the magazine Weaving Families
Long Journey Home CROSSROADS: REFLECTIONS ON THE JOURNEY OF ADOPTION
THE STORY OF ONE CHILD’S EXPERIENCE IN FOSTER CARE. Common Threads
the magazine CONTENT VOLUME 1 ISSUE 1 SUMMER 2009
WHEREVER HE MAY LEAD P.08
A family journey from adoption to ministry.
LONG JOURNEY HOME P.16
The story of one child’s experience in foster care.
FAMILY BY FAITH P.22
From growing a family to planting a church.
CROSSROADS: REFLECTIONS ON THE JOURNEY OF ADOPTION P.06
Noted author, Kristen Wong, reminds us all of our invitation to joy in the midst of life.
INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION: AN INSIDE LOOK P.20 The executive director of a child placing agency shares the realities of operating an international program.
COMMON THREADS P.12
Guest writer Dave Verhaagen gives hope to parents of children from difficult backgrounds.
ON THE NIGHTSTAND P.30
An excerpt from Josh and Amy Bottomly’s memoir From Ashes to Africa.
Copyright © 2009 Weaving Families. All rights reserved. magazine September 2008
Over Coffee And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24
Wow! Don’t miss:
Family by Faith pg 22 Common Threads pg 12 On the Nightstand pg 28 Book excerpt: From Ashes to Africa
Special Thank You:
Grace Covenant Church Cornelius, NC
Eye Opening Entertainment Charlotte, NC
I can’t believe I just finished reading the inaugural issue of Weaving Families Magazine. It has been one year since my husband, RJ, and I launched Weaving Families Adoption Ministry and the year has flown by. We began planning Weaving Families several years ago in the evenings over cups of fair trade coffee. Since then most of our ideas have been fleshed out and prayed over with a cup of coffee in hand (including the inspiration for a James 1:27 focused magazine.) And in the midst we adopted four children internationally which upped our coffee intake significantly. As I read this issue, I pictured you reading Weaving Families Magazine in the quiet of your day with a cup of coffee or tea in hand beginning with the adoptive families devotion Crossroads written by noted author Kristin Wong. I know you will be encouraged by families following God’s lead beyond the act of growing their family through adoption such as the Grimes, Bracey, Bohlender and Blaske families. For families still considering adoption Jason Kovacs gives hope for financing adoption and Justin Arnot shares the realities of operating an international adoption program. And after reading the Long Journey Home I pray that some of you will feel called to serve in our own US foster care system.
LETTERS & COMMENTS: firstname.lastname@example.org WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
Despite the differences of paths our contributors have traveled they are all living Hebrews 10:24: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. They have taken the entire verse to heart by sharing their stories to “spur” all of us on to serving those closest to the heart of God. We would love for you to share how God is weaving your family by: • submitting family photos for our next issue • sending us article ideas for individuals that are on the front line of orphan prevention and care • sharing your adoption story In addition we appreciate you sharing Weaving Families Adoption Ministry and this magazine with your friends and family through email, facebook, twitter, your blog and word of mouth. We look forward to continuing to serve families throughout the lifelong journey of adoption. I look forward to meeting you again in September Over Coffee.
email@example.com Co-Founder Weaving Families
WRITE: 10550 Independence Pointe Pkwy, Suite 203, Matthews, NC 28105
CROSSROADS REFLECTIONS ON THE JOURNEY OF ADOPTION with Kristin Wong
Kristin Swick Wong is the author of Carried Safely Home: The Spiritual Legacy of an Adoptive Family. You can find more of her writing at www.adoption-by-grace.com
I expected too little. When my husband and I started the process of adopting a child, I looked forward to welcoming a new little person to our family, but wasn’t anticipating any earth-shattering changes in my life. I didn’t know how adoption would enlarge my relationships and my world. I didn’t know that this adventure would change the shape of my heart, stretching it through vulnerability and difficulty – and also through joy. Adoption has made me uncomfortable. It has made me anxious and sad. It has also made me overflow with gratitude and love. And it has brought me nearer to God. At the core of adoption are loss and new beginning, costly love and redemption. These are also at the heart of the Christian gospel and central to much of our human experience. Adoption is an echo of everything important in the universe. It can be a precious gift in our pilgrimage towards God. I see my formerly-orphaned sons freely running and laughing, and my heart soars. Why are adoption’s joys so deep and wonderful? Because through adoption we are invited to follow Jesus, who chose to enter our brokenness and works passionately to reverse it. His redemption is gradual but unstoppable, and we’re invited to join in. A birthmother chooses to give her baby into the hands of parents who
will raise him – redemption. A family decides to take the risk of embracing someone whose life has started with deprivation – redemption. A hurt child gradually moves towards trusting love – redemption. The joy of adoption is the joy of the healing of the world, brought by Jesus. Joy sometimes includes fear: The women leaving the empty tomb on Easter morning were “afraid yet full of joy.” Joy sometimes comes alongside suffering: The apostle Paul gave up everything so that he could experience both the power of the resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in the sufferings of Jesus. We generally try to steer clear of circumstances that might bring fear or suffering. But as Jesus invites us in, he promises us incomparable joy right in the middle of the fear and pain. The night before his awful death, he promised his followers that his joy is complete and can never be taken away (John 15:11 and 16:22). Joy will outlast everything. So, as I watch my sons and joy leaps up in my heart, I know that this is just a foretaste. The anxieties, fear, frustrations and grief will pass. Joy will shine brighter and brighter and will remain forever. Adoption: so much more than I expected. More heartache, and more joy, inseparably mingled. Whatever you’re facing today, embrace the invitation of the Lord of Joy!
WHEREVER HE MAY LEAD On a beautiful morning in early September 2007, my life was changed in
As always, He will move mountains to make sure His will is done and He moved mountains to make it possible. In August 2007, I quit my job, hugged my husband good-bye for an unknown amount of time and boarded a plane for Guatemala. We believed that I would return home with our son in two weeks or less because we were near the end of his process and there was no reason finalization would be delayed. I was going to Guatemala for two reasonsâ€Śbecause I knew that this would be good for our son and because I knew without a doubt that this is something He wanted me to do.
After we received our sonâ€™s referral in March 2007, we visited him twice in Guatemala. From the very beginning, the Lord impressed on my heart the desire to foster him before his adoption was final and I wanted to, but it was impossible.
When I arrived, I was thrilled to be with our son knowing that I never had to leave him there again, but within hours of my arrival, fear, anxiety, sadness and anger began creeping in and I did not even
an instant. Not many people know all of the details from that time in my life. As I prepare to travel back to Guatemala, I am hit constantly with memories from my time there and feel like maybe it is time now to share my story if only to let others know that God truly is close to the brokenhearted, that even when you turn away from Him, He will always take you back and to prove that He can use anyone to care for orphans and families in need if you are willing to let Him lead the way.
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realize it. Our son had no idea that I was his mom. I expected him to be sad and to grieve the loss of his foster mom, but I never thought that his sadness would hurt me so deeply. From the moment I stepped out of the van on my first day there, I was in extreme culture shock. I had done extensive research on Guatemala, especially Antigua and other popular areas and thought that I knew what to expect, but there is no way to prepare for a situation like I was in and my preconceived notions of Antigua only made it worse. Within days of my arrival, we were notified of a problem with our case and that made the entire situation almost unbearable. It was supposed to be a quick fix and we still thought that I may make it home within our two week timeframe, but three weeks later I was still in Guatemala.
