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Our Journey to Becoming a Family

September 8, 2015

By, Sara Hall

We are excited to introduce you to our four beautiful daughters: Hana (15), Mia (13), Jasmine (8) and Lily (5)!

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Our family! All wearing traditional Ethiopian clothes

It all started 2 years ago when Ryan and I decided we wanted to start a family.  To be honest, Ryan started feeling “the itch” first- after all, we had gotten married so young, so even though we were still young it felt like the right time to him.  We had always talked about growing our family through giving children a home that might not otherwise have one.  But at the time, I wasn’t quite ready for my world to get instantly a lot smaller than it was and be tied down to one place.  I was enjoying the freedom of traveling the world running and pursuing the things God has put on my heart.  And yet, since we were leaning towards international adoption from an impoverished country, we knew that it was a long process that usually took years, and so we started doing our research and beginning the many hoops required of adoptive parents and I hoped my heart would catch up by the time it finished.

 

Lily with daddy

Lily with daddy

We chose to adopt from Ethiopia for a number of reasons, one of which being that there are over 4 million orphans in this country alone and though adoption is only one fractional solution to this orphan crisis, for those few it is life-changing.  We went into the process assuming since it was our first child we would adopt a young infant to experience the (near) full life cycle.  However, all of that changed on a training trip to Ethiopia when we spent time in an orphanage in the capital Addis Ababa.  We loved every one of the children we spent time with, and though the babies were adorable and cuddly it was the kids that captured our hearts.  It was also during this time that we learned there were plenty of people willing to adopt infants, but the largest need was with “older” children, sibling groups, and those with special needs. To clarify, in adoption “older” typically means over the age of 3, with the likelihood of a child being adopted drastically decreasing as their age increases, until they are no longer eligible after age 16.  I don’t think anyone starts the process thinking “I’d like to adopt some teenagers!”, but we realized that adopting older kids was more in line with our original vision to provide a loving home for kids that may not otherwise have one, as we strongly believe it’s something every child deserves.

It’s neat how something that sounds so crazy to you at one point can seem totally normal when God gives you the grace for it.  The further we got into this adoption journey, the more research we did and the more we spent time in Ethiopia and grew to love its people and culture, the more God expanded our hearts to the point that when we heard about a group for four sisters that had been in an orphanage waiting (almost four years now) for a family, we actually considered it.   We have come to know and experience a big God who is always with us and will always give us what we need to do whatever He calls us to do.  It doesn’t mean you always win or it’s always easy but He is always with us to give us the grace to handle whatever we face and uses it all for our good. It is when we step out in faith that we are able to experience more of Him.  Not to say that you don’t do your research, talk to people who have walked that road, and “count the cost”.  But we did all these and we still felt drawn to them.

The day we first met

The first week we met

We decided to meet the girls on another training stint to Ethiopia this year. It had become our favorite destination training camp and one where we felt after living at altitude so long we got an added benefit from the extreme elevation.  And also, knowing our future child would be coming from there had made our hearts begin to feel joined to it somehow.  We had seen pictures and heard their tragic story that brought them to this place of not having any family able to care for them, but additionally not even being safe in their home area.  Despite experiencing more in their short lives than I could even imagine in mine, the girls hearts seemed incredibly open and loving to all they encountered. After spending some time with them and all the other kids in the orphanage to get to know them (without them knowing that’s why we were visiting) and after much prayer, we decided that we were going to say “yes” to becoming their parents!

Waiting for us in Ethiopia but already a family

Waiting for us in Ethiopia but already a family

I will never forget the day we told them.  The head nanny called them into their office, and told them “Girls, these are your new parents!” pointing to us.  The two older girls looked completely shocked at first, covering their mouths in surprise, and then tears of pure joy flowed from their eyes as they rushed to embrace us, and the two youngers followed.  A burden that the older two had carried, worry about what their future would hold, melted off with relief along with the tears.  We explained what adoption means, that we would be going to live in the US, and that sometimes transitioning to a new culture and language would be hard, but that we would have to work together as a team. And then we asked them if they wanted to join our family. We wanted them to have a choice in the matter, as adopted kids rarely do and they were old enough to understand. They emphatically agreed with big smiles! We then gave them some presents we had brought- necklaces engraved with the letter “H”, their new last name, a new beginning. It was fun to learn that before this, they had told the nannies “Oh, if only we could have a family like them!”

Sending packages from the USA to let them know we are thinking of them

Sending packages from the USA to let them know we are thinking of them

 

International adoption is incredibly beautiful and redemptive- a picture of what God does for all of us, choosing us and adopting us as his children and giving us a new life.  But after talking to many adoptive parents, we know it is not without its own unique challenges.  We may not be changing diapers and doing 3 am feedings, but adjusting to a different culture and new language as well as working through the wounds of the past will be a journey we are on together.  We appreciate your prayers and support, as we will certainly need them!

