Adoption has been on Marie's heart since she was a teen. She has 2 dolls that she got as a girl, one very white - one very black and they've always sat together on a shelf, reminding her of her desire to adopt.
None of you would believe it now, but for the first few years of our marriage we struggled with infertility. God intervened and opened Marie's womb. Our oldest son, Samuel, got his name because he truly was asked of God. But that is a whole other story about God's grace. We looked into adoption briefly then and through some missionaries, God stirred something in Marie's heart about Haiti.
Some time after our third child was born, Marie Googled adoption in Haiti. An orphanage called For His Glory caught her attention. She contacted them a few times inquiring about adopting. Haiti had and still has a rule that they don't allow families with more than 3 birth children to adopt.
All this time, adoption wasn't on Mark's heart. He wasn't against it in general, but didn't really sense God directing our family that way.
After our 5th biological child was born, we struggled with making a decision of whether or not to have any more children of our own. After much prayer, we agreed that the Lord was instructing us to trust Him and let Him be in control of the number of children we have.
Then, in January of 2008, in Marie's quiet time, it seemed God was bombarding her with verses on adoption. The word that stood out to her over and over was the word, "Hope". Marie shared this with Mark and showed him the verses. Everywhere we went, the word, "Hope" stood out - on church signs, in the craft store, on our pastor's polo shirt, everywhere.
In late February, Marie got up really early, not able to sleep, and wrote in her prayer journal that she felt God was telling her that our first adopted child would be named, "Hope". She would be a little black girl with bright eyes and a big smile. She pictured her with two ribbons in her hair the way her little black doll was.
Marie believed God and kept praying that God would change my Mark's heart. We had to be on the same page.
We have ceramic garden bunnies on our porch. There is a mom and dad and many little bunnies. We had 4 little bunnies for a long time. People kept telling us to get another one for our 5th child. Marie saw them at Walgreens and decided to buy one, but they were 2 for $5, so she figured she'd buy 2 in case we had another child. Marie brought them home and put one on the porch with the others. She brought the other one inside, put it on the shelf in the kitchen and told Mark and the children that the bunny's name was Hope.
In late May, an email newsletter came from For His Glory Orphanage. It was entitled, "The Day Hope Came". Of course it caught Marie's attention. It was a story about a baby girl about 4 months old who was found skin and bone abandoned on a garbage ravine. The orphanage had rescued her, taken her to the hospital, and named her "Hope".
It was as if someone gripped Marie's heart. When Mark got back, she showed him the newsletter. He looked at her and said, "If you want to call and ask the 'what ifs' of us adopting her, you can." Marie called right away and found out that Hope wasn't yet up for adoption because they needed to locate the birth father for a release. The rule of no more than 3 birth children and and sometimes they consider you if you have 4, still stood. But, we rested in the fact that the government is always changing there, and most importantly, we knew we had a great big God.
A couple of days later, God shared with Mark two Scriptures that confirmed to him that we move forward with adoption. Marie asked, "Is it Ok for me to contactů" and he said, "Yes," before Marie even finished her sentence about Christian Family Services for our homestudy. He said he knew what she was going to ask. God changed his heart.
Shortly before our homestudy interviews, Marie got an email from a friend who has 3 adopted children and it read, "Put the bunny outside and have faith Hope just isn't home yet!" Marie talked with Mark about it and asked, "Do you really think we should do that? Isn't that being presumptuous that we know what God is going to do?" Mark said, "I think we have to. We have to have that kind of faith." And he shared with Marie the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego where they walked into the fiery furnace in Daniel Chapter 3. They had absolute faith that He would, but they also said, "even if he does not". We tried to trust Him totally and lay everything on the line - knowing He spoke, believing He would move mountains, ready to watch Him do amazing things.
Marie put the bunny on the porch.
We completed all 4 homestudy interviews in 2 days in mid-June. We prayed that the rules would change so that even though we had 5 birth children, we would be able to bring Hope home.
The agency said, we could get almost all the way through the process and be denied and then lose $10,000. But, we don't think God could've been more clear. He is the God of the impossible. He has incredible power. He changed Mark's heart - He can change authorities, rulers, and rules or circumvent them. Although we believed God could move mountains, we also prayed that if we were not supposed to and we were to go in a different direction, that God would make that clear to both of us.
Then, two days after our homestudy interviews were complete, we received an email from For His Glory Orphanage saying that a "paper ready" family had stepped forward and committed to adopting Hope. We had a strange peace about this. We knew as we prayed for God to lead and direct and make things clear and that He is faithful. We knew Hope would be in the family God chose for her. Yet, now after such specifically clear direction, we were left to get back on our knees and seek God for our next steps. We knew God used baby Hope to get us moving. Marie asked Mark, "If we would've found out that Hope had a home even 3 days before, would we have done the homestudy?" We both thought, "Probably not." There was a child or children somewhere that in God's perfect timing needed us to be moving forward. So, now we prayed, "God, what country and what agency and what sex and what age?" We knew he would lead.
In early July, after much prayer about where we were to adopt from, Mark calmly said, "We already have our answer." As "Hope" has been so evident in our time with God, the agency that works only with Ethiopia is called "Hope Adoption Agency". Also in both Mark and Marie's prayer times we felt led toward boys - plural! We felt God calling us to adopt two children - a baby and an older boy around the age of 7. We continued to pray that God would lead and that if we heard Him wrong that He would close doors and clarify. We knew He would as He had already done.
In early August, we felt we finally had clear direction from God about the number of children we should adopt at this time and also the age and sex. We prayed and sought Godly counsel from other believers who have adopted. We decided to move forward with a request for one baby boy between the ages of 0 and 6 months old. While we waited to be matched with him, we named our baby boy Nathan which means God's gift. We asked people to pray for Nathan - for his health and development and mostly for his heart to be prepared to invite in His awesome Savior.
On the first Sunday of October, My husband opened an email after church that was from the adoption agency. They sent us a picture of a baby boy almost 7 weeks old and asked if we would accept his referral. I remember standing up on the chair and screaming with joy. It was as if a dream was coming true right before my eyes. Of course we accepted his referral. The director said his papers were ready to be filed, so as soon as we got our paperwork and referral money in, we would be waiting for a court date!
We learned our son's name was Abenezar, a form of Ebenezer. Ebenezer is Hebrew from the Bible in 1 Samuel meaning "stone of help". Samuel put up an Ebenezer stone to be a reminder of all that God had done up until then. A website I went to noted that in today's day and age, our prayer journals are like Ebenezer stones - as we look back in them, they remind us of all that God has done. Our tiny son's name was incredible because of how God has spoken to us through my prayer journal that year. We prayed and still pray that Nathan Abenezar will always be a reminder to us and to all who he touches in life, that our God has done great things!