Childless by choice. No "trying for years," no tear-filled months of disappointment, no hours spent with fertility specialists, no sensitivity when people asked when the kids were coming. As hard as it might be to understand, we did indeed make a choice to not have children. This is not something that most adoption agencies are prepared to hear on the initial call with prospective parents, yet that's exactly what our agency heard when we called in August of 2013. But I'm getting ahead of myself... let's go back to June 17, 2000.
On our wedding day, both Peter and I knew that neither of us felt a desire to have children. I've never been the maternal type, Peter's never longed for an heir to carry his name. It was for purely selfish reasons that we spent the first 12 years of marriage completing school, traveling the world, focusing on home improvement projects, and building our careers. It was a good life, and we enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I had often joked that if God wanted us to be parents, He was going to have to put a giant neon light in the sky. Be careful what you joke about...
After 3.5 years in missionary aviation, we began to feel that God was causing our discontent with the status quo to grow. Our time overseas taught us that the only thing that matters in this life is where people spend eternity. It demonstrated the power of personal relationships, and the deep seeded need of people to be seen and loved in the name of Jesus. We prayed, we talked, we pondered - how could we best impact the world for Christ? We came back to the States in December of 2008, got jobs, and then we got comfortable again, until November 4, 2012.
On that day, God pulled out His largest hammer and chisel and started cracking our selfish hearts. It was Orphan Sunday, and a couple in our small church who had adopted 3 siblings from Ethiopia shared their story with the church. It was short, it was simple, it wasn't even rehearsed (they'd forgotten they'd been asked to do it until they were announced as next on the program!), but it was exactly what we needed to hear. At the end, they offered to speak to anyone who might be interested in adoption.
As I sat in my seat, my heart started pounding. "No! Lord, this can NOT be what You're asking of me!" I tried to pay attention to the remainder of the service, but my mind could only focus on the small voice saying, "Yes. This is your calling." On the way to lunch, Peter and I talked about the service - everything but the mention of adoption. I still remember sitting at a traffic light in our town when this conversation happened:
C: "I do not want to say this... but do you think God might want us to adopt?"
P: "WHY would you say that?"
C: I shared what had happened during the service, and as I talked he looked more and more stunned. When I had finished...
P: "I don't know what to say."
C:"Tell me I'm crazy and we'll go on with our nice life!"
P: "I can't, [MASSIVE PAUSE] because I felt God telling me the same thing, but I didn't want to mention it because it's NUTS. It IS nuts, right?"
We decided there would be no harm in TALKING to the couple... it wasn't like we were signing up to bring kids home that day, so we let them know we would like to talk and they came over for tea during the Christmas season. They, of course, were ready to sign us up, but we assured them, "This probably will go no where... we're just going to pray about it."
And that's exactly what we did - for the next 8 months. Or as Peter likes to tell people, "We tried to lay down and hope the feeling passed." It didn't. Instead, it grew.
God began hammering harder and harder on both of us. Videos (like this one) and adoption stories started popping up in my news feed on Facebook. People I hadn't spoken with in years were suddenly calling me to talk about orphanage work. Kisses from Katie came out, and I found myself sobbing about half-way through the book, wondering if Katie could trust God enough to do this "alone," why couldn't I trust Him to do it with Peter? We talked and prayed, we both shared that IF this happened, we felt called to request all girls (because of our experiences overseas) and that God was placing the number "4" on our hearts. In all honesty, we were still waiting for God to say, "Okay, just kidding... I just wanted to make you panic a little!" But He didn't. And the neon lights grew.
In August of 2013, we knew it was time to take another step in GUT OBEDIENCE to God. At the time, we thought we might want to adopt from Peru (where Peter, a "missionary kid," had grown up), and when we did some research about U.S. agencies that worked there, there were only 3 that came up in our Google search. After reviewing the 3 options, Lifeline Children's Services in Alabama became our top choice. We filled out a form requesting more information, and waited for God to say, "Thanks! That's all I wanted. You're done now. The test is over." But He didn't.
The phone call came, and we found ourselves stumped on the very first question: "Why do you want to adopt?" Being exceedingly honest (and blunt) people, we figured it was best to get the truth out right away, so it's no surprise when there was silence from the Alabama end when we said, "We don't... but God's telling us to, so we're following Him."
Question #2 didn't get any better: "Okay... since you have no children I assume you're looking for an infant?" Now there was silence from the Tennessee end as we looked at each other and then said, "No. Actually, we don't have any desire for an infant. We think God wants us to take an older sibling group of 4 or more, and females."
Amazingly, they didn't say to us, "Thanks for your interest... don't call us, we'll call you." Instead, she listened to the rest of our story, and asked if we'd like to get more information on taking the next step. We responded with, "Not really... but send it!" Sometimes, walking in faith looks a little bit like being scared out of your mind.
They sent the paperwork, and we let it sit on the dining room table until November. That whole, "Lay down until the feeling passes" thing still wasn't working, and one November night we looked at each other and confessed that we were more afraid of continuing to say "No" to God, than we were of taking on a tribe of kids. One year from the time we first felt God leading us to adoption, we filled out the first 8 pages of what would end up being mountains and mountains of paperwork, wrote a check for $250, and mailed it to Alabama with a prayer.
