John and Connie met each other at church during their college days at Oklahoma State University. What started out as a very casual and comfortable friendship steadily grew into much more as they spent more and more time together in church/ministry, and hanging out with friends–less than 14 months after they met, they were married!
They soon moved to Dallas where John finished up his undergraduate work and then earned his ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary. It was during those days, months and years that the Lord taught them much about His sovereignty in ways that neither of them would ever trade! One of the ‘refining’ fires He used was infertility.
They have always enjoyed each other’s company and kept busy pursuing mutual interests such as reading, hiking, traveling, camping, Bible conferences, concerts, scouring new & used bookstores, gardening, home improvement projects, etc. But, life definitely went into ‘warp speed’ the fall of 2002–after 19 years of being childless–when they brought home their two precious Russian-born daughters (Olga 12 1/2 yrs., and Nina 9 yrs. at the time)!
The past five years of this a new family has been a testimony of God’s faithfulness, mercy and grace through blessings and through trials! John and Connie have been amazed as God has brought Olga and Nina from those early days of home schooling when the language barrier restricted them to elementary English grammar, basic math, beginner piano, and P.E. to today when Olga and Nina have matured into young ladies with their own interests and abilities! During those early years John and Connie were humbled to see how God in His mercy and grace drew Olga to Himself and adopted her into His eternal family in January 2004–prayers that began long before the girls ever came home continue today for Nina’s salvation as well.
Amidst the blessings and trials of building their family through adoption, they continue to be active in their local church where John is an elder serving through counseling, discipleship, preaching, and teaching. Connie continues to home school Olga and Nina, while serving in their church through discipleship and counseling. Olga is currently a concurrent college and high school student studying music performance and Russian language. Nina is preparing for high school work and continues to grow in her interest of caring for animals, young children, and/or elder people.
Here is Connie’s adoption blog.
1. Tell us a little about your family.
Ours is a family of four—well, nine if you count our dog, two cats, and the two recently added gold fish—and we have been a family for a little more than five years. Prior to adopting our two daughters at the ages of 12 ½ and 9 yrs., John and I had been married (and childless) for 19 years. So ,we pretty much jumped into parenting with both feet—and by God’s grace are still keeping our heads above water! 🙂
2. What initially motivated you to adopt?
Simple, the desire to have children! John comes from a family of five children, I come from a family of three children, and we both wanted as many children as the Lord might be pleased to bless us with. Of course the Lord did bless us with children—just not in the manner, or time frame, we expected. The desire to have children was always part of us over the years (all 19 of ’em) but infertility issues, school, jobs, extended family needs, and/or ministry always managed to keep us busy and/or distracted.
Over the years, that desire would manifested itself in a number of ways; during the early 90’s when there was so much media coverage of Romanian orphanages our interest was definitely piqued, not to mention our hearts deeply pricked. Then, in the late 90’s when a new family began attending our church we besieged them with questions when we discovered that they were in the process of adopting a brother and sister from Far East Russia. And finally, in 2001 I discovered that there was a shortage of qualified adoptive parents with Native American heritage– I quickly applied for and received my card validating my Native American (Cherokee) bloodline.
3. What kind of responses have you received from extended family and friends about your decision to adopt?
Initially, when we were pursuing adopting infants or toddlers (internationally and/or domestically) we received the expected encouragement and congratulations. But later when we found out about our Olga and Nina, who were 12 and 8 years old at the time, we had to assure some family, friends and co-workers that we had in fact thoroughly considered what we might be getting into by adopting older foreign-born children!
I recall when we contacted the elders in our church telling them of our ‘change in plans’ from adopting two infants/toddlers to adopting two older girls, one elder humorously reminded us how life would definitely change for a certain ‘childless middle-aged couple’, but of course offered his support!
Surprisingly, we did encounter some negative (almost hostile) responses from some friends and acquaintances who questioned our decision to adopt internationally, and also our decision to adopt ‘older’ children. That’s never been easy to understand, much less explain.
Nevertheless, when we brought our girls home there was a crowd of nearly 100 people (family, friends and co-workers) at the airport late that Wednesday night! Our girls were eagerly and warmly embraced, and showered with love, gifts and attention for months to come!
4. How do you think the gospel should influence the decision to pursue adoption?
The gospel has EVERYTHING to do with influencing the decision to pursue adoption! First, there is the ‘purposing’ to adopt a child–the Father purposed to adopt us. Then there is the ‘choosing’ of a child—the Father chose us. Then, there is the laying hold of, embracing, setting your affections on the child—the Father laid hold of us, embraced us, set His affections upon us. Then, there’s the ‘rescuing of’ the child from dire circumstances—the Father rescued us from darkness. Then, there is the binding act of adopting the child and bringing him into our family—the Father has brought us into His family. And, finally there is the reality that this child is yours no matter what, forever—the Father has made us heirs with His Son forever!
