Our Story

Monday, November 21, 2011

The theme of this Hamstra family is “never say never” and no we’re not Justin Bieber fans ;) We have found that no matter what plan we place in our lives, God loves to laugh at us and show His plan that is more than we could ever ask or imagine. Here’s how the newest chapter came about…

After marrying in 2000 Jack and I were living in Michigan and decided to start a family. We had no trouble conceiving our first daughter Emma in 2002 and then our son Jackson in 2005. We had always said that we would have four or five children but after Jackson came along we had a peace and decided he was completing our family. That peace must’ve just meant biologically.

A year and a half later we got a call from Jack’s former Youth leader John that he had a job opening back in our home area. John and his wife had been missionaries in Nigeria for seven years before starting an aircraft maintenance business in the 1970’s and the business was growing rapidly and he needed another man. We prayed about this move as it would be a cut in pay and no benefits but we felt so heavy the call of God on us to make this move that we physically felt a weight lifted from us when we accepted. This is a strongly Christian business which is such a blessing to Jack and we now have about double what we did in MI with less money. Praise God! In this process, Jack’s parents ended up selling us their house so we’d have plenty of room for our family.

In March of 2009 I had a little troubled boy that I grew a very strong attachment with that I was working with in the church’s children’s choir. I had heard that he may be put into foster care and Jack and I immediately prayed about what to do and then started our foster care training. In July 2009 we received our license. This boy was never placed in foster care but we knew God had been leading us to this so we figured we would continue and help whatever children God gave us to care for. We said over and over “we are not in this to adopt.” We only wanted to foster because we knew how great the need was for foster homes and we really wanted to give children a glimpse of support and unconditional love and to mentor birth parents.

After several respite placements and many months of training and preparing, we got a call in April of 2010 about possibly accepting a foster-to-adopt placement of a special and medically needy two year old little girl. We prayed and met her and fell in love and Laila came to live with us permanently in July 2010 and her adoption was final in December 2010.

So, our family was complete and crazy and busy and we just knew this was it for us. Boy, what do we know!?! It was time to renew our foster license in July 2011 and we had thought we would close our home but then found out we only needed our CPR training renewed to keep our home open so we figured why not keep it. That got us starting to think about whether or not our family was really complete. We talked about all of this medical knowledge that we have gained from Laila and how many people are scared away by things that don’t even phase us anymore. We looked into some domestic children but nothing seemed quite right. On Oct 14, 2011 we attended a Steven Curtis Chapman concert for Emma’s ninth birthday and in the middle of the concert Jack leaned over to me and said “I think our son is in Africa.”

Well, he didn’t have to tell me twice and that night I was on the computer doing what he likes to joke about and say “shopping for children online.” I had been a member of the website rainbowkids.com while we were waiting for a foster placement a few years before so I randomly went on there and searched for “special needs” children from Africa and this little profile came up for a little boy with an eye problem called strabismus. This very much caught my eye because we had just scheduled Laila for a surgery for this very problem maybe a week before that. All we knew was that he was in Ethiopia, 4yrs old and had been in his orphanage since October of 2010. I requested information from Holt International which is the agency he is listed through. They wouldn’t give me more information about him without filling out an application but it didn’t cost any money so I figured I would but still not confident this would lead to anything.

In the meantime, Jack and I were really praying about if this was something God was calling us to do again and REALLY praying about the fact that it is Africa and expensive and a HUGE deal. Would God really call our family with lower income than many others, who already have their hands full with three children, one being severely special needs, to do this?? Well, a few days later we’re sitting at my niece’s birthday party and my mother-in-law randomly says to me “would you ever want to go to Africa?” I couldn’t breathe! Turns out she was just asking because someone had a safari trip they were looking to get rid of but WHOA! Then a few days after that there was a family photo album dropped in our mailbox. It must’ve been hand delivered because it just had a sticky note on it that said “Thank you for adopting” except our adoption of Laila had been final for almost a year at that point. Then we’re getting ready to take the kids out to dinner and I decided to look for a coupon on a money saving blog that I hadn’t visited in almost a year and the first article on there was titled “Our Paid Adoption” which was all kinds of tips for families to be able to overcome the fear of the huge expense of adoption. I call Laila’s pediatrician at Riley and listen to the prompts and it says “press 4 for information about our international adoption program” which I must’ve heard a million times before but this time it rung out to me loud and clear. These very weird, God sent occurrences coupled with every sermon and bible study lesson for us and for the kids especially seeming to speak directly to us, encouraged and lead us to take this giant leap.

