I realized recently that some of you reading this may not know how Chuck and I ended up on the path of adoption. It's a long, winding story, so I apologize in advance for a long post!
In March 2004 Chuck and I learned that we would be stationed again in the Hampton Roads area. We were really expecting to go to California, but we were happy to be able to stay in the area that we lived in. Our lease wasn't up on our apartment until June, so we planned to take our time looking for a home to buy. That all changed because a country in the Caribbean was having a civil war. Chuck is in the Coast Guard, and his patrol boat was chosen to go to Haiti to repatriotize Haitians trying to leave thier country by water. As you can imagine, it's a terrible job. We had just a few weeks to get a contract on a home before Chuck left for 6 weeks. Quite honestly, Haiti was a bad word in our house.
We got a contract on our home in 6 days, and then the Coast Guard decided to send a patrol boat from Florida instead of the one my husband was stationed on in VA. We were so grateful that he wouldn't have to go to Haiti in the middle of our move. When the missions pastor at our church learned that we were staying in the area, he approached us about going on a mission trip. He gave us options of New York City, Costa Rica, and Haiti. Chuck said absolutely no to Haiti and NYC (he had been there and disliked it). However, when we looked at the dates of the trips and when Chuck had vacation time already scheduled, we learned that Haiti was our only option. I can remember when I asked my boss (who is also our Pastor) if I could go. I said something like, "It's totally okay with me if you don't think I should go. I'm not excited to go to Haiti." Well, he let me go and in July Chuck and I spent a week in Haiti and fell in love with the country and it's people. I had never seen such poverty before. There are areas in Haiti that look like an earthquake has struck. There are images that I will never get out of my mind, but I loved it all.
We both decided we would go back the following year. Well, the next year came and Chuck was asked to lead the Costa Rica trip and I got pregnant in March. We were thrilled to be expecting our first child, and we knew that a trip to Haiti wasn't wise for me while pregnant. In April we experienced the devastation of a miscarriage. It rocked us. You see, in my life I put up protection mechanisms so that I don't get hurt (yes, I know this is unhealthy). But I didn't have one in place for the miscarriage. I took it hard and for about a week I was so mad at God. I wouldn't pray or read my Bible. A week after the miscarriage we went to MI to visit my family. A family situation came up and I figured I should pray. When I opened my Bible, I didn't even know where to turn and suddenly I heard the voice of a radio dj from the night before that said, "Galatians 6:9." The night before my sister and I had been driving along listening to a Christian radio station. An ad came on with the daily verse and the dj only said, "Galatians 6:9," which I thought was weird because they usually read the verse.
So I looked up Galatians 6:9 and here's what it says: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." That, to me on that day, meant "Don't give up on God, Juli! He's got a plan for you but you can't give up."
The following month I spent a day with God at the park at the end of my street. I still had so much heartache over the miscarriage. I talked to God for a long time that morning. Finally I got quiet before Him. When I did my mind went back to a time when I was driving through the Dismal Swamp area listening to a tape that a friend had given me from Focus on the Family. It was the story of Ann Kiemel Anderson. On the tape she spoke of her stuggles with (I think) miscarriage (or trying to get pregnant). She also spoke of her journey of adoption. I knew that God was speaking to me about adoption and I told Him I was willing to do that. The next day I went to work and I told my boss, "I think God wants us to adopt."
About a week later I shared this with my husband and I even read some stuff out of my journal to him (which I never do). He told me that God had been speaking to him about adoption, too. And, along with that, we were surrounded by people adopting. Our friends Pete and Debbie were in the process of adopting from China. Our friends Steve and Kelly were adopting from Guatemala. Our friends Rob and Romy were adopting from Ukraine for the 3rd time. You see, adoption seemed so big and scary to me, and God surrounded us with ordinary people who were adopting. I can remember talking to Pete and Debbie in the parking lot long after church was over on many Sundays. When I told Debbie that Chuck and I would probably adopt one day, Debbie immediately asked, "Why not now?" She had great reasons for us to adopt before biological children. We'd have more income per family member(most countries have income requirements per family member) than when we would if we waited until we had biological children. She also shared why she and Pete are so passionate about international adoption, and I agree with them. To be an orphan is terrible. No one should have to be an orphan. To be an orphan in the US is terrible, however there are a lot of resources available to US orphans. To be an orphan in a developping country is another story. So many countries have street children. They live on the streets. They have no home, no food, no love. I'm not saying that I don't support domestic adoptions - I do. I just know that the burden God has put on my heart is for international adoption.
20 days before the trip to Haiti (the one I couldn't go on because I was pregnant) was scheduled to leave, God told me to go. I had decided after miscarrying that I wasn't going to go to Haiti because it would be too bittersweet. In fact, I'd get really angry when people would ask me after the miscarriage if I was going to go to Haiti. Satan really had me tied in his web. But 20 days before the trip I heard God speak to me and I obeyed. In July 2005 I was on another plane to Haiti, with still fresh wounds from the miscarriage.
