A Change of Plans

In 2010, my husband, Gerald, and I decided to adopt for the second time. Our first adoption was from Guatemala and went fairly smoothly. We would have loved to adopt from Guatemala again, as we fell in love with the country while traveling there three times during our first process, but Guatemala was no longer open to International Adoption. We chose Ethiopia this time, as the process was fairly smooth with two short trips. We picked an age range that would keep the birth order of our current children, who were 7, 5, and 2 at the time. We were open to a healthy infant or toddler, ages 0-24 months. It all seemed so nice, neat, and SAFE! And so we began our Ethiopian dossier.

Every month into the process, another month was added. After a year of being on the waitlist to adopt from Ethiopia, our agency let us know that a case within our agency was being investigated which put our adoption on hold. We began feeling unsettled, and we also began praying for guidance. One night, I read the story of Jonah and the Whale to my daughter before bed. As I was reading that story, I felt that God was telling me that were running away from where he was leading us. The waters had to get rocky for us to realize that we needed to ask for the Lord’s guidance and trust him to lead us and go where he wanted us to go.

In February of 2011, we prayerfully switched to a pilot program and completed a dossier for Honduras. We broadened our age range to 3 years old and said that we were open to discussing a child with a special need. Our comfort levels were being shaken just a little, but we were trusting the Lord for his perfect timing and for the child he wanted in our family. During this time I also began talking to Gerald a lot more about a specific special need that God had been laying on my heart since 2009. However, Gerald wasn’t eager to discuss this topic, and I let it rest and let God work on Gerald’s heart. After a year of being in the Honduran adoption process and never even onto a wait list for a child, we began to grow weary but trusted that God would lead accordingly.

In January of 2012, Gerald had a moment while driving his car, where he very clearly felt God tell him through a song, that our next daughter was out there just waiting for us to come get her and that she was HIV+, the very special need I had been discussing with Gerald for a couple of years. His fears had just fallen away, and God gave him such a peace that we knew it could only be from the Lord. That week we called our agency and told them that we were open to any country to adopt a girl that was HIV+. We completed yet anther dossier, and this time it was for Colombia. Within just a few months we had a referral for a little girl, although older than we anticipated. She was almost 4, and almost a year older than our approved age range. We prayed for two weeks straight before accepting the referral of the little girl that is now our daughter. We almost let our fears tell us, no. But my daughter prayed with me at the end of the two weeks and said, “Mommy, I think this girl is my sister!” Her childlike faith pushed us to say, “YES!” to this precious little girl in need of a family.

We knew she needed a family, but I didn’t know how much we all needed her until we picked her up in October of 2012. We learned of her courage and strength. We learned of her ability to fight sickness when she became very ill during our 6 ½ week stay in Colombia. The majority of the 6 weeks in Colombia, it was just myself, and my daughters who were 4 and 5 years old. I was scared and lonely at times as I missed my husband and my boys terribly. But as I watched my precious new daughter, Gia, be so strong and so courageous, I knew I could be strong and courageous too. I saw how she handled some of our in-country battles, such as lice, with such humor, and I found new humor in life. I realized that as much as she needed a family, we needed her just as much. After God moved many mountains during an in-country strike that could have kept us in country much longer, we were able to go home in December, just in time for Christmas together as a family of 6. We can’t imagine our lives without this witty, spunky, sweet little girl. We all needed her. We laugh more as family now, we have more perspective on life now, and we push ourselves out of our comfort zones more. We are able to educate others on the treatment of HIV and how our daughter can live a very normal life without spreading HIV to others. Our daughter takes medicine twice a day and goes to the doctor 4 times a year to have her levels checked. Many children are overlooked because of this virus.

If you have questions about adopting a child with HIV/AIDS, please contact Gerald & Gretchen Stanley at gerald@handsofhopein.org OR visit the website www.projecthopeful.org to gain more information.

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