“Those children are yours.” I stood, somewhat frozen, with terrified assurance that it was God speaking to me. I had hiked nearly an hour up a steep jungle hill to reach the clearing where two little children and their dilapidated mud hut stood. They weren’t exactly waiting for me; they had no other place to go. I was there for their intake interview for a sponsorship program, but now the word adoption was looming over me, pressing down heavy with persistence and discomfort.
You see, we had already adopted–twice before–and we were done. Complete, happy, and satisfied being a family of five. Yet here I was, wrecked by both compassion and injustice at how desperate their lives seemed. I saw their yellow eyes, white scalps, and bony arms. I saw his feet, peeling and red from the rats that chewed on them at night. How they divided up the energy bar I gave them and ran away like little squirrels, to gobble it down privately. They had not eaten at all in more than a day. And they were beautiful. So beautiful.
For more than two months, I didn’t tell my husband what the Lord had spoken to me. I was afraid he wouldn’t agree to it, and afraid I wouldn’t be very convincing, since I wasn’t so sure myself. But I knew it was God and I was more afraid of disappointing him and afraid of the regret I would later feel. So I told my husband and he instantly dissolved into tears; a solid yes.
That was the first scary step on an unbelievably long and difficult journey of radical faith, hope, and obedience.
In most ways, we are a pretty ordinary family. We work hard but more or less live paycheck to paycheck. We don’t have a big house, a big bank account, or plans to change the world. But adoption changed us. God used it to grow our faith, but more than anything, he used it to teach us obedience.
I said our journey was one of radical faith, hope, and obedience, but what made it all radical wasn’t that we ever possessed enormous faith or irrepressible hope. What’s radical was that we had to consistently choose to obey God’s leading in the face of obstacles that would seem to indicate we shouldn’t go forward:
- Like well-meaning advice from friends and family that we shouldn’t take on such an enormous ‘burden’
- Not having any funds to adopt two children or add space to our too-small home
- Not having an agency willing to work with us because adopting from this country was unprecedented in our state
- Finding out the orphanage changed their minds about allowing the children to be adopted
It would have been an easy way out for us if God did not continue to speak. But he did. He spoke to us in countless dreams and through prophetic words and visions. He spoke words of wisdom and direction to us through our other children. He comforted us with hope through many long months of hearing absolutely nothing about our adoption process. And then it happened. Out of nowhere, we got the green light.
And four and a half years after meeting our son and daughter in that jungle clearing, we were there in Uganda ready to complete their adoption. You would think that it would be smooth sailing from there, but it wasn’t. We got caught in a tangled web of red tape that kept us there twice as long as we had hoped for. The children were aloof and sullen, not seeming terribly happy or excited about their adoption. Anxiety and panic attacks overwhelmed me daily, and I was incredibly homesick. I was getting cold feet. Delay after delay. We even had to go home without the children and book a return trip two weeks later. And throughout this entire time, God was silent.
And that’s where the rubber meets the road.
Way back in Moses’ day, God made a covenant with the people of Israel, and as part of that covenant, he reminded them what he had said and done in the past. (Ex. 19:3-6) He told them to remember first, then obey.
Remembering is absolutely key to remaining obedient, faithful, and hopeful through the challenging times, particularly when God seems to be silent. In our case, he could not have been more clear up front what he wanted from us, giving us numerous confirmations and encouragements in the early stages of our journey. But on the verge on receiving the promise, at the critical moment when your doubts are most fierce, that’s when true obedience must emerge.
And we did–we obeyed. Step by painful step, we followed the path God had outlined for us. He didn’t remain silent for long, but he also didn’t speak as often or as clearly as he had before.
We remembered. We obeyed. And through it all, our faith grew. Our trust grew. And our once-ambiguous, intangible hope now seems easier to grasp, both in the joyful times and in the hard times.
Our children are adjusting well and are happy, on the road to finding out who they are. Just like the rest of us. God is faithful.