Our pursuit of running at the highest level continues though the process will inevitably look a bit different.  No longer free to roam the earth like gypsies, training and racing wherever and whenever, we will be more rooted to one place as the girls are all school-aged (which may end up being a good thing for us!) Fortunately Ethiopia’s strong tradition of running means the girls already have an appreciation for what we do and are excited to watch us compete.  It is going to be a fun ride, and we are excited for the adventures ahead!

Going for a run at the famous Meskel Square the day we became a family

Going for a run at the famous Meskel Square the day we became a family

 

With Love,

The Halls- Ryan, Sara, Hana, Mia, Jasmine & Lily

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55 Comments

  • Reply Norma Standridge September 11, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Awesome story and really touching. May God bless your family always!

    • Reply Allison mikula September 12, 2015 at 10:54 am

      So incredibly excited and inspired. I am so happy for your new life as a family.W e are a family of casual runners and my two sons ,as well as I have followed your career. We ran the provo utah half marathon this year and got to hear ryan speak his inspiring message and got to lace up next to him in the very early hours in the Provo canyon. It was very exciting for us old joggers . God bless you all and I’m sure you will have a wonderful life with your new family

  • Reply Dana September 11, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Beautiful. Congratulations and may God continue to guide you all.

  • Reply Wansun September 11, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Awe inspiring. Lovely post. God bless your generous hearts and i wish you much love and wisdom on your journey.

  • Reply Kelly Preston September 11, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    This is SOOOOOO awesome! I am so very, very happy to hear how the Lord led you to these four beautiful girls and that they now have a forever family! I am a fellow runner and adoptive mom, so I praise God there are 4 less orphans in the world! May God give you much joy, peace, strength, and wisdom for the days and years ahead!

    In Christ,
    Kelly Preston
    http://www.racefortheorphans.weebly.com
    http://www.prestonpartyofsix.blogspot.com

  • Reply Maria Winemiller September 11, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    I am so happy for you. Congrats and hope to someday meet the family.

  • Reply Zoya September 11, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Sara and Ryan!
    I am so overwhelmed with joy! I love both of you so much! I am a college runner and I enjoy reading about your life and running. It is comforting to know that there are Godly professional runners who go through the same that I do. I am so excited that you adopted children and I pray that God blesses your new family. Thank you for allowing God to work in your life and being a testimony to me and my friends.
    Love,
    Zoya Timoshenko

  • Reply Amy September 11, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Tiffany September 11, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Yay! Congratulations! Thank you for sharing your story. Prayers and best wishes for many famiversaries! We adopted our daughter in 2009 (USA) and we are starting the process for kiddo #2!

  • Reply Brad Peters September 11, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Wow, thank you for being examples in all things of what it means to follow Jesus. I remember, Sara, an interview you did while running in high school (I coach HS cross country in CA) saying how much you wanted to be a missionary after school. Incredible the plans God had for you! So very cool!

  • Reply Anikka September 11, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Beautiful. Love is what makes a family.

  • Reply Lynn September 11, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    All my love and best to the six of you. You have done a Godly thing and I feel connected to both of you..first my son is a college level distance runner who is struggling mightily right now and my daughter is in her second year living and teaching at a missionary school. While at Stanford last summer I searched out Ryans name on their track hall of fame. May God continue to bless and challenge all of you…that is gonna be one interesting “back to school night ” next September!

  • Reply Danneca Skandera September 11, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    So happy for you guys. We have been praying for you both since hearing you at Bethel a couple years ago. We are Santa Rosans with kids the same age as your girls. If they need playmates (who are also runners!) when you’re in town, we’d love to meet your lovely ladies!

  • Reply Stephanie September 11, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Beautiful. And totally unsurprising knowing you. These are four beloved girls.

  • Reply Cory September 11, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Congratulations! So many people will share with you how hard it will be, but no one can prepare you for the love you feel! Looking forward to reading about the journey of your entire family!

  • Reply Katie September 11, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    I am crying tears of joy for these girls as well as for you, Ryan and Sara. I am touched.

  • Reply Jason Massie September 11, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Such a huge fan of you guys and this just further solidifies my thoughts about you both. You’ve worn your faith on your sleeve which was always admired by me. I have four children myself ages 17, 16, 14, and 12. The joys of having four kids is amazing. It is never dull in our house or quiet. We are constantly doing laundry, the dishes or at the grocery store. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Your family will be so blessed by the faithfulness you have shown to our great God and your blessings will overflow to your girls and beyond! Praise the Lord for people like you and the courage and conviction that was placed on your heart to give these girls a proper home. Amen!

  • Reply Bryan Huberty September 11, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    BIG Congrats Sara and Ryan!! We are all very proud of you guys and how you continue to inspire.
    -Bryan and the Live Ultimate crew

  • Reply Nancy September 11, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    How awesome! What a wonderful gift for the girls and both of you.

