Forever Family: The Kreiders

KreiderBlogIn this week where we celebrate the arrival of God’s Son, and the long journey and challenges Mary and Joseph experienced, it seems fitting to share the story of Rachel and Justin Kreider and their adoption of Lillyana. While their adoption journey was challenging, they could clearly see and feel the hand of God at work around them. The following is the story that the Kreiders shared with their church.

Rachel:

For me, this story began when I was growing up in Ireland. I was 10 when the Berlin Wall came down and we began to hear horror stories of the Romanian orphanages. And one day I just said to the Lord, ‘God, if you want to send me someday. . .I would like to go and work at one of those orphanages.’ Well, I forgot about that completely, grew up, and went to college in the U.S. where I met my roommate Sunnee who was adopted from Korea. She was a lovely Believer and I remember thinking, what if she hadn’t been adopted? Where would she be today? That is really when I started considering adopting someday.

Justin:

For me, the idea of adoption never entered my mind until I married my wife. She suggested she’d like to adopt sometime even before we had had any biological children. I dismissed the notion thinking, ‘she’ll probably forget about that idea.’  After the birth of our 3rd child, she brought up the idea again and I had to ask myself the question ‘why not?’ Every answer I could think of was centered in selfishness and my wanting an easy and comfortable life. So, eventually I yielded to the idea and said ‘let’s do it.’

Rachel:

The first step we needed to take was to pick an agency. We found All God’s Children in Oregon by a process called alphabetical order on the internet. After that we needed to pick a country. There were 3 countries that met our age criteria. Of those 3 only Bulgaria was in Eastern Europe and for some reason we just felt drawn there. And it was at that point that I had remembered that ‘oh yeah, when I was a kid I had asked God to send me there.’  Maybe the Lord would bring a little Bulgarian orphan to us instead?

Justin:

The idea of adopting from Eastern Europe appealed to me for very different reasons. In my mind, I reasoned that most Eastern European children were mostly white like us and that it would be one less hurdle to overcome–being a bi-racial family. But God would have other plans. So we pursued a healthy adoption from Bulgaria. I prepared mounds of paperwork and we waited 4 years after our application was processed. During this long wait, visiting missionaries shared in our Sunday school class about their heart for the Roma people in Eastern Europe (the Roma are a racial minority and subculture in Eastern Europe and heavily discriminated against). We walked out of that class different and said ‘perhaps the Lord is calling us to adopt a Roma child?’  However, we had no control over our adoption referral or what child would be assigned to us.

Rachel:

At that point, I began praying that maybe our little girl would somehow be Roma. I also prayed about her name. You see, we had decided that we were going to keep her given birth name, but many of the Bulgarian names were difficult to pronounce. I started praying that this name would be special to us and that somehow when we hear this name we would know this child was God’s choice for us. I prayed this for years while we waited. What you don’t know is that our oldest daughter, Elaina, had wanted a sister called Lilly from the time she was small. She named her first doll baby Lilly and wanted me to name our 2nd child Lilly. But when Eamon was born, he was obviously not a Lilly. Then as she got older, she loved the name Anna. It was at that point we began the adoption process and she begged us to name her new sister Anna.  ‘Anna is not a Bulgarian name,’ I told her.  But secretly I prayed ‘Lord, you could give us an Anna if you wanted.’  Years went by, then one day we got the call.  ‘Are you sitting down?’ said the voice on the other side.  ‘We have a referral for you. Her name is Lilyana, she is 21 months old, and she is Roma.’ I started to weep.

Justin:

Then as sometimes happens when you experience God’s miraculous and specific answer to prayer–He asks you to have just a bit more faith. All throughout our adoption process, we had requested a healthy child. But when the medical report came through for Lilyana, all of the doctors we spoke with had big concerns about her health. Accepting this referral would mean no turning back and accepting a major uncertainty about her health. I thought to myself ‘this doesn’t fit with the miracle of the name.’ I spent the next two days talking to God and ultimately arrived at the conclusion that God had, indeed, selected this child for us and that He would supply the grace for what lay ahead.

Rachel:

So we flew to Bulgaria in April 2013 to meet Lilly. I expected to instantly love this child. This child I had waited so long for and dreamed of. Instead, I stood in bewilderment at a child who was terrified by my presence and felt more like a total stranger. We went back to the hotel after the first day and I just cried. Fear gripped me and I thought of my children back at home, how I missed them and the years of waiting and the paperwork and the cost for a child who wanted nothing to do with us.  And there was no audible voice, but I heard God say that ‘this is what I did for you Rachel and I gave my only Son.’  And, in a way I never understood before, I got what it means to be adopted as sons and daughters of God. I knew it before, but I felt it now. How could God do that? For the first time, I saw God’s love as truly lavish. We have taken several things away from this adoption–namely a beautiful little girl.  But for me the biggest of them all is a greater understanding of the greatest act of redemption “For God SO loved the world that He gave his only begotten son.”