So, here’s the whirl wind of these past few months.

  • Oct 24 – application sent to the waiting child program at Holt for information
  • Oct 25 – first call from Erin at Holt giving us a bit more information
  • Nov 2 – decide that we will name him Judah for a strong biblical name and to honor our very precious friend’s baby Canaan who strongly fought for his life for nine short months.
  • Nov 3 – saw our son’s face for the first time
  • Nov 6 – phone interview with Nicole at Holt preparing us for an older child adoption
  • Nov 8 – received his full file
  • Nov 9 – officially say yes to Holt asking to be put before the waiting child committee to be matched to him. Contact an agency to do our home study and find out that even though we’re working through an agency in Oregon, we will have our home study done by our friend Darla who lives right here in our town.
  • Nov 13 – met with a doctor to discuss Judah’s file reiterated our “yes” to Holt and submitted our waiting child questionnaires
  • Nov 15 – phone interview with Jessica from the waiting child committee started our home study paperwork
  • Nov 16 – received an email from a doctor who just got back from visiting Judah who thinks he may only need glasses (don’t let the title “special needs” scare you away!!)
  • Nov 17 – got the call that the committee has officially matched us to our son! Got to see our first video of Judah. So amazing to see his personality
  • Nov 19 – adoption agreement notarized and mailed to Holt. With the help of a friend we come up with John 14:18 for our theme verse for Judah and plan to use it for our t-shirt fundraiser.
  • Nov 20 – Jack’s brother Kevin designs our amazing logo for the fundraising t-shirt and also graciously offers to make this website to help us get the word out.
  • Nov 22 – our first home study visit
  • Nov 23 – first payment to Holt International, fingerprinting done
    • Nov 30 – Second Home Study visit, Physicals done for Angie & Emma, TB test done on everyone
    • Dec 6 – Brittany’s Hope grant application sent
    • Dec 9 – First batch of t-shirts delivered
    • Dec 12 – Final Home Study visit
    • Dec 13 – Received notice of acceptance from Brittany’s Hope
    • Dec 16 – Got the draft of our Home Study, already had to order the second batch of t-shirts
    • Dec 17 – Gave proofread copy of Home study back
    • Dec 19 – First batch of documents took to notary, passport photos done for everyone
    • Dec 22 – Home Study approved!
    • Dec 23 – 600A mailed to USCIS and notarized copy of Home Study sent to Indy for State Certification
      • Dec 28 – Received an update from Ethiopia.  Judah’s new love is worship songs and stories :)
      • Dec 29 – Supporting documents over nighted to Show Hope in time for Dec 31 deadline.
      • Jan 3 – Received State certified home study and Power of Attorney back.  Received official notification that they received our 600A.
      • Jan 5 – Receive $2000 from Holt’s Special Needs adoption fund.  Directly taken off our invoice.
      • Jan 6 – Sent check paying our balance to Holt.  Phew, that one hurt!
      • Jan 10 – Grant app sent to Katelyn’s Fund
      • Jan 12 – Received appointment notification for USCIS fingerprinting set on Jan 30 at 8am.
      • Jan 19 – Received word that Judah is not one of the cases involved in the new requirements in Ethiopia that could take longer.
      • Jan 25 – Received new pictures of Judah via email today.  He lost some teeth!
      • Jan 30 – Fingerprinting completed at USCIS
      • Feb 5 – Emma & Jackson talk at church to the children about Judah and begin preparing them for their new friend.

So that’s it for now but we’ll continue to update as things progress. Since we found him and were matched so quickly we’ve applied for a loan and are trusting God to provide funds for this in a hurry! We have several grants we are preparing to apply for but have to wait until our home-study (which will probably be another month) is complete but somehow need to come up with a lot of funds sooner than that. The committee’s only hesitation with matching us to him was the fact that we don’t have finances. We don’t have debt besides our mortgage and a small used car payment but we also don’t have a lot of savings because we always tend to find somewhere God is leading us to use it if there is ever miraculously any extra, which on paper should never happen but somehow does. Thank you God! So our answer to the committee was that our God is bigger than finances and with His strong leading in this we know He will provide. Now we’ll just do everything we can to give Him opportunity to be seen in this. Thank you for sharing in this journey with us!