Thursday, May 5, 2016

Guest Blog: Faith Is a Muscle - Part II

We are so excited and honored to welcome the Evans family back to our blog for Part II of their powerful fostering and adoption story, "Faith Is a Muscle" (read Part I if you haven't already!). This Mother's Day, we are not just celebrating moms or moms-to-be (although obviously moms are awesome!) but all families, everywhere, that come in every shape and size. We are so moved by the Evans' story, and want to thank them from the bottom of our hearts for sharing it with us.

The following summer, God began to remind Sara and myself of the adoption calling He had placed in us long ago. As painful as it sounded to re-enter this arena, we knew God had confirmed it again to us through His word. My wife was given “Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.” (Isaiah 43:5 ESV) This time, we were led to inquire about adopting from China!

"International adoption... that's insane, Lord!?!? Do you have any idea how much that will cost?!?" These were my most holy of prayers at the beginning. I had never traveled outside of the United States, we had no passports, no significant savings or assets to sell. 

But something an old pastor said kept ringing in my ears, "God doesn't call the equipped, but He equips the called." All of that faith-stretching we had been through with our lives and foster care increased our faith just enough to say, "Yes, Lord. Your will, not ours," so we could start this adventure.

My wife inquired with Chinese Children Adoption International (CCAI) about the "Waiting Child Program." These are kids that have special needs. Many need surgeries, therapies, long-term care. They are typically considered outcasts. Most of them have been abandoned and left at the orphanage; but this gives them a chance to be adopted. 

They directed us to fill out a medical checklist of conditions and issues we would be willing to accept in a new child. That may sound like a simple task, but I can assure you that a third of the list was unpronounceable to me, and we spent what seemed like a month googling some of the terms to decide if we could manage to care for a little one with these issues. We finally turned it in along with some basic family information.

In the fall of 2014, we received an email from CCAI with a potential child match. His name was Guo Hao Tian, 18 months old, diagnosed with poor brain development and delayed development and an abnormal CT scan. Then we opened the picture file:

They gave us two or three days to decide whether to move forward. We sent his medical file to our pediatrician and asked him to tell us what he thought we would be facing, medically-speaking. We enlisted a few faithful friends to pray for us and with us. If we said, "Yes," we would have to start an official application and send it in with the first program fee. The fee was more money than we had in checking and savings combined. If this was of the Lord, He would have to provide. 

Ultimately, we decided to proceed. In the following couple of weeks, we prayerfully completed our application. 

Then I received an unexpected email from work. The CFO explained that under the terms of my employment agreement, I was supposed to get a raise after the first 90 days, which had never happened, and I had been completely unaware. They decided to pay me everything in one lump sum on my next paycheck. It was enough to cover the first program fee! Praise God!

We were convinced and determined to continue walking this path...God was going to see this through.

Along the way, so many people (family, friends, and even strangers) came alongside us in this journey. Several of them banded together to pull off the most incredible art auction / coffeehouse-style fundraiser, which drew the attention and support of the vast majority of our church body. 

There have been numerous uncertain moments with paperwork, qualifications, timing of funds coming through, but God has stretched our faith at every turn. He has shown His faithfulness.

We finally made it to China and back last month...with our new son! 

There are many more stories to be shared from our adventures there, but the fact is, God is finishing what He started. We are humbled to be used.

We named our son Isaiah.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Guest Blog: Faith Is a Muscle - Part I

As we've mentioned previously, we love hearing personal stories from the Scarlet Threads community. Today we're very excited to share Part I of a guest post from Paul Evans and the Evans family, "Faith Is a Muscle," in which they share their fostering and adoption stories with us. With Mother's Day coming up, we're not only celebrating mothers (moms rock!), but all families, everywhere, that come in every shape and size. Check back next week for Part II of the Evans' story!  
When a person lifts weights, the muscle is torn and broken down during the exercise. Then, during the rest that follows overnight, the body repairs these muscles and they grow in size and strength. This seems to be a fitting example of how our faith in God grows. The Lord offers us opportunities to exercise our faith. If we step out and trust Him, we find ourselves in circumstances that break us down... we end up on our knees more than ever, and God comes through. There are deep truths that can only be revealed when we are most vulnerable.

Adoption was elusive. My wife, Sara, and I felt the tug on our hearts pulling us in 16 years ago. Being a young married couple with one little girl, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we thought to ourselves, "This raising kids stuff isn't too bad." We knew there were countless babies & children that needed families, so why not us? We really had no clue what kind of faith journey this would be.

Private and international adoption seemed totally out of reach financially, so we turned our attention to the kids in our own 'Jerusalem,’ and thus began our dance with the Children Youth and Families Department of New Mexico. They required us to become licensed foster parents so that potentially adoptable children could be placed in our home. This was our first exposure to the training process, and it was eye-opening to learn what abandoned, abused, and neglected children do to cope. It's heart wrenching.

After completing the training, we came near the end of our home study process and discovered my wife was pregnant with our son! Our caseworker recommended we stop the process during pregnancy and revisit this after he was born. Well, life threw us a curve ball, and we decided to relocate to Colorado Springs. It would be nine more years before we would have our first foster care placement.

Since then, we persevered through foster care in two different states, having numerous little ones come and go in our family. We fostered infants, several toddlers, a couple of elementary aged kids, and even one pregnant teenager. Some were only with us for a day or two, some stayed for nearly a year with our family. 

These were truly some of the most grueling seasons of our lives—but these were also some of the largest growth periods of our faith.

One of the most wonderful and difficult earmarks of our foster experience was bonding with these precious children (sometimes instantly), and sending them back into a broken family situation with great uncertainty, knowing we may never see them again in this life. Without an opportunity to develop a relationship with the birth parents, it is impossible to expect any kind of relationship to continue with foster kids when they leave our home, but they will always be in our prayers. 

Our family moved to Nebraska in 2013, and our foster care days came to an end. At this point, we had four biological children, plenty of memories, and even a few scars. We decided not to become foster parents again, and we were quite busy and happy as a family of six. Little did we know that God had been growing our faith for a bigger reason: adopting.

Check back next Thursday, May 5th, for Part II of the Evans family's adoption story!