When we finally got that call, it was unbelievably amazing.
We chatted with Ashley and Ryan Beard, AGCI adoptive parents to Zipola and the third AGCI family to adopt from Burundi. They shared the ups and downs of their amazing journey with us.
What led you to adoption in the first place?
Ashley: There were a lot of factors in our history that led us to adopt, Ryan’s sister is adopted, but we never talked seriously about it. And then Ryan went to a church conference called Catalyst in Dallas and he heard a sermon about adoption that just called to his heart. So he sent me a text that said, “hey do you want to adopt a couple of kids?” And I sent a text back that said no thank you!
We already had two kids, a boy and a girl, and it felt like, ok, we can be done. So I was really just at the point of not wanting to have any more kids, however they came to our family.
We kept talking about it, and a friend who is adopting kept encouraging me to pray about it and I kept telling her that I would but then didn’t. But I finally told Ryan that I do feel like we’re ready for something as a family. I don’t feel like it’s this, but I will pray about it.
So I prayed and asked God what His story for our family was. And I suddenly felt empowered for the first time that I would be able to be a mom to three kids. Whereas before I didn’t feel like I could handle any more than the two I already had.
And so we started to research and look into agencies. And so we eventually landed on AGCI and were initially in the Ethiopia program.
What was that process like for you?
Ashley: It was easy to dream about how wonderful this would be. We poured our hearts into learning about Ethiopia. As the timelines kept getting longer, we got an email that said we there was a chance the program would close.
And then we got a call asking if we wanted to be in the Burundi program. They told us that they didn’t see hope in the Ethiopia program.
It was really hard. I felt like I had made a promise to a mother who loved her child but for whatever reason was not able to parent to child. And by leaving the Ethiopia program I felt like I was breaking my promise to her. I felt like I lost a child and had to go through a grieving process before I could be excited about Burundi.
Ryan: It was really hard to come off of Ethiopia and put our efforts and energies toward a new process.
After that heartbreak, what was it like to finally be matched with your daughter?
Ryan: When we finally got that call, it was unbelievably amazing. I was at Home Depot checking out when I got the call. She was very matter of fact about it, she said we have a referral for you, her name is Zipola. And it just took me so off guard. We thought it would be such a longer process. I was checking out and the cashier was trying to ask me questions and so I just left my stuff and I stepped out of line.
Ashley: Ryan wanted to tell me in person. So I was coming home from work and we were trying to figure out who was going to pick up the kids and so I said to Ryan, why don’t I just go do it? And he said, why don’t you meet me at home and then we’ll go get the kids together and I just thought that’s silly, we don’t both need to go.
I still didn’t understand why we were both going to get the kids. And so we’re in the car I’m about to call back my sister and he says hang on a sec, and grabs the phone from my hand! I look at him like what are you doing?
And he goes, what do you think of the name Zipola? And I’m like I don’t know. It’s fine. And he goes cause that’s the name of your daughter! And he showed me her picture!
So then in the car we told the kids and they were so relieved. Each step after the referral you could see them exhaling a bit. They really didn’t believe it was going to happen until she was home. It was just such a long wait.
How has the transition been for your family?
Ashley: I am so thankful that we were encouraged not to take our biological kids to Africa. Those two weeks where we just belonged to her were so great. Coming home and having things that just belong to the 3 of us. It was so good for her. She spent those 2 weeks with us and then she had a hard time seeing how comfortable we were with our bio kids. It is so good for her to have that time together to draw from because there is so much of our life as a family that she has missed.
We have our ups and downs. When she is joyful, she is just full of life. She loves her brother and sister fiercely. She wants to do everything they do.
Ryan: One thing that AGCI did really well was that nothing was unexpected. It’s very textbook. Nothing has surprised us and we know that we’re not alone in this. It still sucks to be in those situations, but it’s also comforting to know that it’s totally normal. Not all agencies prepare their families this way. I always tell families to read everything, go to every conference.
What’s your advice for families considering adoption?
Ryan: It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. It’s important to have genuine conversations with people who have been through the process and been through it recently. Things change so much.
The financial part can be difficult, but we were really successful in fundraising. We really thought about what we were going to do and we raised $17,000 at our first fundraiser and our second fundraiser raised over $10,000.
Ashley: Aside from the education aspect, surrounding yourself with a community and a village is so important. Another benefit of a longer wait is that you share your story and you surround yourself with community. So many people just jump on this bandwagon praying for you and asking about it. This community is so invaluable.
Advice is a tricky thing—we certainly don’t view ourselves as having abilities that are above anyone else. It’s a brave undertaking. You do have to have courage. If you can make a commitment and decide that I will say yes every day, the payoff is huge. It’s such a sacred journey. It’s like the gospel being played out in our house. If you continue to love and say yes, you get to watch this person become part of your family.
Learn more about adopting through AGCI’s Burundi program here.