Instead of getting easier, being in Guatemala became my worst nightmare. I missed my husband terribly, was dealing with the stress and exhaustion of being a first time mom, was worried that my son was going to be kidnapped, was very sick and getting worse, taking care of a sick child and battling the U.S. embassy because the problem in our case was bigger than we first thought and we were preparing for me to have to stay in Guatemala for much longer than we ever imagined. I was in a deep depression. My faith had been slashed and my hope was gone. My prayers turned from thanksgiving to desperation and I admit that I eventually stopped praying because I became convinced that He did not care about what happened to us. Looking back, I realize that the moment I stepped off of the plane into the unfamiliar territory of Guatemala, I was spiritually attacked and I did not fight it because I didn’t think there was any thing that could weaken my faith as much as that and I wasn’t prepared for it. In less than three weeks, the evils that consumed me caused me to question every thing I had ever believed in and tore my spirit apart. One night, I was required to leave our house near midnight for an emergency. I was terrified to go out because it isn’t safe, but I didn’t have a choice. I believed that I was going to be killed, but being the person of little faith that I had become, I didn’t even pray before I left. I made it back safely, gave our son the new medicine that he needed and within 15 minutes his high fever was gone and he was peacefully sleeping. While he slept, I walked into the bathroom,
shut the door and slid to the floor. The cry that came out that night was from deep within my soul and there is no way to describe it. I started to pray and then stopped myself because there was no point…He wasn’t listening. I was overcome with fear and became angrier than I had ever been in my life. It was that anger that caused me to get real with God. I still wasn’t convinced that He was there, but I am certain that He heard my question….”Why did you lead me here and then abandon me?” He heard me as every bit of anger I had was directed at Him and then heard as I prayed for forgiveness because I was being irrational. God was there, though I still didn’t feel it. When I opened my Bible, hoping to land on something that would give me the slightest hope and I am sure that it was no accident what jumped off of the page at me. Still feeling as if I had been abandoned, I crawled into bed, snuggled up to our son and cried myself to sleep. The next morning I woke up before our son and slipped outside to sit on the swing. That day was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. There was no haze covering the volcano that towers over Antigua and the clarity of it was stunning. I remember thanking Him for the sight that was before me and for the ability to see something so incredibly beautiful. Then it hit me. I had just thanked Him for something and I had not done that in two weeks. A choice had to be made….I could trust in the sovereignty of the Lord and His plans for my life or I could keep running away because I was too afraid to dive into what I knew I had been called to do. I became
overwhelmed with the feeling that He was there and ready to pick me back up. I prayed the most sincere prayer of my life that day and when I told Him that I would follow Him wherever He leads, I meant it. The words “I surrender” were not empty as I spoke them and I knew that whether or not I remembered that day, it would be a defining moment in my life. When I asked Him to open my eyes to what it was He wanted me to see, I did not know what He had in store and that what I prayed that day was the beginning of what will soon be my full circle moment. “….I do not hate Guatemala. How could I hate the place where you first planted the precious child you’ve blessed us with? He is our greatest gift, second only to your love. It is the situation I am in that I dislike, though I know that I am here for a reason, for your purpose. But this situation has damaged the love I once had for Guatemala. I want to love this place again, except I want that love to be so huge that it is unimaginable….” As I sat there, He took away every fear that I had. I was no longer angry or depressed, but felt peace about being in Guatemala no matter how long I was required to stay. I still wanted permission to be able to go home, but in that moment I found myself not wanting to leave. I cannot describe what it felt like to have every bad thought, every anxious feeling and every question vanish from my mind. Never in my walk with Christ had I felt His presence as intensely as I did then. In the blink of an eye, He opened my eyes to the reason I was spending this time in Guatemala and just as quickly He took away every thing that was blinding me to Him and His purpose for my life. I had always known and always believed that He has the power to dramatically change any situation, but I never thought that power would be poured out on someone like me. I had been so afraid of my brokenness, but He was not and He used it to strengthen me so that I could be used for His good. I woke our son, left our house and began to really experience Guatemala. I was determined to see every thing that I could and not ignore things or look away when something made me uncomfortable. The first thing I saw that morning as I walked down the street was a woman holding her child and begging. As I approached them, I could almost hear God say, “Do you see them? They are mine. How will you help them?” This isn’t uncommon in Guatemala, but for the first time since my arrival I looked through a nameless person begging on the street and saw straight into the heart of God. I took a picture of them because I wanted to remember that moment. Each morning when I open my Bible, I pull out the picture and look deep into the eyes of the child that may or may not still be living. I see the shame in his mother that simply wanted to be able to feed her son and I pray for them knowing that they have no idea how much the Lord used them and is still using them to change my life. I spent another five weeks in Guatemala and what I was able to experience and learn in that very short amount of time still amazes me. My heart was broken into pieces and it will never be healed because it isn’t supposed to be. I saw children drinking out of a mud puddle and I wondered how long they would survive because you just can’t do that for long and expect to live. I cried with a little boy that I gave an apple to because he cried as he told me that it was the best gift anyone had ever given him and through his tears I could see
that it was….but it was just an apple. I watched a terrified mother bring her lifeless daughter into a doctor’s office and be turned away because she could not pay for an examination. As I gave the doctor money for her examination and medicine, I prayed that it would be enough to at least make her, a child that was close to death, comfortable until she was with Jesus. Children begged me to adopt them and even mothers asked me to adopt their young children so that they would have a better life. One child will always hold a special place in my heart. She asked me to adopt her every day. One day I sat down in the park to try to get to know her a little and when she came over to talk, she cried when she said that she would not ask again, but would I consider adopting her? She began to tell me about her mother that was dying and she knew that when she died, she would be forced to care for her younger sister and would inevitably end up living on the streets. Nearly every day I visited this child and when I told her that it was time for me to return to the U.S., she wept as she asked me to make a promise to her. She asked me to promise that I would always remember her, always pray for her, that I would tell people in the U.S. about the plight of many people in Guatemala and that I would one day return to help children like her. I promised all of these things and as I walked away for the last time, I cried as I prayed for her and thanked God for allowing me to see Him in her eyes. I had always known that I would spend my life working with vulnerable children and families in need and hoped to sometimes work with orphans in the countries that we adopt from. While I was in Guatemala, the Lord made His plan for my life very clear. I had to return to Guatemala to work with orphans and families at risk of leaving their children as orphans and eventually work in other countries. This was not an option and it was not something that I could do occasionally. He grew my love for Guatemala into something larger than life and the night before we were to leave, I prayed a prayer that five weeks earlier I never would have imagined….. ….. As Guatemala fades into the distance, remind me that I will return because I feel like by leaving this place, I am losing a part of myself. Please, God, be near me because leaving Guatemala now, even with our son, is hard for me to do….. It has been a year and half since I left Guatemala, but I am no longer afraid that my passion will die as I was the night before I left. The Lord renews my passion every day and the fire He lit in my soul for orphans and families living in our son’s birth country and around the world will not be extinguished. It has taken longer than expected to return to what is my favorite place on Earth, but during the months after I returned to the U.S., God began showing me exactly how we were to go about reaching those in need in Guatemala. In January 2009, we launched Across All Borders. Our mission is to provide orphan care and outreach to families living in extreme poverty as a way to prevent vulnerable children from becoming orphans. We are an organization that is committed long term to the communities we will serve and are focused on building communities, family self-sufficiency and sustainability. We are currently working in Pastores, Pueblo Nuevo, Guatemala and are partnering with the local church there as well as another faith based organization. In
all that we do, we seek to glorify God and share the love of Christ through our actions. In late June, I will return to Guatemala for the first time since October 2007. I will walk up the stairs of the house where I lived in and sit in the exact spot where God began revealing His plan for our lives and where He saved me from myself again. I cannot imagine what it will be like to praise Him there and to thank Him for allowing me to return and to serve Him in this way. I have had several full circle moments in my life, but none compare to this. Less than two years ago in Guatemala, I was begging God to allow me to leave, but Iâ€™ve spent the last year and a half asking Him to allow my return to come quickly. His plans were, and still are, much better than mine and for as long as He allows me to breathe, I will follow Him wherever He leads. Terry is an adoptive mother and the co-founder and executive director of Across All Borders. To learn more about the work of Across All Borders, please visit www.acrossallborders.com. Terry also blogs her journey at www.whereverhemaylead.blogspot.com.
