As a continuation of how the stories began, there is a parallel story that was happening as well. God began working miracles in many different ways when those two orphaned children were born.
On the very day that Micah was born, September 10, 2006, I can tell you exactly where my entire family, grandparents, local extended family, and many friends and even strangers were gathered. It was a day that was set up expressly for our daughter, Brianna. I've told the story of Brianna's birth before, how she was born seemingly typical and healthy but at 2 months old we discovered that she has Down syndrome and also had a heart defect that needed to have open heart surgery. At 5 months she had that repair done and also had a feeding tube placed. On September 10, our community gathered together to have a Poker Run to benefit our family and help pay for some of the thousands of dollars of medical costs that we were responsible for from these surgeries. I have t-shirts that say the date of the fundraiser, which is why I made the connection that it was in fact the day that Micah entered the world.
God's provision for our family has always been miraculous. There's no question there! When Mike and I were first married we bought a small 2 bedroom townhouse in the neighborhood I grew up in. We both worked full time and both attended UCF full time on scholarships. We worked constantly- Mike as a youth pastor and I worked in a daycare. We had to say "let's go out every other week on Friday" in order to make the time to spend together since school and work could be so consuming. We did it, though, we both graduated with our 4-year degrees and we kept up with bills and home life and we didn't incur any debt from this time. Often times our budget just wouldn't look like it would work out and yet we were never short when it was time to pay bills. We ate a lot of Ramen Noodles, spaghetti, and oatmeal, but we got through that time in our lives!
At 21 I graduated with my teaching degree, we owned a townhouse, we had two cars that we held the deeds for, and we were 2 months from welcoming our firstborn son. The Lord not only took care of our needs but He blessed our desires to be parents as well. Three months after Kristopher was born, Michael graduated with his degree in Human Resource Management and continued to work at the church in varying positions since he was well-equipped in many different areas. I began working at the church during college as an assistant children's pastor and later became the director working just part-time (as part-time goes in ministry...) running a ministry for 5th and 6th graders.
Two more years and we welcomed our little daughter, Brianna. She and Kristopher are just 22 months apart. When Brianna was 19 months old we began considering having another child- and the thought of adoption reappeared in our minds. Mike had just started a Master's program for a degree in Organizational Leadership from PBA, I was teaching homeschool classes and tutoring in the home along with caring for a friend's infant while she taught school. My position at the church had been dissolved to hire a full time pastor replacing several positions the weekend before Brianna's heart surgery and income had been a struggle but always worked out. But maybe, just maybe, we should adopt instead of having another biological child this time.
God made our calling clear when he brought us to Reece's Rainbow and we saw the conditions the children were living- and dying- in. Mike had the opportunity to travel to Kenya when I was pregnant with Brianna and remembering that trip made up his mind that an international adoption was what it would be. But... what about the finances??
Thankfully the Poker Run had paid off all of our medical bills for Brianna's surgeries and we were again debt free. We'd bought a mini van instead of my small compact car and later replaced Mike's car in the past several years but both were again paid off. We had moved houses and bought a small 3 bedroom house when Kristopher was a baby and lived there for 3 years. It was now on the market in a failing market and we had moved into the home we hoped to buy- the house I grew up in. Finances were as tight as ever with a family of 4, now a larger house to care for and, though it was a huge blessing as far as therapy for Brianna, we now had a pool to keep up with as well. Mike had no scholarships for college aside from a blessing from family to pay a portion and we made large payments each semester for his classes and books. He commuted to school an hour away with sky rocketing gas prices and tolls along the way.
But we knew we were to do this.
We had some money in savings because we'd been very careful with our limited finances. We didn't go out to eat, we didn't go to movies, we didn't go on big vacations, we didn't have cable, we bought the essentials, tithed to the church, and put money aside whenever possible. We took the 'little' that we were given and were careful to use it in ways that honored God.
I realize this post has taken a financial turn... but sometimes it's in those dollar signs that we see just how 'impossible' the things that God does are :) We committed to adopt, we pinched our pennies even more and began moving any extra money into a separate bank account each month however we were able. I made crafts to sell as a fundraiser and through RR FSP people began coming out of the woodwork and chipping in $10, 20, 50, 100, and even 1000 toward our adoption.