5. How is the gospel shaping your relationship with your adopted children?
During our early days together as a family the language barrier was our greatest challenge, and our greatest desire was to make the gospel known to them with or without a language barrier. So, we had prepared for the girls’ arrival by purchasing Biblically sound literature in Russian—at various age/maturity levels and various formats (written, audio, video, etc.). While they clearly were unfamiliar with the gospel we took every opportunity
to incorporate the gospel into their daily lives. Since we home school, this often included English lessons, penmanship practice, and reading lessons using carefully selected verses—also translated into Russian for clarity and understanding in the early days.
Imagine if you can, living in an orphanage where life is very much ‘survival of the fittest’–many of the stories our girls have shared are heartbreaking. The sinful habits, sinful ways of thinking, and sinful responses are very much ingrained in even the youngest of children. So, the basics of the gospel such as Christ’s selfless sacrifice provided a wonderful illustration for training in selflessness and considering others first. Christ’s care for and instructions regarding ‘the least of these’ removed the sting of a less-than-perfect history or family-life.
The fruit of the gospel began to show itself in the life of our Olga (our oldest) just seven months after we became a family. The once cold, guarded, and stoic countenance of the young girl we had brought home began to slowly melt away as she began to open up to us and confess her confusion over crying herself to sleep at night due to her disobedience and disrespect toward us. We too had begun to notice a ‘softening’ in her countenance, manner and responses—very noticeable not only to us but to family and friends. So, by God’s grace we continued to nurture and guide what appeared to be a growing interest in the gospel until eight months later we knelt in prayer beside her in our living room as she poured out her heart to the Savior, asked for forgiveness, and submitted to His work in her! You can read her testimony on our adoption blog at, www.chosenchildofmine.blogspot.com.
We continue to apply the gospel to the life of our youngest daughter and fervently pray for God’s grace and mercy toward her. Of the two of our daughters, the consequences of neglect and abuse seem to have been most deeply etched in her, but God has graciously healed many of those wounds during these five short years as a family. It is both a challenge and a privilege to point her to God’s wise and loving providence in her life, and remind her that our love and our family are part of that plan.
6. How have you sought to help your daughters understand the gospel better through their adoption?
We try to take every opportunity to point out and highlight the parallels between spiritual adoption and physical adoption. I remember one particular conversation when the girls’ English had begun to blossom and our whole family was in the car together. Somehow the topic of love came up and I asked why they loved dad and why they loved me. After giving brief—and rather pained—reasons our oldest hesitantly asked me why I loved her. I grabbed hold of that moment to tell her that I ‘chose’ to love her before I even met her. There was silence while she thought that over, and we went on to discuss the Father’s love and how He chose to love us even when we had no interest in Him.
I can’t say that we’ve grabbed each and every opportunity like that, but being adoptive parents you certainly tend to have your ‘radar’ on and working overtime looking for as many ‘natural’ opportunities as possible.
7. Did you or do you have any fears related to your adopted daughters’ future as members of your family? If so, what were/are they and how long have you sought to apply the gospel to those fears?
In the early days and months we feared the girls might try to keep themselves detached from us and not grow in their affections. While they most definitely did guard themselves in the early days, by the time we celebrated our two year ‘gotcha day’ anniversary, they had grown in their commitment and affections, and clearly continue to grow even more.
8. Regarding older child adoption, knowing what we know now and having experienced what we have, would we do this again?
Yes, in a heartbeat! It hasn’t been easy—don’t let anyone tell you that it was or will be easy! But do listen to those who tell you that God supplies grace and mercy in abundance! There were days I/we wondered if there would be a physical ‘showdown’ with our oldest daughter—she was visibly angry and ill-at-ease. There were days we wondered ‘what have we done?’–our girls’ didn’t fall instantly in love with their new parents! There are still days when the ‘unanswerable’ questions about their past hang in the air, and even days when new questions come up. Still, God has been pleased to build our family through adoption, and He has been pleased to use our daughters and our family as a means of sanctification–just about every Christian will tell you that they wouldn’t trade those means for all the money in the world!
What an inspiration!
Excellent interview! You did a wonderful job of capturing Connie’s heart and soul and her love for these two delightful young ladies.
(of that “new family at church”)