While there I got to care for an orphan named Jabez. He was the first baby I'd held since the miscarriage. He was 10 weeks old and had been born at the mission I was serving at. His birthmom passed away and his birthdad never came back for him. God used that tiny baby to heal my heart while I was there.
When I returned from Haiti, Chuck and I knew that God was calling us to adopt NOW. I researched orphanages and adoption agencies and we waited to see what would happen with Jabez. We later learned that he was placed in an orphanage that wouldn't be adopting children out, instead thier vision is to raise up Christian leaders and impact Haiti.
In October, we decided to move forward in the adoption process, although we hadn't given up on Jabez. I looked at many websites and was drawn back to one. I went back to my July research and found an email from a woman with glowing comments about For His Glory Adoption Outreach, the same website I was drawn to. I emailed her to see if she still recommended them. She did, so Chuck and I prayed another week and sent in our application.
We learned we were accepted on November 7th, just one day before our baby's due date. I spent November 8th with God at home. On the morning of November 9th I thanked God for getting me through the day before - in fact I hadn't even cried. Then I realized (and this is recorded in my prayer journal) that our baby was probably in the womb and so I prayed for our child (we were only going to adopt one!) and it's birthmom. I have to jump forward in our story for a moment. Our boys were born on November 9th - the very day I prayed for our child and it's birthmom. After meeting their birth father, it sounds like they were born at about 8 a.m. I was praying sometime between 6 and 7 a.m., probably when their birth mother needed prayers most. She passed away 4 hours after delivering them. How awesome is our God that He would prompt me to pray for my sons and their birth mother as they were being born. Isn't God so good?!
For the next 2 months Chuck and I prayed and waited on God to reveal our child to us. There were many pictures of waiting kids on the website, but none of them were ours. In December I joined a Yahoo Group for parents adopting through FHG. I've met so many wonderful people in that group. I quickly learned that many families adopt multiple children. There were families adopting 2, 3, and even 4 children!! I can remember telling my friend Jen, "Not me, I'm adopting one baby!" God had other plans.
By late December, Chuck and I were praying about asking the Orphanage Director, Linda, if God was talking to her about a child for us (since He didn't seem to be telling us anything). You see, Linda is such an incredible woman of faith. It doesn't take long after talking to her to realize that she walks so very closely with God.
The second week of January I emailed the missionaries taking care of Jabez. He was no longer at the orphanage - he was back in their care. I emailed them and asked them about Jabez's future. Jabez is expected to be a special needs baby due to the circumstances of his birth. I just couldn't understand why the orphanage that they placed him in would keep them when their goal is to raise up Christian leaders. Jabez would be a burden financially and timewise with medical needs. I just couldn't understand why they wouldn't adopt him out to a family in the US that was fully aware of his needs. The only thing I could figure out was that maybe the missionaries wanted to adopt him - after all they had been taking care of him most of his little life. So, I emailed and asked them if it was their plan to adopt him. It took a week to get their response. Yes, they planned to adopt him. Door closed. I was happy and sad all at once. Jabez would be adopted and it was people who had spent most of his life with him. That made me happy for him. Yet, I was sad because he wasn't going to be our son.
Each time my husband prayed about Jabez while we waited for the response from the missionaries, he sensed God was saying, "I have so much more for you." On January 15th the door was closed to baby Jabez. On January 16th we got an email from Linda at FHG. Here's what it said:
We just got a set of two month old twin boys. I thought of you when they came in. Is this something you would be interested in?
I screamed when I read it and Chuck came running because he thought something was wrong. We both knew that these were our boys, but we were also shocked. All along we thought we would adopt one child. I emailed Linda back and told her we'd like to learn more and pray about it. We asked God to confirm to us that He wanted us to adopt these boys. And He did over and over, and still continues to. On Thursday, January 19th we accepted the referral and committed to adopt our boys.
I remember my friend Leann telling my that maybe Jabez wasn't supposed to be our baby - that maybe God was using him to lead us to our child. She teared up as she told me that because she really sensed that was the case. Well, God definitely used little Jabez in our lives. He will always be special to us. If it hadn't been for him, who knows if we would have found our sons.
So, that's the story. We've been in the process of adopting since November 2005. We committed to adopt our sons in January. Our home study was completed in February. We sent our paperwork to Haiti in May - it arrived May 15th, the day after President Preval was installed. It has been waiting in IBESR (Haitian Social Services) since July 14th. Once it is released from that step, we have at least 3 more months until the boys come home. The post IBESR process seems to be slowing down - another test of our patience! But we are trusting that God's hand is in all of this and that our boys will come home in His perfect timing.
In July we went and met our sons for the first time. In November I went back on a mission trip and had the honor of being there with them on their first birthday. They are big, healthy boys. They are totally on the charts in height and weight. They are both crawling (fast!) and will most likely be walking before they come home.
So, that's our story. Thanks for taking the time to read it!