I Choose You, Ana: Ralph's Story
- Sunday, January 26, 2003
As I walked across the hard tile floor of our kitchen, my cowboy boots made a distinctive hard clomping sound that my daughter Ana always associates with her father. She immediately dropped her favorite blanket and began flailing her one good arm about, reaching for my hand. At the same time, she started making those characteristic happy and excited sounds she makes with her mouth, and her sightless brown eyes began to sparkle with joyful anticipation. I reached for and held Ana's hand. She immediately pulled me closer (almost into the wheelchair with her). She then let go of me and moved her hand up my arm and shoulder until she found the back of my neck. She pulled my face down toward the side of her face, turned her face toward mine and formed her lips for me to give her a kiss. She held me there for a while as I tousled her hair and talked to her. Finally I said, "Okay, Ana." While smiling and making her happy noises, she released my neck, reached for her blanket, and settled back into her wheelchair.
Ana, now twenty-four years old, is one of our seventeen children. Our adopted daughter was born whole and healthy but a terrible beating she received when she was only two weeks old changed her future forever. The brain damage resulting from the beating ultimately left her profoundly mentally retarded, unable to walk, talk, or take care of herself in any way. She lived in an institution for nine years, where she was also abused. At age nine she weighed only twenty-five pounds, was drawn up in the fetal position (when not in her wheelchair), and was extremely self-abusive, scratching and clawing savagely at her legs, arms, and face. Her caregivers at the institution insisted that we not adopt her because she could never give or respond to love. According to them, she was totally withdrawn form the world, a lost cause.
They were wrong. Through our struggles and her struggles, God faithfully worked at breaking down the walls that kept us "out" until, over the years, Ana was finally free to experience and to give love, and she is today a wonderful and affectionate young lady. In our house the last sound at night is Ana's laughter, and the first sounds in the morning are her happy clicks and chirps.
When our four natural sons were approaching the time when they would begin leaving the nest, the Lord laid upon our hearts the plight of "special needs" children. God first led us to nine-year-old Ana, a tiny, severely handicapped child hidden away in an institution. After adopting two more special-needs children and acting as foster parents for thirty-five other special kids, we believed the Lord wanted us to leave the comfort of our successful pastorate in the suburbs to start a home for special-needs children in the inner city. We had no money, but we had already experienced a lot of God-given love through our special kids, and we had faith that God wanted us in the city, that he would be there with us. Through a series of miracles, God provided a hundred-year-old city house, and soon it was filled with our thirteen special kids. Sometimes I think God gave us that big old house as one more means to teach us how to love our kids. By the time our newly adopted children moved into our home, we realized that, just as it will take years to renovate this old house, it will take a lifetime of God's redeeming love to transform and heal the wounded souls of these children.
Each one of our special children has come to us with a history of heartache and pain; these precious kids have been cast aside by a society that has decided their lives are hopeless and useless. As we look back over the years and at each of the children the Lord has given to our family, we are amazed at the way God has so wonderfully directed us and provided for us at each step of the way. Whether the miracle was providing the exact amount of money needed to purchase a big enough house or "nudging" a believer to give us a fifty-pound bag of potatoes for our dinner, the Lord has taught us to call Him Jehovah Jireh - the "God Who Provides."
What we are doing does not seem wonderfully special to us, it just seems natural. To others it may seem crazy to start adopting special-needs children when our lives were just beginning to get a little less complicated. But to us it would have been somehow unnatural not to start adopting these kids. We knew this wouldn't be easy, but we also knew this is where God wanted us to go. God has led us to this place in our lives, and we chose to serve Him in this way. His love led us to open our hearts and home to these broken children. We have learned to depend on Him daily for wisdom and direction and He, for His part, has given us a new awareness of His presence and His love. Surely God has given us some very special kids, children who have touched our lives with a very special love.
Excerpted from Treasures of Faith, Living Boldly in View of God's Promises, pages 175-178. For more on living by faith in a broken world, read Treasures of Faith by Chuck and Sharon Betters, available through MARK INC Ministries (www.markinc.org) and fine books stores everywhere. Used by permission of P & R Publishing Company, copyright ©1999 by Chuck and Sharon Betters. All rights reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without permission of P & R Publishing Company.
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