Adopting from Haiti: How Author Karen Kingsbury Doubled Her Family
- Monday, March 01, 2010
Then there was the day our family visited the zoo. EJ and Sean were mesmerized by the animals, but the experience was nothing to what came next: A trip to the grocery store. It was a starving little boy's paradise.
As their English improved, we learned more about their past. Our boys had lost parents to starvation or illness and had gone without food for days at a time. They customarily ate something called "dirt cakes," which looked like cheap pottery made from clay, dirt, and water. Village women mixed this recipe, baked it, and gave it to the children to ease the pain in their empty tummies. Meals came only after great effort. Our boys were adept at using rocks to knock mangos from trees, or to kill wild birds. In the early months, Sean, especially, would see a bird and nearly go ballistic, pointing and motioning toward the nearest rock. His message was simple - "Please, Daddy, this is something I can do let dinner be on me tonight." Politely, and with a full heart, my husband dissuaded him from killing birds.
In those first months, we dealt with the basic cultural adjustments. Sleeping in beds instead of on the floor, using bathrooms, table manners. But miraculously, the boys almost never needed to be told twice about issues of obedience. They are constantly cleaning their room and remain thrilled with their new toys and beds (they share a large bedroom with Austin and sleep in two bunk beds). "Please, Mommy, can we vacuum?" is a question I field weekly.
"Well, okay, since you've been so good this week I guess so."
Often people comment on the blessing we are to these little boys. But we correct them every time. The blessings have been all ours.
One has been watching our three biological children embrace their new brothers. This is especially obvious when the kids play together, or do homework. Because of the efforts of Kelsey, Tyler, and Austin, our new sons have already learned basic reading. On the school front, our sons have been welcomed by their classmates. Their school even took on the Heart of God Ministries orphanage as a service project and collected two suitcases of school supplies for the Haitian children.
Adopting has also made me more compassionate in my novel writing. That much is evidenced by my mention of adoption topics and the intense emotion in several of my recent novels, including Halfway to Forever.
Another blessing has been realizing the depth of faith these children have. They had nothing in Haiti, not even a chance to live. But they had a deep love for Jesus, and prayed and sang throughout the day. In a culture ridden with voodoo, it was especially comforting to know that a Christian orphanage in Haiti had given these children so strong a foundation. Even now, the children love singing for God, and sometimes cry during worship time at church.
"Are you sad, honey?" my husband will sometimes ask.
"No, Daddy. I'm just so happy when I think of everything Jesus has done for me."
The boys are very loving, hugging us often and telling us - first in Creole, then in English - exactly how much they love us. The other day Sean said, "Mommy, when I get big I'm going to get a job and make lots of money. I'll send some to the people in Haiti and give the rest to you."
I was puzzled by this. "That's very nice, but why do you want to give me money?"
"Because ..." his eyes glistened. "You and Daddy have given so much to me."
People ask us about the transition. How do you bring children into your home who have nothing in common with you, they wonder. You have different skin colors, different cultural understandings, different languages - even different food preferences.
We tell them this: With much prayer.
A few times we've had conversations about skin color.
"Why do I have black skin and you and Daddy and Jesus have white skin?" Sean asked once during a break from playing with his brothers in the backyard.
"Well," I said. "Jesus didn't have white skin. He had brown skin. And God gave everyone a special color, a color he loved for that person. All the colors of skin are the same to Jesus, and they're all beautiful." Sean thought about that for a minute. "What color skin will I have in Heaven?"
"I'm not sure." I pulled him into a quick hug. "But I hope it'll be just like it is now. Because you're skin is beautiful, Sean ... and you're such a handsome boy. I wouldn't want you to look any different than you do right now."
Sean's smile stretched across his face. "Thanks, Mom." Then he ran out of the house to join his brothers in the backyard once again. I'll never know if that was the perfect answer, but I know this: God alone will need to provide the answers as questions like that come up. For our part, we welcome the discussion.
Other than curious moments like this, adding three Haitian first-graders to our family has been nothing but wonderful. None of the problems we feared have materialized. As for skin color and race, all people are unique, God-designed individuals. The color of our current tent is not important to God.
Still, we are aware that their Haitian background will one day be important to our sons. As such, I've learned how to cook Haitian beans and rice. We eat that way at least once a week and marvel at the platefuls of food our new boys put away. To help the boys maintain their Creole, we sometimes spend the dinner hour asking the boys to teach us various phrases. In addition, we have networked with a small Haitian-American contingency not far from our home.
More than that, though, we stress this fact: Our primary heritage is found not in our ancestors or family genealogies or birthplaces.
But at the cross, in Christ alone.
There is a story often told of a particularly rough storm that came up one night and left a sandy beach strewn with starfish. The next morning, a child walked along the shore, stopping every few feet to pick up a starfish and fling it out to sea. An old man watched the child and finally shouted at him. "Why bother, son. There's too many starfish to make a difference."
With that, the boy picked up another starfish and looked at it intently before heaving it out to sea, then turning to the old man he said, "It makes a difference to this one."
The statistics on homeless children in our world remain daunting. But our family has seen this truth at work: Adoption makes a difference.
Just ask our three sons. EJ, Sean, and Joshua.
Article reprinted from www.KarenKingsbury.com.
Interested in Adopting?
The Heart of God Orphanage in Haiti is no longer in existence.
If you are interested in adoption, try www.adopt-usa.org or www.adoptuskids.org.
USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America's #1 inspirational novelist. There are more than 10 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including two million copies sold in the past year. Karen has written more than 30 novels, nine of which have hit #1 on national lists, including award-winning Ever After, Oceans Apart, and One Tuesday Morning. Karen has also written many best selling series including The Redemption Series and the Firstborn Series. Several of her recent novels, including; Like Dandelion Dust, A Thousand Tomorrows and Gideon's Gift are currently under production as full-length movies with major motion picture companies and will be appearing in theaters soon. Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Don, and their six children, three of whom are adopted from Haiti.
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