One of the biggest shocks of my life came when Jessica, my wife, said, “I think I'm pregnant.” To be honest, my heart sank. Not because I thought it was true, but because the love of my life thought it was true, and I knew it could not be true. My heart broke because I knew hers would be soon when she came to the realization that she was not pregnant. I knew she would be devastated and embarrassed.
We kept it a secret dream for a while. We spoke in hushed tones, usually at night, about whether we really believed it could be true. We continually encouraged each other, “Don't get your hopes up.” Both of our hopes were up, but we wouldn't admit it out loud for fear of being wrong.
We slowly allowed people to be a part of this little glimmer of hope that we might actually have a biological child. The whole thing was…well, a little uncomfortable. In some ways we had given up hope. Not in a “we-might-as-well-stop-swimmingand- drown-in-our-own-sorrow” kind of given up, but more of a “wealways- wanted-to-adopt-and-this-isobviously- God's-plan-for-us” kind of way. We had somehow put away our thoughts of raising a newborn. We were learning about raising adopted children and all of the exciting things that go along with that process.
But as the baby grew inside of Jessica, the idea of a baby grew on us. Jessica's tummy expanded magnificently, as did our desire for this unborn child. The whole concept of actually having a tiny baby was just starting to set in. And we scheduled a birthing class—a class we never got to attend!
Tests confirmed that Jessica was at risk of early labor. After several weeks of mild bed rest, her water broke and we headed for the hospital. After a few hours of labor and a blessed epidural, we welcomed our daughter they said we'd never have into the world—Evangeline Karis Walling, born at 32 weeks, weighing 4lbs 4oz, and 17 inches long. She came out screaming and crying with no need of a ventilator. She was healthy and strong and beautiful! Indeed, God gives good gifts!
Our Soccer Team!
Jessica and I were married in 2000 and had already decided that one day we would like to adopt. In 2005 we were told by doctors that we would never be able to have biological children. In 2008, after getting our finances and living situation more stabilized, we started the adoption process.
At this point, by divine appointment, we attended a Together for Adoption Conference. God had plans for us to hear certain things at this meeting. For instance, I had no idea what “waiting” children were. They are children in other countries waiting for parents. I thought we had to get on a waiting list to be approved, then a waiting list to be matched with kids, and then waiting to travel to get them. A lot of waiting! Not so. There are kids that are completely ready— waiting for parents.
After much prayer, Jessica and I felt strongly drawn toward international adoption. We began moving forward with the process to adopt waiting children. I say “we,” but Jessica did pretty much all of the work. The agency we were working with sent us a list (with pictures) of about 12-15 sets of siblings that were waiting in Ethiopia for parents. We looked through these pictures, asking for God's guidance. My salvation and security in Christ became sweeter and more cherished during this process. Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “For He (the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will…” God chose me! He chose to make ME His! Not because I'm lovable, but because He is Love.
Jessica and I had the pleasure and the burden of choosing. Essentially by choosing one set of siblings, we weren't choosing the other 20 something children that were waiting. Heartbreak! They are all so beautiful. They're kids. They're made in God's image. All of those kids need a home and a family. They all need to hear about God's love.
As she looked at the pictures, Jessica started falling in love with one particular group of siblings. I don't know exactly what she was thinking when she first told me she thought these were the ones. I know what my first thought was: We're not adopting a sibling group—we're adopting a soccer team! I knew for certain that someone had snuck into my house at night and replaced my wife with some deranged look-a-like that was somehow a glutton for punishment and severely off her rocker. Four kids!? FOUR? The number tore through my mind like a runaway train. It completely and utterly destroyed any coherent line of thought for days. And then it started to take root. And I began to consider it. And it started to sound...crazy! There's no way! I prayed for God to protect the heart of my wife. “Lord,” I said, “if You have other plans for these children and us, please change her heart. Open other doors. Please don't let her be hurt again.” All the while she fell more and more in love with these four children. And secrely, so did I.
We called our agency to ask some questions and get some clarification, and we were told that since we had already passed all the various requirements, and if we were sure we wanted this set of siblings, they would send us the kids' medical records and pictures of them. We said YES! Emphatically. Crazy. Don't know what all of this entails. Trying to grasp the concept of being parents. Mind racing. Weeping at the thought of some unforeseen thing standing in our way. Undeniably longing to get the kids quicker. So excited to begin this part of our lives. Grateful that God has led us to this point. Scared out of our minds. Reading everything we can get our hands on. Joyous occasion for celebration. Can't think. Can't breathe. Can't imagine how difficult the next few months of waiting will be.
In 2011 we signed papers to adopt this sibling group of four whom we had fallen in love with—and one month later, Jessica was pregnant. At the time of adoption, Solomon was 13, Rahel was 12, Yoseph was 8, and Eyasu was 5. Jessica, pregnant with Evie, traveled to Ethiopia in 2011 to meet our four kids; I traveled for court that November, and again in April, 2012 to bring our kids home. By then, Jessica was pregnant again, with Kee, who would be born in November.
Life with Six
Everyone asks what it has been like going from zero to six in fifteen months. It's all we know, so it's normal for us. I typically return the question with, “What's it like to have one at a time?” That's just how it happened for us, and we don't know otherwise.
Evie was an unexpected blessing in so many ways. One reason we firmly believe God worked the way He did in our lives was to allow Evie to be a center point. These four new kids with barely any English didn't know what to do in their new home, with their new family, and, quite frankly, we didn't know either. Without Evie, we'd have all just sat around awkwardly! Evie provided laughter and touches that would have been forced without her. She was common ground. We were our adopted kids' parents legally, but not yet by love or trust. But from day one, Evie was their little sister, and they loved her deeply. And we loved watching that—siblings, not by birth, but by something much deeper—by supernatural working of the Spirit. We know God brought our family together!
Different people have asked about the fact that we still adopted even though we had a biological child. God had placed a love for our adopted kids deep in our hearts before Evie was born. Also, adoption had been our plan for a long time. We were not adopting out of loneliness, guilt, obligation, or altruism. We were adopting because we are called in Scripture to love people the way Jesus loves people. How does He love us? Up close and personal. Regardless of race or status or past. Deeply. So deep in fact that He gave His life to make us His. Jessica and I are called to give ourselves fully and completely—not to a cause, but to children with names. Someone said that orphans are forgettable until you know their names, see their faces, or hold them in your arms. There's so much truth in that. Before the dawn of time, God knew our name and He had a plan from the beginning to make us His—not because of anything special about us, but because He is good. Caring for orphans and widows should be on the hearts and
minds of all of God's children, because were it not for adoption, none of us would be His.
Adoption is not natural. It is the result of the fallen world in which we live. It is, however, our call as Christians to love and care for orphans and widows. Adoption is not a backup plan. It is the great commission. What better way to spread God's love to the nations than to bring an international child into a loving home! And adoption is not just for individual couples. It is for the mission-minded church. If we believe that God has adopted (“grafted” Romans 11:19) us into His family, why would the church not be excited about doing that for others? And one more thing—adoption is not shameful. It should be celebrated, not whispered about. It is a beautiful picture of the Gospel—maybe the clearest of all.
The Bible tells us that the religion that God deems as pure and faultless is to look after widows and orphans. There are many avenues in which this can be done: praying, giving, going, serving, and adopting. Across the street or across the world, we are commanded to minister to the least of these. This is religion at its purest.