As many of you know, Carolina Hope has recently announced our new Ethiopia adoption program. With a population of approximately 80 million people, it is estimated that Ethiopia has between 4 and 5 million orphans. The situation is quickly becoming worse. It is believed that nearly half of Ethiopia’s children will become orphans over the next four years. As a result of Ethiopia’s orphan population, many, many children are available for adoption, both boys and girls, infants and older children, siblings, and children with special needs. Compared to the process of adopting children from China or Guatemala, the process in Ethiopia is much simpler.
Today’s interview is with Dustin and Heidi Greenup, a couple who recently adopted a child from Ethiopia. The Greenups, from Spokane Washington, have a wonderful adoption story about how God brought Ezra into their home. Our prayer is that God will use their story to encourage many couples to prayerfully consider adopting a child from Ethiopia.
You can learn more about their family and Ethiopia adoption at their blog: http://www.greenupfamily.blogspot.com/.
1. Dustin, would you tell us a little about your family?
My wife, Heidi, and I were married in July of 2005. I am a self-employed real estate agent, and Heidi was working as a registered nurse before we adopted. She is now a full-time homemaker. On our 1 year anniversary, after having prayed for some time, we believed the Lord was calling us to adopt a child or children before trying to have biological children. Even before Heidi and I knew each other, He placed upon our hearts the desire to adopt; but it was a real surprise for us to begin pursuing adoption before trying to get pregnant.
We are thankful the Lord worked in this manner. If we had realized the work involved in being godly parents, we might have talked ourselves in to waiting until our mid-30’s or so to adopt. I am 26, Heidi is 25, and our new adopted son, Ezra (his new first name) Abera (his Ethiopian name), is approximately 13 months. In addition, Heidi now has a baby growing in her tummy to be born in the middle of March.
We live in Spokane, WA, which is a city of a couple hundred thousand in the Pacific Northwest. There are several Gospel-centered churches in the area, each with a number of families adopting from Ethiopia. There are probably 70+ children who have already been adopted from Ethiopia by Christian families in the Greater Spokane area over the past 3 years.
2. Why did you choose to adopt transracially in general and from Ethiopia in particular?
Adopting Transracially in general:
There are several reasons we believe the Lord led us to this decision. One goes back to our college days. The Lord graciously allowed Heidi and me the opportunity to serve in short term missions overseas in the summers between school years. I served for 3 months in Venezuela, and Heidi served as a nurse in Zambia for a month.
Although this was before we were married, the Lord used this to place in our hearts a desire to adopt children from different parts of the world. Through these mission trips God gave us a worldview that included all the nations, tribes, and tongues. Spokane, Washington is over 90% Caucasian, but we are thankful that more ethnicities are gradually coming to this area.
Adopting from Ethiopia:
Through His sovereignty, the Lord placed Ethiopia on our hearts and worked everything out to allow us to adopt from there. Heidi was working as a nurse at a pediatric doctor’s office in Spokane when a family came to the clinic having just returned from Ethiopia with three beautiful children. Heidi loved seeing and meeting the children and talking with the parents. She came home that day to tell me all about this family. She then asked me, “Can/should we be praying about adopting?” We started praying, doing some research, and considering whether or not the Lord wanted us to pursue adoption before we tried having children biologically. The short of it is that He did.
We wanted to adopt internationally because we had both been to third world countries and had seen the overwhelming need, especially because of the devastating effects of HIV. We wanted to adopt from Africa because Heidi had been there and loved the beauty of the people. We were interested in Ethiopia because we knew others who had already adopted children from there.
After we researched all the costs, potential countries, and qualifications for those countries, Ethiopia was one of the only countries from which we were qualified to adopt. When we applied, we had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I had just turned 25 a few months earlier. At the time, Ethiopia required that couples be married at least one year with one spouse being at least 25 years of age in order to be qualified to adopt. The Lord was making it clear to us that we were to adopt from Ethiopia.
3. What kind of responses have you received from extended family and friends about your decision to adopt transracially?
Thankfully, Heidi and I come from two strong Christian families and a strong Bible/Gospel Centered church, so our support network is strong and truly supportive. Responses were extremely varied. Families who had previously adopted were ecstatic for us and were a huge help and support through the difficulties we encountered. People who hadn’t adopted were reservedly excited for us…but the response was not the same as it would have been had we told them we were pregnant. We, by no means, hold that against anyone. It was difficult to face though.
Since we are in a church and support network that loves the Gospel of Jesus, no one was concerned that we were going to adopt a black baby. Some had some definite concerns, though, since the baby was going to be from an African Third World country. They had concerns about the heritage of the baby and whether or not the baby would be ‘healthy.’ Some of our relatives wondered if they would be able to love this child like they would a child that came from Heidi’s womb.
Once we knew when we would be traveling and who our child was, people started to get really excited. We also noticed that the adoption was opening doors to talk about the Gospel with people. It allowed us opportunities to share bits and pieces of our own adoption by God through Jesus Christ into His family.
4. Tell us about your adoption experience in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a great and unique place. The people are very kind and hospitable. It was a joy to meet some wonderful people while we were there. There were many different tastes, smells, and sights that we were not accustomed to on a daily basis. Thankfully, both Heidi and I had traveled to third world countries prior to this trip, so we were not in complete shock with all that we experienced.