We took money from savings to pay for our homestudy and INS fees. Our FSP through RR raised enough money to pay for our airfare to Ukraine. Our family jumped on board with us and one family member set up a benefit garage sale. That raised $2500. Another family member made a large donation to our fund. We planned on a large loan and before going to the bank to set it up we were offered the loan from someone else. Three years to pay it back and no interest.
Finally the day came when we were to travel to Ukraine to adopt the child we'd been waiting for. Sasha would be coming home along with a 4 yr old boy who we would name Dylan. Their bedrooms were ready with a baby doll on one bed and a dinosaur on another. The kids were excited about their new siblings! Clothes were in bins at the foot of each bed, jackets and shoes were packed in our luggage. We were off for the journey of a lifetime.
I've written about this next part of the journey in several places and won't go through it all again... but God changed our journey. He had worked miracles to get us to Ukraine as quickly as we got there. Now we were there and our child was unavailable. But God worked this out in His miracle in that as well. He had planned it out in His perfect will. He had planned another child for us. He had planned TWO. He knew we were hesitant about taking on a child with more 'severe' special needs- afraid of getting there and finding the child was no longer alive.
But God stretched us. He orchestrated our lives to get us to where He wanted us to be. He brought us to our knees in total surrender to Him. He broke our hearts for the children. He brought us to deep prayer. He got us where He needed us to be for His will, His miracles, His love, and His strength to be what showed. He brought us to a place where there could be NO QUESTION that HE was the one calling the shots. No man that could claim the power. No person that could have made it work out. No way to put the wonder and power and grace of everything that happened into any other hands than the Power of a great God!
We waited a week in Kiev, were told there were no other children, then the last minute Micah was available. We had our court for Emma and Micah to be OURS on the day before Emma's 5th birthday. God is the REDEEMER, His GRACE, His POWER brought these two miracles into our lives. He brought them from death into life. It wasn't by Mike's and my hand that Emma and Micah came home. There's no way! We couldn't orchestrate our appointment with the SDA, find Micah's file, get Emma's referral, time it so she was still at the orphanage within the risk time of her transfer, and then to top off the entire miracle with officiating the adoption on the very last day before our little girl hit that "magic number" where she normally would have been sent to an institution.
GOD brings the children out of Darkness and into the Light. GOD has rescued many many children- through the use of his willing servants- and brought them from certain death to abundant life. GOD sent His Son Jesus to do the same for me!!
He brought me from darkness to light. He brought me out of a life of sin where I ran my life the way I wanted to and into a life where I understood His forgiveness and accepted it as my own. I believed that Jesus died on the cross for ME not just with a knowledge in my head but with a knowedge in my heart and a belief that I would then build my life upon. He rescued me- through the use of his willing servants- and brought me from certain death to abundant life.
He is the Father, the adoptive father of His children that are called by His name- Christians. He has adopted us into His family if we have accepted the gift of salvation through forgiveness. He sacrificed so much for me to be His daughter. For you to be His son. He didn't give up when he fought for me and I wasn't "available". He didn't turn his back on me when I was so far from where He thought I should be. He wasn't afraid to commit to me even though I wasn't 'perfect'. He fought, He was broken, and He gave everything for ME. For YOU.
That's the next part of our story... How about you? Did you ask God what His will is for you to care for the orphans? Are you writing the next part of your story today? Have you accepted His forgiveness so that you can follow in His perfect will for your life and surrendered to His plans for you? Have you taken the first step of obedience in the will that He has for you with orphans?
Yep, I'm full of questions today :) Ones that are always on my mnd. Most of you I don't know. A majority I've never talked with. And almost all of you I'll probably never meet. But that doesn't make you, your life, your 'forever' any less important to me. By God's own word we are all neighbors. And we're called not only to care for the orphans, but to care for our neighbors as we do ourselves. I hope this Easter weekend brings you abundant blessings and that you will see the Hand of God in your life in a more powerful way through the power of His Resurrection.
(Oh, and did I mention that when we were in Ukraine a total of $10,000 came in from various sources- none of it asked for- and God paid off our adoption loan within 3 months of our arrival home? And that next big expense which we hadn't planned for- open heart surgery a second time- has been covered by the money that we'd planned on paying into our adoption loan? And that today, with our 4 children, 3 with special needs, our home, our vehicles including a larger van to hold the necessary equipment (wheelchair, large stroller), Mike's continuing Master's classes, and the economy going ever downward... God has sold our other home (no profit, but no loss), He has provided for all our needs, and He has again blessed us with the coming of a child.)