David and I met in 1991 at First Baptist Church in Frisco, TX through David’s sister, Cindy, who was my Sunday School teacher during my sophomore year in high school. I grew very close to Cindy and her husband Randy as I became active in the youth group at FBC Frisco. It was only natural that I began babysitting Cindy and Randy’s son, Aaron. A short while later, Cindy gave birth to their daughter Kelsey and I was privileged to be at the hospital “as family” to celebrate the birth. Over the next few years, I continued to grow closer to David’s family as I spent more and more time with Cindy, Randy, Aaron, and Kelsey and also spending hours talking to David’s and Cindy’s mother, who was serving as a missionary alongside their dad in New Mexico, on the phone.
Initially, David and I were only family friends; only seeing each at church when he came to visit his family because, at the time, David was in college at East Texas Baptist University and I was still in high school. Once I graduated from high school and began college, our relationship forged into a friendship where we occasionally met up to hang out. However, all of that changed in November 1996 when David’s mother was in the end stages of terminal cancer. I immediately rallied around David and his family – “my family” - and became a strong support and source of comfort to David. It was during this time that God made it abundantly clear that David’s and my relationship would become more than just friends. In the month that followed, we began to pray and seek God’s will and timing for our new dating relationship. A month following that, in January 1997, David and I became engaged to be married. (When you’re sure, you’re sure!!) Over the next eight months, as I finished my senior year at Dallas Baptist University, we continued to seek the Lord in our relationship and prayed for ways to serve Him together. In September 1997, we were married.
We decided that we did not want to have children, instead focusing on each other and our careers. So, David continued his career as an accountant and I began my career as a secondary English and Reading teacher. For the next four years we happily continued on our career paths and continued to pray that God would open doors for us to serve Him in a mighty way through our daily lives. In May 2001, my life was shattered when my brother, Shane, tragically and unexpectedly passed away. During this time of unspeakable grief, David and I never gave up on our faith or became angry at God. Instead, we sought comfort in God and remained steadfast in our desire to serve Him daily. God, in return, began to change our hearts in relation to our views on having a family. Within a few short months, I was pregnant with our first child. What started as an uneventful healthy pregnancy changed when I entered my second trimester. On December 23rd, during a routine sonogram, we were informed that our precious baby no longer had a heartbeat and I was admitted to the hospital. We were completely devastated and in mourning, but we found comfort in knowing that, without a doubt, our precious baby was in the arms of Jesus and we would one day be reunited in eternity. David and I also found solace as we continued to place our trust in God and believe that, in His Sovereignty, God still had a plan for us that included children.
Two months later, in February 2002, the Lord led us to begin an apartment ministry and I took a leave from teaching to focus on the ministry full time. We absolutely loved getting to know the various apartment residents and cherished the fact that we were serving the Lord through ministering to this community on a daily basis. As David and I were serving, we could not help but feel God using this apartment ministry to prepare us for a bigger life-changing permanent ministry. So, once again, we began to pray and ask God to lead us to where He wanted us to serve by opening the doors “to get there.”
On a Thursday night in April 2002, God widely opened the first door that would place David and I on our life ministry. I was on my way home from a ladies’ night out event that I had planned for the apartment community when I received a call from a family member. This family member knew of a beautiful blonde-haired newborn baby who needed a family because his birth mother was unable to care for him. Immediately, I told my family member that David and I wanted this baby! It was only after I hung up the phone did the word “adoption” form in my mind and sear into my heart. My very next thought was, “Oh my goodness, I just committed to this baby and did not even consult David!” Oops! When David got home from work later that night, I informed him that he would be a daddy in a matter of days. Thankfully, David reacted with more enthusiasm over adopting our son than I did! A few weeks later, we became parents to this perfect sweet little baby through the beautiful world of adoption. We named our precious gift from God Copeland Shane after David’s grandpa, Copeland, and my brother, Shane. It was at this moment we knew our family would be built through adoption and not biologically. David and I could not believe that God would bless us in this way and could not wait to see how He would continue to grow our family!
