Our precious son, Mac, came to us through the advocating of many and the mission field of No Hands But Ours. But it begins in an unlikely way….it begins with a disruption. A painful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking disruption. It is actually impossible to tell Mac’s story without first telling about the disruption. I had never considered the possibility of such a thing happening to our family, but looking back, I see the handiwork of God in even the smallest details of the journey.
My husband came to me shortly after Christmas of last year with an announcement that quite frankly made me giddy with excitement. He felt God was calling us to adopt again. That was no small feat for him to feel that way = nothing short of the Holy Spirit’s leading if you just want to know the truth – because we were a paycheck-to-paycheck family with seven kids. (We still and probably always will be, a paycheck-to-paycheck family.)
That very night, the big kids and I were crowded around the computer screen looking at country requirements and Rainbow Kids. A teen girl on the RainbowKids website stood out to us. She was “aging out” and there was very little time to get to her. I called the agency she was with, they confirmed that it would be hard to get all our paperwork done in time, but not impossible and that I would just need to be on the ball with each step.
We took a leap of faith that day, not sure where all the money would come from, but confident that God would direct each step. And He did. We got things done in record time. And the money came… from precious friends and acquaintances with a heart for adoption, from a Lifesong matching grant, from a Brittany’s Hope matching grant, from our retirement account, from tax returns. It just poured in! In fact, Brittany’s Hope commented that our family reached their matching grant faster than any other family previously! And in mid-April – after a few QQ chats with the daughter we were hoping to adopt — my husband, our oldest daughter Chloe, and I hopped on a plane to bring our new daughter home.
Almost two weeks later, we were standing in front of an officer at the US Consulate in China facing the inevitable fact that the teen we had come to adopt did not want to leave her country. She refused her visa — we begged, we pleaded… I cried. A lot. I prayed. A lot. The consulate requested that we give her one more night to reconsider (they were hopeful she would come with us in the end as well).
We went back to the hotel. I prayed harder. I read Scripture. I laid on the bathroom floor and silently cried out to God. Why would He bring us here for a teen that did not want to be adopted? Why did seemingly every door swing wide open for us during this entire process only to have it slammed shut at the end? I couldn’t make sense of it. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. And when we went back the next day to “try one more time” at the consulate – her answer was still the same. She did not want an American family and she did not want to go to the US.
There is so much more I could tell about our time with this young girl… she was old enough to decide to remain an orphan, but still very young in so many ways. I will never forget her – she has left a permanent mark on my heart… even if just to pray for her. I am thankful to have met her. I am thankful for the opportunities that God provided for the Gospel to be shared with her. We may never know the full impact of that. And while I can look on the experience and be thankful now, it was like walking through fire at the time.
There is a saying that our pastor has stated many times in his sermons and it rings true in every heartbreak I have ever walked through. I won’t get it exactly right, but the bottom line is this: God doesn’t promise us that we will never go through painful stuff, He only promises us that He will give us comfort, wisdom, and strength to walk through the storm. Reflecting back on that time, I see the evidence of how He longed to comfort us through the loss. For example, our particular agency had us traveling alone. Traveling alone stinks… it is very lonely and isolating, especially when you are dealing with a difficult adoption. Honestly, by the time we got to Guangzhou, and met up with all the other adoptive families from other agencies, we were hanging on by a thread. But God was in the details—and He knew we needed the fellowship of believers and He blessed us with a sweet, sweet group of adoptive parents during that last week in China.
I still remember sobbing in the middle of the US Consulate office on another adoptive momma’s shoulder and her praying for me, for the situation, for peace. God knew I would need this relative stranger’s prayers – He gave her the words that I needed to hear in that moment. God is always in the details.
So we flew home without a daughter. And I tried desperately to understand what God was doing. And then resolved that I did not have to understand… I just had to accept it and let God carry me through the storm of emotions that I could not seem to tame: anguish, rejection, depression. We were all struggling, honestly. Maybe not the little ones, so much – I would say they were more confused than anything. But the older kids each dealt with the disruption differently. Our oldest that flew with us was angry. Our next oldest, a son (who had been adopted at age 7 from China) was quiet and a little withdrawn, and our other son was torn between anger and sadness.