    You have always been winners in my book but this tops all of the medals and accolades.

    Congratulations on becoming new parents!

  • Reply Eunice September 11, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    An amazing story. thank you

  • Reply Marilyn Vecchio September 11, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Sara, Our second son, David, grew up with Ryan and we still live in Big Bear. We are firm believers in adoption, having adopted three girls ourselves. We have never regretted it and still have the two youngest at home, ages 16 and 13. If you ever want to discuss the unique challenges and joys of adoption, feel free to contact me. It’s one of my favorite subjects 🙂 Your beautiful family has our prayers and best wishes. Love, the Vecchio family

  • Reply Bruce & Jennifer Searl September 12, 2015 at 12:00 am

    And this dear Sara & Ryan is your most epic win ever! I was so excited for you two and you six when I saw this pop up on twitter! So great! Congratulations to you all! You’ll have to come back to Eugene and visit us next summer for the track meet and bring your kids, we’ll have a tiny house by then so you could stay in it and your kids in the cottage right by it! Love from Bruce & Jennifer.

  • Reply Rebecca bruce September 12, 2015 at 12:14 am

    You and Ryan are doing an incredible service of love and compassion to adopt these sisters. I wish you all the best as you all adjust. Hope both of your extended families rally around you all. No sugar coating, this is a big life changer.

  • Reply Jon September 12, 2015 at 1:16 am

    You made me cry!

  • Reply Carl & Alicia Williamson September 12, 2015 at 2:34 am

    Sara & Ryan,

    My wife Alicia and I are avid runners and have been often awed by your great ability, but we have become greater fans of yours because of your FAITH! We ourselves are church planters in NJ and have two beautiful children of our own. We have been awaiting the opportunity to adopt in Ethiopia for the past 2 1/2 years and know that God will provide a child at the right time. My wife and I as we read your blog together it brings us to tears to hear your story and know that we will be there one day ourselves. May God continue to bless you and your beautiful children.

  • Reply Brett September 12, 2015 at 3:50 am

    Bless you both. I’ll never forget the day my wife and I sat in the courtroom in Addis Ababa and the judge asked us if we are willing to be the parents of two Ethiopian boys. And then she says “now they are yours.”

  • Reply Shea Tinder September 12, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Congrats to you guys. What a beautiful family! We are so excited for yall!

  • Reply Kim September 12, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Congratulations! This is so wonderful and inspiring! Wish the best for your family. And this story is something I’ll always remember as I face choices about having children in the years ahead.

  • Reply Julieta Avitia September 12, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Congratulation! I admire your big heart. May the Lord bless you and your new family. Lovely Family!!!

  • Reply Sarah September 12, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    You are my favourite runners, Sara and Ryan, because of your running achieveents and beyond (it all kind of comes together) – I admire your faith and this brave decision to adopt! I am amazed to read this. You are true heroes (I read a newspaper article last year – I do remember that a hero has been defined as somebody who does something for somebody else). Greetings from Germany!

  • Reply Larry Royce September 13, 2015 at 1:53 am

    Ryan and Sara,
    You are indeed the hands and feet of our Lord. “What you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me”. I know how proud Mickey and Susie must be of you guys. Besides, they are going to make awesome grandparents. God’s riches blessings on you as you both begin this incredible adventure called parenting.

  • Reply Paula Fogarty September 13, 2015 at 5:35 am

    Hello Sara,

    What a wonderful thing you’re doing! Congratulations and best wishes to you and Ryan! These are four fortunate girls, but I know you’re fortunate too to be able to form a family with them.
    Thinking of you,
    Paula (Mrs. F.)

  • Reply Roger Sirmon September 14, 2015 at 2:44 am

    So happy for you and the girls.
    A friend of mine was Glenn Cunningham, who raised dozens of children after he retired from competitive running.
    He affected history with his and his wife’s sacrifice.
    My prayers are with you.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply Paul Gorney September 14, 2015 at 3:15 am

    So heartwarming and wonderful! What an absolute joy for the girls and you. I am a former collegiate runner and I am adopted. I have 5 children and can only imagine the immense joy your daughters feel in having a mom and dad and staying together with their sisters. Wow, congrats!

  • Reply Anna September 14, 2015 at 4:34 am

    Wow, I love reading this and seeing what has happened since we met. I have been thinking about you and wondering what had happened. I can’t wait to watch your story unfold and see what God does!

    Anna 🙂

  • Reply Kate September 14, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Sara,
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I, too, have felt drawn to providing a home and a family to a child in need. I’m feeling very inspired by your decision. All the best to you, Ryan and the girls!