Justin:

Yes, God showed us His story in Bulgaria very clearly.  As we visited the orphanage for the first time, we found ourselves alone in a single room with an orphanage worker–who spoke no English–and Lilly. And our hopes turned to fear and uncertainty, as Lilly wanted absolutely nothing to do with us. For 2 days we continued back to the orphanage only to be rejected by her again and again. Finally, on the 4th day, one of the English-speaking workers advised Rachel to just ‘pick her up.’  Rachel did, and Lilly was so overcome that she vomited all over Rachel. But the barrier was broken and Lilly finally accepted us. This made us reflect on God’s great love for us and how he constantly, tirelessly pursues us with the promise of a better life.

Rachel:

We flew back home and waited 8 months more. A side story that I need to mention is that during the waiting stage, Justin’s cousin’s wife’s mother, Lisa and her husband, Shane, also began to adopt from Bulgaria through All God’s Children. We had never met before, but Lisa and I became phone friends, encouraging each other and praying for each other’s adoption. When our referrals came within a week of each other and we discovered that our girls were only 10 days apart in age, we began praying for a near miracle that somehow we both would get to travel to Bulgaria at the same time. This was very unlikely (as our paperwork was traveling at different speeds). But on November 16th of this past year, my mom and I boarded a plane to go to Bulgaria the very same week that Lisa and her husband, Shane were headed to get their girl, Isabelle. Lisa was planning on doing the trip alone, but had broken her foot a few weeks before thus requiring her husband, Shane to accompany her. We would later see that as the Lord’s provision. Over tears of joy, we met for the first time in the hotel lobby in Bulgaria last year where we both had decided to stay.

Justin:

I received a phone call on day 2 of the trip that Rachel had successfully picked up Lilly. It was as if the Lord had prepared her beforehand as Rachel carried her out the orphanage doors with no crying and began calling her mommy immediately. Then, the next day, I was eating dinner with our kids around 6:30 p.m. and Rachel called again asking me to please pray—it was 2:30 a.m. Bulgaria time and this time the news was not so encouraging.

Rachel:

When I called Justin, I really was completely spent. I hadn’t slept much in 3 nights and we had been trying to get Lilly to sleep for 6 hours. Much of that time, she was screaming at volumes that could wake up an entire hotel floor. I would push her in the stroller on different floors to spread out the fun. At 2 a.m. in the morning we went down to the hotel lobby and asked if there is anywhere you can put us that we won’t wake the entire hotel?  They sent us to the hotel fitness room. Finally, I called Petco at our Bulgarian adoption agency to see if he had any suggestions. He mentioned all the things that we had been trying for hours and then said to give her some candy. As I hung up the phone, I thought ‘Lord, where could I get candy at this hour? It is too dangerous to go out and there are no vending machines here.’ The whole hotel is shut down for the night. And at that moment, the door opened and in walked an old cleaning lady, and I motioned for her to go away so that Lilly wouldn’t be disturbed. But she held up her hand to show me that it was filled with candy and, without saying a word, she walked over to my mother and placed the treasure in her hands and walked out.  We never saw her again and God just said ‘I see you.’ We carried that comfort with us the rest of the week and we were going to need it.

We got to meet Isabella and spend sweet moments holding her and just enjoying being with Lisa and Shane. Isabelle had a heart condition that was going to need surgery when she got home. But then, Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. we got a call from the hotel that said ‘can you go to Shane and Lisa’s room. When we arrived, we found that Isabelle had had some seizures and they were doing CPR.  And my mom had to tell Lisa that the baby didn’t make it. And I cannot describe their sorrow, but I can say that God was very present. And there was a holiness about that time that we all look back on and feel we were standing on sacred ground.  And I saw my mom minister to my friend in a beautiful way, and I believe it was no mistake that she had traveled with me, or that we were all there the same week, or that Lisa had broken her foot.  Lisa and Shane witnessed to Petco, the hotel staff, and even to the police who were questioning them about the death. My friends are still grieving, but they have begun the process to adopt again from Bulgaria.

Justin:

When Rachel and Lilly got home, there were big adjustments. If you’ve talked with us in the past 8 months, you know the transition hasn’t been easy. For 3 months, our family stayed home. Lilly spent much of the time screaming in fits of terrified rage, biting and hitting. She had night terrors and slept with us in our room. Our family has felt the pressure and stress, but God has shown his faithfulness as gradually the tantrums and screaming have become less, and more and more of this beautiful girl’s personality is showing through. God has grown our entire family in ways we never could have imagined. He has shown Himself completely faithful and we trust Him.

Rachel:

I just want to take a minute to speak to anyone interested in adoption or foster care. I love to read adoption stories from Christian families because you find they all have the fingerprint of God. And it makes the non-believing world stare in wonder. Through Lilly and her story, God has given us many opportunities to share that it is Him who places the lonely in families. And we wouldn’t trade this child or this journey for the world.

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