Let me tell  you how to overwhelm an orphan child…

5 very white people smothering you with kisses. Taking way too many pictures. Muttering words over and over in a foreign language while 3 nuns tell you this is your mama and papa. And you don’t even know what a mama and papa are because you have lived in a Rwandan orphanage since you were born. And 3 new siblings trying to teach you to push your first toy (a little red fire engine) instead of throwing the little fire engine. For the first time in your life you are the center of everyone’s universe when prior you searched the room for any one to notice you. So day one was the most overwhelming day of Cooper’s life.

Then the next morning Zac, my husband, and I went quietly with no cameras or kids, just a sippy cup with orange juice. We watched as he hustled up the hill clutching the little fire engine- he must have fought off a lot of little boys to keep that toy over night. 

He remembered us. Mama and Papa. He relaxed into our arms and rolled with giggles as we tickled him. He pressed his nose against mine and whispered mama as he held my face in his little brown hands. He sang to me, I tried to sing along and he laughed. He told me all kinds of things, I’ve never longed to understand foreign words like I longed today. He played peek-a-boo with my sunglasses and learned the word cool as he strutted around the courtyard yelling his friends’ names to show off his sunglasses.

We watched as an interpreter explained to him that we were his family and asked him if he would like to go home and live with us forever.... forever.

And he nodded yes with his whole body and smiled so big it hurt. 

That was over a year ago. And now Cooper just fits, like he was made for us. It has been the most costly pursuit of our lives- savings emptied and a 4 year old raised in an orphanage is empty in every way and requires more love than I often feel I have to give because before the beauty of adoption is the pain of abandonment. And the pain is complicated... I don’t know Cooper’s birth mother’s story. There are no records of living relatives or what happened five years ago outside of the doors of his Rwandan orphanage.

But I know adoption is born out of the most dire and broken moments... death and sickness and poverty and pain. To leave a child, your child, is the most costly of moments... moments I wish never existed for mothers, for children. But because this world is broken children fall asleep alone, completely vulnerable, completely unaware of love.... millions and millions of them. 

Recently Cooper and I were laying in his bed as I tucked him in, he still is afraid of the dark. I told him why I love the dark. I told him that in the dark you can talk to Jesus. I asked him if he ever talks to Jesus. He said with his English now very in tact, 

“In Africa I talked to Jesus a lot.”

I asked, “What did you say?”

“Jesus, please please bring me a family.”

We were God’s answer to his prayers... what a privilege to be a part of that.

Children are made for families- not orphanages. There was a time that I wondered if he would be sad to leave his friends and as a nearly 4 year old, the only home he has known. But He wants to pose for cameras and the whole room to stop because he walked into it. He wants our arms to relax in and a brother and sisters fighting for his attention rather than him fighting for anyone to notice him.

He longs to be overwhelmed by us. We are overwhelming him and he is completely overwhelming our hearts. We are taken.

Thousands of women were impacted by Jennie’s story at Women of Faith’s Celebrate What Matters Tour. For more information go to www.womenoffaith.com.

Jennie Allen is a bible teacher from Austin, Texas. She serves alongside her husband Zac, a pastor at Austin Stone Community Church. They have four children including their youngest who was recently adopted from Rwanda. Jennie graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Masters in Biblical Studies and recently released her first DVD bible study entitled, Stuck: The Places we get Stuck and the God who sets us Free, as well as her first trade book, Anything.

Connect with Jennie at jennieallen.comFacebook, &Twitter.

Publication date: November 16, 2012