  • Reply Liz Wilson September 14, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Congrats to all if you! Enjoy the journey and thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Kjerstin Erickson September 15, 2015 at 3:55 am

    Sara – my mom just sent this to me and I cried tears of joy and anticipation for you and Ryan. What a beautiful, blessed undertaking. I know you will be a wonderful, compassionate mother to your sweet girls. After all, you learned from the best! Hi, Mrs. Bei 🙂

  • Reply mark peske September 25, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Hey Ryan and Sara, I’ve published a book about healing from past traumatic memories through Christ. It’s a fairly simple form of prayer but very helpful and applicable for parenting. I’d love to send you a copy if you’d send me your mailing address. You can check out the book on my facebook page: Mark I. Peske

  • Reply Kristen September 26, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Congratulations and prayers for your family. Thanks for sharing how God brought you all together.

  • Reply Karin Aitken October 2, 2015 at 2:26 am

    Hello, this is my first time to your sight. Our son Andrew was married to Cindy. We now live in Solvang and a dear sister in Christ is Jackie Gruendyke, sent me your link; I am in a Bible Study at her home. Small world isn’t it. Blessings to you and your family for the wonderful adventures, love and support that you all will share.
    Lovingly,
    Karin and Gordy Aitken

  • Reply Wendy October 2, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    As a runner and a recent adoptive mother of two Special Needs toddlers from China, this touches my heart! You have been wonderful Christian Role models and this is an amazing way to live out your faith and enjoy the blessings of a family. 🙂 The amazing moments of connecting with your children make every difficult moment worth it!

  • Reply Samantha Wilson October 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    As a runner who has watched your careers and a clinical psychologist who works (almost) exclusively with families formed through international adoption I was drawn to (and appreciative of) your thoughtful descriptions of the path to family for you, and most especially for your children. May they find safety and comfort in the love of your emerging family and derive strength from those whose love remain a part of their memories.

  • Reply Kathryn de Souza October 10, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Congratulations! I also adopted an older child (age 10) internationally. Everyone always comments on how lucky she was that we adopted her, but the lucky people are really my husband and I! She was so brave and left China with us after only knowing us for 1 week. She did not speak any English when we brought her home but she is an incredibly strong and resilient young lady who has brought so much joy to our lives . She is now 13 and it was the best decision we ever made to adopt her. We have 2 biological children as well, and we are one big happy family. Enjoy your girls and take lots of pictures- they grow up so fast! God bless your family.

  • Reply Ashley October 16, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Congratulations! I just finished reading Ryan’s “Running with Joy” book that he signed at the Houston Marathon several years ago! God Bless all of you as you begin this exciting new journey! Ethiopia and its people are all just so beautiful. So excited to see what God has in store for all of you!

  • Reply Beth Adair January 16, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    That’s an amazing story! Hope to cross paths with the whole family someday. Have y’all considered the Runner’s World festival in Bethlehem, PA in October? There’s something for the whole family and it would be a great way to share your story and retirement. I hope there’s nothing but laughs in the Hall household:-)

  • Reply GSrolovits January 18, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Ryan & Sara,

    I just read about your retirement and the adoptions in the NY Times Sports section.
    Congratulations on all of your athletic accomplishments and even more so on your humanity and caring.
    You adopting these wonderful children is very inspiring.
    May you be blessed with many years of health and happiness so you can raise these children to be as loving and caring as, obviously, you both are. Success with raising productive, caring & loving children will outshine your many athletic accomplishments.
    Best wishes.

  • Reply mahal January 19, 2016 at 2:14 am

    Congratulations. for the good work but if you havent already done so make sure you also allow them to have ongoing contact with their original language & culture.i reside in multicultural multi-ethnic Seattle Washington. & have been exposed to many forms of transnational & or trans-cultural adoptions.the ones that work best ate the ones that in some way still value & respect the original languages. & cultures .they will eventually have days of reconning. independent. of their parents & the healthier they are the healthier they will respond. love to you all😎

  • Reply Julie February 22, 2016 at 1:38 am

    This is so moving! Thanks for sharing your story. All the best to you, ryan and your daughters!

  • Reply Hannah March 10, 2016 at 10:47 am

    This is absolutely beautiful! I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia and have fell in love with the country. You all are a very perfect and beautiful family 🙂 I wish you all the best!

  • Reply Vemana June 28, 2016 at 2:26 am

    I was literally crying reading your story, definitely need guts to adopt 4 children. You guys have done the right thing and those children are so blessed having you as parents, ryan and sara you are my superheroes!

  • Reply Manny February 5, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    What a beautiful family! Great to see y’all so happy! God bless.

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  • Reply Willhelm September 11, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    This is digusting….Why would a beautiful young white couple want to adopt four fucking NOGS from some rat nest shithole country -_- There are white kids that need adopting too you know…. This ought to be illegal. Breaks my heart. Selfish, virtue signalling family

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