It started in the Fall of 2010. My husband, Andy, and I received an email update from some friends of ours who had been living in China. Their letter spoke of a tiny baby boy they called JB that they had been fostering for over a year. He had many needs, but in their care he was growing and thriving. Their letter spoke of how they had been advocating for him to be adopted and were looking for a family to love this child as their own forever. Andy and I both had that moment of wondering if we were meant to be this boy’s parents. I heard that whisper from God, and I confess that my first response was to shake it off and pretend it was not a plan for me. Adoption seemed to be something other people did, it seemed too scary, and there were too many unknowns. After a quick search of Chinese adoptions, we learned that prospective parents needed to be married for two years and each be thirty years old. At the time we had been married just over a year and were “only” 27 and 28 years old. In our minds we thought surely another family would come forward before we ever met the requirements to adopt. We thought this door was closed.
Time went by and we continued to receive updates about JB and God continued to whisper his plan to us. We still did not meet the age requirements, so all that we could do was wait, pray, and trust that if it was God’s plan for us to adopt JB, that he would surely carry it out to completion. In that time our love for JB grew, as did our desire to adopt him. We prayed that if we were to be JB’s parents that God would break down any obstacles and allow that to happen. We also prayed that if we were not to be his parents that God would provide JB with his forever family immediately.
Exactly 8 months before Andy’s 30th birthday, we knew that God was calling us to pursue the adoption of JB. We started our paperwork in May, 2012. The process was long, tedious, and invasive at times. It was also exciting as we made it through each step along the way. Throughout those months I often had many questions for God: Is this really your plan for us? How will we pay for the adoption expenses? Are we really able to handle caring for a child with special needs? And every time – and I mean EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. — God graciously met me where I was at and calmed my fears. Whether it was a Bible passage, an opportunity to work full time, a blog post from a family with adopted kids with needs like JB’s, or a few new pictures of JB in my in-box, God was there showing us that he was clearly in the driver’s seat and that he was with us. God was moving in big ways and was inviting us to join him on a ride that only he could navigate.
In between waiting to get to each next step in the process, we did some adoption training and read several books. Some books were very practical in how to approach parenting a child that had been adopted and has special needs. But the books that have been the most impactful were those that revealed the goodness of the gospel through adoption. On this earth, adoption is born from sin, hurt, loss, grief, and all kinds of yuck. Spiritually without God, we were in that yuck. We were sinful, lost, and far from God. Yet, in our yuck he moved and made the careful, intentional plan to bring us into his family as his children through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. Adoption on earth is a small reflection of God’s great love for us. The more we progressed in our adoption journey, the more I was in awe of God’s adoption of me –- of all of us just as we are. We also learned about the need for children to be adopted and God’s call for all of us to care for the orphans in some way. And the more we learned, the more our questions turned from “How can we do this?” to “How can we not?”
It took us almost exactly a year from when we started the paperwork to when we traveled to JB’s home country. On May 27th, 2013 I held my new, sleeping son in my arms as we filled out adoption papers that would forever change his life and ours. We named him Joshua, which means “saved by God.” I would never have dreamed that this is where my life would be or that this is how we would begin our family. I am beyond thankful each day for the little boy God has given us. Joshua is truly a gift. We have had our share of struggles as we work on attachment, go to doctor and therapy appointments, and just figure out this parenting thing, but we have been overwhelmingly blessed beyond measure. I wouldn’t trade it in a million years.
Our adoption journey started on February 7, 2004, the day our son was born. Despite a healthy and normal pregnancy, the delivery became complicated and ended with our son in the NICU and me in the ICU post hysterectomy. My husband and I had never even thought about adopting a child, but God had a special plan for our family. He knew there was a child on the other side of the world that would need a family and He used this traumatic day for good.
