Who would have thought that one day I’d be working for a non-profit and writing an adoption blog? If there ever was any doubt about God’s sense of humor, that should do a lot to dispel it.
It’s been quite a ride, going from being a single 20-something who wasn’t at all sure that kids were something of interest at all - to being a dad of five, three of which were adopted internationally, with special needs to boot - to leaving a secure career in state government for the non-profit world.
After getting married at 29, our perspectives changed on kids, but we had a difficult time getting pregnant, suffering a miscarriage along the way. (To this day, I’m convinced we had a little girl, and it’s going to be awfully great to meet her one day.) Once things clicked, we had two boys seventeen months apart. We were busy and we were done; two being a nice, neat number, allowing us to still play man-to-man defense.
Then, when the boys were 7 and 6, we ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since college, and in the process of catching up learned how he and his wife had recently adopted a little girl from China. We had one of those, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” moments a week or so later. One thing led to another, and we found ourselves beginning the adoption paper chase. Molly has friends in Taiwan, and China seemed a natural fit.
We were adopting at the end of the period when infant girls were the most common Chinese adoptions, and we went in assuming that would be us. Like so many other families, God opened our hearts to special needs, and, in 2008, the four of us traveled to Luoyang, China, to bring home our four-year-old daughter Leah. Leah has cleft lip and palate and partial hearing loss.
Over the next few years, as we were learning to navigate the medical system, adopting again wasn’t really on the radar, although we stayed in touch with our agency and followed several adoption groups. However, the kids began bringing up adopting again, saying things out of the blue like,
“Our family isn’t complete,” and, “If I give up my birthday and Christmas can we adopt again?” and pointing out that there were six chairs at our table and only five of us.
In one of the adoption agency emails in early 2014, there had been a little girl who caught Molly’s eye and she inquired about her. She was told that a family had accepted her referral, so Molly didn’t think anything more about it. Then, in February, the same little girl suddenly popped up in our inbox again. The family, for whatever reason, had been unable to move forward with her. She had a severe congenital heart defect, which was one of the special needs that I said we’d never be able to take on. Nevertheless, there was something about her, and we asked for her file.
And that was the beginning of a whirlwind week. After poring over her file, talking to our agency, talking to a pediatrician, and seeking counsel, we said yes. Lybbi was very sick, and we needed to get her home to the U.S. for medical care as quickly as possible. We completed our expedited adoption paperwork in record time, which didn’t leave much time for fundraising. In the midst of the whirlwind, our agency contacted us and said that there was an organization that wanted to help us fund Lybbi’s adoption, and soon we were talking to Misty at Connected Hearts.
Connected Hearts helped us raise the funds we needed right away for her adoption. Additionally, because we knew Lybbi was so fragile, we really wanted to be able to take the other three kids with us to China, and Connected Hearts was able to secure funding from a very generous donor so that we could. I’ll always remember where I was when Misty called to say that a donor had provided the funds for us to take the big kids with us.
Lybbi was even more ill than we’d thought, and when we got to China we learned that there was a very real concern that she might not survive the flight home. Another thing I’ll never forget is sitting in a Chinese hotel room, holding my big strong teenage son on my lap as he sobbed over the possibility of losing his new sister. Those two weeks in China were the hardest of our lives, as we worked to keep Lybbi alive in hotel rooms, vans, and trains. Connected Hearts was there to support us again, praying with us via Skype in the middle of the night.
Lybbi’s story will be the subject of another post. Her heart will never be fixed, but it’s been repaired as much as medically possible, and, several surgeries later, she is a happy, active kindergartner.
In 2016, Molly had an opportunity to travel back China to do some painting at the Social Welfare Institute where Lybbi had lived. While she was there, she met a little boy with a big smile who had been left at the orphanage in very poor condition due to a seizure disorder. She couldn’t get Leo out of her mind after coming home, and (by this time we had learned to never say never) we began the adoption process again, bringing Leo home in late 2017. Finances were daunting as a family of six, but once again Connected Hearts was there to help us with the expense of adoption.
Even with good insurance, having three special needs kiddos is expensive. Co-pays alone add up quickly; throw in a surgery or two and finances quickly become worrisome. Connected Hearts had stayed in touch to support us after we came home with both Lybbi and Leo, and they stepped in and took care of several significant bills.
Since Leah’s adoption, as I found myself being turned into an adoption and orphan care advocate, I told Molly that I’d love to work in adoption/orphan care some day. Lots of things would have to fall into place in order for there to be any chance of that happening, not the least of which is that there are no opportunities for that kind of work in our area. Then, all of those things DID fall into place, and I left a nearly 29-year career in government to become the Director of Development at Connected Hearts.
I’m so excited to be able to work with families and others with a heart for adoption, working to bring those orphans least likely to be adopted home to their forever families. I can testify first-hand of the impact that the ministry of Connected Hearts has on these kids and their families. Our daughter literally would not be alive and home with us if not for Connected Hearts and others who answered the call to “care for orphans in their distress.”
We all have a story. (That’s a great ice-breaker question. Ask someone you just met to tell you their story. They may look at you funny at first, but everyone has one and no one else knows it completely.) My goal is to use my story – and Lybbi and Leo’s stories – to inspire, encourage, and challenge people to support families who are adopting those orphans who are most often overlooked. We aren’t all called to adopt. But we ARE all called to do something.