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The Ruhls’ Adoption Story: Part 2

• Dawn Ruhl

Posted in Family, Marriage, Parenting, Prayer, Pro-life, Service, Vision

By Dawn Ruhl

Continued from Part 1

A New Baby At Last

It was absolutely thrilling to have a baby in the house at last, but we knew that God was only just beginning the story of our family, and we were eager to see what else He had in store for us. We actually asked our social worker at one of our first post-placement visits, probably a mere four weeks home, what we needed to do with our paperwork in order to be able to adopt again as soon as God said "go." In that long waiting season, the Lord had done some major work in our hearts. As we waited, longing so desperately to bring a child into our family, we became increasingly more aware of the children all over the world who are desperately longing for families to call their own. It was almost painful to us that we were here with empty arms, waiting to be picked by a birth family, when there were so many children already born and waiting to be picked, too. So while we completely and totally knew that private, domestic, infant adoption was the right first step for our family, we also knew that the next step would be different.

Yes to God's Plan

All through that first delightful year of having our Esther home with us, we planned to pursue Ethiopian adoption next. However, just about the time that we were ready to move forward with that plan, we learned of a pretty major change being made to the Ethiopian adoption process. It was a big enough change that we began wondering if Ethiopian adoption was actually God’s plan for us. We prayed about it a lot, and we began investigating other countries and programs. We felt strongly that we wanted to add a child who would look like Esther, either by also being black or by simply also being obviously adopted. I spent hours poring over the US State Department’s website that gave detailed descriptions of the different adoption requirements and processes of every country in the world! There were so many reasons to cross places off our list: we weren’t old enough (a lot of countries have minimum age requirements for adoption), our net worth wasn’t great enough, we didn’t have enough money, the kids available weren’t "young enough" or "healthy enough" (for our standards, that is), there was no agency to work with, we didn’t have enough paid time off work for the lengthy in-country stays required. Ultimately, we just didn’t yet have faith for all that God could do once we surrendered ourselves to Him. By the end of our journey, every one of those obstacles was removed.

This became a season of learning how to discern God’s will for our family. Once again, the Lord was so gentle and gracious with us. There were certainly doors that He simply closed, and that was so helpful. But as we earnestly sought to put our hands to the specific work that God had for our family to do, we found that He began changing our hearts. This heart change came as we pursued what God says about Himself and His people and families and orphans in His Word. We became convicted that God wanted us to offer our "yes" to Him - however feeble it was - and that He wanted us to position ourselves to be ready to say yes to whatever He put in front of us, even if it was something that we weren’t necessarily planning for or seeking.

Brokenness and Redemption

The first thing we did in response to this conviction was to request approval to be matched with a child 0-7 years old, instead of 0-18 months old, and though that didn’t end up being a big enough age range in the end, it was one of our first steps of faith toward what God was calling us to do. We had begun to realize that we were letting fear of all those adoption horror stories stop us from simply asking God to give us the children He wanted us to have and the work He wanted us to do. The fact of the matter is that we saw with our own eyes how even our precious Esther-girl, placed in our arms at 12 days old, was going to eventually have to process brokenness and loss like we had never known, because those are what create the need for adoption in the first place; in a sinless world, there wouldn’t be broken families or unwanted babies or devastating poverty. Our eyes began to be opened to understand the incredible privilege we had already been given of participating in a redemption story (and every one of our stories is a redemption story, after all!), and all redemption stories start with brokenness, though the degree certainly varies. God began to show us that He was calling us to enter into the pain and brokenness of our children in order to partner with Him in the work of redemption.

An Open Door to Uganda

All through this time, we were still trying to figure out where we were supposed to adopt from. Our hearts felt strongly pulled to Africa, but there was no simple, straightforward adoption program in any African country at the time (there still isn’t, in fact). In 2010, when we were making these decisions, Uganda was the country most open to international adoption - but there were virtually no adoption agencies working there; most families at the time were adopting independently (meaning that they had no agency whose job it was to connect kids with families, to hire lawyers, or to make travel arrangements), and the thought of navigating an independent adoption from across the ocean seemed utterly impossible. But at the beginning of 2011, God orchestrated a handful of events that resulted in several closed doors in terms of where we should adopt from. Immediately after that, our paths crossed with a group of local families who had banded together to pursue independent adoption from Uganda. They had connections with lawyers and orphanages and guest houses. They had answers to our many questions. And they invited us to join them.

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