Often, we don’t take the time to write a lot about our personal lives in our newsletters/on facebook, not because we don’t want to share, but rather because we are passionate about the Ranch ministry and want to keep it front and center. We care deeply about the children, youth, and families who are impacted by our partnership with you in the Ranch ministry, and, well, we want to keep everyone’s focus on that…But, Pete and I often remind ourselves…there is absolutely no part of our life that is exempt from God’s will. He wants all of us and all of our minutes and activities to be for His glory. We figured we could resurrect this blog and use it for a little while to post updates on our family’s personal journey to our fourth child!
Almost 8 years ago now, we adopted Ava. That journey is something that is still near and dear to our hearts. If you want to make me happy, ask me about it! Ask me about a good friend crying on her way to work the day she knew Ava was being placed in our arms. Ask me about those first moments with our daughter. Ask me about the journey, the long months wondering when our child would join our family, the day we got the phone call and other friends came over with sparkling cider to toast Ava! We look at our precious daughter every day with thankfulness that we are her parents, even in the hard moments. That gratitude extends to our biological children as well…they are not more “ours” because we birthed them…all three of our daughters are “ours” only because God was gracious and gave them to us for a time to raise in our home and to love and to teach. But, 7 years ago…we were asking God for the specific gift of being able to adopt again. After our journey to Ava, both Pete and I became even more passionate about adoption. The image of the children in Ava’s orphanage is seared in my mind, and deep love for my daughter burns in my heart. We knew there was another child out there who needed a family, and that we could be that family.
We thought we would adopt our third, but God surprised us with the pregnancy and birth of Kylah! We call her our “move the Johnsons to Mexico” baby. Right after she was born, we heard about the Ranch, and quite honestly, if we had been in the middle of an adoption, we would not have said yes to the Ranch…we would not have wanted to give up our adoption process. Even so, when we moved to Mexico, it was with the understanding that we may have to surrender our desire to adopt again. We moved saying our hearts and home were open to a fourth child, but we honestly did not know it would be possible to adopt while living in Mexico.
Well, with God all things are possible! Last year, we started investigating a bit more, and God brought into our lives a social worker with experience in helping expats adopt. God provided, through her, a way to have a homestudy done, and we are now sitting on the edge of being able to pursue a hearts’ desire of ours…adopting and bringing home our fourth child!
An adoption is a different path than a pregnancy, we know that. But the end result is the same…another blessing, another life to celebrate, another child who will grow up and Lord willing, be a blessing to others and to this world. But the path…that is something that is hard to explain. It is challenging, hard, faith-building, patience-growing, and sometimes heart wrenching (so pretty much it could just be called parenting). We want to share with you all the ways God has worked in our lives, and all the ways He has provided for this adoption. We have seen God provide abundantly for the Ranch ministry. That is a separate thing…our adoption is quite apart from that, and since it is personal, we don’t want to use our newsletters or social media platforms as much to share with you. Hence, a few long notes here…those interested can click and read. Thanks for being interested!!! 😊
WE’RE PAPER PREGNANT!!!
Are you ready for more??
Our first question after deciding we really wanted to pursue an adoption again was “from where??”, and we almost gave up on adopting again during our search for the answer to this question. In every road-block we encountered, we returned to prayer, asking God if this was a NO, or just a prompt to look elsewhere. We first investigated adopting in Mexico, but for many, many reasons, this proved next to impossible for us. As US citizens we still would have had to use a US adoption agency, and they all discouraged us from pursuing this path. Most of the US agencies approved to work in Mexico have their programs on hold, for various reasons, which we understand, especially after working so closely with the social welfare system in Mexico. There is not a reliable way to verify that children in orphanages have been “relinquished” by their parents. A lot of parents here view the orphanages as temporary while they work to become more stable, etc. Also, the social workers here often do not have the time to put together files on children who would be available for “international” adoption. (Which our adoption would be even though we live in Mexico, because we would want our child to be a US citizen.) We spoke with other expats in Mexico who had tried to adopt, heard their stories, and felt God close this door completely. Our desire in this whole process is to also be faithful to the ministry God has given us for this season. As directors of the Ranch, we cannot pursue just any avenue for adoption because we need to be able to meet the needs of any child who joins our family here in La Paz, with the resources here, which, while many, are not the same as the resources in a big city elsewhere in Mexico or the US.
Our next step was adopting from US foster care, and again, God closed that door. We spent months calling various people, talking with social workers, and trying to understand what it might look like for us to pursue this avenue. Again, we were highly discouraged from pursuing this route by the one (and only one) agency who helps non-military expats adopt from US foster care.
Back to square one…honestly at this point, we almost gave up…it had been months and months of phone calls, prayer, wondering, hoping (but barely), and we really had to analyze what we thought was feasible. We don’t live a super “normal” life, we live in a place which would take some major adjustments for an older child, we don’t have special education classes readily available, it’s REALLY hot in the summer here with lots of bugs, etc. BUT…we work with some really amazing physical therapists who use our horses to help children with physical disabilities, we are friends with the director of a state of the art physical therapy center in La Paz, we live on the Ranch where there is so much room for a child to run and be free and outdoor therapy is a proven reality! We run activities for children, our friends here love children, Pete is a counselor, I’m an educator. We really felt we could (relatively) seamlessly work another child into our lives. And we felt we had some tools to help a child with some different special needs thrive and grow.
