By, Sara Hall
We are excited to introduce you to our four beautiful daughters: Hana (15), Mia (13), Jasmine (8) and Lily (5)!
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.
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.
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!
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!”
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!
The Halls- Ryan, Sara, Hana, Mia, Jasmine & Lily