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The Ruhls’ Adoption Story: Part 3

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

By Dawn Ruhl

Continued from parts 1 and 2 previously.

The rest of this story moves so much faster than the beginning, but now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I am clearly able to see God’s hand in the waiting. He held us in what felt like desert places, and while the growth that happened there was painful, it was so good. He taught me to trust Him there, when I couldn’t see the end of the story, and I made it to the other side. And once I was out of the desert, I was able to see how perfect His plan and timing were - and always are.

Out of Adoption Limbo

As soon as we agreed to join up with our friends adopting from Uganda, it was like the floodgates opened! We had been sitting in adoption limbo for so long, between all the waiting with Esther’s adoption and then deciding about what should happen next, that the flurry of activity that came was breathtaking. Within a couple weeks of committing to Uganda, our homestudy was finished, we had an orphanage that wanted to work with all of our local families together, and we had a photo list of children in our inboxes who needed families.

Now came the impossible task of deciding which children our family was supposed to adopt. We felt strongly that we should adopt two children. There was no agency to make the match for us, just a big-hearted Christian woman who told us to pray about it and let her know which kids to file the paperwork for. Once again, we found ourselves wondering how exactly to go about discerning God’s will for us. There was no Bible verse that said "thou shalt pick this child to add to your family." But there were scriptures that spoke truth to us in the midst of our dilemma:

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families. – Psalm 68:5-6
You hear the desires of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed. – Psalm 10:17-18
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. – Isaiah 1:17

Trusting God to Guide

These truths about who God is and what is close to His heart helped to increase our confidence that God would guide us in this decision. He is, after all, the One who cares for the fatherless and sets the lonely in families. So we stepped back from our initial, emotional, response to the precious faces that had shown up on our computer screen, trusting that God cared for each of those kids and that He would direct our decision-making, and we turned to more practical considerations. Because even though we had been approved to adopt a child up to age 7, we still weren’t quite ready to choose that for ourselves. After all, we had an 18-month-old at home. We had no idea how to parent older kids from any background - we had no idea what to do with the toddler half the time! And almost all of the bigger kids on the list were far older than 7, which was a leap we were definitely not ready to make. So we turned our attention to the toddlers. There were a couple of babies on the list, but we figured that other families would choose the babies. After all, we were open to older kids! We had done the baby thing, and we were okay with skipping that part. So we picked two 2-year-olds, a boy (E) and a girl (J). Eli and I both felt a real, profound peace with that decision - a peace that definitely passed all understanding (Phil 4:7) since we had just committed ourselves to parenting three 2-year-olds!

We committed to those two kids at the end of April. At the end of May, we found out that the little boy E’s mother had been located and that he was going to be reunited with her. We were sad for our loss but so glad for that sweet boy and his mother. After losing that referral (adoption-speak for the child a family is matched with), we committed to a 1-year-old boy named Christopher who had some moderate to potentially significant developmental delays. That scenario hadn’t been our plan at all when we started this journey, but again, the Lord gave both of us a total peace about it.

Then at the beginning of July, we found out that the little girl J’s father had been located, and while she wasn’t likely to be reunited with him, she did not meet the definition of an orphan required for international adoption, and we wouldn’t be able to adopt her. The blow this time was a bit greater, partly because our hearts were already bruised from the loss of our first referral, and partly because we knew that sweet girl was likely going to languish in the orphanage instead of finding her place in a family (which is exactly what has happened, a fact that we still don’t understand and just have to trust the Lord with). As that referral was taken away, we were offered the referral of a tiny little 2-month-old girl who had tested positive for HIV. There were no other families working with this orphanage who were approved for HIV+ adoption - but at the last minute, we had requested to have that approval added to our homestudy. So as much as we were not planning to adopt a baby again, we knew that this particular detail was not something that had happened by chance, and we said yes.

Unexpected Twists

Now, instead of facing down my fears of adding older children to our family, I was fretting over how we were going to manage with three kids under age 2, two of whom were likely to require fairly significant medical and/or developmental interventions. At the same time, after losing our first two referrals, I was also finding it very difficult to believe that these babies were actually going to come home to us. But the months marched on, and the referrals stuck, and we filed all of our court paperwork, and I started to believe that maybe it was going to happen after all. Because of the way the court schedule works in Uganda, we had reason to believe that it was going to be many more months before it would happen - but everything was moving along as predictably as possible at that point.

Then one day at the end of October, I began getting frantic messages from my contact at the orphanage. Christopher was sick. He had spiked a fever and was unresponsive. He had been rushed to the hospital. We were faced with the opportunity to trust God in a totally new way. There was absolutely nothing else we could do, continents away from the tiny boy our hearts had begun to claim as our own. We clung to Jesus in prayer, and we clung to each other through tears. Hours later we got the heartbreaking news that we wouldn’t get to meet sweet Christopher this side of heaven.

Our grief over Christopher was mingled with confusion. It had seemed so clear that we were supposed to adopt two kids from Uganda, but everything kept falling apart. Had we missed something? Or were we supposed to keep pushing forward until something worked? Very shortly after Christopher died, a good friend mentioned a boy in another part of Uganda who needed a family. My friend had been very moved by his story but wasn’t in a position to adopt him herself. She asked, very gently, if we would consider praying about whether we were his family. I said we would pray about it, but my heart was raw, and this kid was 9, and I was sure that we were not his family. But then I saw the picture, and I read his story, and I couldn’t get him out of my head. Cautiously, I made phone calls to find out what we needed to do to increase our age range approval. The answer was simple, so we increased it. We were in no hurry to make an ultimate decision but figured we would walk through the doors as they opened.

As we navigated our grief over losing Christopher while also considering the possibility of adopting a 9-year-old boy, we thought we had months before we’d be heading to Uganda. But our paperwork for the tiny baby girl had been sitting on our judge’s desk all this time, and one Tuesday afternoon in November, I got the craziest email of my life. Our attorney wanted to know if we could appear in court on Friday. In Uganda. In two and a half days. To get custody of our daughter! Less than 24 hours later, we were on a plane. We stepped onto Ugandan soil in the middle of the night, and within hours, we had Josephine in our arms.

[We later found out that our Josie did not actually have HIV - praise the Lord! (Babies whose mothers have HIV can test positive for up to two years because of the presence of antibodies in their blood, even if the babies themselves are not infected with the virus - and only about 25% of babies born to women with untreated HIV will actually contract the virus). We are so grateful for God’s protection on her life, and also for the way He used this piece of her story to direct us to her.]

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