Along with joking about needing a neon light to have children, I also used to kid around that 9 months wasn't nearly long enough for me to adjust to the idea of being a mom. I would laughingly say, "I really need the gestation period of an elephant to get used to THAT idea!" If you're not sure how long that is, it's 18-22 months.
Our Home Study began on January 1, 2014. It took 19 months to complete (the typical home study for an adoption takes 3-4 months), and was filled with frustration, learning, laughter, and growth. Many times during the process, I thought about how I always said I would need time to adjust - and I am grateful that God seems to have a sense of humor! It was during our home study that we felt God leading us to adopt from Costa Rica rather than our original choice of Peru. That change (mid-home study) caused a delay, but our decision to switch has been confirmed over and over again.
Also in the midst of the home study, we took on a large home renovation project (another reason the home study took so long), gutting the front half of our 2,000 sq. ft. home to remove the plaster walls, add insulation, and renovate the bedroom and bath of our future kids, adding a play loft over their bedroom in the process. In January of 2015 our home renovations were completed, and in July of 2015 our home study was finally finalized. It was time for the next step.
|Ready and waiting!
Throughout this process, God had been molding us more into His image. He had broken our selfish hearts and allowed us to realize that this was the story that He was writing for us. Although we didn't start out wanting to adopt, after 2 full years of working through the process, God has softened our hearts and given us a desire to minister for Him to a set of siblings. The change is a direct work of God... and we praise Him for that.
For the last 6 months, we worked through more paperwork, more fingerprints, even MORE fingerprints, immigration applications, notarizing EVERYTHING in triplicate, and assembling our Dossier for Costa Rica.
WHERE ARE WE NOW? I'm so glad you asked! We were informed that a few days before Christmas, our Dossier had been reviewed by the agency team in Alabama and had been approved and sent to Costa Rica to be translated, notarized (again), and then submitted to the National Children's Trust to be reviewed and (hopefully) approved for adoption. On January 27, 2016, our Dossier was officially placed in the hands of the Trust, and now we're waiting to see if they have more questions or if it's approved.
AND JUST WHEN WE GOT COMFORTABLE AGAIN: On January 28, 2016 we were approached by the agency with a possible match, for a sibling set of 5 - 4 sisters and 1 brother. It came out of left field for us, but we agreed to pray for a few days before we gave them our answer. Just like our experience in 2012, both Peter and I knew almost immediately that this is the path God wanted us to take, but we still spent time praying and talking about the changes this would require. We need to revise our small guest bedroom, we need to think about how we fit 7 in our vehicles, we need to think about how having a boy changes the dynamics. On January 30, 2016, we emailed our agency to let them know that God had made it clear that we were to take the next step. We are not officially matched with this sibling set yet, but we're trusting that if this is who God has for us, He will continue to open doors. If it's not, He will close the doors and we'll wait for Him to bring along the kids He has for us. HE is writing this story... we are along for the ride.
If you've made it this far - THANK YOU! If you want to know if there's a way you can help - KEEP READING.
Up until now, we have paid for all of the expenses for this adoption out of our own funds (approx. $35,000 so far - including fees, renovation, bunk beds, etc.). God has provided for us, above and beyond, and we believe He will continue to do so. HOWEVER, should this sibling group work out, we're looking at a lot of expenses in a very short amount of time:
- Final renovation expenses
- Travel to Costa Rica
- Time off of work (we have to be in country for 6 weeks)
- Housing and meals in Costa Rica (for 7 people for 6 weeks)
- Paperwork changes (we were approved for 4 kids, now we need to make changes to our home study and immigration forms if we want to take 5 - that's an additional cost)
- Passports and paperwork for the kids in country
- Travel home for 7 (we're hoping to utilize Delta's adoption rates)
- Remaining agency fees
ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Throughout this process, both Peter and I have really fought the idea of asking for funds. We both felt strongly that God had provided good jobs for us, that this was something He called us to do, and that we needed to be responsible for the cost. Last month we took a hard look at the numbers, and we realized it was time to humble ourselves. It's not easy. I hate telling people what we need. I hated it when we raised support as missionaries, and I hate it more now. But in looking at the possibility of bringing these (potentially) 5 children home within the next 6 months, we are faced with the reality of the expense, and God has been nudging us that it's time to be vulnerable, lose the pride, and allow other people in on this adventure, if they want to be involved.
So... we know God is writing this story, and if you'd like to be a part of it in a financial way, we'd be grateful. (You can donate at https://www.youcaring.com/KoensAdoption) If not - no worries. This is the story, these are the needs, and no matter what you choose, we covet your prayers for wisdom.
After almost 16 years of marriage we're going from "Koens, party of 2" to "Koens, party of 7!" and life will never been the same, and #iamthankful.
- Pray for us.
- Pray for our kids.
- And ask God what He might be calling YOUR family to do... if you think it might be adoption, we'd love to talk to you. :)
|Koens. Table for 7. It's time to gather.