The Bottom Line

This weekend, we reached a huge milestone in our adoption.  The progress bar showing how close we were to funding our adoption finally reached 100%.  Fully funded.

Source: Flickr, 401(K) 2012

Source: Flickr, 401(K) 2012

It was a huge victory, one we felt we could take little credit for.  The financial aspect of our adoption has been a collective effort from everyone in our community – friends, family, church members, co-workers, even strangers.  It didn’t come in huge amounts or in the form of large checks or donations.  We did get a few of those, but the vast majority of the near $20,000 we needed to bring Baby W home came in the form of $10, $15, or $25 amounts from regular people – people with bills to pay and mouths to feed and responsibilities that leave precious little room for “extras” like buying a bag of coffee, attending a fundraiser or ordering an Etsy item.  People with large families, families with a single income.  People who, like the woman in the Bible who came with just two small coins, knew that no gift is too small in the kingdom of God. 

As is the case with many couples, we were originally split on how we felt about the financial side of adoption.  Being the dreamer and the romantic in the family, the financial component was never as much as a hurdle for me as it was for my realistic, grounded, budget-managing husband.  There were aspects of adopting that required huge leaps of faith on my part, but money just wasn’t one of them.  Maybe it’s because I’m not the one who manages the finances in our house.  Maybe it’s because I had this romanticized idea of adoption that came from movies and TV shows, where everything just magically falls into place.  For Alex, though, committing to coming up with up to $30,000 was an enormous act of trust.  For him, it seemed like an insurmountable goal, an unattainable reality.  Yet, here we are.

Just as God has worked on the unique fears of my heart throughout this tumultuous year, I’ve had the privilege of watching God lead my husband to place of faith on what was, for him, the most intimidating part of adoption: the bottom line.  I asked Alex to express what the financial side of this journey has been like from his perspective, hopefully as a word of encouragement to any of you who wrestle with this same side of adoption (or have spouses who do), about what he learned about turning our bank account over to God for the purpose of adoption.

 


 

Before Jess and I met each other, it was a given that we were going to adopt. I can’t say the precise moment when I was younger that I knew it, but adoption been something for which I’ve always had a burden.

But what you don’t realize when you’re romanticizing in High School about saving orphans and being a father is the financial cost associated with the process. Much to my surprise, when Jess and I started our adoption journey together, a bundle of baby was not handed to us free of charge, nor was our insurance company thrilled about the prospect of pitching in.

If you’re a numbers guy like me, this is when things start causing tension. When agencies and blogs start throwing numbers at you, it seems like an insurmountable goal. This is when you start to go a little crazy, and well-intentioned people start offering what is actually pretty terrible advise: send Bill Gates a letter, he’ll probably help. Go through this or that country, the kids are cheaper. You should foster-to-adopt, then the government basically pays you to take a baby. You should adopt domestically/internationally, it’s way cheaper (each person will tell you one is drastically cheaper than the other, but which one is supposedly cheaper changes depending on to whom you are speaking).

All of this sounds helpful and encouraging. But it’s not. News flash: adoption is expensive. You can’t cheat the system, and you can’t get around that. Nobody ever said granting a child a life with parents and a family was going to be cheap and easy, and that’s something that a family pursuing adoption just has to learn to grasp before they can really move forward confidently with their adoption.

Although it was all well-intentioned, something about these pieces of advice didn’t sit well with me. We might be talking about dollars and cents, but behind each conversation and decision is a real baby, a real child, or a real teenager. What if everyone chose the cheapest or easiest route to adoption?  Is the child waiting for someone to fork over the $45,000 less deserving than the child that only requires $10,000?  If we wanted to go the least expensive route toward parenthood, we would have just had a go at trying to get pregnant. But we wanted to give an orphan a home, and you can’t possibly put a price tag on that. Any route to adoption was over our budget. Who were we to dictate to God just how much we thought He could be trusted with?

 

And here was the breaking point for me. I was sitting in my office a few months into our process, crunching the numbers, trying to squeeze more than 100 pennies out of a dollar. It wasn’t working. The accounts didn’t seem to increase in value the longer I stared. Clearly, this just wasn’t going to work. Maybe people would give us money, but we needed $25,000. We just couldn’t afford that.

About this time my eyes glanced down through the monthly budget to the line item reading “Auto Loan Payment”, and suddenly I felt stupid and selfish. I’m willing to take out a loan to pay off a 3,000 pound hunk of metal, but if we don’t have cash on hand adoption is somehow unaffordable?

We didn’t think twice about financing parts of our college, and we won’t think twice when it comes to financing the home our family will live in someday. So why are we too proud to finance an adoption, if necessary? And then I felt even more ashamed, because I was sitting around trying to figure out how to pay for … someone’s life.

Call me irresponsible (and believe me, I did … when the numbers don’t all add up, my OCD starts kicking in), but from that moment forward I decided money didn’t matter. How were we going to pay for our adoption? Somehow. That was my answer. It didn’t matter. If we were ready to board the plane and the bank account was still empty, I would take out a loan for ten … fifteen … twenty-five thousand dollars. Isn’t a life worth infinitely more than my balanced budget? I already knew absolutely that adopting was what both Jess and I were called to do. The moment I surrendered my obsession with having all my dollars in a row, I also knew absolutely that we would pay for it. Somehow.

 

Since that night, we have never had more or less money in the adoption savings account than we needed, nor have we struggled to find the funds for our adoption. As the deadline for a cost approached, the old me would have budgeted the money appropriately and sweat if the accounts didn’t balance. The new knew that it was going to work out. Every time a new deadline approached, the week of the payment someone would give us money, or we’d be approved for a grant, or the money from a fundraiser would come in.

This was the “how” of how we afforded our adoption through faith. But what also baffled me was the “where”. When we started our adoption and sent out support letters, we speculated (call us horrible, if you like) about who might give us money. Almost all of our speculations were wrong. Wealthy individuals we expected to help out contributed nothing. Then on random nights, friends of ours who were saving for dreams of their own would show up at our door to give us $2,000 (the same week a payment was due, of course). A friend would write a check to purchase one of Jess’ Etsy creations for several hundred dollars instead of the $15 she actually charged for it. People, seriously, we had missionaries in the field donate to our adoption, and not even small amounts!

 

So I have no answers. How did we fund our adoption? I’m not sure that we did. The sticker price for our adoption is $19,270, and it’s not like we ever had anywhere close to that in our account. But over the past year, God has taken money from someone we know (or don’t know) and given it to whomever is claiming the next adoption bill, and it’s always worked out. That’s how we afforded our adoption. By faith.

 

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