Monday, August 22, 2011

I Will Not Leave You As Orphans

You may remember me telling you before we left for Ghana that part of our trip plans entailed making a very special visit back at the Beacon House Orphanage……but I couldn’t tell you what for! NOW I CAN! Our special visit involved this family…..The Vander Weide’s (from the left it’s Dawn, Emma, Doug, Grace, and J.D. down in the front).

The Vander Weide’s daughter, Grace has been in Jake’s Kingdom Hoops program since 2nd grade, so that’s originally how we met. Last December the Vander Weide’s took their first trip to Ghana with Jake, and they went again with us in March earlier this year. Doug, the dad, had a primary role in our construction projects on our recent trip, but there was something else bringing Doug back to Ghana this time as well. I’ll let Dawn, his wife, explain from here in a story that only God could ordain. In Dawn’s own words….

I’ve known since the 4th grade, that someday I was going to adopt. My best friend (Dana Hill Lamansky) back then was adopted, and she was awesome. I was always grateful that her adoptive parents made the decision to bring her into their home because that meant she could be my friend. I believe God used my friendship with Dana to bring the concept of adoption to my attention.

Doug hasn’t grown up with a burning desire to adopt. Like most men, I think, he is territorial about our family and providing for it. He’s always been willing to help and very generous, but it wasn’t until recently that he hopped on the adoption boat with me.

I have always known that I couldn’t adopt without Doug’s full agreement to the idea. So, we started out slowly. First, we had a young lady from Poland live with us for a summer. She was a challenge because she came to help us with our two young daughters, but it turned out that she didn’t have child care skills so she ended up being another daughter! Then, my sister, Nancy lived with us for 8 months. Nancy is 8 years younger than me, and she has down syndrome. She was a pistol living with us, and she tested our patience. Then, we had a foreign exchange student from Germany live with us. Suddenly having a 17 year old boy in our house was a huge challenge!

Then, our girls’ friends started coming to us with all kinds of issues. Doug has stepped into father roles as needed, and I’ve stepped into mother roles. You wouldn’t believe the kind of hurt that kids experience. We’ve been put in all kinds of situations where we could turn our backs on these kids or buckle up and go along on their ride. Neither one of us have the ability to turn the other way, so we keep finding ourselves gaining more and more experience dealing with challenging or hurting kids.

After years of all of the house guests and hurting kids, Doug went with me to foster care classes. We sat through 30 long hours of foster/adoption classes to get government approval to help kids in an official way. In March 2011, we got approval to adopt U.S. children whose parental rights have been terminated.

Then, our entire family (we have 3 biological kids) went to the Beacon House orphanage during a trip to Ghana because Janel Sullivan wanted to learn how successful orphanages are run. She wanted to apply the knowledge to the village where Kingdom Cares International is building a medical clinic, a library, and foster/adoption homes. I was along for the ride for this part of the trip. We were planning to adopt from the U.S. WE DID NOT go to this orphanage to find children for our family.

A volunteer at the Beacon House asked me if I was there to adopt, and I told her “No.” Still, she told me she wanted me to meet a very special boy. She said if she weren’t so old she would take him home herself. It was then that I met Job. He was in a time out area with a rusty grill and 2 other kids in punishment. He had eaten the soapy wet mixture in a pan soaking in the kitchen, and his consequence was a day in the punishment area. He wasn’t supposed to get time with visitors. I went back to where he was and hoped I wouldn’t be asked to leave. We talked for about 3 hours, and I agreed with the volunteer that he was a really awesome kid! However, I WASN’T adopting from Ghana - we had plans to adopt U.S. kids.

As we were leaving, the volunteer pointed out Angela to me – Job’s sister. Then she pointed out Godwin – Job’s brother. I left thinking, “wow, I’m so happy these kids have food and shelter.” Our oldest, Emma, left sobbing. She was seriously impacted by the fact that these kids did not have parents.

