Adoption was never in our plan. God had blessed us with three children, and our philosophy in parenting (as in other areas of ministry) was to “Do few things, and do them well.” So training and home-schooling three children seemed to be our threshold if we were going to do it well.
But God had different plans.
Our church had a long-standing relationship with an orphanage in China, but eventually (due to the orphanage’s explicitly Christian philosophy and practice) the Chinese government decided to shut it down. All the healthy babies were adopted out, and the children who were left in the orphanage were older children with special needs. The orphanage director contacted our church, asking whether we could help find homes for six of the remaining children, whose special needs were less severe.
So as that need and opportunity was presented, first to the staff and then to the church as a whole, I began to sense that perhaps God was calling my family to adopt one of those six children. We talked and prayed about that together as a family, and wrestled with the implications of bringing not only another child, but one with special needs, into our family. Eventually we came to realize that God was asking us to trust Him enough to obey His call to adopt, even if we couldn’t see how that would fit into the plans and desires that He had already placed on our hearts.
We started the adoption process then, with a mix of both excitement and trepidation, and waded through the mounds of paperwork and appointments that were required. (Anyone who has completed an international adoption will know that to write that in one sentence in no way does justice to the rigorous, exhausting and frustrating “paper pregnancy” that is required.)
We were matched with a petite, happy, seven-year-old girl with Down Syndrome, to whom we gave the name Anah Joy. Through the generosity of our church family, our three children were able to travel with us to China to receive our new daughter. After a week of sightseeing together with our good friends who were receiving their adopted daughter at the same time, the day arrived! There was a timid knock on the door of our Nanning hotel room, and when we opened the door, Anah Joy marched into our lives with a big smile on her little face.
Obedience to God always brings joy, but obedience is not always easy. This adoption has been the best thing we have done but it is also the hardest thing we have ever done. Though there are moments when exhaustion and frustration rob our joy, deep down we know that God’s way is best and that His joy will eventually overshadow the difficulty of these early years. We knew that dealing with special needs would be hard, but what we are realizing more and more is that Anah’s biggest hurdle is not her Down Syndrome but is the “learned helplessness” and patterns of behavior that she developed as a long-term orphan.
So day by day, as we struggle with the seemingly unending demands that her care requires, and as we face again and again the ugliness of our own sinful, selfish hearts, we are (slowly!) learning to pray more and yell less, to trust more and stress less, and to see with new eyes the depth of God’s love that has been “lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (I John 3:1)
You see, adoption was never in our plan. But adoption has always been in God’s plan. Human adoption is a reflection of the Gospel—that God has chosen us and called us and paid the ultimate price to bring us into His family, and He did so, not when we were beautiful and strong and helpful, but while we were yet miserable sinners (Romans 5:8) who cared only about satisfying our selfish desires. Our feeble attempts to love and care for Anah pale in comparison to the perfect love that has been shown to us in Christ.