Let me start off by saying that I’m SO glad to finally be blogging about the story I’m about to tell you. I feel like this experience is the most tangible way I have ever seen God’s sovereignty and perfect plan for my teeny, tiny life (well, and my family’s too!) played out right before me.
So catching up from Part 1…we were off to Saddleback Church in Southern California for an Orphan Care conference (again, thanks to two special people for funding our way and also, dear friends for watching our kids!) and it was almost electrifying being surrounded by so many other Believers with the same passion as Colby and me: seeing “true religion” (James 1:27) being played out through caring for the orphan in their distress!
On the afternoon of our first full day, I was running an errand with a friend who came with us, when I got a call from Colby: “Hey, guess what?!” E: “What?” C: “I think I just saw a guy with Holt-Oram Syndrome!” (the same syndrome as Judah, which is extremely rare…we don’t just get randomly excited making walk-by medical diagnoses!) E: “What?! Did you talk to him?!” C: “No…I didn’t have the chance, he was just walking by.” E: “Oh man! Well, if we see him again, we have to talk to him!!!” It was exciting and disappointing all in one, but we sorta forgot about it and went on with the rest of the evening activities at the conference. It seemed so random…little did we know that it was not random at all…
Fast forward to the next afternoon during our “free time” after lunch when we decided to visit all the little booths in the exhibit hall. We kept seeing everyone walking around wearing t-shirts one of the booths was giving away when you filled out a survey- of course we had to find that booth…free t-shirt? Yes, please! Finally found our way to the big booth giving away the brown t-shirts (and even onesies! How cute is that?! Note the pic above…I digress): “Hope for Orphans” the signage read. Went up to get our survey to fill out and guess who was standing at that booth?! Yep, you guessed it: the young man Colby saw the day before. It was unreal how much his hands looked just like Judah’s. We hurriedly filled out our survey so we had an “excuse” to talk with this young man, but were greeted by a woman who asked if we had any questions she could answer. Our response was, “Well, we really wanted to talk with Noah…(everyone at the conference was wearing name tags).” “Oh, really! He’s my brother!…” After a brief moment of awkward silence of trying to figure out how to let the cat out of the bag without sounding rude or insensitive, I finally just explained to her that we had a son with hands that looked exactly like Noah’s and our son had something called Holt-Oram syndrome… She stopped me mid-sentance with an excited voice, “That’s what Noah has too!!!!” She quickly introduced us and it was really cool to talk with him for a moment. At the time, he was 15 years old and had never met or directly heard of anyone else with Holt-Oram, so it was a first for him, too. After several questions from two *slightly* over excited (crazy?) parents, he politely suggested that maybe we should speak with his parents, and introduced us to his dad, Paul.
Paul seemed genuinely amazed and excited, but also, extremely busy so he asked if we could walk while we talked. We did and it was incredible to talk with a parent who had already been through some of the very things we were experiencing, including the very hard decision we were right in the middle of making whether or not to do reconstructive surgery on Judah’s hands. He was soon out of time, but said that we must meet his wife. He gave us his card and told us to give him a call to arrange a time and place to meet that evening. We looked at the card, a bit amazed: Noah’s dad, Paul, was the founder of Hope for Orphans…no wonder he was so busy!
Later that evening, we met on the (huge!) patio at Saddleback Church and chatted with Paul and Robin (his wife) about our sons’ stories: how Judah’s diagnosis was a terrible shock to us and all that he went through as a preemie and how Noah had been adopted from Korea when he was 18 months old. I remember Paul describing it as a “magical” moment like many before they had experienced on that very patio with others. And it was magical…only a Sovereign, intimate God could so beautifully orchestrate such a meeting….but it gets better, people.
As we continued to talk, Paul and Robin asked us what brought us to the Summit. We shared with them that several years ago, God placed a calling on our life to care for orphans. We were here exploring what that looked like working Stateside after our initial plan of starting an orphanage in Southern Africa wasn’t practical with all Judah’s medical needs. We shared that Colby was in seminary on a special degree tract that included a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies (MAIS) which he had already completed and was working on finishing his Masters of Divinity (Mdiv). They seemed very attentive while we were talking. They went on to explain that their organization, Hope for Orphans (HFO), was dedicated to equipping the Church, in a whole spectrum of ways, here in the States and abroad, to care for the orphan whether through adoption, foster care or other avenues.
When it was time to part ways, Paul told Colby that when he was close to finishing school, if he was interested in working with an organization like HFO, to let him know. If they didn’t have a position open, they’d love to try to connect us with some of their friends in the orphan care world. Wow. In a word: stunned.
How did this happen? We were just going along with our beautiful little life when (what we thought was) tragedy struck and turned our plans upside down and left us feeling disoriented and out of control. In an attempt to regroup and figure out the ever-looming question of “What now?” we run into this family?! A family who has a son with the same super rare genetic syndrome and who founded one of the most influential orphan care organizations in the modern church today?! It was beginning to seem as though the God of all creation was up to something in our lives…and had this whole meeting planned out from the beginning of time. When a little boy was born in Korea, God knew. He knew the family He had created for that boy. He also knew that 15 years later, another little boy would be created just like the first one; He knew the family created for that boy, too. He knew that we would meet one day. He placed His passion for the orphan in the hearts and souls of these two families and that this passion would bring them to the same place, at the same time and cross their paths at just the right time. Mind.blown. Looking back on it now, I am amazed that God would use the very thing we thought killed our dream to reveal His next step for us: Holt-Oram Syndrome. Isn’t that so like God to use something the world sees as broken to bring life, encouragement, renewal, and relationships?! I have tears in my eyes as I write this…
I really thought I could squeeze in the rest of the story in “Part 2”, but I’ve already been long winded (I mean, when you start bragging on the beauty of God’s sovereignty, it’s kinda hard to stop!) and think the best way to keep you on your toes will be to conclude this little tale in Part 3!!!!!!! (Although, I’m guessing you’re kinda seeing where it’s going ) Hang tight with me…can’t wait to share the rest of the details in this awesome story. Man, I can’t believe we are living this life – blessed (literally!) beyond belief!