COMMON THREADS I am excited to feature a colleague of Weaving Families, Dave Verhaagen, Ph.D. as a guest contributor this month. His research on resiliency and the adopted child is so exciting to us because of the hope it contains for adoptive parents. I hope you find it encouraging. RJ Caswell, LPC Executive Director
ABOUT: Dave Verhaagen, PhD Dave Verhaagen, Ph.D., ABPP, is an adoptive father and child and adolescent psychologist who serves as a managing partner for Southeast Psych. He is the author or co-author of six books, including Parenting the Millennial Generation and the upcoming Therapy with Young Men.
Resiliency for Adoptive Parents Part One
More than a dozen years ago when I was working for a public agency that served
children and adolescents with severe emotional and behavioral problems, a new wave of research in the field of resiliency was just beginning. What the research seemed to be finding was that while there were clearly traits and experiences that could increase the tendency toward problems, there were also traits and experiences that could increase a child’s likelihood of doing well in life. The negatives were called “Risk Factors” while the positives were called “Protective Factors.” The research found that a simple formula predicted the likely outcome for the child: the number of protective factors minus the number of protective factors. When that number was in the positive, a child was likely to have a favorable outcome in life, as measured by being able to be a healthy member of his family, do well in school and/or career, and be a productive member of his community. If that number was in the negative, then that child was likely to have trouble in life, such as problems in relation-
WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
ships, in school, and with following the rules and laws of society. Of course, there was no guarantee—children with positive scores could have deep trouble and children with negative scores could beat the odds—but for the most part, this simple equation tended to predict how things were likely to turn out. The most surprising thing about the research was that it concluded the various factors didn’t weigh more than others in the equation. It wasn’t the weight of the factors, it was the sum of them. At first, I found this hard to believe. Surely risk factors like attachment problems and trauma would weigh more than risks like, say, hanging around with friends who get in trouble or experiencing multiple moves. The same was true, I imagined, of the protective factors, with some being more important than others. I decided to put this to the test, so I had a team of about ten clinicians rate each of the risk factors and protective factors on a 1-3 scale. We then used the revised, weighted formula to follow about 100 highly aggres-
sive children over the course of the next year. The punch line? The weighted formula did no better at predicting outcomes like staying out of trouble or staying in school than the unweighted formula. Simply put, it wasn’t the specific factors that predicted the outcome, it was the sum of all the factors. I’ve included a list of risk factors and protective factors here for you to use as a resource. What you will probably notice is that many—if not most—of the risk factors are things you can’t do anything about. They are things that have happened in the past (like exposure to toxins in the womb) or are just part of the child’s makeup (like chronic medical problems). You will also notice that many of the protective factors are things that you can add or change. This is what makes the resiliency model so practical and hopeful. If you have a child who has many strikes against her from the start, you can add in some protective factors that can offset some of these risks. In part two of this article, I’ll give you a few examples of how you can do that.
You Can Afford to Adopt Helpful Hints Jason Kovacs serves as the Director of Ministry Development for ABBA Fund (www.abbafund.org), a ministry providing financial assistance for adoption and helping churches establish adoption funds. He and his wife have three adopted children and one biological child (and currently in the process of adopting from Uganda). Jason’s passion is to see God magnified through God’s people as they reflect God’s heart for the fatherless through adoption and orphan care
This column sponsored by: The Abba Fund
There are many myths when it comes to adoption, the most common is that it costs too much to adopt. The reality is with help, many people making a modest income can afford to adopt.
For many, adoption fees of $20,000 - $40,000 seem impossible at first. What do you do if you find yourself in this position? Please don’t give up hope! Though the costs seem high, there is great encouragement from God’s Word about God’s ability to provide. There are also a growing number of resources available to help families with the cost of adoption. First, remember that God personally knows the high cost of adoption. It cost Him the blood of His only son to adopt His children. The price we pay in adopting pales in comparison. Also, remember that God loves to provide for His children. Jesus said, “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11). There a lot of good gifts that God gives to His children and adoption is definitely one of them. Not only does God love to provide but He is able to provide. Paul reminds the Corinthians that “God will generously provide all they need” (2 Cor 9:8). This reminds me of the refrigerator magnet in my grandparent’s home that said something very true: “Where God guides, God provides.” If you are sensing God’s call to adopt then God will not leave you without the means. That is not to say that it will be easy. On the contrary it seems that God often likes to bring us through difficult experiences so that we will have to trust Him all the more. Though challenging, it is those times that we grow most in our relationship with the Lord and it is in these circumstances that we often see God provide in the most wonderful of ways. My wife and I felt the call to adopt when I was just starting out in ministry. I was in a small church plant, going to seminary, and my salary was very low. We had no resources of our own and had to WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
trust that God would provide for the whole cost of the adoption. There were many times when I struggled with believing God could or would do this but He did. Every dollar for the adoption came through gifts of family and friends, an interest-free loan, a matching grant, personal fundraising, and a grant. We experienced the whole gamut of help available! I was left humbled and awed at God’s goodness and the kindness of others. Now four years later, I have the joy of working full-time for the ministry that provided us with an interest-free loan for our adoption. Everyday I have the privilege of hearing from families stepping out in faith and putting the call of God and the love of these children before their desire for financial security. To top it off I hear story after story of God’s faithful provision through various means. More than ever I believe “where God guides, God provides.” This leads to the second thing to remember as you consider the cost of adoption; there are many financial resources available to those adopting. These include the Federal Adoption Tax Credit, interestfree loans, grants, and personal fundraising (click here for a list of these resources - http://abbafund.wordpress.com/how-to-fund-anadoption/)). Further, an increasing number of churches are helping families by establishing local church adoption funds (http://www. abbafund.org/churchadoptionfunds.htm). This enables the church body to tangibly care for people and join in the adoption journey. Don’t be afraid to share your need with others and invite them to pray and to help financially if they are able. For many, it is a joy they don’t want to miss out on. When you look at the cost of adoption it can be daunting. Do not let it stop you in your tracks. Pray about it. Trust in God’s ability and love to provide. Then do all you can to tap into the resources available. The cost may be high but it is definitely worth it. In fact, it is priceless. It is your child that God has planned for your family.
