As Thanksgiving approaches, we all seem to focus a little more on the many blessings that surround us. Jim joins the blog to share about a special Thanksgiving blessing he and Alicia gained four years ago.
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Seven years ago, I was searching online for a charity that Initial Outfitters could partner with that helps feed hungry children in the poorest corners of the world. As fate would have it I ran across a website called HelpingHondurasKids.org where I saw a photo of a cute little orphan named Paola.
I asked Alicia if we could sponsor her, and she agreed. As part of our sponsorship, the orphanage allowed us to Skype with her, and she instantly stole our heart with her sense of humor. On one of our many trips to Honduras in support of our IO Loves initiative, we made it a point to go to La Ceiba to meet Paola and her older brother.
We asked the director about the possibility of adopting them both, and he told us it probably wasn’t possible for several reasons: federal law forbids adopting specific children, no official death certificate existed for their mother, each year the government only approves a few international adoptions and the agency charged with adoptions routinely shuts down for months due to lack of funds. It also regularly changes leadership and then changes the rules for adoptions, and on and on. Nevertheless, it only took Alicia and I split second to decide that just because it had never been done and there were some giant hurdles, God’s Will would be done and therefore nothing was impossible. And besides, we were the only chance these kids would ever have at a family they could call their own.
When we arrived back in Auburn, we rolled up our sleeves and got started. We would need both a U.S. adoption agency and a Honduran attorney.
First, we flew to Indianapolis on a snowy day in February 2010. Due to near white-out conditions we couldn’t get a taxi to come to the hotel to pick us up. We were pacing anxiously around the lobby. The adoption agency called my cell and said if we didn’t arrive in fifteen minutes we would have to reschedule.
I told Alicia if God really wants us to adopt these kids we need a sign right now. Ding! My phone beeped again. What’s this? Paola had sent a Facebook message all the way from Honduras, written in English so we both would understand. It simply read “I love you.” Wow! The hotel desk clerk was so overcome with emotions she said “COME ON”, grabbed her keys, and we all hurried to her car and sped through the snowy streets to the agency.
For three long years we faced setbacks and a multitude of legal challenges. We found ourselves hiking up and down mountains in the Honduran jungle on multiple trips. Alicia used all her Spanish language skills to convince extended family members to help us prove their mother had passed away and take guardianship of the kids for the time being.
During this period our Honduran attorney, working in step with our US agency, made our case in the family court system, sidestepping federal law that would normally prohibit the adoption. We prayed a lot, met with our attorney, paid for the expansion of a wooden hut where the kids could stay during the process, dealt with various family emergencies, and somehow managed to get the kids, along with their aunt and uncle on a four-hour bus trip to the capital–their first bus trip, first hotel, and first experience with a hot shower! Then there were interviews, passports to make, and a trip to the U.S. Embassy for final approval.
Eventually, we somehow prevailed. Four years ago at Thanksgiving, against all odds, our new family of four got on a plane bound for Atlanta. All of us were so excited. The kids now had a family and their very own bedrooms. Even still, after we arrived in the U.S., both kids needed post-adoption medical care to deal with the effects of malnutrition and emotional trauma.
This whole experience taught us so much about the needs of children living in poverty and those who have been abandoned or abused. It also taught us that with a strong team effort and faith we could move mountains.
We praise God for the money Initial Outfitter consultants and customers raise through the sale of lunchboxes and backpacks to help feed, educate, and provide opportunities to children like these who are living in poverty. One million meals later, with our relentless efforts to raise awareness and money about our campaign, we have made a difference in the lives of poor children throughout Honduras and around the world.