embraced adoption. While we waited for Joel and Zachary, we talked about them with our children. We displayed their pictures, and we prayed for them every night. We celebrated their birthdays and made them part of our family even before they arrived. The night before we left for China the second time, our 8-year-old asked, “When are we going to adopt again?” It was touching to see that adoption for him was the normal rhythm of our family’s life.

Raising adopted children with special needs has helped us let go of our need to be in control. We find ourselves praying more, asking for wisdom in how to parent each of our children individually and show them love in the ways they need to be loved. We can only ever hope to accomplish that through Christ working in our hearts. While we knew that intellectually, it’s a different thing entirely to experience our need to rely on Him daily, hourly, and at times moment to moment.

It has been powerful to watch these boys become part of our family and to feel our hearts connect. Every adoption is a miracle, but it need not be so “unique” among followers of Christ. We hope and pray that our churches will talk more about adoption and do more to embrace and support it. Adoption is central to our understanding of the Gospel and the lavish grace of God to call us sons and daughters. We are called, as adopted children of God, to reflect His love to others.

This month, join us as we spread the word about the importance of adoption for the millions of children who are waiting for a loving family. Visit our Church Resources for a bulletin insert and PowerPoint slide to share with your church. If you are interested in adopting, please fill out our Contact Us form or if you feel led to give to help other families afford the cost adoption, please fill out our Give Today form. Every child deserves to have a loving family. Won't you help them find one?