I want to share with you our story… a journey that strengthened our faith, our love for Jesus, and our family. Through this journey the Lord refined us, shaped us, and gave us a passion for Him & His Kingdom.
Our journey began in February 1999. My husband, Matt, was my high school sweetheart. I was a freshman and he was serving his first year in the United States Navy. When we met, it was love at first sight. Yes, that does happen in real life! Three years later on June 1, 2002 we were joined together in marriage before God and our loved ones. It was a fairytale beginning of our new life together. Our dream was to have a family of our own. I’ve always felt that one of my purposes on this earth was to love & nurture children (God’s plan was just that, but far bigger than mine!). Just months after marrying, we conceived our first child, but quickly miscarried. Two months later, we conceived our second child, but suffered loss once again. Our hearts and dreams were shattered, but we held onto hope. I clung to a truth my mom always instilled in me, “God has a purpose, a plan, and a promise for your life.” That promise was rooted in my heart.
After medical diagnosis of infertility in both Matt and I, we began pursuing fertility treatments. During this process, we felt unsettled about this path. We began seeking the Lord for guidance. It didn’t take long for God to divert our path. One day, we received a phone call asking us to consider the adoption of baby girl that was expected to be born in 7 months. We sought the Lord with all our hearts and He gave us overwhelming peace. We knew the Lord was going to form our family through the gift of adoption. Months before the baby was due, the birth mother decided to not go through with the adoption. We were left heartbroken, confused, and grieving loss all over again. We turned to the Lord and sought Him with all our hearts. The Lord spoke to us through His Word and assured us we were still in His will.
“For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:19-21
It didn’t take long before God set our feet upon a new path to pursue international adoption. We knew in our hearts that He had a plan that far exceeded ours, a plan to knit our family together by a love that knows no bounds. He led us to the beautiful country of Guatemala, where severe poverty and desperation leave thousands of children orphaned and abandoned. We knew the need was great in Guatemala. We quickly began the adoption process in July 2006. It was an involved process that required dedication & diligence. On February 9, 2007, we received a referral package of a precious 6 week old baby girl weighing just 5lbs. We fell in love as soon as we laid eyes on her. God had answered our prayers. We named her Aniah Grace. Aniah is a Hebrew name meaning “God has answered me”.
We quickly planned a visit trip to Guatemala City to meet Aniah for the first time. We were overwhelmed with joy when we held her in our arms for the first time. She was absolutely beautiful and precious, yet so tiny and frail. We were shocked that she only weighed 7lbs at nearly 5 months old. She was severely under developed, malnourished, weak, and had fluid in her lungs. We realized that something was desperately wrong with her health. We knew we needed to bring her home quickly. If our adoption process delayed, Aniah might not survive. We prayed for the Lord to sustain her and hasten our adoption process. Through God’s great faithfulness, He sustained our sweet girl and brought her home just 6 weeks later.
It was a dream come true to finally have our family together. Aniah thrived and flourished as we nurtured her with love and care. Just weeks after Aniah’s homecoming, our dream was shaken when she was diagnosed with a genetic tumor disorder, Neurofibromatosis 1. This condition causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body, vision and hearing disturbances, learning disabilities, scoliosis, hydrocephalus, seizures, and cancer. We began visiting many specialists and seemingly living our life at doctor’s offices. Aniah began having many MRIs, X-Rays, and ultrasounds. Every medical test she had revealed more diagnoses of medical conditions and birth defects. Aniah was diagnosed with scoliosis, a Chiari 1 Malformation (brain deformity), hydrocephalus, Choledochal Cyst (birth defect in the common bile duct), Spina Bifida Occulta, Brain damage, and Liver disease. Over the last 5 years, Aniah has undergone major abdominal surgery and many hospitalizations. We are thankful for God’s protective covering over Aniah. We have witnessed many healings manifest in our sweet girl. The Lord has blessed her and sustained her health. Aniah is a beautiful, energetic, loving child. Through the valleys and the trials, God has not only strengthened our spirits & faith in the Lord, but also cultivated in our young Aniah a strong heart for Jesus. Aniah has an amazing heart full of compassion for others & deep love for God. Her dream is to help care for children that don’t have mommies and daddies. A dream God has birthed in her heart at such a tender age. We know He has a great purpose, plan, and promise for our precious daughter.
In 2010, we began our second adoption journey to grow our family. We worked with an adoption agency that was seeking adoptive families for a domestic Hispanic adoption program. We desired to adopt a child that shared Aniah’s heritage. That’s a special bond that only they could share. After 6 months of waiting, a young birth mother chose us to adopt her baby boy. Our hearts were overjoyed yet again when he was placed in our arms the day he was born. Just days after being in our family, his birth mother changed her mind. With broken hearts, we prayed over him and gave him back as if we were returning him to the Lord. For 3 days we cried and grieved. During those dark days we didn’t even have the strength to whisper a prayer or eat. Feeling confused, we questioned God’s desire for us to adopt more children. On the third night of this darkness, Aniah came to me while I was laying down crying. She placed her hand on my head and prayed over her Mommy. She then climbed up on the couch next to me and said “Mommy, the black bird has flown away. It’s going to be okay.” With my heart overwhelmed, I knew the darkness that was pressing in had fled. The healing light of Jesus began to break through and speak truth to our hearts. I went into the nursery we had prepared to cry out to my God face down on the floor. I felt Him speak to my heart that He had a greater blessing in store for our family. I had been secretly petitioning Him to bless us with another daughter with Guatemalan heritage. I knew the blessing of sisters and the special bond I desired for them to share. He gave my heart peace and drew me closer to Him than ever. I knew I could rest in His unchanging faithfulness.
