‘I got my bags in the car. ‘Don’t worry, I’m NOT going to come home wanting to adopt.’ My husband shook his head. I was so nervous, I was going to puke. I wasn’t sure WHY I was going.’

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“As I was getting my bags in the car, I looked at my husband Ryan and said, ‘Don’t worry… I’m NOT going to come home wanting to adopt.’ He shook his head as if in disbelief.

It was February of 2017 and I’m walking through the Chicago airport on my first layover for my first trip to Sierra Leone, Africa.  My stomach was in knots walking through the airport as I was looking for the rest of the group I would be traveling with. I remember being so nervous, I thought I was going to puke. Not because I didn’t know the people I was traveling with… I actually knew all of them and loved them. But because I wasn’t sure why I was going outside of being on the board for the organization, The Raining Season. But at the same time, I felt like my entire world was about to change. In all honesty, I was scared out of my mind.

My husband is a busy ER Doc, I work from home and we had three kids, Hudson 7, Brinley 5, and Marlowe, 3. Life was crazy but comfortable. We were building a new house which we had just broken ground on. We were very happy with our family situation with no intention of trying to have any more kids. We had always been open to adoption but no immediate talks of it. We always said if the Lord calls us to adopt, we will humbly walk that road. Life was predictable and comfortable at this point, which on one hand was kind of nice. On the other though… I had a feeling we were meant to do more.

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

My first trip, as I had said, I wasn’t sure what exactly my intention of going was for, except for me to know what the center looked like as I was new to the board for the organization. As well as one of my very best friends, had blazed the incredibly hard trail of opening this center 10 years prior that now housed over 100+ orphans ranging from newborn to special needs to kids who were coming up on aging out. As a board member, I knew about a specific boy in the center. He came into our center about 6 months prior, extremely malnourished, on death’s doorstep. The pictures still burned in my memory. He was struggling to survive but he was a fighter. So, I made it my week-long mission to just love on him that week and for him to feel true affection.

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

The first two days were magical and wonderful in the sense of my eyes were opened to entire new world with an entirely different culture. I spent days loving on this little boy. And then Day 3 hit. I remember standing on the porch of his apartment holding him with clear visions of the future literally playing right before me. I saw him as a 7-year-old boy running down the stairs of our soon-to-be home, that wasn’t built yet. I saw visions of him jumping in our pool that hadn’t been poured yet. I saw him riding his bike around our circle drive that didn’t even exist. I saw him as my son. In an instant, I knew he was ours. And as I stood there wondering how in the world this was all going to come together, I knew I had to fight for him – and mountains would need to be moved. The first mountain to be moved was going to get my husband on board with adopting a fragile child.

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

While I was in the country, without speaking to my husband about any of this… I put in the inquiry to adopt this boy.  As nervous as it made me to do this without speaking to my husband, I was so sure this was our calling. I don’t really recommend doing this! Ha!

Coming home from this trip was challenging on many levels, but for 4 days I wasn’t able to have a conversation with my husband about my trip because he worked night shift every day which leaves us with no time to connect and definitely not quality time. Finally, I got a day to spend with him and we sat down and had a long conversation as I spewed everything out. As I filled him in on the child I knew we were meant to be the parents of, he smirked as if he knew this was going to happen, but then cautiously said, ‘Well, let’s just pray about it. I want to make sure this is what we are supposed to do and not an emotional, ‘just got back from an orphanage, want to adopt situation.’ I knew at that moment, NOTHING I did or said would be able to convince him of our calling to adopt this child. So, I asked him to promise me he would just pray about it. Then I prayed that the Lord would move the mountain.

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

In May of 2017, we got the email that said they were finally ready to move forward with our application to adopt. Hesitantly, my husband said we could move forward and so we submitted our application. Every step I had to handle with care because my husband was only about 60% there. We moved forward though with our home study and the rest of the process. He eventually decided he should go on a trip over to meet him and booked a trip for August 2017 and I would travel the following month to see him again. The night my husband landed in country, a massive mudslide happened that decimated an entire village. The city was in chaos and a group of kids in the orphanage, including our son, were in quarantine because chicken pox was spreading like wildfire. His trip was nothing like I had prayed for. He came home a little more on board, but not officially. He said he wanted to wait until after my trip in a few weeks to see how I felt when I saw him again. Quite honestly, I was wondering and anxious about seeing him again as well. Would I feel that same pull? I had been praying over this boy every day for 7 months. What if it was different for me?

