“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18
Each month, we’re celebrating the gifts that Jesus brings into our lives. The Huber family, one of our incredible adoptive families, embodies the verse above. Their selfless gift of love for their daughter, Rebeka, is something that will inspire us for years to come.
For the Huber family, adoption wasn’t initially on the table. Following a recent earthquake in Haiti, they felt called to help children and families affected by the natural disasters. But when a friend adopting from Haiti to Becky, she wasn’t able to get it out of her mind.
“I was basically arguing with God and telling him all the reasons why we couldn’t adopt. And then I distinctly heard Him say, but what if you said no,” said Becky Huber.
Becky was nervous about telling her husband, Shad, about this. As it turns out, God had laid adoption on Shad’s heart years before. The Hubers had friends that had adopted through AGCI and decided to begin their journey there.
At the time, adoptions were a bit up in the air in Haiti, so the Huber’s adoption advisor asked them if they were interested in AGCI’s Bulgaria program.
“I was initially really disappointed but my husband said, it’s a kid who needs a family, it doesn’t really matter where they come from. So, we moved forward,” Becky said.
After waiting almost three years for a referral, the Hubers received an email from their adoption advisor with Rebeka’s photo. Rebeka was in recovery from leukemia but the Hubers felt like she was meant to be their daughter. Becky called their adoption advisor to learn more about Rebeka but the news wasn’t great—she needed a bone marrow transplant and had had leukemia since she was an infant.
Even though this felt like a lot, Becky and Shad felt at peace about it. They decided to say yes to Rebeka. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of hope surrounding Rebeka’s health. The Huber’s international pediatrician told them that there was a 50% chance that Rebeka would survive with the type of leukemia that she had.
On July 4th, 2017, the Hubers officially signed the paperwork to move forward with Rebeka’s adoption.
“We did not plan on adopting a waiting child. We did not plan on adopting a child with a near terminal diagnosis,” Becky said.
With Rebeka’s diagnosis, there were many times that the family was given an opportunity to not move forward. For the Hubers, this wasn’t an option. They were committed to bringing Rebeka home no matter what.
“God wanted us to keep saying yes,” Becky said. “I felt mad at times. On our first trip to Bulgaria to see Rebeka, we spent the entire time at the hospital with doctors telling us that she wouldn’t survive. I felt like, what are we doing here? But Shad was so calm and said to me, it’s just another opportunity to say yes.”
For the Hubers, it was surreal meeting Rebeka for the first time. Since the Hubers had said yes to her, Rebeka’s health had begun to go downhill again. She had been in the hospital for over 4 weeks and had lost a lot of weight.
“The doctor told us that she was very sick and we would only have 5 minutes with her. He really didn’t want to let us in there at all,” Becky said. “We got the feeling on this trip that no one actually believed that we were going to adopt her.”
By the second day, Rebeka began to smile at them. Each day the Hubers visited her in the morning and the afternoon for 30 minutes to an hour depending on how Rebeka was doing. When it was time to leave Bulgaria, the Hubers struggled. They were anxious to get Rebeka to their home in the U.S. and to be part of her treatment plan.
“It was hard to leave because we didn’t know what they were going to do for her,” Becky said. “She was so unstable. It was nerve-wracking to leave and not know if she would survive. I kissed her on the forehead and said I’m your mom and I’ll be back for you.”
Fortunately, the paperwork process went very quickly. The Hubers were headed back to Bulgaria to bring Rebeka home 6 weeks later. Right before the Hubers left, they received some upsetting news. Rebeka’s platelets had dropped and there was a chance she wouldn’t be able to fly.
“We just felt like we had to go. Her numbers were never going to be perfect,” Becky said.
Rebeka seemed improved when the Hubers saw her again. She had recently had her spleen removed which improved her health. Rebeka’s doctor now felt that she would be safe to travel home.
Just 2 days after arriving in Bulgaria, the Hubers flew home with Rebeka. After a long journey home, the Hubers had to take Rebeka straight to the hospital. She spent the next 10 days in the hospital before her family was able to take her home.
“In the hospital, she would go into this fierce preservation mode. But the rest of our kids loved her and loved getting to visit her. She was never by herself in the hospital, Shad or I, or occasionally a grandparent was with her always,” Becky said. “Even though she was hospitalized most of the time, the hospital was so good about letting us all bond as a family—and she did bond with us. She knew we were her people.”
The Hubers were able to bring Rebeka home for 10 days and were amazed at her progress. She improved emotionally and physically—a true testament to the power of family and of being home.
“Something about not being in a hospital and just being home allowed her to blossom and grow so much,” Becky said. “She thrived at home and everyone could see it.”
Unfortunately, Rebeka went back to the hospital for another month. Thanks to the bond and trust that her family built together, Rebeka was much more trusting and connected this time around. When given options and choices Rebeka grew so much.
“Rebeka loved music and it soothed her,” Becky said. “She was super silly and she liked you to be funny to her. She was very charismatic and she loved to get everyone’s attention—but it had to be on her terms. There was a janitor and a guy from the kitchen at the hospital—every day they would try to say hi to her, but she would shake her head no. But by the third month we were at the hospital, Rebeka would yell at them as they passed so that they would come say hi to her. That’s just how she was.”
“After her second month-long hospital stay, they had done another round of chemo and were checking her levels to see if she was eligible for a bone marrow transplant. To do the transplant, they wanted her counts to be below 10% leukemia cells, but ideally below 5%. A few days later they told us that her leukemia cells were over 50%,” Becky said.
Upon this news, the Hubers knew they needed to just bring Rebeka home.
“The leukemia had gotten smart and it was resistant to the chemotherapy,” Becky said. “They were worried that another round of chemo might kill her. We knew we had to take her home because that was where she thrived.”
“We were heartbroken, but we were at peace with her. We still had hope that God would heal her, but we were also realistic that she was probably going to die at home. We just let her be a kid that month,” Becky said. “She even took her first steps while she was home. She was as funny as could be, and cruised around the whole house pushing a little stroller around. She loved being outside. She loved being in the car, she loved church. She had so many options and that helped her thrive even while she was dying.”
Rebeka was home for a month before she passed away.
“There was so much sadness, but there was also so much joy,” Becky said. “Other than her surviving, there isn’t anything we would change. We loved being her family.”