After some time, my husband and I began to seriously consider the possibility of adoption. For many reasons, we felt led to an international adoption. In 2006 our church hosted an adoption seminar by A Helping Hand. At about the same time our church had also started doing mission work in China. Many circumstances began to present themselves which made it clear to us that China was the place to pursue our adoption. In January 2007 we officially started our paperwork and began a new chapter in our life. Our official log in date was September 5, 2007. When we started our paperwork it was approximately an 18 month wait to referral for your child. Totally doable! Right?!? Little did we know then that things were going to drastically change. As the wait for a match continued to grow, so did our disappointment and frustration. During this time a couple of opportunities for domestic adoptions presented themselves, though again, with much disappointment none worked out for our family. With the passage of time we now see that God had a bigger plan for our family.
As the wait continued to grow with weeks turning into months and months into years with no improvement in sight, my husband and I began to seriously consider a special needs adoption. For those of you who have completed adoption paperwork regarding For this reason it took us eight months to finally complete our paperwork. Then with a series of incredible miracles, a more dedicated prayer time for our family about our future daughter and the amazing work of God, we were matched just two months later with Chloe on April 26, 2011!
I cannot put into words the incredible emotions our family felt that day. The almost four year journey was hitting the high point. I wanted to shout it from a mountain top; as a matter of fact I told anyone that would listen. The joy in our hearts was overwhelming. Praise God for His amazing gift. It is now over two years later and I can now see how this was the perfect match for our family and it was all orchestrated by God. I don’t think there is any human way possible someone could have matched our daughter so perfectly to our family. Her dynamic personality and loving spirit are such a blessing to us. In addition to gaining a daughter, our experience deepened our faith, taught us to rely on God and not our own abilities, and instilled in us the need wait on God’s perfect timing.
Our adoption journey began in October 2010, when we went to an informational meeting about adoption. We submitted our application in January 2011 to adopt from Uganda and arrived home with Suubi Anne Chapman on August 2, 2013. While our process took much longer than we imagined, the Lord used it to stretch and grow us and widen the boundaries of our hearts.
We were open to adopting a child with special needs but did not truly anticipate what the Lord had in mind. We strongly felt that we would name our little girl Hope. We prayed for her and throughout the twists and turns of our journey clung to the verse Romans 15:13, which says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We had a possible referral fall through and also were matched domestically with a birth parent who decided to parent. Our hearts were healing when we were asked to look at and consider Suubi’s file. We honestly were initially not sure if we felt capable of parenting her with so many uncertainties regarding her possible special needs.
However, when we opened her file and found out that her name was Suubi, the Lugandan word for Hope, that was the confirmation we needed. We have learned that the Lord’s plans for us are so much greater than our own. Suubi is such a joy and blessing! She has changed our lives by opening our hearts to a whole new world. Her smile is contagious and her amazing strength of spirit is inspiring to everyone that hears her story and meets her.
Suubi’s special needs include cerebral palsy and sight impairment, along with global delays. Our three biological boys, ages 12, 9 and 7, have welcomed their little sister with open arms and it has been beautiful to see them quickly develop compassion, sensitivity and gentleness as they learn and grow with Suubi. She has made incredible leaps and bounds already as she soaks up attention, new opportunities, proper nutrition, medical care, therapies and lots of love! We are so thankful that the Lord has entrusted us with our precious Suubi girl!
Our next door neighbor sent us off on our big trip to Kazakhstan with prayer—inside the airport express bus! He, along with all of our friends and family, had been waiting on pins and needles for news of our travel date. At the end of our destination waited the two angels that were the answers to our years of thought and prayer. Making the decision to parent two teenagers was not one we took lightly but with the love and support of our families, friends, and Nightlight we were finally on our way.
We arrived in Astana, Kazakhstan at 11:30PM, the airport seemed a lonely place and we only hoped that our tiny Russian vocabulary would get us through. The following day, after trying somewhat successfully to fend off jetlag, we were escorted to the orphanage that housed Alex and Julia. Kazakhstan in January was cold like we had never felt before, but inside the Detsky Dom we were met with a warmth that could melt the ice. We had wondered how our presence would be received there, but it quickly became evident that no thought was wasted on boarders. The main hope was to help the children find their forever families.