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LONG JOURNEY HOME Ithatwillgreeted never forget the small serious face me at the doorway one Friday
afternoon. For a child not quite two, his eyes betrayed the lifetime he’d lived in just a short couple of years. Our journey, his and ours, had culminated in this moment and no one could have predicted how the story would play out, certainly not two novice foster parents or that sad twentythree month old child. Our foray into foster care was not quick or sudden. I had watched my aunt Jackie as she worked as a single mother, took on the role of director for Defenders for Life, an Iowa City based pro-life organization, set up a counseling hotline called Iris for those women suffering from postabortion syndrome, and then I watched her begin taking children in to her home. Foster care seemed ingrained in me, WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
something that I was destined to be a part of on my own journey. Once I married at age twenty-eight and it became obvious after six years that pregnancy wasn’t going to be something that just “happened” to us, my husband Bruce concentrated on career. Kids could come later. But at age thirty-seven and almost ten years into our marriage we realized time was slipping away and we had to make some decisions about the future of our family soon. Due to health problems I’d battled, including polycystic ovaries, natural conception didn’t seem possible. My next option jumped to the one thing I knew— foster care. My husband, however, hadn’t had the privilege of watching lives change through the process. There were too many questions, too many unknowns but he
agreed to attend the required classes, to check it out, and see if this were a possibility for us. When we began the foster care process we told them “foster to adopt” only. They told us what we already knew, so few younger children fit into this category. Most that are adopted in foster care are done so by family members or those foster parents that cared for them in the process. But we were determined. Determination however, does not speed up the paperwork of the state government, and even after classes and CPR certification had been completed, we still waited for a license that was slow in coming. We took that as a sign. Maybe we weren’t supposed to do this after all. Maybe we were forcing something that wasn’t in the plan after all.
DID YOU KNOW... • Over 125,000 children are ready • Over 500,000 children in the US for immediate adoption. foster care system. • Approximately 18,000 children • More than 30% are under five age-out of the foster care system years old. when they turn 18.
Seven months later, as we prepared to go through our first invitro cycle at the fertility clinic, we received a phone call that the license had arrived. My husband was away working at a youth retreat in the
mountains when I called the social worker back with the news that although we were thrilled everything had finally gone through, we weren’t sure we wanted to follow the path of foster care after all. What I didn’t know was that there was another message, one I hadn’t received yet. Not only was the license ready, so were two children. You can never predict how you will react at a moment like that.
I was incoherent, unable to put a sentence together, trying to ask questions. No, there wasn’t a rush, this wasn’t an emergency placement, the social worker explained. Yes, it looked like it would be moving quickly into an adoption scenario if we were willing to start with a foster placement. I wrote it all down on a scrap of paper I’d found in my purse while driving down the road. Then I pulled over and made an emergency phone call to my husband. Within an hour we had learned that Jordan (23 months) and Jalisa (4 months) were living with their maternal grandparents along with another sibling of whom the grandparents had guardianship. Due to the grandmother’s Multiple Sclerosis, trying to take care of all of the children was more than she thought she could handle anymore, and she wanted to see if there was a placement that might be better for the children long term. The mother was in and out of their lives as she served time in jail for a myriad of charges including drug possession. Both of the children had been born cocaine positive and the baby was having issues with feeding and milk allergies. Though both children had the same biological mother, they had different fathers, one whom was known and also regularly in trouble with the law and the other father a mystery to all but the mother. Bruce listened in silence as I related it all. Jordan had been shuffled from home to home as his mother and father passed him off from family member to family member, even to other girlfriends that had come into the picture. We would be the sixth or seventh home he would live in, and every woman he met, he called them Mommy. My heart was breaking, but I was also as scared as I had ever been. That is what led us to the door of Jordan’s grandparent’s house that day, no social worker accompanying us, and the two of us naïve
WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
enough to knock and step through the threshold of this child’s dysfunction. I have often asked myself how this whole story may have been different if we had received a call and a social worker had shown up on our doorstep with two children. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss. But here we were, in these strangers’ home and all I could think of as the baby lay screaming in this grandmother’s arms, as the big screen tv blared from the other room, and as that serious little boy looked up at my face, was what had we gotten ourselves into? I had expected this moment to be one of rescue, but instead, after an hour visit and a whirlwind of crazy, Bruce and I stepped back into the night, closed the doors to our car, and drove away. Tears streamed down my face because I didn’t know what to do. How do you take a child from someone’s arms and call them your own? How do you explain to a two-year old full of distrust that you were finally going to be the people that would keep him safe? And how do you make a decision like this that within one twenty-four hour period would change your whole life? There wasn’t much sleep that night. A decision had to be made, and all I could see were those big brown eyes looking up at me from the doorway asking “What are you going to do to me?” Maybe that was it, the look on Jordan’s face. The fact that he didn’t speak the entire time we visited the house. The way he, without hesitation, took Bruce’s hand and walked down the street with him as I tried to make sense of it all. One thing was clear the next morning. I couldn’t walk away. Leaving them to an uncertain future was more than I could bear. I knew that I would wonder every day for the rest of my life what had happened to them. His eyes, the blank expression on his face, the child that didn’t know how to be a child would never be able to leave my thoughts and the only thing I could do in response, was open my home and my life. We picked the children up a week later at the daycare they had been in during their grandparent’s care. The decision was to continue the same daycare to help with the transition. That would be their constant as their world turned upside down. We stopped again later that week at the grandparent’s home and picked up their things, strategically avoiding tearful goodbyes that I wasn’t sure I could weather and instead allowed those to happen privately for the family. And then we brought them home. Jordan was speech delayed although with our limited knowledge of child development we were unsure how to assess it at all. Jalisa’s weakened immune system sent her to the hospital within a week of arriving as she contracted RSV, and we celebrated Jordan’s second birthday while I was in a cycle of fertility drugs that was too late to stop. All in all this was not the ideal beginning for familial bliss. And yet, day by day I watched the veneer begin to crack. I discontinued the baby Zantac that the grandmother had insisted was necessary for Isa as Jordan started calling her because he couldn’t pronounce her full name, and her regurgitation immediately stopped. Skin that was once transparent now had a healthy glow and a body that had been wracked with illness began to heal. Slowly, but surely, we also watched Jordan start to trust. A smile would slip out here and there and the finally one afternoon, the heavens opened, and the little boy laughed. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard and I knew that somehow, some way, we were going to figure this all out together.
