A place to belong – a safe nurturing haven where you are valued and loved… this ought to be the birthright of every child. Unfortunately, and for numerous reasons, millions of children around the world are alone and without family. Why is this so important? Because “family” is where we “become,” where we are taught to dream, and where we learn to love ourselves and others. It’s the most basic foundational unit of society.
My own family wasn’t always perfect (I don’t know one that is), but I always knew I was loved and valued and you can’t put a price tag on that. I’ve never been able to imagine the abandonment and trauma that must penetrate the heart of a child who is alone or mistreated. That’s why adoption is near and dear to me. I am blessed to be the mother of seven beautiful and incredible children. Two of our children are biological and five are adopted. Each of them is very specifically unique and individually gifted and talented. I can’t imagine life without any one of them.
Each of our adoptions was also unique. Our son, JP, is Korean and arrived by plane when he was four months old. Tyler is bi-racial and was a domestic adoption. We were in the delivery room with his birth mom when he was born. Alysa, Zoya, and Sophia are biological siblings from Ukraine. We adopted them when they were 9, 11, and 13. So, we have experienced international and domestic adoption. We have experienced infant adoption and also integrating older children into existing family. We have had closed adoptions and a semi-open adoption. Along the way we’ve learned a lot. We’ve also made more mistakes than can be counted. Fortunately for us, love really DOES seem to cover a multitude of sins!!
My husband and I knew we wanted to adopt before we married. We had a heart for children and room in our home. We assumed that love and good intentions would be enough. For awhile it was. When our youngest two boys were 13 and 15, we adopted our daughters from Ukraine. Adopting kids who were 9, 11, and 13, who had come from tragedy and been institutionalized for four and a half years created need for a whole new learning curve. Did I mention that our new daughters did not speak one word of English? That was just the tip of the iceberg. They were on a learning curve of their own.
Once our daughters could communicate, they asked us to help their friends who were left behind. Only 1% of the children who are orphaned worldwide will find families. What happens to the rest? Out of concern for the children left behind, a friend and I started Orphan’s Promise. Our goal was to work with kids “aging out” at 16 who had no skills or preparation for life. We began by creating Training Centers where kids could come together and we offered classes in English, computers, and the School of Life, which taught everything from how to do your own laundry to exploring issues of faith. Today we have opened numerous Training Centers, provided food, shelter, and clothing for thousands, undergirded schools, and worked to eradicate trafficking. Orphan’s Promise is seven years old and has been involved with projects in over 50 countries. CBN saw the need and embraced our efforts immediately. Working with our CBN International offices allows us important connection with and regular reporting on our projects.
Here at home, as time passed, we watched other families struggle with many of the same challenges we were facing. Some survived, some did not. We saw marriages fall apart and adoptions interrupted. It wasn’t because the parents weren’t sincere or because the children were bad kids. It was a lack of understanding of the issues involved, the behavior those issues produce, and the input and response needed to work through it all.
We began to visualize a DVD project that would compile information and advice from experts on the root causes and behaviors that impacted many of our children, and left parents feeling exhausted and defeated. In 2012 that DVD series become a reality. It’s called Adoption & Foster RX: Solutions for Wounded Families. God never calls us to anything He doesn’t equip us for, and that’s what we want this series to do – equip parents to be fully prepared as they consider or embark on the journey of adoption or foster care. Understanding the “why” behind behavior can help us respond effectively and appropriately.
What can we do? Where do we start? We need to let the ache of their need penetrate our own hearts and minds. We can step into the empty and broken places in their hearts and love them unconditionally. We can pray, and hold, and teach, and wait – and pray some more. We can refuse to turn away, let go, or give up. I love Edwin Markham’s poem, “He drew a circle that shut me out… but love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle and took him in.”
Today, our children range in age from 19-29. We are still a work in progress. We are daily challenged to extend mercy and grace to each other – looking beyond our faults to see our needs. I’d like to think that at some point we would arrive and finally reach the finish line. But maybe we’re not supposed to. Maybe the journey is the destination. Wow! There’s a thought! Maybe creating a safe, loving place to nurture and grow while at the same time, we all learn to love each other, is the ultimate goal. Out of the treasures of that circle flow the ripples that impact the world around us. Easy concept to contemplate – difficult to do! Building a family takes work – hard work! It takes sacrifice, commitments, patience, faith, buckets of time, and truckloads of love. Not for the faint-hearted, to be sure. Yet, how do you put a price tag on the value of a “forever family,” or the deep healing that comes from knowing you are loved… from finding… a place called home!