Over the weeks we visited, learned, laughed, ate, studied, and bonded with our children. They told us stories about their friends and jokes and songs they liked. They were three dimensional children that we could see and touch and hug, yet they were still like a dream. The bonding period and court date came and went so quickly and then it was time to leave and complete the first part of this journey. We had a traditional party to celebrate with all in their family group, some of whom would soon be leaving with their own new families. To leave our children and come back home to the States alone was a thought that hadn’t received nearly as much consideration, but we were comforted now knowing that we were all a real family.
We sometimes reflect on how many people asked why we adopted older children instead of a baby. While our reasons were sound and numerous, our prayer was for help to find the children that were meant to be ours. And that is exactly what happened. The other day a friend and fellow adoptive parent of older children asked how we felt about our decision to adopt teens. Our reply: No decision in all of our lives has brought more joy and enlightenment than coming together with Alex and Julia as a forever family.
It was three years ago that Peter and I attended our fourth Nightlight picnic. Ever since joining the Nightlight family in 2000, we always made a point to attend the picnic and all other activities we could possibly participate in. Three years ago we were so proud of ourselves for listening to God’s calling not to pursue Snowflakes for our second adoption, but to pursue an international adoption.
We had just completed our home study and were waiting and praying for a referral of a child as young as possible (because we had done the big thing and given up the chance of being pregnant and having a newborn, so we wanted to at least make sure our referral was as young as possible), when we attended our 4th Nightlight picnic. Over the years we joyfully watched the visiting Russian children perform and thought to ourselves, “Oh, they are cute,” but never felt a calling to adopt any of them.
It was at this picnic that we were socializing and trying to make new friends who might have adopted internationally, when someone announced that the visiting orphans would be performing on the stage. I suddenly could not breathe! We were standing right in front of the stage. I looked at Peter and told him we needed to move to the other side of the park immediately. He asked why, and I explained, “Because we are going to fall in love with one of these kids, and we are not adopting older. We are adopting a baby!” I took Peter’s hand and moved across as far as possible to the other side of the park. All the while, Peter was asking what was wrong with me, because for the past three years we had always watched the children perform. Why was this year different? We didn’t learn until 8 months later, when meeting our sweet daughters Anya and Galina, that Anya was one of the girls performing on tour during the summer picnic.
Why did we decide to adopt from China? That’s the question we are consistently asked when people look from our handsome son (Snowflake Embryo Adoption) to our beautiful daughter (whom we brought home from China earlier this year). Our answer is always that God gently led us there by the people and circumstances He placed in our lives.
Once we figured out how God wanted us to continue growing our family, we found that we were comfortable with how the adoption process for China is constructed. It is straightforward, fairly predictable, the children seem to adjust well, it requires only one trip to China, and in the end you come home with a child. That’s not to say that the waiting time did not have its emotional highs and lows. Our official wait began on our log in date, or the date our paperwork was officially recognized by China, May 27, 2005. I think the hardest day of our adoption journey was in February 2006, when we missed the referral cut-off date by two days and had to wait an entire month to see our baby’s face.
Ten months to the day from our log in date (about two months longer than we originally expected), Nightlight called us with the news that our referral had come in and if we accepted it (no big question there!) we would be the proud parents of a little girl named Luo Xi who was residing at the XiangYin orphanage outside of Changsha (a major city), Hunan (the province), China. I immediately called Tim and then everyone else I could think of, until my cell phone battery ran out. We drove to Nightlight and finally got to lay eyes on our little beauty who we would name Abigail Lynn-Xi Atnip. That was an exciting day.
We left for China in the middle of May for a few fabulous days of sightseeing in Beijing and then flew to Changsha to meet Abby! We met her for the first time on May 22, 2006. She was 13 months, 11 days old. The sweet gals from the orphanage placed her in our arms and she stuck to us like glue. She was beautiful and cuddly. It makes me a little sad to look at pictures from those first few weeks as I can see in her eyes how sad and scared she was; although you wouldn’t have guessed it from her quiet demeanor.
We came home with Abby a little over five months ago. She now runs happily screeching through the house as her brother chases her. She is almost 19 months old and is very confident and strong. Abby’s Nena (my mom) always comments on how full of joy Abby is. One look at her smiling face and one listen to her giggle, would fill anyone’s heart with joy.
