On the Edge of Adoption: Reflections on a Long Journey of Grace

The clock strikes 12:03am on Monday morning, June 13, as I begin writing. We have been waiting, working, praying, and preparing for this week for several years. In five short days we will bow our heads and unite our hearts together for the last time in our Kentucky home as we ask for the good hand of God to guide us halfway around the world to the country of Rwanda and to our three waiting children. And within one week, if our kind Lord wills, we will set foot on Rwandan soil, meet our in-country legal helpers who have served us relentlessly during this process, and drive through the streets of Kigali until we reach Home of Hope.

This adoption has been quite different than our first. From December 2005 through July 2007 we were engulfed by a familial army of fellow believers at our church and our Christian college who prayed, supported, encouraged, and felt with us the whole way through. Our agonies were theirs, and our joys were shared. We received hundreds of pictures and videos of our newborn son from his third month of life until we first held him in our arms at sixteen months. I shared the entire journey on this blog as the rollercoaster twisted and turned, and Judah was finally strollered into the Bradley Terminal at LAX on July 13, 2007. He was our first child, and has made our life a perpetual sunrise.

Our Rwandan journey began in the early months of 2009 as the seeds of adoption which had been planted in our hearts so many years before met their springtime of providence and began to bloom once again. This time it would be two children, as we were already parents and we knew deep in our souls that adoption would be a pulsing rhythm of our life together. Some precious students privately launched a donation campaign to help us as we transitioned from our college ministry, and when the Lord surprisingly guided us to take up another ministry opportunity on campus instead of leaving as planned, they continued raising money and turned their substantial collection into a donation for this second adoption. Rarely have I felt so humbled. In the days following their public presentation of this gift, Cindi and I reflected together on a fundamental lesson we had just learned: It is not that we have the heart for adoption and God provides the resources. Rather, God has both the heart for orphans and the resources to care for them, and He graciously gives us both. To God belong the storehouses, and we are only happy stewards dispensing His grace on His behalf, and in His name.

Yet this second journey would not be completed in California, surrounded by our closest friends and intimate church family who had walked with us so exquisitely as Judah came home. God was summoning us to follow His calling and to leave our twelve-year post at The Master’s College & Seminary for the final stage of our formal ministry preparation — the terminal degree in Biblical Studies at Southern Seminary on the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky. The adoption was put on pause as we began planning for this significant transition. We would need to find another job, join a new church, reevaluate our finances, cultivate new friendships, purchase an adoption-friendly home, and learn life and love and study and service on the other side of the country.

The last two years had already been an exhausting whirlwind (though sweetened by the swirling fragrances of unparalleled friendships and fruitful ministry). But just when it seemed that life might downshift for a brief season, God in His mercy employed His stretching designs and filled the past year with a multitude of opportunities. Into the already-consuming blend of life and work and ministry and study, our Father surprisingly sprinkled four academic projects which perfectly matched my gifts and desires, providentially functioned as extra part-time jobs, and slowly imploded my schedule.

Throughout the year Cindi faithfully researched legal issues, altered our paperwork, retraced numerous logistical steps, and eventually transferred our adoption approval to the state of Kentucky. Almost two years before, at our home study interview in California, our social worker had mysteriously asked us to confirm that we wanted two children and not three. Our application already stated two, so his question was curious to us. But in the providence of God, we looked at each other as we sat on the loveseat, and after a two-minute conversation, we surprised ourselves by deciding to update our paperwork to read two or three Rwandan children. We remembered so clearly how we had fallen in love with little Olga years before as we played with her during our weeks at the Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja, Uganda. As we neared the end of Judah’s process, we wanted to bring this little girl home, as well. But although she was eligible for adoption, we were closing in on the expiration dates for Judah’s paperwork, and the risk of compromising his process was too great. If we had ended our last process wanting two instead of one, wasn’t it likely that we might end this process wanting three instead of two? Olga was in our minds, and we knew just how many more Olga’s are out there.

By the time we had to answer the “how many” question for our new social worker in Louisville, we knew the answer: We had both turned thirty, life was too short, orphans were too precious, adoption was too expensive, and Judah needed brothers and sisters. We definitely wanted three children. If we were planning to adopt more kids in the future anyway, why not just bring home a bunch at once? Either we could grow our family normally over time (1-2-3-4) or we could shift without a clutch (1-4), look to God’s grace (!), and adjust to a family of six the nonconventional way. We were confident, and excited. But with this decision firmly behind us, we began facing up to the implications.