Pete’s sister and her husband adopted from China a little more than 2 years ago, and we both really bonded with our niece on our home assignment. So, they were the first ones we called…we asked if they thought it would be crazy to pursue the adoption of a child with special needs from China. We were so encouraged by their response and their joy, and after praying and knowing that they were praying for us, we decided to investigate more, talk with our social worker, and see what agencies might be willing to work with us!
Guess what…we found the most amazing agency, which also has some really amazing skills at helping us qualify for this adoption (it wasn’t immediately simple for us), and which has tons of experience working with expats. We felt prompted to move forward with CCAI…and, to tell you, in each step of this journey, we have been holding this adoption with open hands…asking God to close the door or slow us down if we are ever moving ahead of Him or outside of His plans. He has been so faithful. Pete and I have many, many moments of clear direction in this entire endeavor, and we are thankful for that.
So…there you are:
WE’RE ADOPTING FROM CHINA!
The whole process I’ve described took place over more than 6 months…that’s so much longer than with Ava…Pete one night said…let’s adopt. And the next week, I plopped papers in front of him to sign with our agency, we knew where we’d adopt from, and the date of our first homestudy interview! It’s not that we were more eager with her adoption; there were just fewer complications, and, quite honestly, we’re not as naïve this go around.
The very first thing we had to do this time was get a letter from Mexico of non-involvement, and let me tell you…it was NOT EASY. It involved multiple trips to the local social workers offices, multiple investigations of other people who have requested this letter, multiple copies of examples, passports, visas, etc. Finally, I even had to call a friend in Mexico City, ask her to talk to her friend, and that friend to get in touch with the boss of all the social workers in Mexico, and then ask her to call the La Paz lawyer for the social workers here to explain what we needed and why. Phew…it was a lot of work. But we got it this past September (after I made myself a nuisance in the offices here for more than 2 months!). And, in other good news, we made a lot of great connections through this whole process for the Ranch!
Second, we had to meet China’s qualifications, which we did, mostly, except for that pesky income requirement which China has…but guess what, remember way back when we tried to sell our house before moving to Mexico? We had no idea what God was doing and why our home didn’t sell…now, we are so thankful! Our adoption agency told us our rental income is considered income, even if it only covers our mortgage! And then, with our Master’s Degrees, China considered us as having “income potential.” Again, through this process, we just saw how God opened doors for us, and we are thankful.
When the way opened up after clarifying those two steps, it was amazing how God provided for getting our homestudy done!
You might be wondering why we haven’t been sharing this journey publicly from the beginning. Partly, it is from our desire to keep the Ranch front and center. Partly, it is because we are holding this adoption with open hands because we are not going to be doing the same amount of fundraising for this adoption like we did for Ava’s. We are passionate about this adoption, but also about the Ranch and the children, youth, and families who depend on our teamwork with all of you in fundraising. We don’t want to double up! And, honestly, we don’t have the energy to do so! Instead, we have done the hard work of applying for grants, and in each step, we wait until we have the grant money, and then we move forward to the next step in the adoption. At this moment, we are so thrilled to share with you that we did receive a hugely generous grant from a Christian foundation dedicated to helping families adopt. They paid ALL of our adoption agency fees! We have travel/orphanage fees left, and we have something like 8 grant applications sitting out there, each taking about 3 to 4 months to process. We only need about 2 more grants (calculating the average amount of grant awards). Pray with us about that, and we will be letting you know as we continue to rejoice in how God will provide! (I have another story waiting in the wings here, just wanted to post this eternally long entry first!)
The best part! We have a 5 year old son waiting for us in China! China has a large list of children available for adoption that they call the Shared List, meaning that multiple adoption agencies can pull files if they feel they have families that might be good fits for the children on the list. Typically, these children are on this list because they are older, are boys, or have more involved special needs. Our son’s file was prepared when he was about 18 months old, and he has been waiting for a family ever since. His file hadn’t been updated, but for whatever reason (we believe God moved us to ask) we picked his face out of hundreds on our adoption agency’s website, and asked to hear more. His old file was sent to us; we read it over, took notes, talked with my dad, and sent back an email…basically, we asked for an update and a video, if possible to show where this little boy was currently in his motor development. Our agency had asked for an update more than once, and not received one, but this time, because they said a family had his file, the orphanage responded. We received a video and a short update on our son. We had his file reviewed by a physician who specializes in reviewing files for international adoptions, and after our conversation with her, we felt an immediate peace about moving forward. We asked China if he could be our son, and we have received pre-approval.
We are currently about 3 or 4 months away from traveling to bring home our son, Rowan! Our paperwork is done; we are just waiting for it to be approved in China and for them to issue our final approval to bring our son home. Please pray for our papers to be moved quickly through the process. It would be ideal for us to travel at the end of August, factoring in various ministry events and season of life here. But again, we are trusting that God knows what needs to happen and when. We also want to go as soon as possible, obviously, because our son has spent quite a few years now in an orphanage. Every month is hard on children and their development when they are not in families. Pray that God protects Rowan and his heart and prepares us to welcome him into our family! We can’t wait to share that happy day with all of you! 😊