Right about now, I wish I had been a “journaler” all these years. Thinking back over our story of adoption has been an amazing reminder of God’s faithfulness.
I had a heart for adoption years before Chad was open to it. With two young biological children and our oldest, Annalise, having significant special needs, I knew I needed to be patient. Then, in God’s perfect timing, Chad had the opportunity to travel with Watermark and ALARM to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the team discipled and encouraged leaders in Biblical conflict resolution. I was excited for Chad to have this experience and hoped God might use it to move his heart toward adoption.
After Chad returned from his trip and shared his experiences and love for the Congolese people, I asked if he thought we should adopt from there. As he tells the story, he was still thinking “no” but felt God telling him the answer was “yes.” With no agencies willing to work in Eastern Congo because of the dangers there, it took lots of time and correspondence to find our way. Then we heard from an American woman who had walked this path before and gave us the road map we needed to pursue adoption using an independent attorney.
Following a mission to South Sudan, Chad travelled to Goma, Congo, to meet our attorney and visit orphanages. But after meeting hundreds of orphans, Chad did not find clarity. Then our attorney took Chad to Peace Lives, a center for rescued child soldiers. Even though he was too young to have been a fighter, this is where we met Primo. While Chad was talking with the director of the center, Primo poked his little head through the curtained door and then darted away. His first appearance in our lives lasted no more than 10 to 15 seconds.
Chad came home from his trip worried, I expected him to know the answer to who our child would be. We took time to pray and consult with our community at home and trusted friends in Congo. God led us back to Primo.
Our journey of international adoption profoundly impacted our prayer life. There was so little in our control. As only God can orchestrate, we were able to procure every original document needed to prove Primo met the US & Congolese criteria for adoption. We were also blessed to receive written letters of support from Primo’s extended family (his parents were deceased). Everything was falling into place, and the waiting game began. Constant prayer and checking email filled my days. Finally, the day came for us to bring Primo home. Having no idea how long we would be gone from Annalise & Asher, we were grateful to have many friends and family share the need of their care.
The big day we’d dreamt of was all we hoped it would be. Primo seemed comfortable with us and was quite pleased to have a huge dinner that night! The next day we returned to Peace Lives for a ceremony and celebration—lots of singing and dancing and pastoral prayer.
When Chad signed Primo out of the Peace Lives registry book, it was a powerful moment. Even though most war-torn teenagers and pre-teens at Peace Lives knew it was unlikely they would ever be adopted, they rejoiced with Primo. At that moment, Chad and I felt strongly we had a responsibility for those we were leaving behind—the children smiling and celebrating with Primo.
When it came time to leave, we couldn’t find Primo anywhere—perhaps he was hiding, scared and not ready to go with us. Then we found him, sitting in the car, having told the driver, “Don’t worry, my Mom and Dad will be here soon.”
As a boy of only four years of age, Primo embraced the transition to life in the States; he was excited to be here and experience new things—we even took him to the State Fair just one month in! His English was coming along, and he enjoyed meeting all our family and friends.
Yet even as we settled into family life with Primo, we remembered our call to love and care for the kids at Peace Lives Center. Since Primo’s adoption, we have enlisted family and friends here to join us in partnering with Exile International and Peace Lives Center. Through this effort, the boys and girls at Peace Lives now have access to a better education, including vocational training in carpentry, furniture building, masonry, and sewing. Some are even preparing for university! And we’ve been able to help improve conditions at the Center as well—a wall for greater security; a safe, reliable water catchment system; and better access to healthy food. Inviting our friends and family in Dallas to love, care for, and support the community in Goma has been extremely rewarding and an unexpected ministry for us that stemmed from Primo’s adoption.
Any time we talk about adoption, we share how God uses the family model to illustrate His plan to graft us into His eternal family. God’s Word is clear: caring for orphans and widows is woven into who we are as Christians (James 1:27). For our family that meant adopting Primo from Congo and building a better future for those at Peace Lives. For others it might be foster care, adoption, or helping a biological parent address their needs to be restored. And for others it might take the form of prayerfully and financially supporting people and institutions who care for orphans at home or abroad.
Primo has changed our family, our lives, and our hearts forever. As we responded to God’s heart as a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5-6) to care for one orphan, He connected us to many. Primo has blessed us many times more than we have blessed him. We can’t imagine our family without him, and we are so thankful God allowed us to be part of His plan.