When you were a baby, you cried. A lot. We all did. For different reasons at different times. For most of us, it went something like this:
- You cried because you were hungry, and didn’t know what else to do about it. And mom came and picked you up, held you, and fed you.
- You cried because you were wet, and didn’t know what else to do about it. And mom/dad/grandma came and picked you up, and changed you, and held you.
- You cried because you were tired, and you didn’t know what else to do about it. And they came and picked you up and held you until you could go back to sleep.
- You cried because you were sick, angry, scared, hungry, wet, poopy, lonely, and sometimes even because you wanted to play.
And every time, someone came. You learned to depend on mom and dad, and your brain learned that when you needed someone, they would be there. You were not alone in this world. Over time, with care and nurturing your brain built on this foundation. You learned that even if they weren’t in the same room, they would still come when you needed them. That you could manage by yourself for a while. Later, you learned how to tell when they were happy, sad, upset, or when they were upset with you, and you got “The Look.” Your brain learned to process this information, and you watched them to learn how to interact with not just your family, but with friends, neighbors, strangers, and others. The ability to process these things would prove to be foundational to who you are as a person, and how you react to the world around you even today.
But what if.
What if, when you were a baby, you cried, and no one came?
When you were hungry, scared, wet, tired, angry…they didn’t pick you up, hold you, comfort you. If you weren’t surrounded by people who were ready to put their lives on hold to make sure that you knew you were safe, to help you learn and grow. Worse, what if bad things happened, either around you, or God forbid, to you?
Your brain would adapt. It’s incredible that way. You would survive, but you would be missing something. The parts of you that know how to interact with the world around you would not have developed correctly. You would not have learned to trust other people, or how to behave around them.
As you grew older, people would wonder what was wrong with you. Why you acted immature, even if you were otherwise smart. Why you got so angry. Why sometimes you seemed like an angel, and others a demon. Why you couldn’t behave in school, or understand why people got upset with you because they had to tell you not to do the same thing over and over again. You might not understand the concepts of privacy or personal space.
In your mind, it would be you against the world. You would take whatever you thought you needed, even though intellectually, you knew it was wrong. You might hoard food. And you wouldn’t know how to stop, because as a baby, your brain never learned how to make those first, ever-so-important connections. And so, the older you got, the more frustrated people would get with you. You would feel lost and alone, even if you were surrounded by people who loved you.
This may sound like one of those exceptional cases – like a movie on the Hallmark channel. However, the reality is, this is the story of adoption. Yes, there are kids who are adopted and everything is bright and sunny they live happily ever after, but for a large majority of adopted kids, the story above is reality, at least to some degree. And it is our story.
And our first mission field.
It’s only been in the past couple of decades that this reality has become understood. Before that, and often even today, there was a perception that children who are adopted into loving families will adjust well because they are being loved. That they will grow close to their forever family, and be eternally grateful for their new life. But adopted kids tend to come with a lot of baggage, and as parents it’s our job to carry it, sort through what’s inside it, and hopefully drop it off along the way.
We’ve always known that we would walk down this road with Chris, but maybe not how consuming it would be. Over the past year, as he has grown bigger and stronger and smarter – a lot smarter – his struggles have grown larger as well. We have had to balance between the incredibly intelligent kid, who skipped a grade and still gets mostly A’s, the normal ten year-old kid who loves to play soccer and ride his bike and read books, and the kid whose brain never physically learned to process things like trust, love, how to manage conflict and how to grow relationships beyond surface levels. This last part has been the most difficult, but God is good – no, God is GREAT, and we know that there is still hope and that with our help and a lot of patience, he can learn these things and move forward.
Our first mission field is our family, and we are learning how to manage all of this extra stuff and to balance work, play and rest in healthy ways. We’ve had to learn to say no to things that we normally would agree to, in order to meet the needs of our incredible son. We’ve had to rearrange schedules so that we can home school without either one of us going bonkers, and to find creative ways to still have date nights and still maintain our service in our various ministries.
Some of you may ask, “Wouldn’t it be better for you to come back to the States to deal with all of this?” The answer is no. We have prayed diligently, talked to experts literally all across the U.S., including our awesome social worker in St. Louis – only to find that one of the highly recommended experts in childhood trauma is located in Timisoara, Romania – a day trip from us – and that she was willing to help us at no cost. We have received affirmation after affirmation from God that we are right where he wants us to be, and that none of this has caught him by surprise.
So keep us in your prayers, and keep following along. God has awesome things planned for this ministry, and we want you to be a part of it!