For the past few months, Darren and I have prayed about what direction God would like us to go. Since we first began dating, we always wanted to live a life “sold out” to God. We talked a lot about being foreign missionaries and going wherever God would call us. When Bailey was born with her heart condition, we knew those plans were not going to happen, but we were thrilled with our little family. We looked around and decided we could serve through foster care. Darren and I both love kids and feel that is where our gifts and talents lie. Through foster care, we realized how much we loved working with special needs children. We thought a lot about how we could impact children with special needs, especially those without families. We have been lucky to adopt three amazing children from foster care. This has all lead to the next chapter of our lives. Darren and I feel called to an orphanage in Bulgaria to a little boy named Dylan. Dylan has no dad or mom and because he is special needs in an orphanage in Eastern Europe, he has no future. And here is where the exciting part is, God has a plan for Dylan and He has asked us to take a role. We are going to bring Dylan home!
So here is how we decided to take this GIANT, scary leap of faith. Darren and I watched a video one night called Depraved Indifference by Eric Ludy. It really impacted us and opened our eyes. I believe that it is easy to be blind to life beyond our immediate sight. What do I mean by this? I mean that my life is lived in my comfortable, warm home, community and country and I am blessed with individual rights. I’ve never missed a meal or worried about heating my home. I’m lucky to live a comfortable life with many material comforts. In the past few months, truths have been revealed to me. I have seen pictures, read articles and first hand accounts about special needs children in Eastern Europe and they have forever altered my mindset. In particular this video left me forever changed, Dark Side of Serbian Mental Institutions. Things have remained much the same since this video was first made public and I can’t turn a blind eye. What I have learned is that across Eastern Europe, children who are born with special needs are routinely placed into orphanages at birth. There are no services or interventions made available to these families, so parents are encouraged to hand over special needs infants at birth. These special needs range from Down Syndrome to cleft palate and limb deformity. Around the ages of 4 to 6, they are transferred to adult mental institutions or to an older child group home. 80% of the children transferred to the adult mental institutions die within the first year of transfer. If their diagnosis is Down syndrome that percentage rises as high as 95%. The living conditions are grim. The children are deprived of human contact and actually stop producing human growth hormone. They spend their days in bed rocking and groaning. They receive one diaper change a day and are often drugged and tied to the bed to keep them easier to manage. Their hope is adoption by a foreigner. That’s right, Bulgarian special needs children rely on foreign adoption by Americans.
Here is where reality smacks me in the face. In Bulgaria, my Joel would be institutionalized. My baby boy would be placed in a metal crib, medicated and possibly tied to the rails. He would lie moment by moment, hour by hour and day by day. No sunlight, no kisses, no learning, no love. My sweet, smart, wickedly funny boy would be considered cursed by God and placed like refuse in a Bulgarian adult institution at the age of 4. My heart is crushed by this and I think that I would move mountains to save him. If Joel was in Bulgaria, I would sell everything I owned and use every resource at my fingertips to bring him home. I would called every friend I had and beg them to get to my child. I’d beg and borrow to get to my son and rescue him.
Darren and I now have a child in Bulgaria. His name is Dylan and we have begun the long process of adopting him. He is special needs and like my beautiful Joel, deserves a family. God has placed before us a beautiful opportunity to expand our family and welcome home Dylan. I hope you will be encouraged by our journey and maybe feel led to pray for these children. At this point, we know that in order for this to happen, God will have to move in BIG ways. I am excited to see and share the moving of mountains. One of our biggest mountains is the RANSOM we will pay for Dylan. We need $24,000 to make this adoption happen and I can’t wait to see God work. If you’d like to pray that is even more powerful!