James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In observance of November as National Adoption Awareness Month, we are sharing stories of adoption, rescue and redemption that have touched our heart and that we hope will touch yours. You can read Dustin & Courtney’s story here and Shane & Kelly’s story here.
In December of 2006, on a van ride home from a Ski Conference in Colorado, my wife started a conversation that forever changed my life:
“I think God wants us to adopt internationally.”
“Wow! OK,” I said. “Let’s pray about it for a while.”
So we prayed. And then we prayed some more.
By the Fall of 2007, we were ready to take the plunge. We took classes and chose an adoption agency based in Southeast Asia. But when their government heaped additional regulations upon orphanages, our agency was nearly crippled. The agency kindly encouraged us to look elsewhere. It was a setback, but we are still thankful for their honesty.
After times of prayer and learning, our eyes turned towards Ethiopia. Beth was old enough (many countries require the parents to be 30), I had spent some time in Africa, our family supported an African child from Compassion International, and our schedule and budget could survive Ethiopia’s adoption requirements.
So in March of 2008, we began completing the stacks of paperwork required to adopt from Ethiopia. We finished in September. There’s a reason they call it the paper pregnancy. The costs and discomforts grow by the month.
The sweetest moment in the process occurred when our family had to get blood work done. One of our boys on the way out of the medical office said, “So can we have our sister now?” We wished it was that simple.
The waiting began…
In March of 2009, we were still waiting, but we were also talking. During her morning devotions, Beth kept feeling that God wanted us to consider adopting two children. So we prayed about opening our adoption status to include siblings.
But before we could change our status on the adoption, we got the call. Few words can describe the joy of that moment. We heard that a daughter was coming to our family, read her name, saw her picture and poured over her bio. Breathtaking. Ultrasounds are cool, but they can’t compete with a real picture of a real child that’s really on their way.
In one instant, we knew our daughter’s name, face, and story. We fell in love. By the end of the week, we felt like we had loved her our whole lives. She graced my dreams nightly.
But then, pain.
Just five days after we got the big call, Beth told me to sit down. She had news. We were pregnant.
I laughed out loud and said, “What in the world?” But after about five seconds of shock and amusement, my emotions changed. The question loomed, “Does this derail our adoption?” The adoption agency’s policy states that if an adopting couple gets pregnant during the process, the adoption is put on hold. I can’t tell you the heartache I experienced. Someone had taken my child.
In between tears, I frantically searched on the internet for help. I read stories of about fifty couples, who’d gone through similar situations and all of them recommended that we keep it a secret. If we could keep the pregnancy hidden from the adoption agency, we could still adopt our child.
Up next: the search for a Biblical reason to deceive. That’s a tough search.
In the middle of the night, I gazed out the bedroom window intended for her. As the clouds crawled under the moon, questions crawled parallel through my heart: “Will I take her picture down in my office? How long will this hurt? Will she find another home? Why us?”
The darkness gave no ground to morning sunshine. I left my office by 9:00, because I could not control the tears.
Some close friends met me for lunch, and I shared my dilemma. Should I hide our secret or be honest with our adoption agency? That’s when Kenneth, a longtime friend, said exactly what I needed to hear: “You know what’s right. You’ve never been in control of this whole thing, anyway. God has been and still is. Your honesty with the adoption agency will not change that.”
I went home early and prepared to make the most nerve-wracking call of my life. I penned an eloquent plea, rehearsed it, and dialed the number. I found myself relenting to honesty and faith, but also preparing to call back everyday for weeks if denied. I would do anything, but the truth was that anything probably would be insufficient. Obedience, rather than outcome, started to drive my faith. That’s all faith is: obedience regardless of outcome.
The lady from the agency concluded our conversation by saying, “Thank you for being honest. It’s a case-by-case decision and will involve my directors. Don’t lose all hope.”
Follow-up work dominated the next few days, as they sought to determine whether we were fit to adopt and birth a child within a matter of months. We painstakingly crafted answers to their email questions, garnered additional references and tried to keep our voices confident during phone interviews.
Then the waiting began again.
After a few more days, we received official word that everything was a go. Joy, relief and gratitude consumed us. In the midst of this, I realized that this was the greatest story of my life. Looking back, I would not trade the pain, tears or stress.
This story is not about us at all. It’s about God. He was gracious to us.
God taught us to focus on obedience, not outcomes. This lesson serves us all well.
I love adoption because it rescues kids. They have a home, a family, a security.
I love adoption because it blesses the whole tribe. Adoption forever changed our family.
I love adoption because it reflects the heart of God. God repeatedly commands His people to care for the orphaned.
I love adoption because it reminds me that I was adopted, too. God calls us his children. Through Jesus, we went from wanting to wanted, hopeless to hope-filled, abandoned to adopted.
And when I remember that I’ve been adopted too, by my Heavenly Father, I’m encouraged to more faithfully trust Him.
Brian Jennings and his wife, Beth, live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with their four children. Brian serves as Lead Minister of Highland Park Christian Church, where he’s been since 1998. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for Blackbox International, which provides holistic care for boys who are victims of sex trafficking. You can purchase his new book, Lead Your Family, and read his blog at www.leadyourfamily.net.