Judah’s adoption had tested our mettle in numerous ways. But this second journey would be different. Through the Lord’s provision of savings we had paid for Judah’s adoption outright, along with the help of a few friends who had sent us funds unsolicited. But this past year we found ourselves having candid living-room conversations about whether or not to continue this Rwandan journey that was so woven into our hearts. Even as recently as three months ago, we did the math again and stared down at the $15,000 that we didn’t have. Was it the path of wisdom and stewardship to pull back and give up? What started in California had surprisingly transitioned to Kentucky, and our new situation was quite different than before. Were house payments and tuition bills all we should try to muster over the next four years? Weren’t we doing everything we could with a full-time job, four part-time projects, and a wife skillfully and creatively working from home? We were passionate about this adoption, yet we didn’t want to be presumptuous.

But we know that God is a father, we thought. And we know He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. And we know that He sovereignly planned our move and providentially orchestrated the shift in our financial situation. And don’t we remember that the body of Christ is cheerfully generous, that these orphans are in dire need, that we bought this home precisely for them, and that while money doesn’t grow on trees, it does grow in the greenhouses of heaven?

We knew the answers to these questions, even though we couldn’t always see them. So we doubled down and went for it, believing that God would provide in ways we couldn’t even imagine yet. And He hasn’t failed us, because His name is too valuable, and His orphans are too precious.

Over the past three months, we have watched our little fundraising meter at Brothers ‘n Sisters rise slowly on the wings of our nightly prayers, boosted by the constant petitions of those who have interceded on behalf of these children. Our families, our family of faith, our friends old and new, and even complete strangers have humbled us to the ground with their (your) astoundingly sacrificial generosity. Once again, we sense that we are enveloped in the Father’s care even as we watch Him reach out His arms to enfold these three new little ones under the shadow of His wings.

Only two weeks ago we received our first pictures of the three children our Father has chosen for us to love (a four-year-old girl, four-year-old boy, and 3-year-old girl; we can’t share pictures or more details yet due to Rwandan law). The feelings this time around are simultaneously different and the same. The pre-bonding process (through pictures and personal information) has been incomparably shorter; the opportunity to care for three unpredictable pre-school children in East Africa for three weeks is daunting; and the transition at home will be an incredible journey in its own right as we move from one child to four, three of whom who do not speak English. In addition, I’m in the midst of doubling my responsibilities in my job and ministry while attempting to remain faithful to the calling to study God’s Word intensively during this season. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more uncertain about how life will look, feel, and unfold.

But if Abraham’s descendants really have multiplied like the stars, if the prophesied Messiah really has come, if God really has justified the guilty while remaining righteous, and if the new creation really has begun to blossom out of the empty tomb, then what have we to fear? No, it is no longer ours to fear. It is only ours to love, to love deeply, and to love madly.

Throughout this week I hope to share more reflections about this adoption and our upcoming travels. It’s been very under-the-radar for the past two and a half years, but now it’s go-time. Our hearts are full, the emotions run deep, and words were made for a time such as this. For all who have prayed and cared and given, you have our deepest appreciation, our heartfelt admiration, and our loving respect. We stand with you in the gospel, and we know that you stand with us, until all things are new.


6 thoughts on “On the Edge of Adoption: Reflections on a Long Journey of Grace

  1. I saw this link on a friends’s post…and am speechless as I ponder the kindness and provision of our Lord in your adoption. We too, are in the process of adopting our daughter, and it’s been an amazing yet very challenging journey. Thank you for so eloquently sharing your reflections. May God continue to bless your family!

  2. Gunner and Cindi, reading this post has brpught tears to my eyes. Your love and devotion to the Lord and the love you have for these precious children. I am amazed and blessed by this post. Please let us know when you get back with the children we would like to get something that will be needed .

  3. Dear friends, we are thrilled for you all and pray that everything falls into place for the growth of your family. We hope very soon to see pictures of Judah with his new siblings! Thank you for sharing this.

    Blessings

  4. Gunner, it has been a blessing to read this. Your and Cini faithful devotion to the Lord during this time is so encouraging! The Lord has provided for you and your family. There is that song, “Grace Upon Grace”, where it says, “And all that you ask, your grace will provide.” I can’t wait until Aug when I can rejoice in person with you and your family, but for now from Tulsa I will praising the Lord!

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