By Teena Myers
Before Jennifer married Jeff, she told him she wanted to adopt a child one day. That desire began when she was eight years old and her best friend told her how adoption changed her life for the better.
Tragedy struck when their first child was stillborn. Jennifer suffered complications during the subsequent pregnancies, increasing her risk for a heart attack or stroke. After the birth of their third child, the doctor recommended Jennifer have her tubes tied. They agreed to the procedure.
“Unable to bear any more children, the only option to increase our family was adoption,” said Jennifer. “Even though we had three girls, I didn’t have a preference about sex, age, or race. I searched for years but didn’t pursue adoption because we didn’t have the money. I was ready to give up when I received a phone call that changed my mind.”
Melissa, a friend of Jennifer’s, was adopting two children from a Christian orphanage in Haiti when the need for $5,000 stalled the process. While Melissa and her husband were visiting the church that they grew up in, a woman gave them a check for $5,000. Melissa was so excited she called Jennifer. “God had supplied Melissa’s need, and that gave me faith God would supply what I needed,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer had been in contact with an adoption agency in Texas that regularly sent her photos of available children. She kept the photos in a folder, waiting for God to quicken her heart to the child he wanted her to adopt. A photo from an adoption home in Haiti interested her. Jeff, now a senior pastor, had already scheduled the missionaries who founded the adoption home as guest speakers.
Deeply moved by the missionary’s presentation, a woman in their congregation requested permission to assemble a team for a mission trip to Haiti. Jeff and Jennifer traveled to Haiti to make arrangements for the trip. “That’s when Jeff and I met Judah. We knew that we belonged together. Leaving Haiti without him was difficult,” said Jennifer.
“We returned with our church’s mission team in March wondering if Judah would remember us,” said Jeff. “We didn’t have to worry. The minute we arrived, Judah recognized me and lunged for Jennifer. We had another great week with Judah and returned to visit him again in June.”
They planned to visit Judah once every three months, but circumstances prevented the September trip. The cancelation of their December trip to Haiti brought more disappointment. The separation from a child they had embraced as a son weighed heavily on their hearts as they celebrated the new year.
Jennifer smiled. “From the very beginning, I prayed all the paperwork necessary for the adoption would be in the right hands at the right time. But raising the money was a struggle, and the delays compounded my frustration. We finally had enough money for Judah’s dossier to be filed with the Haitian government. The missionary planned to bring the papers to Port-au-Prince, but he never made it.”
A catastrophic earthquake rocked the nation of Haiti, killing 200,000; injuring 300,000; and leaving 1,000,000 homeless. The government of Haiti lay in shambles with the Presidential Palace and National Assembly buildings destroyed. The following week, the Homeland Security Secretary announced a humanitarian parole policy allowing Haitian children in the process of being adopted by American citizens to enter the United States.
Jeff continued the story. “If the missionary had filed Judah’s dossier with the Haitian government, it would have been lost under the rubble created by the earthquake, leaving us without proof Judah was eligible for adoption.”
The missionaries planned to evacuate the children being adopted, and asked Jeff to go to Fort Lauderdale, where a cargo plane would transport him and several other parents to Port-de-Paix to assist in the evacuation. When Jeff arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport, he received instructions to fly to Santiago in the Dominican Republic. The earliest flight left the following morning, but the airport officials refused them entrance into the terminal. He spent a miserable night sleeping on the floor in the baggage claim area.
When they reached Santiago, a United Nations security force escorted the convoy to the mission. “I called Judah, wondering if he would remember me. He came running so fast he ran past me and stopped. He ran back and threw his arms around my leg. It was a moment I’ll never forget,” said Jeff.
The missionaries chartered a school bus to bring them to Port-au-Prince to get permission to take the children out of the country. Jeff sat on a worn, ripped vinyl seat with Judah on one knee and Donaldson, who a woman in his congregation was adopting, on his other knee.
“The road was so bad I had to wrap my ankles around the braces of the seat in front of me and push my knees into the seat to remain seated. We made the twelve-hour drive in six. I exited the bus with blisters on both of my knees. I had not had a good night’s sleep or bath since I left America three days earlier. We were American citizens with forty-one children and four days of supplies in a city destroyed by an earthquake. The United States Embassy refused to give us refuge.”
After many phone calls, someone rescinded the order that forbid them entry. A man escorted them to a waiting room. Mattresses covered the floor. They had access to a bathroom but had no shower and no way to leave.
The man assigned to handle their case left for vacation shortly after they arrived. The flood of misinformation that followed sent their emotions on an unending roller-coaster ride. One person told them to charter a plane. Another person forbid it. A woman announced they would leave that day. An hour later they had to stay another day. They called home with news they would arrive at Fort Lauderdale, then had to call back to report the location changed to Miami, and then called again with information about a new location in Alabama. They ran out of supplies and were eating MREs (meals ready to eat) supplied by the military when a security force arrived to bring them to a C-17 cargo plane destined for Miami.
“It had taken a week, but it seemed like years. When I saw Jeff, he looked like he had just suffered a week of labor pains. I was ready to do it again, but he wanted a break to recuperate.” Jennifer laughed. “Now he knows what I went through when I gave birth to our daughters.”
I reached to turn off my recorder. Jeff stopped me. “Adoption is very special to me. I’m the last of six boys. My dad had three boys, and my mother had two when they married. I’m the only child from their union. Jennifer and I had girls. The only way for my line to continue was adoption. Now my namesake will continue through my son. That means a lot to me because God has adopted us.”