This note will be a little longer than usual. But the subject matter deserves a little more time and attention.
Around the middle of November of 2015, Lorene came to me and said she’d unexpectedly come across a blog post. It described a little girl with Down syndrome who would be “aging out” of her orphanage. For those who are not familiar with this term, it means that they have been given their chance to be “found", and will be transferred to an adult facility. It varies by country and state, but is usually around the age of 5. It can and has been overlooked by government officials and orphanage directors in order to extend the possibility that the child might find a family. Inevitably, however, for many, the end comes, and they are transferred. “Typical” children go to group homes, and physically disabled and cognitively impaired go to “invalid homes” or “adult mental institutions”. At the age of 5-12 their world instantly becomes astonishingly difficult.
In both cases (healthy or impaired), with very few exceptions, these “homes" are prisons. Children learn very quickly to fight for their food, fend off abuse by other children, and learn to fear the care takers. Physical abuse, malnutrition, sexual abuse, and general neglect are common. “Adult mental institutions” - the type of place they would send my daughters Sienna and Ember, are several shades worse. Often they are merely kept alive in order to drive the membership counts up to get more money from the government. Money that should be spent on their care, but sadly is used as basic life support only.
But this is a tired old story. We’ve all heard it. We are all weary of hearing it. Documentaries occasionally pop up explaining it. Occasionally someone sneaks in and escapes back out with video showing the atrocities. And I, like you, go about my life consumed by the little battles that gobble up my day. Most of them just the tedious process of keeping everything running smoothly, but few of them of real importance.
So when this girl came to my attention I was not in the realm of thinking about expanding my family. As some of you know, the last 6 years have been a lesson in emotional survival. Our daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, my dad was killed 8 months after moving here to be close to us and her, before we could tell him we’d just committed to adopting Ember - a huge journey in and of itself, and nearly losing my wife to a stroke 2 years after that. I was (and am) thoroughly content with how no major events have come to my doorstep to deal with. I guess God figured I’d been sitting still long enough….
So last year I briefly posted her image here, and with the exception of one, everyone thought she was Sienna. I found that rather profound, to be honest. I thought this myself when I first saw her, and of course it naturally caused me to take a longer look. It was an experiment, I suppose, to put up her image. How would people react to this orphan that seemed to be reaching straight into my heart the instant I saw her? Some will say this coincidence….but to me, it is more than that. I don’t spend time whiling away the hours looking for orphans that look like Sienna to adopt. I don’t spend ANY time looking over orphans. I "did my part" in 2011, one of my most difficult but proudest achievements, and had moved on. I can tell you, that Lorene had by and large done the same, and although she has kept in better contact with the people at Reeces Rainbow and has watched more children go through the system, she, like me, was not seeking to expand our family. And then Rebecca’s file hit our desk. From somewhere out of the blue.
For two months Lorene and I prayed and agonized and analyzed the possibility that God was again asking us to adopt. All the while knowing that Rebecca was now in an adult mental institution in unknown conditions - an 11 year old girl in a country and culture that looks at Down syndrome as a disease best hidden away. While we struggled over this decision, she waits. We prayed that someone else would step up. We proffered our funds to the cause. And nothing changed. There she waits 1000’s of miles away. Here we sat, trying to slip back into our comfortable routines and trying to come up with reasons why would shouldn’t, why we couldn’t adopt. We sought council and heard many opinions about how it would positively or negatively impact our lives, impact our children, the short term and long term futures. While many points against adopting her were fair, none of them ever stood up to walking away from a child who we felt was uniquely calling out to us. Who with each passing day was becoming our daughter in our hearts. A profound and real transformation by the Holy Spirit.
So after 60 days of tears and arguments and discussions, we decided to step out in faith, afraid, and yet full of joy and with hearts full of hope and an amazing certainty that she is now our daughter.
We reached out and claimed her for Christ. And we would be humbled if you would join and help us on our journey.
- Thad and Lorene
“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” - A Psalm