We had been home for maybe a week. It was May 15th — and I was still fresh with the trauma of coming home without the daughter we had prayed so hard for. I had a message pop up on my screen from a woman I hardly knew. I had made quite a few new Facebook friends since our trip to China — so many people had reached out — people we didn’t even know, but had heard about our disruption and wanted to comfort us in some way. I quickly learned she was a contributor for No Hands But Ours and that she was in the mission field of advocating for orphans.
Again, God’s grace and mercy in the details. She asked if we were considering going back for another adoption and would we be open to younger boys with special needs. Honestly, I was confident God’s plan was still the same. He had planted the seed, He had provided money, He was for the orphan… and the disruption was a painful, unexpected part of the unfinished journey to our child. There was a verse that I held onto tightly throughout that first trip to China (particularly during my darkest moments): “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me. Your lovingkindness, Oh Lord is everlasting. Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8.
God had begun this—He would accomplish His will. He would not forsake what He had started. And I knew that God was continuing to build that bridge to the child that was meant to be ours.
I quickly replied, “yes”… and less than 30 minutes later, I was staring at the face of a little boy that had been given the advocacy name of “Justus”. There had been an advocacy blog written about him through No Hands But Ours and I was in love from the moment I read it. He was adorable. I read all the info about him.
He had thalassemia, which was something we were already open to. Again, God, who goes before us and prepares our hearts in advance, had given us friends with a daughter that had thalassemia. We had seen first-hand how manageable thalassemia was because of her. I am quite sure if God had not prepared us in that way beforehand, that it would have been intimidating to read “needs monthly blood transfusions” on a child’s file. But. God…
From that point on I was sure he was ours. And it didn’t take much convincing on my husband’s part — kid you not, his pictures were so adorable it was hard to stop staring at them. The kids were on board immediately. And it was like a breath of fresh air had been breathed into our home.
There were, of course, a few hurdles to get through. The first was that he was with another agency – and we had to use the agency we were with before. The second was money. Brittany’s Hope had graciously worked with Wide Horizons For Children, our adoption agency, to save our matching grant, but we still had to pay for another I800 and we had to get back to China (which was no small chunk of change). And we really, really needed the orphanage donation to be waived. We simply had no more money and I just could not bear to ask more of the people who had already given so generously.
So, the first hurdle came fairly quickly… confirmation to my heart that had already fallen in love with this little guy. WACAP agreed to transfer after a couple of families had passed up his file. I still kind of shake my head in disbelief that any family would pass up his file… but God had a plan… and the plan was for him to be a Jenkins. This little guy was born to be a Jenkins. That doesn’t take away from his biological parents, or his first 18 months of life (it is all his story), but his life was meant to intertwine with ours and God knew He would place him on the other side of the world in a family that would not be complete without him….
The second hurdle came almost as easily… my husband had accumulated quite a few hotel points that spring and we were able to book the first week for free. We had also met an American family on our previous trip that actually lived in Guangzhou and had for over a decade. They offered to let me stay with them instead of a hotel to cut costs on the second week. Our agency agreed. I would be going by myself this time, which was fine. It was my 3rd trip to China and I figured I knew the ropes. I requested a guide only on days that I had to do legal things for the adoption. I would be in charge of getting myself to and from the hotel and airports. (That did not go smoothly, but that is another, quite comical, story entirely). All these things helped cut costs significantly – but we still had no idea how we could come up with the money for the orphanage donation.
Before I go on, let me back up a little. When I received his file, I had been so consumed with reading about how he was abandoned, what he was doing developmentally, and his medical info that it had not occurred to me to look at much else. I had emailed his file to my husband while at work. We already knew he was ours – but we wanted to pour over the papers that contained the entirety of his life at that point. My husband called me about 30 minutes after emailing the file and said, “You know he is from the same orphanage as Wade, right?” I was in shock, totally stunned. Wade is our oldest son and had been adopted just three years ago – what were the chances? Nobody weaves a story and connects people and lives the way God does.
