“The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” Mark 12:31
Each month, we’re celebrating the gifts that Jesus brings into our lives. The gift of unconditional love and acceptance is something every child deserves. AGCI adoptee Desi Stephens knows firsthand how important love and the opportunity to thrive are to a child.
Desi was adopted from Bulgaria when she was 7-and-a-half years old. While today, Desi is a thriving young woman, she still remembers the struggles she faced as a child of Roma descent in an institution. Desi faced severe discrimination because of her complexion and Roma heritage—other children often refused to speak to her and she was treated poorly by many orphanage staff members.
“Roma kids were treated very differently at that time,” Desi said. “We didn’t get to go to school. There were just certain rights that we didn’t have within the institution. The conversation about race was a lot more tense in eastern Europe at that time.”
Desi also remembers the struggle of vying for attention from overworked caregivers.
“The caregivers were also stretched to their limit and under staffed. In the early 1990s in Eastern Europe, it was pretty dire during those years under communist rule,” Desi said.
And then one day, Desi’s life changed forever. Desi was told she was going to be adopted. Delays with court proceedings and her birth mother not showing up to court forced her adoption process to stretch on for over a year.
“The reality of adoption didn’t really sink in until I was home for a few weeks,” Desi said. “I remember feeling scared. I didn’t understand anything my adoptive mom was saying to me and I didn’t fully understand what was happening to me. It took awhile for me to begin to trust my parents and people in general.”
While Desi had a rough start, today, she thanks God for the journey. After high school, Desi started working in the non-profit sector doing missions work in Uganda, Sudan, and Switzerland. She even worked with AGCI in Guatemala during this time! After four years of service, Desi returned to the United States to attend college. Today, Desi is engaged to be married in June, and will graduate from Indiana University with honors in Political Science in May of 2019!
“The grace of God opened the door. He has allowed me to participate in the American Dream. That seed was planted when the adoption process was started,” Desi said. “ As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had this realization that I’ve had the opportunity of a lifetime that most children never have. The ability to pursue higher education is a treasure. I think we often forget, growing up in America that we have the ability to tap into these resources, but most of the world doesn’t. For me, that’s been the humbling aspect—I’ve been given the opportunity, and God wants me to do something with it.”
Desi also shared the following advice for older adoptees or parents of adoptees. “Self-discovery is part of the journey,” Desi said. “It’s natural to want to ask questions—who am I? What’s the history of my people? It’s ok to question these things and families should encourage it and be part of this legacy. It is normal to wonder who God created you to be and to do research to understand your
We could not be more proud of Desi’s journey! We are so excited for her bright future!