On January 9, 2011 we received the news that another birth mother had chosen our family to adopt her baby that was due in April. It was a baby girl that shared Aniah’s Guatemalan heritage. I immediately cried and worshipped our sovereign, faithful God. He answered my prayer and gave me the secret desires of my heart. Our precious Arianna Lee was born on March 29, 2011. She was perfect in every way. We finally had our family of four, beautifully knit together by our Heavenly Father.
God birthed a dream in our hearts from the beginning of our adoption journey to care for the fatherless. We saw the tremendous need first hand in Guatemala. The number of children left abandoned and orphaned is staggering in such widespread poverty. The orphan crisis has even worsened after international adoptions closed in 2008, leading them to live their childhoods in orphanages then turned out to the streets before adulthood. After our adoption journeys, we not only fell deeper in love with our precious daughters, but the love and passion we had for orphans all over the world grew stronger. I began praying for the Lord to direct our path and show us how we can serve His precious ones that go forgotten. In December 2011, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart.
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39
I surrendered my life to the Sovereign Creator of the Universe in that moment. It was surrendering my life, my family, and my dreams & desires for the future. I knew I had loved my Lord all these years, yet still living my life for myself, living the American Dream. We were merely building an earthly kingdom. He gave me a new perspective, a Kingdom perspective. Once I laid my life down, prepared to pick up the cross and follow Him, He began speaking to my heart like never before.
We felt the Lord lead us to visit Lifepoint Church in January 2012. I knew He was leading us there for a purpose, a purpose that involved outreach and missions for the Kingdom. The Lord confirmed this as we opened our hearts to receive His word from Pastor Daniel Floyd that morning. The message on the Lord being the vine and we are His branches and living a life in the Spirit was exactly what the Lord had been speaking to my heart. A few weeks later, I was praying for the Lord’s direction regarding His desire for my service to Him. I read Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” I asked the Lord, “Who are the ‘least of these’ that you are calling me to serve?” I immediately had a vision of Guatemalan faces. It brought tears to my eyes. I knew He was calling us back to Guatemala to serve the people. That following Sunday morning, I prayed to the Lord and told Him “I am willing to go, but please show me how, when, and where.” Later that morning at Lifepoint’s service, a missionary couple was introduced. They mentioned serving in Guatemala. I began to cry, because I knew the Lord was about to provide me with the “how, when, and where” answer to my prayer. Following service, I made a bee line to speak to the missionaries. I shared my heart for Guatemala with them. They showed me the picture slideshow playing on their laptop of their missions in Guatemala. They told me that Lifepoint Church was launching their world outreach program this summer, starting in Guatemala. My heart leaped! They introduced me to the pastor over outreach and missions. He told me about the upcoming mission trip to Hope of Life International in Zacapa, Guatemala. I shared with him my desire for Matt and I to be part of the team, but it was a team for youth and their parents. There was only a slim chance they would have extra spots available, but I knew in my heart God would make a way. And He did!
Matt and I went to Zacapa, Guatemala to serve through Hope of Life International with our Lifepoint Church team in June 2012. We fell in love with the country all over again. On our first morning, I got up early to watch the sunrise. I stood on the edge of the mountain overlooking the valley and prayed. I clearly heard the Lord speak to my heart, “You are home.” I immediately was startled by what I heard Him say and questioned Him. He spoke again, “You are home.” During the week we served in Guatemala the Lord broke our hearts for what breaks His. He cultivated in us an even deeper desire to be His hands and feet to His precious ones and further His Kingdom by meeting the needs of those living in desperation. When we left Guatemala to return home, we felt as if we were leaving home to return to a foreign land. It was as if we didn’t belong in our very home anymore. Our hearts were in Guatemala.
Since that week, we have organized & led new groups to serve on mission trips through Hope of Life. We have witnessed our friends and family’s hearts captured by the people of Guatemala as well. We have seen the Lord give many a heart of adoption, and all have returned with a heart full of passion to serve God’s people. It’s amazing the work God can do through a willing heart… mountains can be moved, the sick can be healed, and lives transformed. The impossible brought into being… All for the Glory of God!
During our last trip in May 2013, we shared our heart and dream to care for orphans with Hope of Life’s founder, Carlos Vargas. He replied that this was also a dream of his. The next morning, he said he had sought the Lord in prayer all night. The Lord confirmed this was His plan and to proceed forward. God has called our family to move to Guatemala to serve the orphans through family style orphan care. We will be the first family to establish Safe Haven Family Village at Hope of Life’s campus. Our prayer is that the Lord will provide more missionary families to care over 100 children at Safe Haven Family Village. Through the family style orphan care, we will be raising these children in the love of the Jesus in a stable, healthy environment. God’s design for family with a mother and father is crucial to healthy child development. It’s through the love and nurturing of a mother and father figure that teaches a child the love of their Heavenly Father. His love and grace will be displayed through the house parents’ expression of His love on a daily basis. We trust Jesus’ healing love and grace will transform broken hearts and restore lost hope in the lives of these children.
The dream God birthed in our hearts years ago was sown by Him. It was His desire before it was ours. He found our hearts willing and open to following Him. We are forever thankful for every valley and mountain top that has prepared us and led us to this calling. We are excited to begin this new faith journey. There’s no better place to be than in the will of God serving Him with a heart of worship. We are expectant of God’s amazing plans that far exceed and surpass all of our hopes and dreams for the orphaned children in Guatemala.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” Ephesians 3:20