Our family in 2003, right after we adopted Kolya.
From left to right in back: Erica (12), Anne (18), Jill, Mark, Evan (16). From left to right in front: Austin (7), Kolya (9) (ages at time of our adoption).
Our Adoption Story
Over the years, Mark and I have talked on occasion about becoming foster parents. As the parents of four biological children ranging in ages 6-18, we’ve enjoyed parenting and have a heart for raising children according to God’s truths. On occasion we wondered what it might be like to extend that passion beyond our biological family, however we had never considered adoption as a way of doing that.
At the end of January 2003, I went to speak at a moms group. In addition to my keynote message, there were also 4 workshops being offered for the moms to attend. I first thought I’d sit in on the adoption workshop and then I reconsidered and decided that I didn’t want to open that door. I chose instead to attend the workshop on parenting teenagers.
After the group disbanded for the morning, I began packing away my resources. A friend, Cathy, who had attended the adoption workshop walked up to me and said, “Jill, you are pretty networked. Do you know any family who might be interested in adopting an 8-year-old little boy from Russia whose best friend was adopted by a family here in Bloomington just 18 months ago?” I glanced down at the picture and caught my breath. This little guy looked just like my boys. He looked like he belonged in our family. It was as if God gently whispered, “Oh Jill, let me introduce you to your new son!” I became emotional and quickly told my friend to please put the picture away. She asked about my response and I told her that I couldn’t explain it but that I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. She told me that if I was that moved by it, maybe I ought to put it in my Bible and pray about it. I teasingly told her that I thought she should just go home.
Cathy tucked the picture away amidst my resources. I found it again later in the afternoon. When Mark came home unexpectedly early, I shared with him my experience earlier in the day. He, too, was moved when he saw the picture. We talked about the possibilities of our family being the right family, but decided we needed to pray about it before we talked anymore. We prayed together right then.
After just a day, both of us were still very drawn to making Kolya a part of our family. We decided to discuss the possibility with our children. Unsure of the response we would get, we were thrilled when all four of them responded very positively. You see up to this point God had even been preparing their hearts. Our oldest, Anne, had consistently communicated to us that she didn’t think our family was complete. She’d mentioned it once or twice a year for several years, but we had dismissed her comments with an assurance that we were done having children. Our youngest, Austin, had inherited bunk beds two months before this picture was placed in my hand. Each night when we tucked him in his new bed he would ask “Who’s going to sleep in that other bed?” We’d answer that no one was going to sleep in it regularly–it would be used when his cousins spent the night or when he had a friend overnight. He’d respond with “No, someone’s gotta sleep in that bed!” We went through this routine each night. When we shared with the kids about the possibility of having a new brother, Anne’s response was “I told you our family wasn’t complete!” And Austin said, “That’s who’s supposed to sleep in my bunkbed!” After this, we knew, without a doubt, that Kolya was to be a part of our family. We prayed together about this opportunity and continued praying over the next week. The unity and excitement continued to grow.
We decided to pursue making Kolya a part of our family and began the adoption process in February. In April, our home study was completed and we made our first trip to Russia. We completed the adoption with a second trip at the end of August bringing Kolya home on September 3. Kolya and his best friend, Nadia, were reunited on September 5.
Our biggest challenge was indeed the financial piece of the picture. In February, I had lunch with a friend sharing with her both the excitement and the fears I was experiencing. Financially, this just didn’t make sense for our family. Our oldest daughter was starting college in the fall and we had less than $500 in our savings account—not exactly a down payment on what would be a $34,000 adoption. My friend, Julie, listened to me fret and then she said, “Jill, our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Now He just needs to sell a few cows to make this happen.” Wow! What a perspective that was. Indeed, over the next nine months we witnessed the sale of those cows, one gift at a time!
Here are the God Stories:
*Our family pulled together and created a fundraising project that brought in over $2000.
*Our oldest daughter, Anne, created her own fundraiser she called “Cooking for Kolya” where she made an order form of freezer meals and sold them to her teachers at school. Word spread about her little business in no time. Soon she had made more than $1000.
*We received $5000 in donations from friends and family.
*We received a matching grant of $5000 from Lifesong for Orphans. God was selling more cows.
*We were awarded a $2000 grant from Show Hope. Thank you God!
*We received another $2000 from a family friend.
*I received an unexpected check from book sales for $2000. Go God!
*In the fall of 2003, I had an financing adoption printed in Crown Ministry’s Money Matters Magazine. Within a few days of the article’s printing, I received an email from a man in Alabama. He and his wife had read the article and found it very encouraging. They had also adopted just two years earlier. He shared about the adoption and then asked, “Have you and your husband completely paid for your adoption?” I was a little uncomfortable writing him back and saying that while God had provided in so many ways, indeed we still had $15,000 of expenses we were paying on. He asked for a phone call and we had a nice chat. He then indicated that he felt led to help us in some way. He would pray over the weekend and let us know. We didn’t hear from him for several weeks, but then came an envelope in the mail. In it was one check for $15,000 and a note that said, “Please tell your family that a bunch of old country folks in Alabama send Christ’s love.” Wow. God sold a whole herd of cows!
Indeed this has been a journey of faith for our family. It made no sense, but God’s ways are not our ways. He is our great Provider. We saw Him work in ways we never could have imagined. Our God is a mighty God!
Lutheran Social Services (Our adoption agency)