It was then that we realized that the emotional aspect of foster care and adoption was only one element of the whole picture, and at the beginning, perhaps the smallest in the eyes of the state. We had only been exposed to one Saturday of visitation by the mother as the next day she was back in jail for a six month sentence. Then in December of 2006, we got word that Jordan’s biological father had been killed in a car accident. That is when the reality of our situation, as well as Jordan’s, came into full view. Jordan’s paternal grandmother was going to fight for him, and as foster parents, we had little say in the matter. We had heard Youth and Family Services stress during our MAPP classes that reunification with the family was always the goal. But now we loved these children. Our little boy had finally laughed. By December he had made up for lost time and was now on target in for children his age in speech development. We were locked in a process that while working to do what is best for the children, had no way to truly assess what that may be. This is where our education process began. While we had been assigned a social worker that was amazing at helping walk us through the process, the children were on their second social worker for their case and much information was lost in the transfer. Communication was difficult and our saving grace when it came to the grandmother’s claim to the children was the fact that both Jordan and Isa had been removed from her home after a DSS investigation and the grandmother had been dismissed as a suitable placement for the children. She then engaged her daughters to join in the fight and both began the process of home study approval. Month after month we would attend court hearings, open our home to social worker visits and assessments, and walk out of our door in the morning, not sure if we would have to return, pack the children’s things and say goodbye. Jordan’s paternal grandmother had received permission from the social worker to visit him weekly at the daycare and so we were never sure from day to day what we would end up walking into as we picked the kids up after work. One thing we learned in the midst of this difficult process was that consistency was key. Had the grandmother actually visited every week, perhaps we could have established some kind of routine, done what they had trained us to do in our MAPP classes and developed a relationship with the biological family so that we were all working for that which was best for the child. However, we found ourselves in the middle of a firestorm with family members that were hostile, would throw the daycare into a frenzy upon arrival, and were prone to histrionics in court. We never knew when it would hit. Sometimes three months would go by without a word and then out of the blue there would be a flurry of activity. Regardless of when it happened, we had to be ready to field it all, mentally, emotionally, all the while protecting the children from the pain of it all. In July of 2007 we were informed that an independent council would meet to determine the best placement for Jordan, and because they would keep the siblings together, whatever decision was made in Jordan’s best interest, the same choice would be made for Isa. We waited a month and a half, weathering phone calls and rumors of which way the council may lean. At the end of August the decision was made that the children should stay with us and we breathed a
sigh of relief. That was, however, short lived. After a termination of parental rights hearing in September of 2007, the newest social worker arranged visitation with the grandmother and aunt to which we had to transport Jordan on a weekly basis. In addition to phone calls, they were to have weekly access and the burden was on us to rearrange our schedules to get them there. Bruce and I were battered. After each victory in the process toward adoption, we seemed to take two steps back. It was at that time that we contacted an attorney. Unsure as to any rights we may have in the process, we were afraid to say anything to DSS as they held all of the cards and were making final decisions that would affect both the children’s futures and ours. When we realized how little an attorney could do for us at this point in the process, a friend put us in contact with Brett Loftis at the Council for Children’s Rights. Although the children had been assigned a Guardian Ad Litem who advocates for the child in court, this was her first case, and she was in the midst of moving out of state. With the involvement of the children’s right’s organization, we were finally able to stop visitation and put the burden back on the family regarding the hoops that needed to be jumped through if they wished to continue to pursue eligibility as Jordan’s adoptive family. We were quickly informed that the family now had legal representation and was threatening Youth and Family Services with legal action. Yet another council was set to meet in January of 2008 to determine which family DSS would pursue as the adoptive family for both Jordan and Isa. With the help of the Council for Children’s Rights, it was determined the council could not meet without an impartial party that represented the children’s best interest, and in January of 2008, two years after we started down the foster to adoption path, papers were filed and we were finally a party in the process. It was still six months worth of court hearings that would rival anything you would see on television as well as a last minute hearing in front of the adoption clerk before we finally received the call from the third social worker assigned to the case that the adoption was final. We were on our way to Minnesota to visit my parents when we heard. Jordan and Isa were safely in their car seats as well as Blake (age 7 and our third child to come to us through foster care). The social workers had held the paperwork so that all three children were adopted on the same day July 3, 2008. That Independence Day was more symbolic that we had ever anticipated. We cheered as we crossed the Wisconsin line into the Twin Cities and headed towards our family who anxiously awaited. Jordan’s infectious laugh came from the backseat, and I knew that although it had been a long journey, as a family, we were finally home.
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International Adoption: An Inside Look
Justin Arnot is married to Nicole and is the father of four children, including an adopted daughter. He currently serves as Executive Director for Christian World Adoption, and is an attorney with more than 10 years experience in working with nonprofit organizations.
This column sponsored by: Christian World Adoption
RJ Caswell and I were sitting in Starbucks several weeks ago, catching up and sharing ideas about kids, families and how the
Lord seems to be moving us to serve them more fully. “Catching up” flowed into “sharing” as RJ suggested it might be interesting to give readers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of international adoption. To many, this work may seem to be “rainbows and butterflies,” with everyone working harmoniously to unite a needy child with a family who will love them forever. All that is necessary, they may perceive, is for someone at the adoptive agency to say the magic words and everybody lives happily ever after. Those who have developed an experienced perspective on what it really takes to get even one child united with a family will attest there are many days when they realize their battle is truly “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) There is no news in the fact that many parents have been through the process of international adoption, including myself. It is doable and wonderful. We are not the same people we were before going through it. And there is simply no better place for a child than in a family. In spite of the positive effects of the process, international adoption can also be stressful and challenging because most of it is completely different than almost anything else you will encounter in life. The experience as a parent adopting internationally makes you a witness to the complex collision of social welfare, international law, human rights and, of course, parenting. Spending a few months on the inside of an agency, trying to wrap your mind around the intricacies WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
that must be orchestrated before a child and family are united, is sort of like when the character Neo from movie The Matrix takes the red pill instead of the blue one: his eyes and mind are forever opened to a world that he did not previously imagine existed; one that is filled with new stark realities about his existence, the fragility and harshness of life, as well as the opportunity to use his own to make an eternal difference for others. Those who work in international adoption would likely agree that it is difficult to describe all of the issues that may arise during the course of a typical day. This may be because there are not, in fact, many “typical” days, or even many routine ways to respond to issues with any given country program. For example, it is well known that the process of adopting a child from some countries has become arguably more difficult but certainly longer over the past several years. Many have wondered why this is the case. The problem in answering the question is that one cannot wrestle it to the ground and come up with the reason. Perhaps the government implemented a sweeping policy change intended to stem the flow of its children out of the country. Perhaps the growth of the country’s economy made it possible for many previously abandoned children to be cared for domestically. Or perhaps officials simply don’t like the idea that the world may think the country cannot take care of its own people. Whatever the reason, it all means the same thing for children in institutions and for families who are in the process of trying to adopt them: wait. The ongoing challenge for the adoption agency serving them, however, is continuing to find new, creative and encouraging ways to say “wait” over the course of three or more years of longing to be together. The parents understandably experience varying levels of impatience, anxiety, frustration and fear. We pray for them, we talk with them, and we try to find any news that may somehow make
the time seem to pass more quickly, or at least less slowly. Or imagine that dedicated child welfare staff have worked exhaustively for months, across the spectrum of geographic, cultural, educational, economic and just about every other type of barrier, in order to prepare the necessary documents and evidence for the court hearing that will determine whether an orphan will become the new son or daughter of a family seeking to love them forever. Imagine also that a network of saints have labored over those same months to take the child from death’s doorstep to relative health, and to keep her there. All that needs to happen is for the presiding judge to show up, listen to the as-good-as-can-be-presented case, and approve the matter by signing the necessary paperwork. In America we call this a “sure thing.” No problem, right?
communication so expectations are managed effectively. Take, for example, our use of interview video footage on YouTube to provide parents with deeper insight into our Ethiopia program. This can make the “bumps in the road” that may nevertheless occur at least more tolerable. When parents and their agency work together to serve orphaned children through adoption, the result is beautiful, even when the work was difficult. After all, adoption is the earthly metaphor of what God did for us through the work of Jesus on the cross. Just as anyone who believes in Christ is a new creation (see 2 Corinthian 5:17), so the adopted child is given a fresh start. The old life is gone; the new has come. And no one who has witnessed the transformation will ever be the same.
Well, sure…maybe. Unless, of course, the judge decides to not attend the hearing…without telling anybody; or unless a global nongovernmental organization with an anti-international adoption agenda begins feeding local politicians with anecdotal accounts of child-trafficking or concerns over a child’s loss of culture that spooks them into re-thinking approval of their next case; or, fill in the blank with those know-it-when-we-see-it things the adoption agency’s contract generally refers to as things “outside of its control.” Now the tremendous effort formerly channeled to the adoption process itself must be diverted to an investigatory process to discover the nature of the issue that led to the non-hearing; a public-relations campaign to inform, educate and continuously update the affected family (or families); and, in some cases, the launch of a collaborative multi-agency advocacy initiative to once again convince the powers that be that THIS child is precious (just like all the others who wait); is alone in this world; and deserves a simple “day in court” that will move her from being alone into a family that is prepared to love and provide for her. Those who are on the front lines of this work, who daily strive to do it legally, ethically, and to take into consideration the myriad of details that make up what is known as “the best interest of the child” are true servants of the living God (in some cases, whether they know it or not.) They invest themselves in the lives of others and are, in fact, often treated like servants. They somehow navigate family dynamics, personalities, international law and politics, governmental bureaucracy, cultural sensitivities, difficulty in getting information about a child’s health or background, time pressure, limited resources and high emotions. But, oh, how tremendous is the satisfaction and spiritual reward for them each time a family is, finally, united.
