Have you ever had a dream so big that you knew it would never come true? A dream that made you look ridiculous when you started telling someone else about it? A dream full of so many details that could never work themselves out on paper much less come to fruition? We have.
When we got married, we knew that we wanted children. I (Jennifer) knew that I wanted to adopt children. Rob knew that he wanted biological children. As every good married couple should, we compromised and opted for both. We waited several years before even trying to have a child and when we did try, it took a while. However, God was faithful and fulfilled our dreams of a child through our biological daughter. About two years later, we began the adoption process.
We did not know much about the process so we scoured the Internet and settled on a closed domestic adoption through a Christian agency in Alabama. We began the paperwork, paying our fees, attending some training in person and online. We felt like we were really moving and that any day our prayers for another child would be answered. I will avoid the details between this point and the present because there are a lot. To sum them up, however, God had other plans for our family.
Our social worker at the first agency strongly urged us to look into international adoption. It had never even been on our radar. We mentioned it off handedly to one another a couple of times but it never seemed to be something we felt called to do. Then, I saw a face from a medical file of a chubby-cheeked baby in an orphanage somewhere in China. I was hooked. While I would love to say that was our baby waiting for us, she was not. However, it started us down the very path we are on today.
The introductory part of our international journey started with an agency in another state for their India program. Progress was being made, paperwork was being processed, fingerprints were being taken, and there were even some immigration papers that made it back in record time. We knew it would not be long before we were on a plane headed for India to meet our child. Then everything stopped. Doors began to not only close but also get sealed shut. India froze their acceptance of intercountry adoption applications. Our application would never make it to India.
Being unsure of what to do, we just prayed and asked God for a peace about it. We had our friends and family praying. Peace was given. Several months passed and we had not made any decisions. On July 8th, I had been viewing LifeLine’s International Adoption Facebook Page because they had posted a link to children waiting in the Dominican Republic to be adopted. Being a sucker for cute faces, I clicked my way through to the Waiting Children of the Dominican Republic. There were two little girls and a little boy on the page. I sent Rob a text message and gave him the information and asked if he thought it would be O.K. to send an e-mail to inquire. He said, “Go for it. Let me know…”
Having inquired to other agencies about waiting children, and having been told “No, I’m sorry. Her file is someone else’s” or “I’m sorry, you do not qualify for this child” but never having been daunted by the word “no”, I decided I would send an e-mail and be prepared to read another response similar to those prior. Rob started research of his own.
Initially, I inquired about a little girl who was 18 months old. I was not told “no” for once but I was told that her file was in someone else’s possession but I could be placed in line to view it. That surprised me because it was not the answer I expected. I thought about it and went back to the Waiting Children page and stared at the other little girl’s photo. The longer I stared at her, the more intrigued I was by her dark ebony skin and her ridiculously adorable yellow headband in what was sure to be some hard to control hair. I looked at her age and thought, “she’s three… I have a three year old… does the D.R. have birth order requirements like India?… if so, it does no good to even ask about this doll… OK, I’m going to ask.” Within two hours of asking, I had a medical file in my possession with the sentence, “You have two weeks to review her file and make a decision.”
We made our decision relatively quickly though there were a lot of logistics to be worked out. First, the amount of time required by the country is 14 – 18 weeks of in-country travel. Rob has a lot of vacation saved, but could we afford to go and have him there on unpaid leave once that vacation runs out? Secondly, could we afford to live in another country and maintain our cost of living back home? The adoption itself costs roughly $38,000 including the travel and bills at home do not stop just because we are called to adopt a child in another country. I would love to be able to say that all of these things have worked themselves out perfectly. As of today, we are still coming up short. However, and this is huge, God has made clear and obvious and provided for every single step of this process.
We have a daughter in the Dominican Republic who has no idea we even exist. But we are sacrificing and working hard to get to her. It has been a long journey and if only we could say it was coming to an end soon. Instead, we are pushing forward and moving toward the goal slowly but steadily. Why would we go through all of this, sacrifice, spending, working just for a child we have never met?
She has special needs that we are aware of but no one can tell us the severity of her needs without speculation. One psychologist told us to expect a child that never speaks to us, or hugs us, or chooses to hit and throw things in order to communicate. She told us to expect a child that never loves us in return. One doctor told us that in the best-case scenario, her needs are institutionally related and will change significantly when she is brought into a family with structure and love. That same doctor also told us she might never live independently from us. What do you do with that information?
There are days where I feel ready to face these needs with her and then there are days where I am scared to death I am going to make them worse. But I know that God has given us this precious girl to take care of and to take responsibility for. How do I know that? Because no one else has. No one else on earth has truly loved this darling girl. We are the first people on earth to love her unconditionally and we know nothing about her except her name, and a volatile medical diagnosis.
Our daughter has never known love. She has caregivers who also care for an unnumbered amount of children in an orphanage each day. She has people that meet her most basic needs that may have some semblance of love for her, but she has never known the arms of a mommy or daddy when she has a tummy ache. She has never known the peace that comes with the words “I love you, forever”. Our daughter has never felt the lips of her mommy on the “owee” she received from falling on the pavement.
As these images flooded over me, God whispered to me, “That was you.” Me? How was that me? I have wonderful parents – had them all my life. They met my needs AND gave me love and affection. How was that me? God reminded me, “That was you before you met me. You had no idea what real love was until you realized what I did for you.” That was me. I was the alone little girl, deteriorating in my sinful anguish because I had not found the embrace of my merciful heavenly Father. I had not been enveloped by the wondrous love of Christ. I was an orphan. That was me.
No longer, however. No longer am I an orphan. I have a heavenly Father who has taken me in – adopted me into His family. I have a future that is bright and full of unconditional grace and love. Our daughter is no longer unloved. She has a mommy and daddy ready to go when the dates are set – ready to drop all that we have ever known and love her, no longer from a distance. Our daughter has a sister who prays for her with us every night, asking God to give her sweet dreams. Our daughter is LOVED. And that is why we would go through all of this, sacrifice, spending, working just for a child we have never met.