In 2004, David, Copeland, and I moved to San Antonio. We all began to earnestly pray that God would once again open the doors to bring home another child. By then, I had returned to the high school classroom and, in 2005, met a teenager with Down syndrome at the high school where I was teaching who changed my life forever. Although he was not my student, this amazing boy, who called me “Mrs. Barn,” attached himself to me and asked me to help him with his homework each morning. As I tutored him each day, I could not help but fall in love with him and marvel at just how perfectly and beautifully God had created him. So, for the next three years, David, Copeland, and I prayed that God would bless us with a child with Ds whom we could adopt. In 2008, our many prayers were answered when God blessed us with a beautiful blonde-haired hazel-eyed newborn baby boy with Down syndrome! God had now wonderfully added the words “Down syndrome” to the word “adoption” that He had initially given us in 2002 as He started us on our journey to build our family. We named this precious bundle of joy Silas Eli. In the New Testament, Silas was one of the first Christian missionaries who served beside the Apostle Paul. So, it was only fitting that we chose this name because this was the missionary journey that we had been praying for and that God had placed us on. Eli was David’s grandpa Copeland’s middle name.
From the moment we brought Silas home, he absolutely rocked our world. Copeland, especially, was so excited and proud of Silas that he told every single person he came in contact with that God gave him a new baby brother “through” Down syndrome and that Silas had “adoption.” We still laugh to this day that Copeland, in his sweet innocent love for Silas, got the two words confused. This proved to us that Cope saw Si Si as his brother and only his brother – no labels required. From that moment on, David and I knew that God would call us to adopt more children with Ds.
In 2010, I happened to be reading my weekly People magazine when I came across an article about Reece’s Rainbow and how Andrea Roberts was inspired to start it in order to save the lives of orphans with Down syndrome. Andrea named her ministry after her biological son Reece who was born with Ds. I learned that Reece was only two weeks younger than Cope and I felt an immediate connection to Andrea and her ministry. My life was forever changed as I learned more about RR and the plight of orphans around the world with Ds. I was absolutely devastated and my heart was broken when I found out that special needs babies are abandoned at hospitals as newborns and then sent to mental institutions by age three or four to live out the rest of their lives, with a large percentage of them dying within the first year of transfer as a result of malnourishment and mistreatment. When I shared this news with David, he was equally devastated. We could not believe that the majority of people in this world could not see just how worthy and capable children and adults with special needs are. David and I immediately realized that God was calling us to show the world just how wonderful, worthy, and capable those with special needs are, specifically those with Ds. We had living proof: Silas Eli.
Over the next few months, David and I found ourselves once again praying that the Lord would grow our family again through “adoption” and “Down syndrome.” During Thanksgiving week 2010, I reached out to RR for the first time. I emailed Andrea and implored about the possibility of adopting ONE boy from Ukraine. Over the next couple of weeks, God made it clear to us that we would be bringing home TWO boys from Ukraine as He led us to Igor’s and Tihon’s pictures and profiles on the RR website. The boys were at the same orphanage making it easier to adopt them at the same time. As David, Copeland, and I prayed over our two boys’ pictures on the RR website each night, we could not help but scroll past the picture and profile of a tiny little girl with both Ds and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Leeza’s pitiful picture unleashed a gut-wrenching thunderstorm of emotion. I quickly found myself literally knocked to my knees late each night for almost two weeks sobbing as I begged God to bring Leeza a mama and a forever family. Little did I know at the time that I was actually praying for myself, David, Copeland, and Silas! Through a series of miraculous events, the Lord completely opened the doors for us to bring home THREE children. A few days after Christmas 2010, David and I officially committed to bring home Igor, Tihon, and Leeza. In October of 2011, David and I landed on US soil with Igor (whom we named Teague Josiah), Tihon (whom we named Trenton James), and Leeza (whom we named Maclayne Faith – Mackie for short). The Lord had now graciously added the word “orphan” to the words “adoption” and “Down syndrome” as He continued to grow our family.
Throughout our beautiful journey to build our family, we have relied wholeheartedly relied on God and He has repeatedly given us verses from His word to direct our path and answer our questions. Proverbs 3:27 is especially close to our heart:
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do it.
You see, because God has specifically called David and I to do good by growing our family through “adoption,” “Down syndrome,” and “orphan” and has given us the power to do so, it would be a sin for us to say no – OUR sin – and who are we to say no to God after He has beautifully shown us His beauty and grace time after time with each of the five miraculous additions to our family? THAT is why we have willingly chosen to grow our family through adoption. We faithfully and humbly choose to remain “Obedient 2 His Command.”