Voices of Beauty...arriving in bookstores in August. 100% of profits from book sales go The work of international adoption may seem mysterious and is, in to provide micro-loans to women fact, often difficult. Most reputable agencies, including Christian and education to girls in Africa. World Adoption, put a great deal of emphasis on education and
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FAMILY BY FAITH Randy and Teresa Grimes of Cumming, Georgia are part of a
growing group of adoptive parents for whom adoption has become more than a life choice, but rather a ministry and a God-given calling. Married for over 25 years, Randy and Teresa are the parents of five children ranging in age from 23 to 2. Three of the children have joined the Grimes family through the miracle of adoption. “Our family definitely reflects the trend of multi-ethnic, blended families”, said Randy. “I really view our family has a tapestry that God has woven in a unique, creative way to reflect His artistry and majesty”, adds Teresa. The family has been involved in adoption and foster care issues now for over 20 years. “Our adoption adventure began in 1989 when we made the decision to adopt a little girl from Korea”. Their daughter, Erica, was born in Seoul, South Korea in January 1990 and arrived home just in time for Mother’s Day of that year. “We lived in a very small town in rural WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
Kentucky at the time, and we became very comfortable talking about adoption but we had no idea then how God was going to use this experience for His purposes”, said Randy. In 2000, the Grimes family relocated from Kentucky to metro Atlanta in part because of a desire to live in a more ethnically diverse, multi-cultural area. The move, and Randy’s new position with his employer Merck & Co. Inc., allowed Teresa to become a stay-at-home mom. “I had always worked full-time when the older children were young and I had a desire to really experience being a stay-at-home mom.” They began discussing the idea of adopting again and made the decision to pursue a domestic adoption. “Adoption became almost a full-time occupation for me as I was talking to agencies and attorneys all over the country,” Teresa said. The couple signed with nine different agencies before matching with a birthmother in Florida. “Our beautiful, multi-racial son, Noah was born in September 2004”, said Randy.
“Teresa was actually in the delivery room for his birth and I arrived about an hour after he was born”, he added. It was during the process of Noah’s adoption that God began to reveal to Randy and Teresa that He was calling them to do more than adopt. He was calling them into ministry within the area of adoption. “Our ministry, Jochebed’s Hope, is completely God-given”, said Teresa. “God began to show us that as a culture we had lost our understanding of His vision for adoption, “she said. Jochebed’s Hope was founded upon the principle that God created and ordained adoption for the accomplishment of His purposes. Jochebed’s Hope is a non-profit ministry aimed at presenting the Biblical foundation for adoption. Whether one is touched by adoption as a birthparent, adopted child, or adopted family, Jochebed’s Hope seeks to be a source of education, information, support, and spiritual insight. The ministry is unique
in that Jochebed’s Hope is not an adoption agency, facilitator, or paid consultant. “Since the story of Jochebed and her baby, Moses, is the first documented case of adoption in the Bible, we really had to think about and search the scriptures for insight,” said Randy. We felt it was clear that Jochebed’s hoped for Moses’ physical protection and that she prayed he would grow to serve and honor God. We realized those were the same hopes and dreams that most of today’s birthmothers have for the children they choose to place for adoption,” he said. Through the ministry, Randy and Teresa help assist potential adoptive couples in determining whether adopting a child is a part of God’s plan for their lives. “For those who are just beginning to gather information and understand their options regarding adoption, the process can feel very overwhelming,” said Teresa. “We have so many people call us who say that they have thought about adopting for a long time and just don’t have any idea of how to get started,” she added. “Our goal is to help potential adoptive families address questions, fears and concerns they may have from a Biblical perspective. This one-on-one interaction with potential adoptive families is one of the most rewarding aspects of our ministry.” While Jochebed’s Hope was incorporated in late 2006, the ministry was very limited in 2007 as God called the Grimes family to add another child to their family. “In early 2007, we knew that God was calling us to adopt again, we just didn’t know if it was to be
a domestic or international adoption,” Teresa said. Eventually, at God’s leading, Teresa discovered a little boy featured as a “waiting child” on an agency website. “As soon as I saw his photo I knew he was our son,” she said. The little boy was in Taiwan, and the couple was astonished to realize that he had been born in the same town in southern Taiwan as one of Teresa’s best friends. “When we moved to the Atlanta area, I met my friend Jenny, who is from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. For years I had heard about her family and life in Taiwan. It gave me chills to realize that God had been planning and leading us toward our son, Jeremiah, before he was even born,” Teresa said. Their soon-to-be son had been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder known as Fabry Disease and Randy and Teresa spent much of 2007 consulting with experts in the field and assembling a team of medical specialists to provide for Jeremiah’s future care. The family traveled to Taiwan in late January and welcomed Jeremiah home to Georgia on February 1, 2008. “After Jeremiah came home, we weren’t sure what was going to happen to the ministry, but it didn’t take us long to realize we had only begun to scratch the surface of what God was planning,” Randy said. Through a series of newly opened doors and divine appointments, God began to expand and stretch the ministry into several new areas. One of those encounters led to Jochebed’s Hope becoming involved in the support of an orphanage in Cancun, Mexico. “We went to Mexico on a business trip for my company and we had been there about 12 hours when we met a pastor and his wife who operated a small orphanage near
the airport in Cancun,” Randy said. “We had an immediate sense that God had brought us to Mexico to support their work and to care for the children at this orphanage. Through Jochebed’s Hope, we began to provide financially for the orphanage’s needs and more importantly we began developing a relationship with the children for whom this will be a long-term home,” Randy added. The past year also brought numerous opportunities for the ministry to sponsor “Adoption Sundays” in surrounding churches and for Randy to present a Biblically-rooted view of adoption. “We feel it is vital that we share the Biblical foundation for adoption and how the adoption analogy relates to our place in the family of God,” said Randy. Randy’s sermon on our adoption in Christ draws powerful parallels between earthly adoption and our spiritual adoption in Christ. “We see how people respond to the tremendous effort and sacrifice that God provided to adopt us as His children,” Randy said. “It is a powerful metaphor for sharing the Gospel”. In late 2008, God began sharing a vision with Randy and Teresa of the next phase of their ministry. The couple realized they were being called to plant a new church in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. The new church is named Family by Faith Worship Center and Randy will serve as the lead pastor. The church will focus on adoption and orphan care as its primary ministries from a physical, but more importantly, from a spiritual perspective. The mission statement of the church is: To unite all people into the family of God by the process of adoption through faith in Jesus Christ. “The purpose of every church should ultimately be to make disciples and we feel we have a very clear vision for how Family by Faith will fulfill this purpose,” Randy said. Family by Faith Worship Center will be affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. “We will begin holding very informal services in July to introduce people to the mission and vision of the church and our official launch is scheduled for September”, Randy said. Family by Faith will be a regional church with a worldwide focus. The church will be aggressively multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. “We want this church to reflect the universality of God, “said Randy. The church is founded primarily on two scriptures, Matthew 25:40 and James 1:27. “We believe that James 1:27 is the perfect metaphor for the church. The true orphans in their distress are those without a relationship with Christ. Without that requisite relationship, a person can not approach God as Abba! Father!” Randy said. “While it is terrible to be an orphan in this lifetime, it is even more disturbing to think of being an orphan for all eternity,” Teresa added. “Ephesians 1:4-6 tells us that we were predestined for adoption. God loved me so much that he chose me before the foundation of the world,” Randy said. “If we were predestined for adoption, then I believe we must proactively let those who are seeking know what they were predestined for.” The church will enthusiastically support the cooperative programs of the GBC and SBC, but the mission work developed by Family by Faith will be completely focused on orphanages. “We will be
working with foreign orphanages as well as local and regional group homes that serve the needs of children in foster care,” said Randy “We will do mission work the way that Paul did mission work by establishing long-term relationships,” he added. “As a church, we will unapologetically promote physical orphan care and adoption. We believe that scripture command us to care for those who can not care for themselves,” Randy said. “Psalms tell us to be a helper to the fatherless. This is kingdom activity.” Family by Faith will also financially support and provide for those within the church who wish to adopt. But this just begins to scratch the surface of what Family by Faith will be about. “We’re going to focus on the fact that spiritual adoption is the basis of the Gospel,” said Randy. The church has found a framework for expressing this truth in Galatians 4:4-8. “In this scripture, Paul outlines four specific reasons why God sent Jesus. He illustrates that the benefits of our spiritual adoption are essentially the same as the benefits a child receives through physical adoption.” he said. Randy points out that the term adoption is used five times in the New Testament, all in the writings of Paul. “We have to remember that Paul was an expert on the law, and he used this term to reflect on the permanence of our place within the family of God when we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, “ he said. While some might see the vision of Family by Faith as a contemporary, radical concept, the Grimes family sees it as the church in its simplest form. “If adoption is the basis of the entire Gospel, why are we not focusing more on the theology of our adoption as His children as the fundamental undergirding of the church?” For more information on Family by Faith and to keep up-to-date on the church plans, visit www.familybyfaith.org.
