When we registered to attend the annual Adoption Conference at our church that October, we couldn't have even imagined the journey that it would set us on or how it would change our lives for eternity. What we did imagine was bringing home a little girl from El Salvador and raising her here as our own adoptive child. Oh, how God's planned differed from our original hope and desire.
I will never forget that day. I still remember it like it was yesterday. The first chapter of my book begins right in the middle of that Adoption Conference, over the lunch hour, where we sat with another couple and shared our stories of why we were there. We could hardly wait to get started with an adoption process, so confident over this call that God had put into our lives. They still agonized over the decision to adopt, hoping that God would miraculously grant them a biological child after all of their struggles with infertility. God set us both on a journey that day, though, one that neither one of us ever saw coming.
The following year, Mike and I found ourselves back at the next conference as volunteers, proudly showing off pictures of the two Colombian children that we were in the process of adopting. We were overjoyed at how God had brought them into our lives, and we couldn't wait until the following year where we could "show them off" in person. We sadly didn't make it to that conference, though, because we found ourselves grieving their loss, trying to understand how we could have been so misled, so misguided, so "off the mark". They weren't coming home to us. We felt so cheated, so lost, so abandoned by God. We felt like He let us down.......
Two years later, I thought I finally got it. Right around the time of the annual conference, I'd just finished writing our story, our journey to Julian. I understood that our journey was not an adoption journey, after all, but a journey to a child who could never come home to us. I saw that our purpose would live itself out away from home, rather than within the walls of our home. I look back over all that we learned and experienced, as well as over all the people we've had an opportunity to meet and minister to, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Yesterday, after missing the last three consecutive annual conferences because we felt like our purpose no longer connected with adoption, we jumped back into it as both volunteers and attendees. Adoption may still be in our near future, but because of the experiences we've had, our hearts are drawn more toward orphan care and advocacy than anything else. This particular conference seemed to have an equal focus on both adoption and orphan care. We attended two sessions in the morning called Orphan Care 101 and 201. The President of Lost Orphans International and the Vice President of Children's Hope Chest led the sessions (two very fun guys, by the way). Both sessions focused on the same thing--becoming family to those children that you may never get to bring home.
Here we were, five years after that first conference, with the amazing opportunity to share our story. Since that very first conference we attended, we've been eternally touched and changed by three beautiful Colombian orphans, two of whom now call me Mom. We traveled to Colombia and back twice, visited the orphanage they were raised in several times, became part of an amazing network of believers and missionaries in the capital city of Colombia, met so many people that we never would have had the opportunity to meet, wrote and published our story so we can continue to share it with others, got to tell the continuing story to the two men who determined that we were not mentally stable enough to be adoptive parents in the first place, and now we face a new possibility and hope that at least one, if not both, of the boys might actually come home to us someday.
Were we cheated? Did God let us down? Not at all. What we once thought was so completely "off the mark" couldn't have been any closer to the mark God meant for us to be on. He answered that simple prayer I prayed back in the summer of 2007. He enlarged our territory, gave us a huge sphere of influence, and continues to expand our borders, using us in ways we never could have imagined. I wrote to the President of Lost Orphans International when we got home to thank him for his presentation on something so close to my heart. He sent me this note back this morning.....
You guys are living out what I was hoping to get across to the groups. Thank you for being
faithful to God's calling into your life.
So, what about that couple that we sat with over the lunch hour at that very first conference we attended together five years ago? I actually found them at yesterday's conference. They led the session called Infertility and Adoption. They have an adopted daughter and they lead an Infertility support group at the church. She told me right before she left that though she was a mess back then, God used her struggles through infertility to not only lead them to their daughter, but to use it as a way for her to minister to others. She said, "I never saw that coming!" We never do, but God always does.