Today’s interview is with Greg Whiting, a husband, father, pastor, and one of my closest friends in college. God has given Greg and his wife, Teresa, a beautiful adoption story. When the two of us were in college together, neither one of us had any idea that God would one day grow our future families through adoption. I have always enjoyed hearing Greg and Teresa’s adoption story. It is not difficult to see God at work within it.
Greg is pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Westlake, Ohio.
(1) Tell us a little about your family.
Teresa and I will have been married for 14 years in June of 2008. We have 5 awesome children: Isabella, age 12, her twin brother Alex; Breanna, age 8; Caleb, age 7, and his twin sister, Gabrielle. Although I am a pastor, we try not to put any extra expectations on our children, and teach them that we are greatly blessed by God to serve Him in ministry. There is a lot of laughter in our home, and crying, and arguing and complaining. We tried to order the perfect kid package from God, but I guess the other pastors got lucky. We have enjoyed seeing how God put our family together and watching each of them go through these beginning growing stages of life. We are truly blessed.
(2) What initially motivated you to adopt?
I would like to say that we have always had a heart for adoption, and just couldn’t wait to see whom God had for us. But, that is not how this came about. Before we were married, Teresa and I made our plan. We wanted to have several children, but wait about a year before getting pregnant. Since Teresa’s sisters and family heritage made it seem like pregnancies came easily, we thought that when we were ready (in our estimation), she would get pregnant and our plan would be under way. However, once we started “trying”, we were not able to get pregnant. As we neared 3 years of marriage, we took some tests and were told by doctors that we might not be able to get pregnant. At that time, we decided not to pursue other tests or procedures in trying to get pregnant.
Since we believed God had placed the desire for children in our hearts, including the fact that Teresa had no desire to pursue a career outside rearing our children, it seemed clear God would do something. One option that was obvious to us was to pursue adoption.
[the following information is the story of how God brought our particular children to us through adoption. It does not answer #2, but is a continuation of the story]
However, most agencies wanted us to fill out an application and send in money right away. We also learned that adoptions were fairly expensive, and out of reach for us at that time. We didn’t fill out any applications, but continued to talk about it and pray. We also continued to pursue pregnancy to the best of our abilities. God then moved us from Connecticut to Florida in February of 1997, to take another ministry position there. It would prove to be a major step toward receiving God’s gift of our first children through adoption. The pastor I was working with referred me to an adoption agency in New Hampshire. We called and shared our situation with them, but still did not send in an application or money.
Just a couple months after arriving in Florida, we received a phone call one Monday night from the agency in New Hampshire. We could not believe what we were hearing. They told us that a doctor’s family in New Jersey had seen a special about orphanages in Romania and their hearts were touched. Although they already had 4 children of their own under age 7, they decided to go over to Romania and adopt a child. They went over to get one, but brought back 2, boy and girl twins! However, within a few months of bringing them back home, they began to believe that God had led them to bring the children home, not for their own family, but for someone else’s. Because they were dedicated followers of Christ, they followed that leading and contacted the agency in New Hampshire, the same one we had talked to.
They asked the agency if they had a pastor’s family that really wanted children to adopt, but were not able to because of finances. The agency told them about us and that led to the phone call. In God’s providence, that family only lived 20 minutes from where Teresa’s parents lived at that time (in New Jersey). On Friday, she flew to New Jersey to stay at her parents and begin getting to know these children and go through the process with the agencies in New Hampshire and New Jersey. It was incredible how God put all the details together for us to adopt these children. On June 13, 1997, almost 3 years after getting married and a few days before father’s day, we brought our first two children home.
Alex and Isabella had just turned 2 in April. They were born to a man who was a Romanian shepherd and a mom who died 2 months after giving birth. The father was unable to care for his newborn children and placed them in an orphanage in Romania while he continued his work as a traveling shepherd. Alex and Isabella had been in the orphanage for almost 18 months when they were originally adopted by the doctor’s family in New Jersey. Now, they had two different people they were learning to call mommy and daddy. It was a very challenging adjustment for Teresa, who all of a sudden had 2 toddlers, with whom she had no opportunities during their first years of life. We decided to keep their names the same, in honor of their birth mother who had died. The family in New Jersey, who first brought our children to the United States, had paid the majority of the costs, and then our new church family in Florida helped us care for the rest. We were excited but also overwhelmed with how things came together so quickly.
16 months after bringing our first children home, God opened Teresa’s womb and we were pregnant! On July 6, 1999, Alex and Isabella had a new sister. One year and half later, we were amazed again as God gave us twins, also a boy and girl, on December 22, 2000!
(3) What kind of responses have you received from extended family and friends about your decision to adopt in general and to adopt trans-culturally in particular?
