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Adoption and love are choices, not feelings, and they will stretch you in ways you never expected.

The Kulp Family

If I could use one word to describe our adoption experiences, our lives, it is “surrender.” God has been so kind in building our family, but it was a long road of surrendering what we knew was good for what God had planned—our best.

            We married young and always wanted children through adoption having both worked in orphanages on missions’ trips as teenagers. Kim remembers being so burdened after holding a Mexican orphan suffering from mumps, a preventable sickness, that she cried herself to sleep that night. She has never forgotten that sweet boy’s face.

            After struggling with infertility for 2 years, it became clear to us that God wanted build our family through adoption much sooner than we had anticipated. After receiving an unexpected inheritance, we knew God had provided for us to begin the adoption process. Once we surrendered our desire for our first child to be a biological child and began the domestic adoption process, the peace in our marriage and our hearts returned!

            Our first son, Devon, was born in New Jersey in March of 2005. Holding him in the hospital at 24 hours old brought such joy, but also fear to our hearts. We knew that we would want a full month with this child in our arms, our homes, and our hearts before parental rights were terminated. Devon’s newborn days are a blur in our memory, but we remember the groaning prayers we made as we rocked him each night, prayers that this child would remain ours and, yet, that God would bring peace and comfort in the loss he and his birth mother were experiencing.

            It was in these moments that we realized we had to surrender so much more than our vision for our family. God was stretching our hearts to places we didn’t want to go. Acknowledging the grief and loss of others, and the fact that God was using that grief to build our family brought a huge shift in how we would live our lives. We were being called upon to surrender our full hearts to the care of the vulnerable; orphans, widows, and those in grief. From that moment on we decided that all of our children would come through adoption.

            We began the process to adopt from Ethiopia in 2006. Our desire was to do what we could to impact the orphan crisis around the world, and we chose Ethiopia because it had (at that time) one of the world’s biggest orphan crises. After waiting for over 9 months to be matched with a child, we saw the face of our Micah David. He was so small, only 8 pounds at 4 months old, and yet he radiated joy. Kim knew in an instant that this was a special boy who was meant to be in our family. She surrendered her heart to him right away, having never even met him. And, this was a good thing, because the fight to get him home was going to be the fight of our lives!

            Soon after our referral we were told that Micah David’s paperwork was being rejected by the Ethiopian government. After months of fighting, our agency called to say that they feared Micah David would become “unadoptable.” Getting through court, it seemed, was impossible. God was calling us, it seemed, to surrender our son to His care as He went to battle for Micah David in ways we could not. We could do nothing but pray and push for a “yes.” But, nothing is impossible with God, prayers, and fighting mothers!

            We, along with 2 other families, pushed hard for our agency to find a way for Micah David and the other children stuck in the “paperwork prison” to come home to their forever families. On April 1st, after 7 months of fighting, an entirely new set of paperwork, and more than a few trips to court, Micah David and the other children from his orphanage whose paperwork had been redone were freed.

            We traveled to Ethiopia 2 weeks later. We can’t describe the feeling of holding our son for the first time, of knowing that he could have remained an orphan, but God had chosen to write his story differently. From the moment we held Micah David he brought us joy.  Despite the sleepless nights of his first 6 months home and the struggles with food and health during his first year with us, Micah David has been, in many ways, a symbol of God’s goodness and love for our family. He reminds us daily that God goes before us, He fights for us. He leads us along right paths for His name’s sake. God was indeed glorified in the adoption of Micah David!

            It was in Ethiopia that we met the Koby family, who would become, over many years, our closest friends. The gift of their friendship was the icing on the cake of our first Ethiopian adoption! To watch Elias and Micah David’s friendship bloom as they get older is such a wonderful blessing.

            While in Ethiopia we again felt the call to surrender our hearts to Him. To be honest, we were terrified of international adoption and all of the struggles it had brought us, but we also knew that God’s ways were the best ways. We had fallen in love with Ethiopia and knew that He was calling us back to Ethiopia to adopt a daughter. So, we began the process right away.

            3 years later we were matched with a tiny little peanut, Hamdiya. Her big brown eyes stared up at us from her photo. She looked just like a doll! We were told she was medically fragile, weighing just over 5 pounds at 4 months old. Only 10 days after our referral, Hamdiya was hospitalized. Her heart and lungs simply weren’t working correctly. Our agency worked hard to get her status moved to special needs as we worked on our side to change our paperwork. Within a month, we were on a plane to meet her for the first time and go to court in Ethiopia, with the plan to return home after 1 week. We would travel back to get our daughter when her visa had been processed.

            When we held Hamdiya, who we call “Haddy,” for the first time, we were in shock. She was indeed so small, and very sick. Her breathing was irregular and too fast, and she couldn’t eat without falling asleep from cardiac fatigue. It became clear to us that this child needed better medical care and advocacy. Again, God asked us to surrender our plans to Him. After much prayer (and lots of tears!), we decided that Kim would stay in Ethiopia for as long as it took to get Haddy’s medical visa.

            Once we surrendered to this plan, we watched God move mountains on behalf of our daughter! In 1 day Chad was able to obtain 3 crucial documents that usually took a month! We were able to convince the embassy medical doctor to require Haddy’s paperwork to be processed within 3 weeks. Kim caught 2 critical errors on embassy paperwork and was able to get them corrected, something we never could have done without being in country.

            But, the time alone in Ethiopia with a very sick child was beyond hard for Kim. Kim remembers crying for 8 hours straight before Chad left Ethiopia, in fear and sadness. Twice during the night Kim awoke to find Haddy in respiratory distress. Yet, God provided. Once, a nurse was staying in the same guest home. Another time, a doctor. Within 3 weeks Kim stood with Haddy’s visa in her hands. We remain amazed at God’s hand as He smoothed every crook in the road to bringing Haddy home!

            When we touched American soil with Haddy in our arms, we knew that God had built our family in a masterful way out of struggle and surrender. With each of our adoptions God had gently led us, requiring only our surrender and worship. If we could encourage other adoptive parents in only 1 way, it would be to surrender. Your family is going to look and be very different than others. Your journey to parenthood—and through parenthood, is going to be full of joys and struggles, pain and triumph. Surrendering it all to God will not only keep you on the right path, it will help you to continue when the road is dark and the unexpected happens. Adoption and love are choices, not feelings, and they will stretch you in ways you never expected. Surrender your heart to the life you are living, not the one you expected or longed for, and your joy will be complete in Him!

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