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A Double Blessing

An unexpected gift of love

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Wednesday afternoon, July 26, 2006, I got a phone call at the mission office in Bamako, Mali. It was Gail Warner, an Alliance missionary working at the Koutiala Hospital for Women and Children. The conversation was unexpected, amazing and life changing.

Warner told me that a mother had died giving birth to twin girls out in the bush. Their father didn’t want them, and she (knowing we were interested in adoption) asked me if my wife, Amanda, and I wanted one or both of the girls. I knew the answer right away—and it both terrified and excited me!

I needed to talk with Amanda. When I told her the story, she stopped me before I even said they were looking for adoptive parents. “Yes. I want them,” she said firmly.

Other Plans

On another afternoon in the summer of 2004, I was working at a Christian radio station in Lima, Ohio, when I got a different life-changing phone call. Amanda and I were missionary candidates and expecting to leave for language study that December. That afternoon Amanda called me in tears. The lab results had confirmed that we weren’t able to have children.

We weren’t completely shocked, but this still isn’t news that anyone wants to hear. Upon arrival in Mali after language study, we looked into the adoption process. We were honestly discouraged by what we found. Mali doesn’t encourage foreign adoptions, and there were many roadblocks. We decided to wait until after we returned from our first home assignment in spring 2007. Obviously God had other plans, because two baby girls soon arrived!

What’s Next?

That first night after learning of the twins we sought the advice of our field director and his wife. They were obviously excited for us, and by the end of the evening we knew that, unless the Lord put up an obvious barrier, we were going to pursue adopting these girls. Now the question was, “What’s next?”

Although the hospital in Koutiala has been funded by the Great Commission Fund and is partially staffed by missionaries, it is part of a national church organization called Centre Protestante pour l’Assistance Medicale au Mali. The director, Daniel Thera, is a lawyer, so our field director called him for advice on Wednesday night. Thera recommended that the girls stay in Koutiala until we had legal custody. However, on Friday we got word that the hospital was understaffed; the workers needed Amanda and me to come to Koutiala and help care for the babies.

It turned out to be a tougher trip than we imagined. On the way to Koutiala we had serious car problems and were stranded in the middle of nowhere, which is not hard to find in Mali! I hitchhiked about 30 miles to Segou and walked another 6 or 7 miles into town. A mechanic came and helped tow our car. The next morning someone from Koutiala picked us up. That day, about noon, we got to meet Miriam Ruth and Hannah Marie for the first time!

Tiny Miracles

Miriam and Hannah were small. They were about three weeks old, yet each weighed just a little over three pounds. However, Hannah was losing weight rather than gaining it. We weren’t sure what to do, so we tried feeding her less food more frequently, and then we tried feeding her more food less frequently. Nothing worked.

One of the nurses said, “What if it’s a milk allergy?” In America this wouldn’t be a big problem since we have many alternatives for food allergies. In Mali these options don’t exist. We sent daily prayer requests to our friends and family in the United States and elsewhere. Meanwhile, I had to return to Bamako. Since our car was being repaired in Segou (about halfway between Koutiala and Bamako, a distance of 300 miles), I took the bus there and slowly drove my semi-repaired car to Bamako.

A new missionary couple arrived the same day I returned to Bamako: Barry and Terry Newman. Terry had worked with premature babies at Bongolo Hospital in Gabon before coming to Mali, and her presence was a godsend. She put Hannah on an IV and determined the problem was indeed a milk allergy. A few days later, with the milk out of Hannah’s system, Terry found goat’s milk, which Hannah was able to digest. It wasn’t a moment too soon! Terry later said it was a miracle; Hannah had lost so much weight Terry wasn’t sure the baby would live through the night.

We kept Hannah on goat’s milk for about two months. She still showed signs of allergies (it’s normal to be allergic to both), and we prayed again about what to do for her. Someone mailed soy milk formula to us, and other people had brought some in their luggage, but we couldn’t get the supply we needed to regularly feed Hannah.

Added Opportunities

In late September Hannah was finally big enough to be taken outside. For the first time in two months we went to church, where we met a missionary couple who work for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). We were talking with them and mentioned how difficult it was to get soy formula, much less devise a long-term plan. It turned out that MAF was making a flight that week, and they said they would try to get three cases of formula on the plane. Again, the Lord provided, and we were blessed with enough formula to get us through to our scheduled home assignment.

The girls are doing great! Every time we went for a routine check-up, the Malian nurses fawned over the babies. In August 2006 we were granted custody of the twins and were given full adoption privileges January 5, 2007. We left Mali for home assignment in Ohio in the spring, and Miriam recently started crawling. Hannah will not be far behind!

The twins have opened up tremendous opportunities to develop relationships and share the gospel. Through our Web site we’ve heard from people who saw the work the Lord did in Hannah’s life and rededicated themselves to pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. We’ve recognized more fully how we’re adopted into the family of God. We’ve also been blessed by the community of believers who have helped us through prayer and support. And, of course, we’re blessed with the daily reminders on Miriam and Hannah’s joyful faces of how perfect and faithful our Lord truly is.

To support Alliance workers online, go to www.cmalliance.org/give/gmissions.jsp, or call toll free (U.S. only): (866) 443-8262.

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