Hurricane Florence has stalled out over the Atlantic as the Carolinas hunker down and wait for her to make landfall. I’m watching it all unfold with a mild sense of PTSD after we rode out Irma last year (which hit us at a Category 2 when it was all said and done).
It’s an odd sensation, preparing for a hurricane. Your mind is a whir of details as you decide what valuables you need to try and secure, and which ones you need to be okay with losing. Suddenly, you find that you’re able to boil down the most important things in your life to only a handful of people and possessions.
You prepare for the worst, and you hope for the best. There’s an analogy here.
Back in late January, I got an email from Rainbow Kids, an adoption and child welfare advocacy group that sends out lists of children who are waiting for their forever families. These are usually the children who are most vulnerable, have special needs, or risk aging out of the orphanage and losing their right to be adopted.
I don’t remember ever having signed up for this list, nor had I ever seen an email from them before. It’s quite possible I’d been receiving these emails for years and simply hadn’t noticed, but for whatever reason, on January 28 I had an email in my inbox with the subject line “Waiting Child: Sawyer”.
Way back in 2005, when I was pregnant with our second child, my husband and I happened to be mildly obsessively addicted to the show LOST. We chose not to find out the sex of that second baby, and after much discussion and convincing, I got my husband to agree to name the baby Sawyer. It was partly in homage to our favorite show, and partly just a name I loved.
Then our daughter, Katya, surprised us all (shattering a long-running streak of Stuart males), and the name Sawyer was reluctantly retired. When our third child came along, Sawyer didn’t fit, and so I resigned myself to the idea that I’d never get to utilize that name I’d so come to love.
So on this day in January, I opened that email merely out of curiosity because of the name “Sawyer”, and when I did, the most beautiful little boy I’d ever seen stared back at me. He had a head full of thick, black hair, large curious eyes, round cheeks, and the sweetest little lips.
And he needed a home. The only problem?
He was in China, and this hadn’t been part of our family plan.
I called Lee that day and tentatively told him about the little boy nicknamed “Sawyer” who needed a home. I figured he’d shake his head and laugh at me. My sweet husband has endured many a phone call in our eighteen years of marriage about children who needed homes. This longing to adopt isn’t something that sprung up in my heart overnight.
So as I explained the situation to Lee, he listened quietly and said, “Okay. Let’s get more information.”
Then…I LAUGHED! I thought he was kidding. But he wasn’t, and so I emailed to inquire about the little boy in my inbox. By the end of that week, we’d spoken with numerous specialists and medical professionals who helped us read his file and get an idea of what issues he faced. We’d called a couple of friends in the adoption community and asked their opinions.
And then we just…made a decision. There was no A-ha moment that made us jump up and say “Yes! This is our son!” It was more an understanding that this situation was in front of us, and we had no reason to say no.
We took tentative steps forward, and within two weeks we were meeting with a local agency to begin our home study. We had just submitted our Letter of Interest to China less than two days earlier, which requested permission to pursue the adoption of this specific child, and we’d been told to expect a reply in 10-14 days.
As I drove to the home study agency, I was seized with fear. It felt a little like the beginnings of a hurricane swarming in my mind. Thoughts swirled, and my stomach tied in knots. Fear gripped me as I thought of all the possible things that could go wrong.
What if we ended up walking through another terminated adoption? What if the adoption went through, but the child had issues we weren’t prepared to face? What if he couldn’t transition to a large family? What if this damaged our biological children?
Round and round, the fears buzzed and hummed, and by the time I arrived at the agency’s office, I was approaching a full blown panic. “Lord!” I called out, tears stinging the corners of my eyes. “If this is wrong, then stop it now. Don’t let us move forward. But if it’s right, please show me that it’s right.”
I sat in the quiet for a moment, gathering my thoughts, before reluctantly pushing open the door to head inside and meet with our social worker.
And then my phone pinged.
I looked at it and saw an email had come through. The email was from the adoption agency that held Sawyer’s file.
“Kelli,” it read. “You have been granted approval by China to pursue this adoption. This came through incredibly fast. We rarely see it happen this quickly. Congratulations!”
Three years ago today, my feet were caked with the red dirt of Tanzania. On May 7, 2012, I wrote this post and it is still, to this day, my most shared post. It’s been read thousands of times over the last three years, and of course it has because the message is universal.
People need Hope. They crave and long to know that Hope is alive, and indeed it really is.
As we ambled back up the rutted dirt path it finally happened. I knew the emotions would take over at some point, but I honestly didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed my second day here. On both sides, children scrambled about watching us with bold curiosity.
“How do you handle seeing this all the time?” I asked Shaun as we stepped gingerly over a stream of muddy water flowing through the red soil. My throat burned and eyes watered as the images of the family we just visited ran through my mind. It wasn’t the condition of their home that left me so affected, though the small, concrete structure that housed two adults and nine children did leave me a bit shocked.
The situation this family lives in is dire in more ways than just physical. There was a hollow emptiness in the eyes of the mother that struck me. A desperation in the grandmother’s voice that tore through me. Abandoned and alone, these women now work only when they can and pray for daily bread in the most literal sense.
Currently, two of this young mother’s five children are being served by Compassion – twins, Doto and Kuluwa. One is sponsored, the other is still waiting. They were all quiet, eyes downcast, shy. When asked what she hopes for her children, this mother replies, “I hope that they can grow up and do business so that they can take care of me.”
Doto is sponsored. Her twin brother, Kuluwa is not.
I left this home with a quivering chin. “How do you see this all the time and not feel overwhelmed?” I asked. “It just all seems so much, like it’s impossible to ever meet all the needs.”
It’s been two and a half years since I boarded a plane to Tanzania. Two and a half years since I walked through the red dirt and cried, the images of abject poverty almost too much for my heart to comprehend.
Two and a half years ago, I learned that Hope is Slow, and that is, perhaps, the most valuable lesson the Lord has taught me. I’m still grasping hold of what that means even today. Hope is so very slow, and I get weary in the waiting, but God in His Mercy is not bound by my impatient timeframe.
Hope may be slow, but it is alive.
The work that Compassion International does worldwide is humbling. I’ve seen firsthand the impact this ministry has on communities, the hope they are bringing to families living in poverty, and I have wept.
Over 2 million children under the age of 5 die each year in India. In the small community of Gujarat, where many of the mothers are teenagers, most do not have the resources needed to provide for their children.
Today we can change the lives of an entire community. We can reverse the trend of hopelessness, of illness, and of childhood death. Opening a Child Survival Program in Gujarat means:
– training and preparation for young moms to help care for their babies
– helping mothers learn to read and write
– giving children a safe place to learn and grow
– ensuring lifesaving medical care for babies and moms
– proclaiming the hope of God to families living in poverty
Today, as we step away from the blessing of Thanksgiving, and move into the beauty of Christmas, we have the chance to bind together and offer Hope. We can wrap it in love, and breath new life into a community that wonders if Hope is real.
It is real, friends, and it is actively moving through willing hearts across the ocean, and into the arms of young mothers who are more accustomed with fear than they are of Hope.