My wife, Melanie, and I have three biological children: Aidan (11), Gwendolyn (9), and Lincoln (2). Each one is a special blessing from God for our family. Aidan is our firstborn (aka guinea pig), an excellent student, a voracious reader, and about to go to middle school (eek!). Gwendolyn, you know, is our amazingly sweet and tough daughter who has a mitochondrial disease. Despite never speaking a word, she has taught us more about love and compassion than anyone we know. Lincoln, even in the throes of the “Twos”, is our injection of joy. He is also our living reminder to just trust God.
But Aidan was not our first child. Soon after we got married, Melanie and I sponsored Uwimana Emeline, an orphan from Rwanda through Compassion International. Her parents were killed in the genocide there. We sponsored her and prayed for her for over 12 years until she left the program. We even had the opportunity to send her a care package through some friends who went to Rwanda on a mission trip. We sent letters back and forth through the years. We don’t know what she is doing now, but we pray that God used our little bit of help to make a difference in her life.
In our family, the summer of 2009 is now “The Summer of Iliya.” At that point, with “only” Aidan and
Gwendolyn, we made ourselves available to adopt if we could find a birth mom interested in choosing our family for her child. We also decided to see if God would have us adopt internationally (even though we had no idea how we could complete the adoption with Gwendolyn). So, we joined up with New Horizons for Children, an Atlanta area orphan hosting ministry. They arrange for orphans from Russia, Latvia, and Ukraine (at that time) to spend 4-6 weeks with a host family in the US. Many of these children are eventually adopted here. We chose Iliya, a young boy about Aidan’s age, from Ukraine to spend 6 weeks with us. We were open to adoption. That was one tough, rewarding summer! Iliya had a hard time adjusting, and we had a hard time keeping him from just running into the road. He could be so happy and care-free, and then he could be very upset if he didn’t get his way. We read the Bible with him (he read in Ukrainian), prayed with him, held him when he rocked himself to sleep, and tried to show him what “family” is all about. By the end, he did not want to go back.
It was hard to let him go, but we knew that he was not God’s choice for our family. He got to come back with a family from Aidan’s school that Christmas. A third family tried to adopt him later. That fell through (long story), so we are not sure what is going on with him, either. Again, we trust that God will use the little we could do to make a difference. God used Iliya to change our hearts, though. We learned that any child we added to our family might have problems or concerns. We were ready to let God give us another biological child, even if s/he would be like Gwendolyn. He is the Author of Life and He is good.
After Uwimana left the Compaspassion, we decided to sponsor another child. We let Aidan have major input into our choice. We chose Ltalakwa Moses, from Kenya (also through Compassion). He is just a few days younger than Aidan which drew his interest. We are still getting to know him, but he seems to be a very happy boy.
We also have children out there we don’t even know. All through the year, Melanie prepares for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that sends shoe boxes of blessing to children all throughout the world. Each year we send four to seven boxes somewhere. They have gone to Ukraine, Bangladesh, India, South America, and more. Little blessings, but a big God to multiply them.
We have also had the privilege to serve in youth ministry, and we just finished spending three years on Wednesday nights with boys Aidan’s age helping them memorize Bible verses, pray in public, and enjoy church.
Why did I share this on a Bible blog? Because we believe the truth of God’s Word must be put into action. And we want to encourage you to do your part. If our family can reach dozens of children around the world in the name of Jesus, what could you do?
Religion that God accepts as pure and without fault is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help, and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. James 1:27