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Be Ready We made ourselves ready to adopt by doing one simple thing you can do too.
Randy Bohlender lives in Kansas City, MO with his wife, Kelsey and six children (#7 to be born in July!). He is a Prayer Missionary with the International House of Prayer, serves on the leadership team of TheCall, works with The Zoe Foundation as well as Hannah’s Dream Adoptions. You can follow his journey at www.randyandkelsey.com.
It happens regularly. I’d say weekly, sometimes more often....we find ourselves in a meeting or in a hallway or over coffee, and someone asks about our adoption stories.
Our first adoption was in the fall of 2006, when we adopted an infant girl from Las Vegas, Nevada. There are so many intricate details to her story...prophetic foreshadowing, meetings that seemed chance at the moment but were momentous later on, money that came in at the last minute and it goes on. It’s easy for me to get lost lacing the details together and watch the listeners’ eyes glaze over, but they’re important to me. She’s my girl and I love her story. In 2008, we adopted infant twin girls. Anna and Mercy’s story happened so quickly that people often think they misunderstand us, but it’s true. We discovered that they were available on a Thursday morning and walked out of the hospital in Florida with them about 32 hours later. I blogged Zoe’s adoption as it happened, but I Twittered the twins, because it all happened at light speed. Once the stories are told and people are oohing and aahing over the girls, we often hear it….“ Wow, we would adopt too if they just dropped in our laps like this! It sounds so easy!” Truthfully, it’s not that hard. Yes, there is paperwork to fill out, fingerprints to be taken, doctors’ exams to be scheduled and so on. There’s also money to be raised to pay adoption fees. Even so, it’s not prohibitive. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. As for the “dropping in our laps” part….that’s where I have to fight my tendency to roll my eyes, because yes, we did adopt babies who we connected with from a comment on our blog, but we were able WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
to adopt because we made ourselves ready to adopt by doing one simple thing that you can do too: Get a home study. In laymen’s terms, a home study is a way for an adoption agency, a lawyer, and the court to know that you can provide a stable environment for a child. It is the compilation of interviews with you and your spouse, physicians reports, criminal background checks, financial statements and biographical information as well. Without one, you are not able to adopt. Understand - if babies “dropped in your lap” as quickly as we found the twins - you could not adopt them without a home study. You can obtain a homestudy by locating a social worker or counseling agency in your area licensed to complete homestudies. You can find one by asking friends who may have adopted, your doctor, or perhaps someone at your church - in most cases, you’re only one or two degrees of separation from a qualified social worker. Some social workers are contracted to specific adoption agencies so they are not able to release the homestudy to you for use independent of the agency. It’s important to clarify that you want to own the study and not be tied to one agency if you want to attempt to adopt independently. If you are not going to use an adoption agency it is also imperative to locate an attorney specializing in adoption law to represent your family and to file the necessary paperwork to make the adoption final. A few months before we adopted the twins, we felt we wanted to be ready for an emergency situation, should one ‘drop in our lap’. Our home study was finished the day before we heard about them- two days before we held them in our arms. Had we not gone ahead and got the study done when no babies were in sight, we would never have been in a position to say “We will take them - now!”
One of the strongest arguments for abortion is that if abortion were outlawed today, there would be 3,900 babies born who would be no more wanted than had they been aborted Outlawing abortion would save babies lives, but it would not give them a hope or a good future. The American church - often vocal in itâ€™s opposition, has been fairly slow to embrace the disenfranchised in our communities. Arguing against abortion without preparing to care for the unwanted children that we are claiming to care about is incongruent. The Zoe Foundation was started to spur this kind of thinking - that adoption would be a prophetic sign of sorts...a positive alternative to the atrocity of abortion. Thatâ€™s why we are gathering names, addresses, and contact information on as many home-study ready Christian families as we can find. It will serve two purposes - a resource for those looking for families to adopt as well as a sign to the political world that if they do the right thing - overturn Roe v. Wade - that there is an army of believers ready to embrace the children who are to be born in the years to follow.
WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
The Blaske Bunch The Blaske Bunch. We have been signing our names this way on Christmas
cards, thank you notes, and invitations to birthday parties for over 15 years now. Our bunch has been placed together by none other than our amazing God and started out on July 17, 1993 when God connected my heart with my husband’s. At that time, I was a single mom of two children and had never been married. Today we are a family of 8. Dave and I are a few months away from our 16th wedding anniversary of celebrating the goodness of God and His heart of adoption for all of us. Upon our marriage in 1993 my husband went from being single, to being a husband and instant daddy of two busy children with two more to follow. We had family of 6 in two years. In those early years, I was the recipient of redeeming love by my husband and my heavenly Father. It is true that God adopted Dave and me into His eternal life, love and promise when we surrendered our lives WEAVING FAMILIES the magazine Summer 2009
to Jesus Christ. The “adoption” love of the gospel began to naturally flow out of our lives. Fast forward to 2000. Our kids were 11, 9, 6 and 5. Dave and I felt settled, all the while continuing to grow, but there was an undeniable tugging at our hearts for something more. We began to purposefully seek out some definition to the phrase we believed- that “we were created by God on purpose for His Purpose.” What was He calling us to do? Dave and I loved kids ministry, worship team, friendships and family, but felt like we were being called to something deeper. What was it?
heard a broadcast from Family Life about a ministry within Family Life called “Hope for Orphans.” The broadcast spoke of the launch of a nationwide ministry to encourage churches to hear the cry of the orphan and get involved. They had designed and printed materials for anyone to receive to start their own orphan care ministry. The dreams that we had, that initially did not have shape or form, suddenly had a skeleton to put around it. Within weeks our mailbox was filled with flyers, books and DVD’s from Family Life. God had paved a path and we stepped onto it!