Within a year after our wedding, we started trying to have children. For several years we tried, cried when we could not conceive and cried whenever we saw a baby at a restaurant. I can remember my wife sobbing as she banged on my chest crying, “Why is God doing this to us?” After nine years of infertility, we decided to adopt internationally. We interviewed many adoption agencies and chose Nightlight Christian Adoptions.
We first adopted a little boy and girl from St. Petersburg, Russia. It was an amazing journey. While we were leaving our new daughter’s orphanage, quite a few of the orphans were literally hanging on me yelling, “Papa!” It changed me forever. Less than a year later, we adopted a six-month-old girl from the same orphanage that our son was raised in. We were done. Our family was complete, until… my parents and I decided to take a humanitarian trip back to St. Petersburg, Russia with donations from members of our congregation and local stores. While I was in a Wal-Mart store, my cell phone rang. It was Ron Stoddart, the President of Nightlight Christian Adoptions. He knew that we were traveling back to Russia and he ‘just mentioned’ that there was a little two year old boy that was turned down by a few American families for adoption. His eyes were crossed and in that culture someone with crossed eyes is considered ‘mentally deficient’. I told Ron, ‘no’ as we had just arrived back from adopting our little girl a few months earlier. I asked how old the boy was. Ron checked his birth date, and it was May 4, 1999. I was shocked! I said, “Ron, that’s the birthday of the little girl we just adopted a few months earlier.”
We ended up adopting the little boy with crossed eyes and named him Timothy. We were NOW complete! Four kids; that’s enough, until…my wife and I decided to sponsor and advertise an adoption Information meeting less than an hour from our house. Very few people showed up, but Ron Stoddart had flown in for this meeting. Of course, he brought his photo album of children waiting to be adopted. As my wife and I flipped through the album with no interest in adopting more children, we kept coming back to a little girl with crossed eyes. I got so emotional, I had to walk out of the hotel room where we were looking at the album and I cried. I didn’t know why, but there was something about this little girl that took our breath away. Several months later we flew to Minsk, Belarus and adopted the little girl. While in country, as we were in the orphanage director’s office, she casually mentioned that the little girl had an older sister in another orphanage. OH NO…how could this happen! Adoption agencies try their best to know if there are other siblings as they want them to be adopted together. I said, “Let’s go see her.” LONG STORY SHORT…we adopted her, too, several months later. Six children? I would have never imagined it, but God’s plans are always superior to ours!
Our adoption journey has been amazing. We have had the opportunity to watch God provide abundantly in all things. For us, adoption started long ago…. I (Amanda) have had a desire to adopt since I was a child. This desire was intensified by time spent with orphans in Romania and through studying institutionalized children in college and graduate school. Nathan didn’t necessarily feel drawn to adoption from a young age. He comes from a family of six biological siblings and hadn’t really considered adoption until our courtship when I spoke of my passion for adoption. Nathan has been fueled mostly by conviction that adoption is something that pleases God and is a way to carry out His command to care for orphans.
We entered adoption seeking a child under the age of our biological daughter (now two). When we received our referral for Anara, my husband was immediately convinced that this child was a Hubartt.
When we started the process, we weren’t sure where the finances would come from. We are a single-income family and didn’t have the money up front. We knew that adoption was expensive, but we felt strongly that it was worth pursuing and knew that God would provide the finances. God has provided abundantly through numerous people. He has used our family, our friends and even people we have never met.
As of this writing, we have been home for eight days. Anara is doing well, Violet is adjusting, we are finally over jet-lag, and soon we will be settling into a routine and a new “normal”. This adoption experience has taught us God’s faithfulness to provide for His children. He has taught us that He is sovereign and we can see that He was in the big things and the small things. We understand that
He accepts us into His family as orphans and we pray that our experience might help other families accept orphans into their families. We hope to have more biological children, and we would also like to adopt again. Thank you, Nightlight, for everything that you have done to bring Anara home. Thank you (reader) for having a heart for adoption and making our adoption possible.