The following post was written by Jon and Shelley George, members of Seven Mile Road Church.
It’s been almost 2 years since God blessed us with Sonali, and we are ready to share our story. We share this adventure, wrestling with legitimate concerns about publicizing our daughter’s life story, but at the same time overflowing with the joy of sharing a small picture of God’s great adoption story for your encouragement.
“…..but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…..” – Romans 8:15-17 ESV
Phase 1: Following Our Desire for Adoption
Ten years ago, when Shelley and I were single and dating, our individual desires to adopt a child came into discussion. We didn’t make much of it in those early days, but we now know that God had planted a seed in our hearts to carry out His desire for us.
It was 3 years later that we had moved to Philadelphia for additional vocational training and we started to see His plan in action. We didn’t know anyone in Philadelphia and started off exploring various churches in the city to find a home church. It was during a visit to Liberti Church in Fairmount that we stumbled across Ajay and Shainu during their first Sunday in Philadelphia and the pastor of Liberti introduced them as church planters in Northeast Philadelphia.
And what was just a casual introduction of visitors at a church, led to bible studies, a core group gathering, and eventually a church plant and launch. During one of those early gatherings in core group was when we met Jim and Leena. We were so amazed at their tangible story of adoption of their son that it revived our early desire to adopt for ourselves. We were so fortunate to have been able to follow their story in real time from their desire, to action, to homecoming, to acclimation, and to the move back to India for missional service. And at that time, God had consciously introduced us to the first of many adoptive parents that we would encounter to lead us along this path.
We followed God’s calling and initiated the paperwork for international adoptions. We were soon very frustrated to find that India had closed its doors to adoptions right after we submitted our paperwork. The only pathway for adoptions that remained was for children with special needs. We again wrestled with our interpretation of God’s will in our life. We selfishly thought that God wouldn’t expect us to burden ourselves with this pathway by overwhelming us beyond our ability (I Corinthians 10:13), especially while we were seeking to satisfy His will in our lives. So, at this juncture, we elected to try to have our own children.
To our further dismay, we struggled to have a child of our own for almost 2 years. It was at this time, while we went through fertility clinic appointments and further testing, that we reverted back to our initial plan of adoption. Miraculously, we became pregnant with our first child, right as we reinitiated our paperwork for the newly opened doors for Indian adoption.
It was during our well-calculated pregnancy and birth that we truly realized that nothing was in our control and that it had always been his controlling hand leading us along. The birth of our son came with a lot of potential dangers, that if not averted by his grace, could have had drastic consequences: from a calcified placenta with reduced oxygen perfusion to a cord around his neck, to an unexpected early emergency delivery. But praise be to God for a safe and healthy baby.
It is only then that we recognized that despite all of our preparations and planning, the health of our children was completely in His hands. And so we took the leap of faith to proceed with our adoption plan through the special needs pathway.
And just 9 months after the birth of our son, we got the referral from India for our daughter.
Phase 2: Pursuing Our Action of Adoption
Three months before we even submitted our application for adoption, our daughter was born in Chennai, India with a cleft lip and palate. The birth defect involving absence of union of the upper jaw can lead to significant delays in speech and swallowing. Her birth parents, not being able to care for her, had dropped her off at the door of an orphanage in St. Thomas Mount, the very next day after her birth. As an aside, St. Thomas Mount is presumed to be where Apostle Thomas entered India and started the gospel ministry in the subcontinent. How privileged for our daughter of Hindu birth to be dropped off at a Christian orphanage in the very location that signifies the birth of the Christian movement in India!
We learned that our daughter had undergone 2 corrective surgeries at 6 months and a year with only a residual defect of speech impairment. It was only as we were researching the implications and consequences of cleft lip and palate surgery, that we realized our daughter had undergone surgery by one of the most renowned and published surgeons in the world–even with our access to the medical world, we could not have coordinated such a miracle half-way across the globe, but praise be to God who has been watching her right from birth.
We went to India in October 2014 to see her for the first time and we were amazed at how quickly she took to us. It seemed like our family was coming together and falling in place. While we were repeatedly told that these last few steps in the adoption paperwork in the state courts of India was the biggest bottleneck taking 9 months to a year, we were again unexpectedly blessed by divine intervention. The local judge who had been needlessly delaying adoptions in Chennai for almost a year, went on a hiatus during our visit in October, allowing the new substitute judge to push our paperwork through unexpectedly quickly.
In just 3 months in January 2015, we were back in India to pick up our daughter and this is when reality struck! Our daughter who came so easily to us in October was extremely reluctant this time around. In the end, she had to be forced away from the orphanage and entered our car in tears despite our best attempts to appease her.
Nonetheless, in a short half hour, she was smiling and posing for pictures with us giving us again a picture of a complete family. But it was not until the next morning that I noticed a dramatic difference. My daughter had an aversion to me and would not come to me. She was attached to Shelley but wanted nothing to do with me. Just the mere action of sitting next to her would prompt her to get up and move away. I started recounting everything that had happened until then and could not illicit a single trigger that could’ve turned her away from me. This continued for several weeks and my desperation for her reciprocation of my love for her, churned anger within my heart.
How could she not love me?
I had loved her when no one else did, including her birth parents.
I had spent a lot of money to give her a future and a chance to excel.
And I had brought her from an orphanage in India to a nice loving home here in the U.S.
And as I thought more about this, I was burning with hate and disdain, at one point even questioning our decision to adopt my daughter, when finally the Holy Spirit revealed a truth to me: This period of what I viewed as justified anger for unreciprocated love after having adopted this child was just a small reflection of how much more God would’ve been justified in rejecting us after having loved us unconditionally despite our rejection of him.
God had done so much more for us:
He had loved us when we were despicable sinners
He had paid the price of giving up His own son to gain us
He had made us heirs to His eternal kingdom
Yet we had often turned our backs on Him.
Even then He loved us graciously waiting for us to recognize His love for us.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:1-2 ESV
Only after my acceptance of this truth did I notice the transformation of Sonali’s attitude towards me over the next 4 weeks. It was not before long that she would run into my arms calling me “Dada” when I returned home from work.
Phase 3: Living Our Life of Adoption
Over the last 2 years, Sonali has blossomed into our beautiful daughter, who warms our morning with a big smile on her face and a huge hug. Even in our moments of anger and parental discipline, she stands there with a smile acknowledging to us daily, that she indeed loves us with simple undemanding childlike love. She has easily taken on the role of Avi’s bossy but caring older sister. This little girl who was not even speaking two words in her native Tamil language, now won’t stop talking, dancing, singing, and causing mayhem alongside Avi. We have been blessed by her in innumerable ways as she has brought so much joy and laughter into our home. Despite our worries in being faithful to the Lord’s calling for us, we have indeed found that the Lord’s grace is sufficient in all things and has made up for our weaknesses. And now looking back, it was not God burdening us with the difficulties of the adoption process through the special needs pathway, but rather God allowing us to play a small part in the miracle of His story in Sonali’s life.
Again, we share our story here only with the joy of sharing a small picture of God’s grace revealed to us through this adoption story.
Our prayer is that this story of adoption is not to our glory, but a reflection of the greater adoption story:
Greater because he adopted us while we were more undesirable than any child could ever be.
Greater because he paid a greater price for adoption than any of us could ever pay.
And greater because he offered a greater gift than we could ever offer–eternal life and heirs to His kingdom.
– Jon & Shelley George