During the next 2 months in family conversations, we all felt led to adopt from Ghana. EVERY ONE OF MY FAMILY – we all were on board to take the plunge! I’ll never forget Doug saying, “LET’S DO IT!” God worked on us each differently. He started on me in 4th grade, on Doug when the Polish girl came to live with us, on Emma when we experienced the Beacon House…

Now we are deep into the international adoption process to adopt Job, Angela, and Godwin. We hope to bring our three kids home yet this year. I am grateful God has softened Doug’s heart to the idea of extending our family through adoption. And, we are grateful for how God has prepared us for this. We are relying on Him to continue equipping us for the joys and challenges that lay ahead.

WHOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Three - count ‘em THREE - orphans will now have a FOREVER family, all because we serve a GREAT GOD who defends the defenseless. He alone opens up the hearts of His church to CARE that there are children in our world growing up with no parents….and He opens up our eyes to see that there is something we can do about it! I. LOVE. IT. I wish you all could have been there when Doug introduced himself as DAD to Job, Angela, and Godwin at the Beacon House Orphanage just over 1 week ago (Dawn will get her chance in a few months when they travel back to Ghana for court). Enjoy these amazing moments in pictures…..

Job, the oldest, had FULL comprehension of what was going on (it helps that all the BH kids speak full and clear English so it’s very easy to communicate with them). You can see in Job’s eyes how much he adores that Doug is going to be his Dad.

Angela and Godwin were still napping when we got there, so they were a little groggy starting off, but quickly warmed up!



My favorite moment of this day was when the family skyped with momma Dawn who was back in the U.S.…

What an amazing adoption story this is! For an older kid like Job, what a miracle that he will not have to spend the rest of his life growing up in an orphanage......I can assure you that unfortunately for a kid his age that is not the norm. For Angela, I just keep thinking how much Emma and Grace are going to ADORE her and teach her to do all sorts of girl things - like painting her nails, and getting her dressed up in Emma's old dance class costumes, and Grace teaching her how to hoop with the best of them. Adopting Godwin is going to launch the Vanderweide's back into the toddler years, and they have been out of that phase of life for awhile. I know it will stretch them and make their life 'busy' in a different way, but if you're going to be stretched, being stretched in the name of the Lord is well worth it. This family has been obedient to the Lord as He has put adoption on their heart. The road to adoption is never going to be paved out perfectly with a giant arrow over-head saying, 'Yes, go this way!' Rather, God often speaks to us in perspective-changing moments ~ in the hurt of a child's eyes, in the words of a family member, in the joy-filled smile of a boy who has already endured too much. Sometimes He even speaks to us about adoption supernaturally, but even then we still have to make the choice to believe and not doubt His voice. Are we listening when God speaks? Are we ready to step out in faith and take care of the 'least of these' even when the road ahead looks hard and we don't have all the answers? Are we willing to put time, thought, effort, energy, into loving these kids and walking with them through the battles that come along with adoption? Are we willing to make personal sacrifices so that kids don't have to end each day without ever feeling the love of a mom and a dad and the security of being in a family? Thank you Vander Weide's for stepping out in faith. I am so thankful I get to be along to watch your story unfold from the start to the finish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


alan and steph said...

Praise God! What an amazing story... loved reading it. Thanks for sharing.

kendra said...

oh man, my heart has all sorts of warm fuzzies!! BEAUTIFUL! :)

Angie said...

Saying a prayer of thanks right now! Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story.

Steph said...

Oh man, I cry EVERY TIME I read your blog!! What an amazing story! Praise God for what He is doing in the life of this family!

Jen said...


Jody said...

God is always working though not always our time table. Praise God for his faithfulness to use each one of us.

Jami Matice said...

I am touched by your story! I grew up with Doug and know what a great person he is. Thank you for sharing your story, my heart is filled with joy for the Vander Weide family. All very lucky children.

Jami M.