My older brother, Glenn, and his wife, Linda, raised four amazing children! It was always a joy-filled experience to visit their home where it constantly bustled with activity, fun, laughter, and full of the presence of God. They all obviously loved because they were first loved by God! It wasn’t “preach-y” or “in-your-face,” rather, they exuded that love from within. I’d love to introduce you to my niece, BethAnn, as an example.
Glenn’s family grew up in parsonages of the various churches in New Jersey where Glenn served as pastor. All three nieces and my nephew at one time or another sang in the choir or praise band, taught Sunday School, were active in youth groups, worked in the nursery, or did whatever else needed to be done. But, what always impressed me was they did it with an attitude of gratitude and joy.
BethAnn, a beautiful redhead with lively green eyes, married a wonderful fellow youth-group leader, Jeff, over 17 years ago. Jeff became a pastor himself, and they began church-planting work together, with Beth in charge of the children’s programs. They have most recently been settled in a New Jersey Shore community, planting their current church in an area of lower income families who work in service industries, mostly for Atlantic City casinos. They have raised three wonderful boys there, who continue their parents’ example of sharing their love of God with others (but let’s also not forget sharing Jeff’s lifelong love of the Boston Red Sox!).
Seven years ago, Hurricane Sandy decimated portions of their town, and Jeff and BethAnn stepped in immediately to support the affected families, finding them food, clothing, housing, fellowship, etc. It was while they served this cause that Beth felt a special calling to open their home to orphaned children. She connected with New Horizons for Children, a group based out of Georgia, which brought children from Eastern European orphanages into healthy Christian homes in the US to expose them to the love of family and God.
They hosted Jara and Richard, a sister and brother from Latvia, in their home the following summer, and quickly stole their hearts. Their boys readily made room in their small home, loving them as siblings. They visited the next several summers, skyped, texted, and sent emails throughout the winter months, and became family. Due to the mercurial laws of Latvia, BethAnn and Jeff were not able to adopt them. But, they all prayed, and prayed, and prayed that one day they’d be able to adopt them.
Finally, last summer, the government allowed both children to extend beyond the summer months and spend the whole school year with them, too. They have done really well in school, and, for convenience and to help them feel more “American,” were even allowed to use Jeff and BethAnn’s last name for school. Let me share BethAnn’s own words for what’s happening now:
Having them here all the time has been incredible, and we have begun to settle into the new norm–knowing that we will need to continually renew visas and enter the constant roller coaster of bureaucracy.
Until 4 weeks ago.
“Richard can be adopted.” Words we never thought we would hear. “But it has to happen before his 16th birthday… next month.”
The flood of thoughts and emotions was overwhelming, but Richard set us right.
“Richard, the opportunity has come to adopt you, and you know how bad we want this to happen. But remember how there was a 5% chance of you getting your visa? Well, this is even harder.”
“Mom, everyone told me it was impossible to get here. It would never happen. But our God made that happen. I know He can do this, too.”
Our God made it happen, and we know He can do this, too.
We have been moving at a rapid pace to get everything done, and He keeps showing up. Another bump in the road? He reveals himself. If I even began to list the ways we have seen Him at work, then I would hit my max word count.
I’m almost embarrassed by how little faith I live by in comparison to BethAnn and her family! They are a living inspiration! They drew me back to these Bible passages:
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2 Or, as my mom used to paraphrase, Ah, from the mouth of babes comes God’s glory!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
Your prayers that God opens a way for Richard’s adoption are appreciated. (Jara has already passed the age where she can be adopted.) BethAnn and Jeff and their family continue to be a living inspiration to me! May God continue to bless this wonderful family!
New Horizons for Children claims to be the largest, faith-based host program, facilitating orphan hosting nationwide. More than 3500 children have been hosted through their ministry since they organized in 2005. They have now expanded hosting children from Eastern European countries to also include children from Haiti.
Your friend in Christ,