Since our son was already legally ours, we went to the care home to pick him up the morning after we arrived in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. In all honesty, it was a very hard and draining trip; but we were thankful that we had the opportunity to spend time in Ethiopia’s capital. With the combination of being first time parents, staying in a third world country, recovering from jet lag, living out of a hotel room for a week, having a child for the first time, and Heidi being almost 3 months pregnant, it made for a very exhausting six days. Thankfully, Heidi’s mom was able to go with us to help! She was a God-send! We longed to be able to get home to adjust to life with our new child in our own home.
5. Would you encourage others who are pursuing transracial adoption to seriously consider adopting a child from Ethiopia?
With all our heart we would encourage them to consider it. The need is overwhelming. There are countless children who will die without a family to adopt them. While in Ethiopia, we went to a traditional dinner with two other adoptive families and our Ethopian director. One of the adoptive mothers asked our director, “You see all of these children getting adopted. In your opinion, is this the best way or should something else be done? Is it hard to see all of these children leaving Ethiopia?”
The director’s answer was stirring and hope-giving. He said, “I see children adopted by families each week. When I know that these children, who I love and care for, are going to Christian families who will love them, shepherd their hearts and point them to the Lord, it encourages my heart and stirs my affections for the Lord. The need is so great here in Ethiopia. These children will likely die if they are not adopted. So I’m thrilled to see these children go to families who have been transformed by the Gospel. They will make an eternal difference in the world, and maybe even come back to Ethiopia to serve the Lord when they are older.”
It was an amazing opportunity to listen to this man as he shared his heart and desire for Christian families to raise up their Ethiopian children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
6. Tell us about your new son and his story.
Ezra Abera Greenup is approximately 13 months old and has a beautiful story the Lord has allowed us to share. It’s a testimony to God’s perfect timing and His sovereignty and grace in and through trials.
In November of 2006, we were anxiously awaiting a referral of one or two babies under 2 years old. At the time we were thinking that the Lord was leading us to adopt two children. In December of 2007, we heard about 2 referrals: 2 boys, one about 15 months old, and the other, Abera was about 3 months old. We were overjoyed! We received pictures and good medical reports. They sent us some video footage and told us about the stories of these two beautiful boys.
The next month we expectantly waited for a court date so that our adoption could go through. Then, in the 1st week of February, about 2-3 weeks before the date these boys would have legally become our children, we received a call from our caseworker… “Dustin, is this an okay time to talk?” I could tell from her voice that something was wrong. “I have some very discouraging news…when a child is in the capital and the adoption is about to go through the court, their medical information is always retested to see if everything is okay. Well, your older child tested positive for Hepatitis B, and Abera tested positive for HIV. Because of regulations and the huge changes that would have had to be made in our home study, as well as other factors, we were unable to adopt these two boys. Because of his HIV status, we couldn’t adopt Abera. We prayed a lot about the other boy and his Hepatitis but believed the Lord was closing the door on this adoption also.
This was unbelievably devastating for us. It was like having 2 miscarriages. We had pictures and video and had named and prayed for these boys, but we were now unable to bring them home. This all happened just a few weeks before they were to legally become our children. Thankfully, the boys received needed love and care. The boy with Hepatitis B was put in foster care with a missionary family in the capital. The second boy, Abera, went to AHOPE, a ministry caring for HIV+ children in Addis Ababa.
Heidi and I went through a very dark, dry, time of discouragement and sadness. Because of a mix-up, we had to do our Dossier all over again, which felt like we were starting from ground zero all over again. We were frustrated over why God had allowed all of this to occur. There were many times we would just weep as a result of losing them.
Over the course of the next few months, there were several times we wanted to give up. We started to question whether or not the Lord really wanted us to go down this adoption road in the first place. Why not just give up and try having children biologically? “Lord, if you placed this desire to adopt children and care for the needy in our hearts, why is it so difficult and hard?”
This time of testing lasted about 4 months. We were waiting for new referrals but kept running into complications that led us no where. Then in June of 2007, our case worker called us to tell us some unexpected news. Abera had been rechecked for HIV, and, amazingly, he tested Negative. He was transferred back to our agency’s care home and retested for HIV one more time. It was conclusive: he did not have HIV. This was truly a miracle Heidi and I were not expecting but were thrilled to be a part of.
There were two possibilities for this occurrence. It was either sero-reversion, which means that Abera had his birth-mother’s antibodies for the HIV virus in his blood (it can take up to 6 months for the antibodies to clear out his system), or the Lord healed him. Either way, it was a miracle. Our process then went very quickly, and he was legally our son in July. We traveled to pick him up in August.
7. Do you have any fears related to your adopted child’s future as a member of your family? If so, what are they and how have you sought to apply the gospel to those fears?
Because Ezra is our first child we don’t have a lot of questions or fears that some other adoptive families might have, such as, “How will our other children relate and interact with our new adoptive child?” One thing we are continually conscious of, and which requires a lot of thoughts, is how can we as Ezra’s dad and mom faithfully point him to the centrality of the Gospel in how we shepherd, train, and encourage him and the other children God may give us in the future. We realize that it will be God’s grace alone that will cause Ezra to fear the Lord and humbly submit to the wonder of the Gospel.
Another issue that we’re sure to encounter someday is how to deal with racial prejudice. We trust God to give us wisdom in this area and pray for Ezra’s reaction to a sinful world. Thankfully, He has given us His Word which is sufficient for raising our children biblically in the midst of a race-conscious and fallen world.
A few other resources we’ve found helpful regarding transracial adoption and the plight of Ethiopian orphans are I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla by Marguerite A. Wright, and There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene. Although these authors do not write from a Christian perspective, there is some helpful insight in each of them.
Visit our Ethiopia page and/or contact us for information about this new program.