After a busy Christmas and New Year 2008/2009 conference season in the interior of Liberia we returned to Monrovia, excited and primed to resume fostering, a minstery we had participated in during our 2004-2008 term. Melodie was already involved in the lives of a group of needy children from a local orphanage and within weeks we had three little boys sharing our home.
Jonah, was an extremely sad, 11-pound, one-year old. He had suffered several serious illnesses and was in desperate need of the love of a family. Boy #2, Titus, had a similar story. He, too, needed that same special attention as he waited to go to his "forever family." Boy #3, Levi, was a severely handicapped little guy and extremely close to death when he came to us. Our house and hands were full.
At the end of January 2009 an event occurred that would change the course of our lives forever. The Liberian government placed a moratorium on all international adoptions. This sent our world, and that of many others, into a spin. We begged God for His mercy on the Liberian children with adoptions in process. We also were very concerned about the long-term future of the little boys in our home whom we loved so much.
We believed the promise of Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son.” However, we could not imagine a scenario produced by the moratorium itself that was anything other than heartbreaking.
After four months, Levi, who was now in great health but whose needs were more than we could handle permanently, went to live in a well-run special needs orphanage. Meanwhile Titus and Jonah learned to crawl, walk, and finally, run. We went through all the toddler stages with them. Finally, because his adoption decree had been signed before the moratorium, sixteen months after his arrival in our home Titus was allowed to go to his adoptive parents. We loved him tremendously, but rejoiced without reservation that the door had opened for him to go to the precious young couple that had prayed and waited so long for him to join their family.
Jonah had no such decree and the moratorium remained in place with no end in sight. As time passed, it gradually dawned on us that God was doing just what we had said He would have to do for us to know that we were to adopt. One child was standing out.
The decision to adopt Jonah was a big one, but, nevertheless, it was much easier decided than done. After waiting and waiting and waiting, through what can only be called a miracle of God's grace, He placed our case and the case of one other missionary family on the heart of the person in the administration of the government of Liberia who could allow an exception. While the moratorium for international adoptions continued, our two families were allowed to proceed as residents to adopt our long-term fostered children. There was no explanation for the mercy being extended to us other than God touching hearts as a result of the thousands upon thousands of prayers that had gone up on behalf of these two little boys. The following weeks were a flurry of activity as we did all within our power to prepare the documents necessary to adopt. The home study was done, the case study prepared and personal documents secured. The relevant papers were submitted to a local attorney who prepared the adoption decree to present to the judge. And then more waiting. Several more weeks. But at last, on October 27, we received the signed decree.
Two years and nine months after his arrival into our home, Jonah became a Sheppard. As we look at this precious little boy who has become such an integral part of our lives, we are awestruck at the ingenuity of God. Only He could have arranged a situation so perfectly that we would know beyond any shadow of a doubt this child was meant to be ours.
Mark and we are totally humbled by the grace God has poured out on our lives. Despite our fears and doubts, God has used the thing that initially seemed to have nothing positive - the moratorium on adoption in Liberia - for good. It is the reason we have a new son. His name is Jonah. He is our miracle.