No longer an orphan…
In honor of National Orphan Month, I’ve been burdened to write. It’s amazing to me that when a month is focused on something, I believe that it is one of God’s beautifully sovereign ways of moving hearts. So many people are asking me Riah’s story this month. So many people talk to me with tears in their eyes. So many people are being moved and burdened…I pray for courage and faith to step forward. I’m praying that after this month there will be a movement of Believers following the cry of Jesus and his children to bring them into loving forever homes. So many of you who have heard moving, powerful, life-changing stories can become one of those who obey and change a child’s life. I will tell you—you will be changed as well. You will know the Father’s heart in a way like you never have before. Your family will be transformed…and most likely your heart will be too. Mine was (and is) being broken, transformed, and sanctified in this process. Please pray now, asking God what your role is in this orphan crisis…it IS our responsibility…how and what you’re called to do is between you and the Lord. Please ask HIM for the strength and courage for radical obedience today. My prayers are with you.
Here’s our story…
I met Riah about two years ago, when she was just 5 months old…wasn’t she so cute and chubby??!! I was volunteering at a beautiful orphanage in Taegu. I want to say that this orphanage was probably one of the most beautiful parts of my life in Korea. I saw Christ in this place probably more tangibly than anywhere else in my short life. The nannies were servants, the nurses LOVED and cared for these babies and children with a pure and Christ-like love. I felt the Spirit of God there—in their words and actions—in their worship and in the spirits of these precious children.
Almost immediately, Dave and I sensed a strong willingness to obey whatever the Lord asked us to do. I will say, this was not in ‘our plan’. We have always wanted to adopt, but in our minds, we expected it would be in Africa…some day. We felt God asking us to follow Him, not knowing what He would require of us. We prayed hard and felt our hearts open to this precious little girl…but then soon after, God took us on a journey up our mountain of faith…to lay down our desire to bring her into our home. The story is long and sort of confusing, but God wrote it, so I don’t question His timing or sovereignty. For a time, another family pursued adopting Riah…so, in a sense we ‘put to death’ our new desire to adopt. A few months later, Riah was back in the orphanage and my burden returned with a greater depth. I was now pregnant with our 4th baby girl, but would frequently wake in the middle of the night, feeling my belly, praying for our miracle…AND praying for Riah—without a family. How could my heart burn for a child I didn’t know or carry? It almost felt unreal to me. Was I making this up? BUT, the burden continued and it became heavier. I inquired every couple months at the orphanage, but was never able to get a clear answer…so I continued to wait and pray.
Our Evie was born on June 18, 2009…for a couple months, I was consumed with our newborn and 3 other children. I was also unable to visit at the orphanage due to the Flu Virus, but again the burden and thoughts of Riah returned. I shared with Dave again and he encouraged me to call our friend, Mr. Isaac who served closely with the Orphanage…I decided to share my year long story and burden for Riah with him. After typing a 3 page letter to him, I prayed and asked God’s will to be done. “I want her in a family, Lord,” was my heart’s cry. It didn’t even have to be my family, but I knew she was meant to have what God intends for every child. And I was praying God would choose us.
Within a day of writing to Mr. Isaac, he called with surprise and urgency in his voice. He said he never knew (though I had inquired about Riah at least a thousand times!) of my burden and couldn’t understand why with 4 children, I would be so passionate about Riah. I told him it was from the Lord, because I couldn’t explain it either. He said Love and Hope wanted to meet with us on Friday…4 days away. Okay.
Friday came and we loaded up our tribe. What would this meeting hold? What were we doing? Well, it turns out that we were adopting RIAH!!! After a one hour meeting with us (now please remember, I had volunteered there for 2 years and knew Mr. Isaac very well!) they said, through a translator, that we could adopt her…that they supported us and they would help us. Whoa. Talk about a life altering hour. We were stunned, ecstatic, overwhelmed and overwhelmed…did I mention stunned?? It was not a normal adoption story. But, what is normal anyway?!