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

I stepped foot into the center and someone immediately brought him to me. I instantly was sobbing. It solidified everything I had fought for the last 7 months. Coming home from that trip was hard to leave him behind, yet again. I came home and told my husband I was more sure than ever this was our child. He sat quietly as I talked, and then the first opening I gave him he said a simple… ‘Alright. Let’s do this.’ I asked him if he was 100% sure and he said without hesitation… he knew this was what we were supposed to do. From that point forward, he has never wavered. We have fought it all together. Just as I knew it would have to be.

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

The rest of our journey had many ups and downs, as working through any adoption would have. I read a quote at the end of our adoption process, ‘Expect resistance but pray for miracles’ by Corrie Ten Boom. That quote couldn’t sum up the process of adoption more for me. It has been a 26-month journey of praying for miracles amongst crazy resistance.

As we walked this process, we hit so many roadblocks. We traveled for court in July of 2018. We were approved by the judge and felt the rest would be smooth sailing. Then, we got an RFE (request for more information) from Immigration which took months to gather the information they requested. Then realized our agency had sent our response to the wrong address which was past our submission deadline and set us back by another entire month. In January, our U.S. Embassy in Africa decided to raise question with African law and wouldn’t issue our son’s visa unless they had an additional court amendment. It took us 3 more months to fight that and figure out how we could get what they were asking for without putting our entire case in jeopardy and risk losing it all.

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

On April 23, 2019, 26 months into this journey, it was a normal Tuesday. I was trying to stay busy as to not obsess over our case and the lack of updates or progress. My mom and I went to HomeGoods to do some mindless shopping and as we walked in, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. We were all just catching up and I looked down to my phone to see our Agency calling. I wasn’t that surprised because earlier that day they had texted me to say that our Embassy had never received our documentation the week prior. Which is crazy, because it was hand delivered. So more frustration was mounting. I picked up the phone thinking she was going to tell me we had dropped off a new copy for them to review.

Instead she said the exact opposite. I answered the phone with a ‘Hello,’ and she said, ‘They are issuing his VISA and are saying they will have it ready on THURSDAY!’ To which I replied, ‘Like in two days, THURSDAY?’ Tears started streaming down my face as I was trying to keep it together in HomeGoods. I just could not believe this had all come to a close. Not on the heels of what I was told that very morning!  Was it truly all done? She told me she wasn’t sure why they had told her that this morning and perhaps it was just misplaced! Either way, we were done!

All the questions about ‘what next?’ and ‘how?’ and ‘WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?’ were running through my head, but I couldn’t speak a word. And then she said… ‘So now you can go ahead and book your travel to get your son.’ Cue more tears and more disbelief!

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

As soon as I hung up, I went and hugged my mom who has been one of our biggest prayer warriors throughout the entire thing. It was a celebration hug. One of the best. And I’m thankful my friend Laura thought to take these pictures and document this moment so perfectly.

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

All the mountains had been moved. The truth is… God had moved them all. One after another. Showing his steady goodness and steadfast hand. It wasn’t always in the timing I wanted or the fashion… But proof that He didn’t take us this far to leave us. That what He started, He would finish.

As we left to get on a plane to get our little boy on May 3rd and will return home on May 9th, it’s emotional and surreal that all this is coming to a close and that our journey is truly just beginning! The initial fight may be over, but now we truly enter into this beautiful arena. After much consideration and prayer, we are taking our 9-year-old son with us to get his brother. We pray that one day our little boy will know how much we fought for him and how loved and prayed for he truly was and is.”

Courtesy of Aubrey Bence
Courtesy of Aubrey Bence

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Aubrey Bence of Indianapolis, Indiana. You can follow their adoption journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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