With great amounts of trust we began to let each other really talk and let loose the dreams we were holding onto in our individual hearts. What neither of us knew was that deep inside our hearts, we were both broken and shattered for the same thing- orphans! Once we shared our hearts with each other, we were free to dream about what the possibilities could look like and excitedly pressed forward. In 2007 Dave was driving and
Within a short period of time His Kids Our Homes, a non-profit ministry, was born. His Kids Our Homes exists to provide training, support, and opportunities for people to get involved in helping make a difference in the lives of orphans and waiting children in our community, nation and world. It is our joy and continued delight to prayerfully see the path God continues to illuminate for the His Kids team. In July 2007 our
family size was still six, but not for long. In his book Adopted for Life, Russell Moore says, “The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be in the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world. As we become more attuned to the gospel, we’ll have more of a burden for orphans.” Key words for us are attuned and burdened. In July 2007 we were still a family of six, but not for long. Because of a friendship connection with a family adopting two girls, the 143 million orphans that we were broken over suddenly had faces. These particular faces were In Ghana, West Africa. Through a series of God moving events we began our personal adoption journey. From July 2007 when we received our referral to March 2008 when our children arrived home, we traveled on an adoption road of twists, turns, ups and downs while we discovered a whole new brokenness inside our hearts. On March 15th 2008 our two beautiful Ghanaian children, ages 10 and 5, joined The Bunch. Their life stories of love and hardship are continually being woven in to all of our lives daily. Pages and pages can be filled of how God peeled layers and layers off our eyes in our adoption process. With the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, a labor of love began to grow in me as God connected me to the director of the orphanage where our children lived. I was able to stay in Ghana for seven weeks and build strong relationships with the director and staff. In that connection, God is using me as
well as team of others to put structure around the adoption process for this orphanage. Now at home, I volunteer as the Adoption Coordinator on the US side. I help and serve as a communication liaison from adoptive families to the director as well as assist them in the paper chase of adoption for their dossier. It is with continuing humility that God’s greatness and His perfect plan of adoption is being lived out in The Blaske Bunch and the efforts of the His Kids Our Homes Ministry. Each of our individual lives went from orphan status to redeemed by God’s perfect sacrifice of love for us. We now in turn love others, which draws others to God by our love and service. What a purposeful way to be on the front line of life. To us this sounds like James 1:27 being lived out in our lives by only the power of God’s love in us. Anyone want to join? Everyone is called. Carrie Blaske is an adoptive mother and is the co-director of His Kids Our Homes in Lynden, Washington. To learn more, visit www.hiskids-ourhomes.org.
ON THE NIGHTSTAND IThe bitter taste of ashes was left in the Bottomlys mouths after learning their hopes of parenthood were shattered. Barrenness, regardless of the cause, causes heartache and pain so harsh it seems impossible to approach life again. But for Josh and Amy Bottomly, Africa opened a door to a new life, the life they had dreamed of. Through a little baby named Silas Tesfarmariam, the Bottomlys found their dreams realized. Clouding this new life were the storms of Africawhere beauty and tragedy, wealth and poverty, and humanity and sub-humanity coexist in a jagged tension. Thrown into the squalls of this drastically different culture, the native Oklahomans learned to see God in a different light. Not only is he the giver of children, hes the manager of nations and the keeper of hearts. Join Josh and Amy Bottomly and Tesfarmariam too!in this inspiringly true journey from ashes to africa. Like the authors, your life will never be the same again.
Reprinted with permission. WEAVING FAMILIES Summer 2009
The Dreaded “I” Word Josh Amy read online that after a year of trying, doctors classify a couple as infertile. Trying to stay optimistic, I suggested that we just had a run of bad luck. It was like a hitter starting a season batting zero for twelve. All it took was one pitch, one clean swing, and one crack of the bat. Secretly, though, both of us couldn’t silence the voices in the back of our heads that fomented our worst fears. Finally, Amy asked me point blank: “Why don’t you just get a sperm test?” Immediately, I cringed. The thought of a sterile room and a plastic cup and the awkwardness of knowing that the nurses and doctors knew what I was doing in the room next door … A shudder passed through my body. “Listen, babe,
Josh and Amy Bottomly
Brandon took a sperm test just to ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s,’” Amy said, trying to coax me into calling the doctor.” And if you want, I will come with you.” I told Amy that would not be necessary. A week later, I walked out of the doctor’s office feeling confident that the results would put to bed any possibility that the problems were on my end. The next day the doctor’s office called with the results. At the time of the call, I was parked at Barnes and Noble, eager to make a mad dash through the freezing November rain to grab a cup of coffee. As sleet pelted the windshield, I cupped my ear around my cell phone to hear the nurse’s words. “Your test shows—” “You’re going to have to speak louder. I can’t hear with all the ice and sleet.” This time the nurse’s voice crackled with clarity through the speaker. “Your test shows that you are infertile!” I furled my eyebrows quizzically. I thought that for sure I must have picked up some white noise from the thump and pelt of the ice. “Come again?” The nurse almost shouted this time. “You are going to need to see an infertility specialist. That’s all I can tell you at this time.” The nurse quickly hung up the phone before I could ask any questions. I don’t remember much after that except the gelid feel of the steering wheel vinyl against my tear-soaked face. After I gathered myself together in the car, I called my mom. I was too embarrassed to call Amy. The thought of telling her was too much. Little did I know that the nurse had already called Amy and informed her of my test results.
From Ashes to Africa
Amy had asked the nurse to call me. The thought of telling me was too much for Amy. When I got Mom on the phone, I could barely get the lodged words out of my throat. There was a long silence on the other end of the line. “Infertile,” she said, sounding like she had just choked on a throat lozenge. “Well, that can’t be. There isn’t infertility on either side of the family.” I pressed the cell phone against my forehead. “Well, we’ll be praying for you, and I’ll have Dad call you later.” The last person I wanted to talk to was my dad. For the next fourteen days, there were moments where the mere thought of the “I” word made me feel like the sun was about to explode, sending my whole universe into chaos. For years, I had struggled internally with my sense of manhood. Like some men, I had successfully masked my insecurities, often behind jock talk and one-liners from movies like The Godfather, such as “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Behind my thin façade though, I felt a nagging fear that I was not a “real man.” I taught English. I coached girls’ basketball. I wasn’t an IBF fan. I didn’t own Apple stock. I didn’t have an “expense account.” When my guy friends would start talking business and punctuate the conversation with terms like “premiums,” “market shares,” and “NASDAQ index range,” I’d space out and think, If only we could talk about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Now my deepest anxiety was that over time, the “man” part of me would slowly disappear, and all that would remain was the “I” part. “I,” as in: Infertile.
Josh and Amy Bottomly
Incapable. Inept. Insecure. Impotent. As word leaked out that we had received some “bad news” on “some fertility tests,” everyone I saw told me they were praying for us and our “unfortunate situation.” Family. Friends. Pastors. They all reached out as best they could. But mostly I just wanted them to leave me alone. No shoulder hugs and head tilt expressions of sympathy. No Bible verses. No Christian bumper sticker quotes. Nothing.