Sunday, June 16, 2019 -
Adopting three older children at one time was the most difficult thing Kathie and I have ever done. And these new members of our family, who we chose specifically, did not even speak our language. They carried the baggage of the streets of Nicaragua, the orphanage, and their past, including rejection after rejection.
The two oldest, Rebekah and Anthony, had been given away or sold a total of six times prior to our arrival in their lives. Before we ever met any of the three, Kathie and I sat in the office of the social worker of the family in Managua as we heard the stories of our three new family members for the first time. Jonathan, the youngest of the three, was found in a garbage dump by an apparent garbage picker, and brought “home.” He was a newborn. The woman died nine months later, and the alcoholic husband merely left the baby there to cry for hours, until neighbors found the infant laying in his own excrement, crying and hungry. They turned him over to the office of the family, and he was placed in an orphanage in Managua, where the attending doctor decided to operate on his eyes for what he thought was child congenital glaucoma. He subsequently dropped a scalpel in Jonathan’s eye and blinded him. Following the inoculation of that eye at the University of Virginia, the doctors told us he merely had had a vitamin A deficiency, and the operation had been unnecessary! A ten-cent pill would have solved his problem.
Rebekah and Anthony, we were told, were the natural children of a prostitute who actually took the young children with her as she earned her sordid living, leaving them outside the doorways of the shacks and homes she frequented. They ended up in the orphanage after their mother sold them to child pornographers from California, who had taken them to a hotel in preparation to fly them to the United States.
However, their birth mother’s mother got wind of what was going on and contacted the authorities, and the Office of the Family raided the hotel room, took the children into custody, and put them in the state orphanage where Jonathan was. We were told of the couples that had come to Nicaragua to adopt them, and ultimately rejected them. One or more were only willing to adopt Anthony (who at the time was named Ramón), but not Rebekah (Patricia at the time), and they wanted to keep them together. By the time the social worker finished with the sad tale of the life of these three children, tears were streaming down both of our faces.
As part of the adoption process, we had to remain in Nicaragua for a month while our new children lived with us. It was a grueling time. Our authority in the lives of these children was sorely tested by them, and they reacted to any semblance of authority with defiance – particularly the older two. The youngest, Jonathan, clung to Rebekah and looked to her as his authority. Anthony also obeyed and minded Rebekah, but not us. Victoria, who had been so excited for months about getting a sister, was completely rejected by Rebekah, which hurt her deeply still to this day. Anthony in particular was the most defiant, at one point holding a sharp knife to Kathie’s throat. It’s good Kathie grew up with boys!
What was amazing, though, is that although Kathie and I felt on some days the adoption would never work, and we wanted to take them back to the orphanage, it was never on the same day as the other. And so, we consistently talked each other out of it. For how would they handle rejection once again? And we’d been told we were the two oldest’s last hope, for if we didn’t adopt them, they’d be put out on the streets to fend for themselves. Visiting the orphanage where they spent all those years also made us think twice of rejecting them, for it was a horrible place – absolutely filthy. The babies and toddlers were placed in giant “lazy Susans” with an orphanage worker sitting in the middle. She would give one bite of food to a child, and twirl it to the next one of a dozen or so little ones, to plop the spoon into a different mouth. They were eating what looked like watery broth with a little of something in it – perhaps vegetables. When we took the three of them to a restaurant for the first time, they did not know how to use a knife and fork.
Jonathan had been taking steroids for years, we found out, to combat the pain in his eye, so he was as mean as the devil. He was four years old in size 18-month clothing. He would hide in the darkest parts of the house and closets because the light caused him excruciating pain. The day his bandage came off his eye after it had been removed, he was reluctant to go outside into the sunshine for fear of the excruciating pain. When he finally removed his hand from over his one eye, he looked at me and said, “It no hurt, Daddy, it no hurt! Praise Jesus, it no hurt!” He wiggled down and started running around and around the Suburban saying, “Hallelujah, Jesus, it no hurt” over and over again. Kathie said the doctor told her to keep him still, but she couldn’t stop this praise service! Both of us were crying again, but this time tears of joy!
Anthony, we found out after years of struggling in school, was a fetal alcohol syndrome child.
So today, when the three of them sent me a Father’s Day greeting, I was thrilled! Anthony especially sent me a very moving message. I am very proud of all six of my children.
The first three, William, Victoria, and Josiah were all adopted as infants. But their stories, too, were very sad. William’s birth mother could not produce milk, and so by the time he was a month old, he had nearly died from starvation. His weight had dropped to about three pounds when she decided she could no longer care for or keep him. He had to be force fed after being brought to our attorney for adoption, because he could not drink from a bottle. Today, he and our son Josiah run the business I began 40 years ago. I do not know what I’d do without them! That same birthmother had seen the photos of William the year he had been with us, and when Victoria was born, she immediately brought her to our lawyer and specifically asked that she contact the young couple who adopted the little boy and see if they would also adopt this baby.
Josiah had been born into a very abusive situation, and came at 5 months old with scars all over his back from his birthfather extinguishing cigarettes there.
But today, they are well-adjusted, happy, and productive adults, all having accepted the Lord. Victoria got her master’s degree and is now a stay-at-home mom of our only granddaughter. Rebekah works as a CNA and is going to school, living in Slidell, Louisiana and working in New Orleans. Anthony is married with our only grandson, a sergeant in the Army, stationed in El Paso, Texas. Jonathan works for Fed-Ex. We are praying the Lord will reign supreme in each of their lives.
I was privileged to have Josiah and William visit today, along with Kathie, and Victoria and her family are coming tomorrow.
When I began writing this earlier today, I hadn’t even thought about it being Father’s Day. I was merely thinking about them as I read Ephesians 1, where Paul said, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love. He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…” and so, “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose, who works all things out after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11).
We chose William, Victoria, Josiah, Rebekah, Anthony, and Jonathan to become our children and our heirs. Initially, at least on the part of the latter three, they rejected that decision we made. But that eventually changed where now we are accepted as their only parents, and there is a mutual love and respect and honor.
The turning point was when they gave their lives to Christ. Rebekah and Anthony at one point got to go back to Nicaragua and visit with their grandmother and some of their other relatives, who lived in shacks with garbage bags stretched between sticks as walls, and no floors but dirt. That day was also a huge turning point in the realization that God had truly blessed and rescued them. We pray now fervently that God would use all six to become very useful clay in the Master Potter’s hands.