So back to the orphanage donation. The final hurdle took almost two weeks from the time we put in a request. I had to write a letter requesting the waiver. I poured my heart out in the letter. I updated them on Wade (who had been adopted from there 3 years before at seven years of age) and explained that I was anxious to get to our son and begin treatment for his thalassemia in the US. Every day I woke up and ran to my inbox… and I cried tears of relief and joy when we got the news that they had agreed to completely waive the donation. Six thousand dollars… taken care of… done.
A little over three months after coming home broken, and without the daughter that we thought we would have, I was boarding a plane to adopt a son. I had never looked at any children that young. We had always looked at much older… I believe God places adoption in the hearts of His believers. I know He does. He calls us to step out in faith, but make no mistake, He is in control of that adoption. He chooses the child, not you. He opened doors and shut doors that led us unmistakeably to our son. You step out in faith and God does the rest and you just trust. A closed door means He has a different plan… and it is better and more magnificent than what our minds can fathom.
So when the “gotcha” day came and they handed this little bundle of pure sweetness and all boy into my arms… it was like the piece that had been broken in my heart during the disruption was healed… in an instant. And when we went to our appointment at the US Consulate, the officer that had been there through the disruption, left a note telling me how happy she was that I was back and would be bringing a son home.
For two weeks, I was with my new son in China. Just the two of us. I had prepared myself for every adoption-related issue under the sun. Yeah, I’d done all my training and read “Connected Child” and paid more attention this time than I had three years ago when we brought our oldest son home. (We should have paid more heed to all the scenarios that trauma could look like when preparing for our first adoption, but again, that is another story.)
I was ready for anything he could dish out… we would work through it. But, the issues never came… he was loving and attached and just knew that I was his mom. I cannot even begin to explain how wonderful it was to get to know him a little more each day. He is funny and kind and obedient and smart! So smart! He loves his brothers and sisters. He is just two and yet he watches and observes the world like an old soul. He anticipates need in a way I have never seen (except from our other adopted son). He is all-boy with his brothers and yet tender and sweet to his baby sister. I had not prepared myself for perfect… but I’ll manage!
I shed so many tears on this journey to our son. And I see the fruits of following God and trusting God’s plan over my own. His Word says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting, He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying His bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing His sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6. And it is truth.
Adoption is such a picture of the gospel lived out. It is a joyful, painful process. A child loses a mother and father… gains a mother and father… suffers trauma, attachment issues, anger, abandonment issues, grief… some things only time and walking through the ups and downs together as a family can heal. We know it all too well — we have been down that hard road with our older son, now eleven. I am sure we will hit stages of grief at some point with our little guy… maybe when he is much older… and it will stink, and tears will be shed and wounds we didn’t know were there will have to heal. And we will seek the face of God in those times… knowing that “On the day we call, He answers us and makes us bold with strength in our soul”. Psalm 138:3. He will walk us, or maybe carry us through it… and every tear shed in this journey of faith will reap a bountiful harvest. And we will shout for joy.
No Hands But Ours is a ministry that plants seeds. I am thankful for their commitment and obedience to sow the seeds God has called them to sow. As an advocate and an adoptive parent – I am planting seeds. You are planting seeds. We are planting seeds. We advocate for these children, we shed tears at their stories. We repost a child’s story, or a blog about special needs and we pray that someone would allow the Holy Spirit to prick their hearts for that child.
We sow in tears when we advocate and see a child about to age out of the system needlessly, or die from not getting medical attention soon enough. And we advocate harder. We sow in tears when we bring our children home and they are malnourished and struggling with issues no child should ever have to struggle with. We sow in tears as we love them through pain, anger, grief… we sow in tears.
But those tears reap great rewards. Rewards that outweigh the hard parts of adoption. And we may not see the fruits of that for months, years, or decades. Maybe not until we reach heaven… but make no mistake… there will be shouts of joy that come from those tears.
For now, I am thankful to Liberty, the sweet NHBO contributor who took the time out of her day to advocate for my son. I found him because of her obedience to do what God has called her to do. What God has called us all to do: advocate.
I am in love with this cute little son of mine that seamlessly transitioned into this family of 10! He is loved… and we are loved by him. And he will know that God authored his story… our story. We are ready for the rest of this story to unfold.
– guest post by Natalie