Three weeks later, YES, 21 days later, we were picking our newest daughter up from the orphanage and welcoming her into her forever family. Those 3 weeks were short, but intense…and sovereignly given to us by God. The 4 kids and I went EVERY morning for 2 or 3 hours. Dave would always come on the weekends or a post-call day. We held Riah, tried to play with her, read books with her and in general helped her to not be COMPLETELY scared or overwhelmed by her new family! She would usually fall asleep. My kids were amazing. It was so HOT, and exhausting for them, but they were troopers and started falling in love with Riah too. The day we were able to take her home forever, she did not cry or even seem afraid. She just slept. A lot.
That day marked a pivotal point in Riah’s life…and in my heart. Let me tell you about Riah first….that’s the beautiful story…then we’ll get to the ugly heart story.
Moriah Grace, her NEW name after joining the AYER family is named this because of our walk of faith…we related so much to Abraham climbing Mt. Moriah and laying down the thing he loved most—his son. We pictured this mountain of faith often as we walked through the year of not knowing what God would require of us in terms of obedience…Moriah “Chosen by Jehovah” was a perfect name as we believe in God’s sovereignty and choosing of each of our children….AND it was God’s grace that took our family on that journey of faith and His grace that protected Riah and brought her to us. HIS grace united a broken and needy family with a broken and lonely baby girl.
Riah’s transition home was ‘textbook’ as my friend put it! She did great, but it was the months to follow that I can look back on and see the fear and then the healing of our sweet daughter’s spirit. She is a child who has been given a special spirit from God. She is loving, compassionate, thoughtful, kind, considerate. I know it sounds like I’m writing about a 30 year old!! God has chosen her for a mighty purpose…I am sure of that. She loves her new family…loves to play, sleep, color and most of all loves music and worship. She will sit or dance in front of our computer when music is playing. At worship events she will stay in the center, clapping and worshipping the entire time! She has a worshippers’ heart! She also is over the top in LOVE with her Daddy! (Which I totally understand!)
When Riah first came home, she could sit up and point at things, but she couldn’t crawl, she couldn’t walk, she had very little strength. She hardly knew she had a left arm. She could low crawl and drag herself across the floor with one arm. Needless to say, the past year has been intense for her, with an incredible learning curve…learning to be in a family with LOTS of stimulation! Learning to move, walk, crawl and be independent…learning to hear and speak English. She is our Overcomer. She is a remarkable little person and we are truly in awe that God has chosen us to shepherd her through this life.
Riah also happens to have Cerebral Palsy. It is mild compared to many who have this ‘disability’. It’s funny what we label as disabilities, isn’t it? Riah is more EXCEPTIONAL than she is disabled, but we like to focus on what’s wrong or missing. That’s why, up until now, I’ve never even mentioned it or written about it. I’m realizing as she gets older that the gap is increasing though as her motor abilities on the left side of her body are very hindered. But, it is becoming a huge focus of our lives right now as God is providing amazing (and intense) opportunities for medical intervention and healing. We are SO thankful.
The past year has been the hardest in my life in many ways. Parenting 5 children, having a newborn, and helping a sweet orphan transition to no longer being an orphan has been an unbelievable challenge, but one I would never trade. Riah’s growth, my healing, and my family’s transformation have been one of the greatest things God has ever done. Riah has been a vessel used by God to transform and strengthen a very broken and needy family. I never knew how much we needed Riah.
I love this perfect gift of God and love all that she has taught me about God’s love and grace. He has adopted us—when we were foreign…sinners, lost and alone. He chose us. He lavished his love and acceptance on us. He takes our weakness and helps us walk—one step at a time, he takes our shortcomings and shows His power, he takes our sins and makes us clean, he takes all of our disabilities and brings beauty and newness. He takes brokenness and brings wholeness. He takes human limitations and shows us His glory. He takes our hearts and shows us abundant LIFE. Through adoption, Christ’s redemption has been brought to our lives in a tangible form. He has redeemed Riah, He has redeemed my heart.
As you read this, please know and have assurance that HE CHOSE YOU. He desires to adopt you as HIS child…to take all of you—in your brokenness…not once you’re better, but today…to be loved and forgiven and redeemed. May you feel the freedom of His love today, sweet friend!