Why I Want to Adopt

A couple of days ago, you heard from Melinda about “A Mother’s Heart for Adoption.”  Mel’s heart has been very clear and strong from the beginning about how she feels about the adoption and I’m glad she was able to share some of it in the video.  And, in general, I believe that it is a little easier for moms to talk about that subject.  For men, the world tells us that we’re supposed to be “tough, stoic and in control at all times.”  We “can’t be ruled by emotion” because we have to make level-headed decisions.  And like a lot of guys, I fit into that category a lot of times.  Except on this topic.  Don’t get me wrong– I’m not ruled by emotion (and there’s plenty of emotion to go around when you’re in the adoption process).  But I’ve definitely learned how to be attuned to the ways in which God has spoken to my heart about the children that we’ve been called to adopt.

So, you might ask: why do I, Jon Parks, want to adopt?  It’s a fair question.  After all, I’m the father of two wonderful and healthy children and they are definitely a blessing to our family.  I’m married to one of the most beautiful, smart and talented women around.  I’ve got a great job where I get to use my talents to do some fun and (sometimes) amazing things.   I enjoy the company of good friends and family.  So, in the eyes of some, it might seem like trying to adopt sort of flies in the face of all that.  You might even be tempted to think “isn’t bringing in two children that don’t speak our language and don’t know anything about our culture going to wreck all of that?”  Or perhaps something like “what if the adopted children have health issues?  Won’t that take away time, attention and resources from Anna and Ryan?”  It’s OK if you’ve thought that, because honestly, I wondered about some of those same things when we were first called to adoption.  Yeah, that’s right– I’m not perfect.  I was a little hesitant about adoption, too.

You see, when I was growing up, I was a part of a family of four.  My mom, my dad, my sister and me.  Two parents, one boy and one girl.  That seemed “normal” to me.  And in fact, it was quite “normal.”  I have a great family and had one of the most amazing childhoods that anyone could ever ask for.  But the idea that you might have more than two children in a family seemed, well, it seemed a little odd to me.

And then I met Melinda.  Mel had an older brother and an older sister.  As we dated, and later after we were married, we would discuss what would be the “ideal” number of children for us to have.  I would say “two”; Mel would say “three.”  It was a friendly discussion, but I was always convinced that I would win out.  Because you know, from a level-headed perspective, it is just too darn costly to support more than two kids! 🙂

And then we had Anna.  Wow.  Boy did that ever open my world.  For the first time, I saw what it meant to love someone that you didn’t really know much about.  And not just a puppy-love kind of way.  No.  Instead it was in a way that says “I love every single thing about you.  Yes– even when you poop on my hand while I’m changing your diaper!”  I love my little girl and after I learned more about being a daddy, I quickly realized that I wanted as many children as we could possibly have.

And then we had Ryan.  Ryan is a completely different personality.  In fact, he’s more like Melinda.  Very lively, great personality and really likable.  He’s also a lot like a bowling ball.  He’s always rolling around and knocking into things (and then laughing about it in a way that only a two-year old really can!).  My relationship with Ryan is a whole lot more rough and tumble (think one-on-one indoor tackle football) and it is amazing how God uses that to build a strong bond between us.  I truly love my son.

So, fast forward to the Fall of 2009.  I’m driving in my car on my way back to the office and listening to a couple talk about how adopting children transformed their lives.  That’s right– transformed their lives.  Like a lot of people, I bought into the popular belief that the parents were doing this amazing thing to help these poor little children that lived in awful conditions.  Instead, this couple talked about the way that God used the entire adoption process to transform them!  He used it to strengthen their relationship with Him.  He used it to show them how they had been adopted into His eternal family.  He used it to show them that there was much more to life than just going to work, accumulating more “things” and trying to climb the ladder in society to achieve higher levels of success.  Yes– they were going to be able to make a difference in the life of a child, but God was going to make a difference in their lives too.  And that’s where I really came to understand it– answering the call to adopt is about being obedient to the path that God has called you to and letting Him transform you.

So, why do I want to adopt?  It may sound hokey, but I want to adopt because God called me to.  He showed me the wonderful journey that I’ve been on as a father the past few years and how He used that to strengthen my faith in Him, how He made me a better father and how He transformed me as a Husband.  And He has shared with me that adoption is the next part of my journey in life.

Of course, I also want to adopt because He has shown me that there are children in this world that go to be every night and they do not know anyone called “mom” or “dad.”  There are children that, when they are afraid, they do not have anyone to turn to to put their arm around them and hold them to provide comfort.  There are children that do not have much in the way of hope beyond their relatively short time in the orphanage and almost no hope of how to avoid the evils that await them in the world.  There are children that, simply put, will be lost unless someone stands up, steps forward and willingly commits to being their parents.

That’s what I want to do.  That’s why I want to adopt.  I want to stand up and be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others.  Thanks for coming along with us on this journey.  I hope we’ll be able to share more with you about the transformation that is taking place.

So … why adopt from Ukraine?

It’s a question we’ve heard quite a bit: why are you adopting from the Ukraine? We’re always glad to talk about it because it is part of our adoption story.  When we first were called to adopt, like most adopting families, we had to make a decision: domestic or international adoption.  While we know that there are many children in the U.S. that need a great family, we really felt led to consider international adoption.  I don’t know how else to say it other than God laid it in our heart to look overseas.

Of course, there are many countries and lots of orphanages to consider when you decide to adopt from another country and it can be a little overwhelming.  In doing our research, we came across resources such as Lifesong for Orphans (watch a great video here about Lifesong & adoption) and Show Hope (Steven Curtis Chapman’s organization) that helped us understand that one of the best things we could do would be to work with an adoption agency that would help us navigate the adoption waters.  After a careful review, we selected Christian World Adoption, which is based in Flat Rock, N.C. and Charleston S.C.  CWA works in specific countries around the world and they can help in identifying the country that is a potential best-fit for your adoption process.  So, initially, we elected to work with … Khazakhstan.  That’s right, Khazakhstan.  You know, that large country just south of Russia!  Yeah– we didn’t know much about it either.  But, we were impressed with their approach to adoption and the condition of their orphanages.  So, we started the process.  But then, we learned that CWA had not received any referrals in Khazakhstan for siblings (if you want to adopt two children, many Eastern European countries require that the children be siblings) in the past eight years of working there.  So, after further consultation with CWA, they advised us to look into their Ukraine program.  And for us, it was immediately a good fit.  There are so many children waiting to be adopted, CWA has processed several “sibling groups” in the recent past and the timetable to adopt from the Ukraine is about 8-10 months (compared to 4 years for China).  So, we decided to change our application from Khazakhstan to Ukraine and we were on our way.

In the months since that decision, we can definitely say that we’ve learned a lot about the Ukraine.  We even followed the presidential elections in the Ukraine (wow, that was different!) to keep tabs on the political climate within the country.  It’s strange how you can become so connected to a place that you’ve never been to.  But, when God tells you that two of your children currently live there, you really want to know all you can about the place where they live.

So, that’s how we came to our decision to adopt from the Ukraine.  We are very excited about travelling there.  And of course, we’re most excited about bringing home our children from there.

One last thing: if you’d like to get a sense of what it is like in a Ukrainian orphanage, watch this brief video.  Warning: you might want to get a tissue; it’s a little tough to watch.