We believe that God has called our family to adopt six Ukrainian orphans.
The quick-ish back story: It was time once again for our family to move, as my husband’s career has us moving about every six months to two years. We have lived in 15 homes in 15 years of marriage! We knew our next move would most likely be our final move with the military and we wanted it to be where we would end up retiring and planting roots. We are from Texas and Colorado, and we have a great fondness for Germany – so these are normally high on our list of places to be stationed. But God shifted something in us and we chose to move to Georgia. We had a very rough time the last time we were stationed in Georgia, so it was definitely not a place we would choose to go again. Still, God led us to Georgia. We started attending the same awesome church we attended the last time we were in Georgia. They happened to have planned a mission trip to Alabama to a ministry called Bridges of Faith right when we would be moving and available to attend.
We were so excited to get to do a mission’s trip together. Bridges of Faith is a ministry that hosts 10 Ukrainian orphans 3 times a year for a month as a cultural exchange program. The heart of the ministry is to share God’s love and hope with the children, and to expose them to healthy families who shower the children with acceptance and value. It is a ministry where the whole family can serve, which is very special! Once we got to Bridges of Faith we met 5 incredible children, and once again God shifted something in us and we knew we needed to pursue these precious ones in adoption. So we began the process to pursue six Ukrainian orphans (the sibling group of three that we met at Bridges of Faith have a younger brother who was too young to make the trip – so we met five of the kids, but are pursuing all six).
Very early on in our process we would learn that one of the children was already being pursued for adoption. That was hard. Very hard. Now, months later, we have been in contact with her family and they are so amazing! We praise God that she was adopted by such a God ordained family. For months following, however, there has been a question mark on child six. Would we just adopt the five, or meet someone else to adopt as the sixth? We have been approved by the United States to adopt six Ukrainian orphans. The point of this post is this – how we were led by God to child number six. When God called us to adopt the six children we were originally pursuing, they were ages 5 to 15. This seemed like a great blessing – no babies. No diapers. No night terrors. No potty training. Then we would meet a young man in the second group we volunteered with at Bridges of Faith. He was beautiful. He was kind. He was so sweet with our two year old son. I began to investigate into his story. He has four siblings. Oh my heart. Sibling groups have such a pull on my heart, as we have six biological children. I would learn that this boy has a one year old sister. One. Baby. And something shifted in me.
Whomever adopts this sibling group – this one year old sister – gets to rescue this precious soul before she ever remembers that she was an orphan. They will rescue her before she has to be exposed to years of an unhealthy and very probable abusive/neglectful environment. They will get to be the only mama and daddy that she knows. So though I was really happy about being done with the baby season, something shifted and my heart longed for a baby. Not a baby from us, but adopting a baby. Then I held the most precious newborn that our dear friends in our Sunday school class were recently blessed with – and wow, all the feels came rushing back to this mama’s heart. I had no idea what was happening because the only way to adopt a baby in Ukraine is to adopt a special needs baby, which was not something that I even though was a possibility nor was it a desire, to be very honest.
Then something shifted again. I saw a post from a friend about a domestic adoption agency urgently looking to place a newborn with Down syndrome. This was a beautiful little girl. I asked my husband what he thought and contacted our social worker. We contacted the adoption agency trying to place the baby, but they had already received more inquiries than they could process. I was so glad for this little baby to have so many families pursuing her. It was apparent that this was not a path for us, but one more bend in our journey to prepare our hearts for something incredible.
I began researching Down syndrome. Honestly, I was looking for reasons why this would not work for me or my family, reasons to walk away from this shifting in my heart. The opposite occurred, I was drawn even deeper in my desire to adopt a baby with Down syndrome from Ukraine. I have already shared in previous posts that ten percent of Ukrainian orphans will commit suicide within the first year of aging out of the system. Twenty percent will end up in jail. Six out of ten girls will be forced into violent sex trafficking. As awful as that all is, for Ukrainian orphans with Down syndrome, the situation is even more grim.
Babies are left in metal beds, with little human interaction or affection. No therapy to help them develop, no challenging them to grow and thrive. Basically put in dark rooms to die. Babies are placed into baby orphanages and often at age five they are transferred into adult mental institutions, to live alongside of grown people with severe disabilities – though they themselves may be mildly challenged. I heard a statistic that ten percent of the special needs children who age into the adult mental institution will die within their first year there. With all these horrid statistics – the truth of children with Down syndrome is very promising. Especially with early intervention, children with Down syndrome can grow to live very full lives with the possibility of having their own careers and even marriage! They do not need to be discarded by any means.
So we believe now that God is leading us to pursue a baby with Down syndrome as our sixth child from Ukraine. I just think it is so amazing how God slowly shifted our hearts from living in Wisconsin to Georgia, from our church to the mission’s trip to Bridges of Faith, from six biological children to pursuing six Ukrainian orphans, from very contently being out of the baby season to very passionately desiring a baby, from never imagining we would be able to handle special needs to very purposefully pursuing a baby with Down syndrome.
One more really neat factor along the way is our facilitator’s guidance during our home study. He told us that we should get approved for a child 0-18 years old, boy or girl, and special needs. You see, in the home study you can get approved for a healthy child, a moderately healthy child, or special needs. We were not at all thinking about pursuing a child with special needs, but we trusted our facilitator and were approved for special needs. I just find it so incredible that since we were already approved for special needs, now that we actually are pursuing a baby with special needs, our paperwork needs no amending and no additional time to correct. Amazing, right?
So when we get to Kiev, we will get to look through files of babies with Down syndrome and believe that God will lead us to the child He has purposed for our family. Glory to God, what an incredible journey!!!