A Story of Hope
When we were preparing to be married in 2008, one of the first discussions we had about family was adoption. We were both a little older and already had two older sons (from Allen’s previous marriage) – one in high school and the other in college. Teeshla worked for HOPE worldwide early in her career and had developed a heart for adoption. We were willing to consider expanding our family through adoption.
Our journey that led us to India began in 2012 when we finally submitted the initial monies and application to the India program. The process was a challenge for Allen because he had already been through it one time with the Romanian program and was turned away at the final court proceedings because Romania had decided at the time to cease all international adoptions. He was devastated, and it left a bad taste in his mouth about the adoption process. Starting over again was like déjà vu; the process and the red tape were the same.
We often compare the process to a marathon because it is. A marathon takes all the physical and mental capacities that you have just to complete it. The adoption process is the same. You must keep your eyes on the goal and run with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-3). It took two years for us to complete all the necessary training, home study, immigration paperwork, and much of our fundraising. August 14, 2014, we received a referral for three beautiful girls that would one day be our daughters. We were told by our agency that the final process would go fast and take around nine months; however, it took nearly two more years. We had to fix our eyes on Jesus, consider his life so that we did not grow weary and lose heart.
Our hearts were led by the scriptures that tell us that acceptable religion is one that looks after widows and orphans (James 1:27). This spirit was tested because of the steps one must take to complete an international adoption (or any adoption for that matter). At each point there is an opportunity to be rejected. Because of this many people choose not to start the process, others give up.
Adoptions, particularly international adoptions are not for the faint of heart. The process is lengthy with endless paperwork. There are applications that need to be processed, documents that need to be collected, there is a home study, and then there is an immigration process. All those things occur well before a prospective parent even sees a picture of a waiting child. Once a child is identified a whole new set events need to take place for the child to come home. It is simply a labor of love. We remind ourselves what Jesus went through on the cross so that we can have a relationship with him. He considered it a joy because he had faith in the result. The adoption process is not the cross, although it may feel like the greatest test of your emotional and spiritual endurance. There were many times when we wanted to give up. Thankfully, God put wonderful people in our lives to encourage us and support us through those times.
We fell in love with our girls the minute we saw the first pictures of them. At the time of the referral (August 2014), their ages were 2, 5, and 7 years old. We did take some time to read over their records, including medical records before accepting the referral. We asked a pediatrician at the International Adoption Clinic in Charleston, South Carolina to review the medical records and videos of the girls taken by staff at the orphanage. Once the pediatrician viewed the reports and the videos she did have some concerns that our youngest daughter may have some developmental delays or even autism. She was also concerned that the two other girls may be a little older than what the records showed. We prayed about these issues, decided that the children needed a home and moved forward with the process. Adoption is an act of faith and trust. We had to decide not to ‘lean on our own understanding’ and trust that he would make our ‘paths straight’ (Proverbs 3:5-6).
What we think every prospective adoptive family should know is that adoption is hard, but it is worth it. The process and when you bring your child home are both difficult and rewarding. There are times when it seems all bad and you will wonder if you made a mistake. Our conviction is if you are an adoptive parent or are in the process and thinking of giving up, please keep fighting because your child needs you. That is the only thing that matters (Psalm 68:6). There is a child that needs a mommy and daddy. Our final process took nearly two years because there were several changes in adoption laws in India on the state and national level. At one point were told that our petition for adoption had been denied in the state in which the girls resided. Eventually, we appealed to the Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, and she stepped in on behalf of ourselves and the other waiting families.
India is about one third the size of the United States and has an estimated 20 million orphans – the same population as Florida. The numbers for international adoptions and adoptions from India have been plummeting since 2008. As The Hague and other governmental entities continue to apply stricter rules in the name of protecting the children, the more daunting the process becomes for adoptive families. This will only continue unless someone like a Maneka Gandhi is willing to take a stand to remove the barriers to adoption. Even after nearly two years of being home, there is still red tape that we have to work through to obtain social security cards, birth certificates, and all the other legal matters that come with having adopted children.
In the two years since we left India we have learned a lot. We have been told by other adoptive parents that time is on our side. In many ways its been an emotional rollercoaster – mountain top experiences of laughter and hugs and then times in the valley of fear, anger, resentment, and grief.
We do not underestimate the extent of the grief that the girls have experienced. They gained a forever family but sometimes in their mind they have lost a lot more – heritage, language, friends, family (both their birth family as well as their orphanage family). We try hard to honor the girl’s heritage and background by attending local Indian cultural events, eating Indian food and listening to Indian music. We have even developed an appreciation for Bollywood (thank goodness for Netflix). We have enjoyed building special memories together as a family and exposing the girls to their extended biological and spiritual families.
A friend of ours shared a quote by Joseph Campbell that says, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, to have the life that is waiting for us.” Somehow this is very true for us. When we were told by India that our petition to adopt had been rejected, a good friend advised us to press on because “these children need to be in your family.” We found quite the opposite to be true. We need them to be in our family. We adore our daughters and would do it all over again without hesitation. Every day they are teaching us about the nature of God and why Jesus held children in such a special place in his heart. They teach us what grace, love, and mercy is all about. People often tell us we are heroes for adopting three children. We don’t see it that way. Instead we feel we are the ones who are truly blessed. Adopting the girls has taught us more about the heart of Christ then we have learned in our many years of being disciples. Our lives are so much grander and complete with the girls.
Our oldest daughter carved in a tree these words, “We trust God.” These words embody the hope that we had throughout the process and the hope we hold onto as we raise our daughters.