We asked God to break our hearts for the people who broke His. A friend told me that when genuine, it’s a prayer that will always be answered. I can attest to that. We were expectant and a little impatient. We felt God was doing something awesome in our lives, but we didn’t know what.For whatever reason, I began to feel baby crazy. I didn’t want to freak out Jonny too much (for goodness sake, I was only 21 and married for a year!) so I kept it to myself. I pondered it in my heart, if you will. ;)I wanted to become a mom—badly. But I began to get a super uneasy feeling when I thought about becoming pregnant. Not about being a parent, but about being pregnant. I don’t know how else to describe it except that I knew that God was telling me, “Not now.” I began to have dreams of abandoned children. Every time I flipped on the TV, something about orphans or adoption was on. I’d log on to Twitter to see someone tweeting about adopting. God was speaking to me. Clearly.
“It made me think…I think we should adopt our first child,” he said, eyes on the road, glancing up to gauge my face for a reaction.
Seriously?! God had prepared both of our hearts individually for adoption. That night, we knew. We knew that God was leading us down a path. We weren’t on this journey alone.
After months of late-night adoption and orphan care research and lots of prayer, we were discouraged and confused. We firmly believed that God put it on our hearts to adopt our first child, but we didn’t understand why and couldn’t figure out how to do it.
We looked into foster care, but at the time the door was shut. We looked into being house parents at a home for pregnant teens, but felt pulled in a different direction. We even were contacted about and open to a domestic adoption that eventually didn’t go through.
And then God brought Cornerstone of Hope orphanage founder Eric Idehen into our paths. When we saw the first photo of Joseph, we didn’t know we would have the opportunity to be his parents, and it still brought Kayla to tears. Many orphans, here and abroad, are forced to live an unstable, unsafe childhood. By some estimates, Nigeria has more than nine million tiny faces waiting for families right now. We live in a broken city, state, country, and world where birth parents aren’t always able to care for their children. But we had room in our hearts and our home. (As cliche and corny as that is, it’s true!)
The decision to adopt is one that we took, and take, very seriously. It wasn’t an incredibly easy process, (in fact, it was really tough and we were stuck in Nigeria for two months!), but it is worth more than words can possibly say. And we are incredibly humbled and blessed to be a part of this beautiful story.
Adopting isn’t a social justice statement, a weekend service project, or a naive work we do to feel good about ourselves. As adoptive parents, we’ve been given a great gift to raise and care for a life that we didn’t create. In our case, adoption was about a waiting child who didn’t yet have a family, and two people who deeply believe that God creates families when first families are not able to stay together. We weren’t motivated by pity and have never seen ourselves as rescuers — just ordinary parents to one extraordinary little dude.
We view our adoption of Joseph as one small piece of a much bigger orphan care picture. We’re passionate about being advocates for children and families. But while we continue to be involved with and support organizations that help empower families to stay together, we know that sometimes that isn’t an option. We’ve spent time at Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage in Nigeria twice, and we’ve seen first-hand what life looks like for a child in need of a safe and loving family. We continue to advocate for these children from our small corner of Iowa. We believe that all children have the right to a loving family, and we’re always listening, hoping to learn more ways to help advocate for them.
We’re also passionate about children who are “stuck” in the adoption process. Without Congressman Braley’s help (and assistance from Sen. Grassley and Sen. Harkin, and child advocate McLane Layton), Joseph would probably still be in an orphanage. The amount of bureaucratic red tape that can come with international adoption is heartbreaking. At the end, there’s a vulnerable child who has already gone through incredible loss – who has a family waiting for them – but is unable to join them. We’ve heartbreakingly seen this with Devine, a 6-year-old girl Joseph spent time with in his orphanage. A family from the U.S. went through the same very arduous process we did, but because of discord and disconnect from the different U.S. agencies involved, they were not able to bring her home, and Devine still waits.
In October 2013, we were incredibly honored and humbled by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in Washington, D.C. (You can read about our experience here and here.) We met with incredible families and devoted political leaders who have the ability to come together to streamline the process. We were able to find ways to help advocate for thousands of children like Devine who are stuck in the middle of paperwork, continuing to wait for a family. I truly believe that together, we can rise up and be a megaphone for those little voices who are so often unheard.
We believe adoption is an incredible blessing, and we know that we will spend our lives advocating for adoption as well. In spring of 2012, we were able to tour Iowa with Congressman Braley to help him introduce legislation to make the adoption tax credit permanent to help future families that hope to adopt.
We want others to know that adoption is worth it, because at the end of the journey, there’s a child who is going to feel a family’s love and there will be a family whose lives are changed by the love of a child.