We really had incredible support from our friends and family throughout the adoption process. Again, our process was so unique and progressed more rapidly than most, that there was not a whole lot of time for others to think about our decision. I don’t remember anything negative. Most people were very supportive of our desire to have children, and once they found out about our adoption plans, they were sincerely excited. Certainly, some questioned what kind of physical or emotional problems the children might have; and yet, our family and friends were simply concerned for us and wanted to help in any way that they could. People were also amazed that Alex and Isabella looked a lot like us, and unless we offered the information, no one would know they were adopted. Our family and friends have always treated our adopted children just like they have treated our biological ones. We are very grateful.
(4) How do you think the gospel should influence the decision to pursue adoption?
I wish I would have thought about this before adopting, but we simply thought God was leading us to adopt and that he was the One who brought all the details together for us. I do think the gospel can be a great influence, as we consider the fact that God has adopted all of us who are His children. We were not His originally and yet He chose us, according to His will and for His eternal glory. What a great privilege we have to follow our Father’s example and also choose to adopt children who were originally someone else’s! It is a great picture of the gospel and should influence many more people to adopt, regardless of how many biological children God has blessed them with.
(5) How is the gospel shaping your relationship with your adopted children?
We admit that it was a challenge to see these wonderful children in the same way we saw those born to us. The emotional ties to those who come out of the womb is hard to explain, but undeniable. However, we do all in our power to treat all of our children, in our speech and actions, according to the truth: they are God’s, all given to us (albeit in different ways) to care for them and lead them in the ways of God. We are just His stewards, to faithfully love and train our children to follow Him. Because of the gospel, we know the joy these adopted children have brought us and the great responsibility we have been given by God.
(6) How have you sought to help your adopted children understand the gospel better through their adoption?
From the time that they could understand, we have not hidden the adoption facts from Alex and Isabella or our other children, for that matter. We wanted them to know how God lovingly guided the entire process and put together our family in such an amazing way. We have told them how we love them fully, even though God brought them to us through their birth parents and another family in New Jersey. We have taught them of God’s adoption of all believers, which includes them. They have both committed their lives to Jesus Christ. It has been our desire for them to know that they are equal members of our family just as we are all equal members of God’s family, by His mercy and grace.
(7) Did you or do you have any fears related to your adopted children’s future as members of your family? If so, what were/are they and how have you sought to apply the gospel to those fears?
Will they ever feel that they are not as loved as our other children? Will they feel we have treated them differently? Will they not see us as their real parents since we did not give birth to them? And all of the other fears that have come up, we realized, are fears and issues that all families have to deal with, even with biological children. We do not live in those fears. We were concerned that they would be continually confused as to who their mommy and daddy were now, but they adjusted very quickly. We were wondering if some of the horror stories we had heard about, including physical and emotional problems would be experienced by us; but again, we were grateful that everything seemed to progress “normally”. We have no doubts that they did experience some traumatic things their first 2 years of life and did not receive some of the attention and love so greatly needed at that time. However, we have not noticed anything different in the growth of our adopted children from the ones born to us. We have trusted the God who brought us all of our children to do with them as He pleases. We are grateful for the time we get to spend enjoying and teaching them.
I loved reading this story (I also hope to adopt someday). Thanks for sharing. It brought tears to my eyes and helped prepare me for a friend’s baby shower tonight. They are adopting a little boy from Ethiopia! 😀
As soon as I began reading this story, I began to get a sense of recognition. I went to college with Julie (Teresa’s good friend) and remember hearing this awesome story even as it was happening. I so enjoyed reading it in its entirety. God works in amazing ways!
“We do not live in those fears.”
I’m glad to see that because that would surely color your lives with your children. As an adoptee myself, now about 52, transracial and transnational, married, with children (grown) and a pastor (getting a doctorate), having met my (original) mother and father’s family… that you have nothing to fear if your child wants to know his or her history. That should not threaten your relationship with them. Some (adoptive) parents get anxious about it.
It is normal and healthy to want to know one’s history. I think of the Bible. It begins with Genesis and proceeds with profound and important family stories. I think of Jesus, whose story also includes knowledge of “where he comes from.” It was common sense of the day to want or require such knowledge. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were concerned about him because, they said, “we don’t know where he comes from”.
It is sometimes very difficult for people who grow up in the context of a family with stories of one’s birth, mirroring of one’s body and mannerisms, to understand what it’s like without these. One compensates; and one can survive. Sometimes, one compensates and lies to oneself and to one’s (adoptive) parents: I’m the same as these other children, adoption makes no difference. There is a difference and it is real and needs to be acknowledged. Some children and some adults need help acknowledging what they already know.
I hope that your children, who are learning from you, also teach you and bring you knowledge that you wouldn’t have had without them.