Monday, September 15, 2014

Ministry Monday: Our Director shares her personal adoption story and why this week's 127 Campaign focus is especially personal to her

This blog post was written by our Executive Director Autumn Kerr who is an adoptive mom to a 5 year old son from Ethiopia. 

This week's Impact Area for our 127 Campaign is this:
Development of Healing Conferences for Foster and Adoptive Parents

So you might be thinking, Visiting Orphans sends mission teams around the world. Why would VO be doing conferences for fosters and adoptive parents? 

Because we don't believe caring for orphans is limited to world missions. Just like we don't believe making an impact in the orphan crisis means only partnering with orphanages or only advocating for adoption. We believe making an impact in the orphan crisis looks like a lot of things including working with orphanages, supporting ministries that help support families so children don't end up in orphanages, partnering with ministries that work toward reunification and finding local families to care for children in their own country when reunification with their birth family is not possible, sending teams to go and remind little ones that they matter, supporting families who adopt or foster kids internationally and domestically and having that support extend into caring for those families once the children are home. Because as I know from firsthand experience, that's when the hard part really begins. Yes, the months and months and sometimes years of waiting and the financial aspect and the mountains of paperwork is hard. But that was just the tip of the iceberg for how hard things were about to get once I brought my child home.

Gotcha day October 28, 2012

These kids wouldn't be available for adoption if they hadn't already experienced great loss. So they are coming home to their families with pain and loss and trauma. And if you're like me, their trauma might stir up any past trauma that you have. Even if you didn't know you had any! 

That's what happened in our home. I had been in counseling many times over the years. I thought I had dealt with my junk. But the truth is, I dealt with some of it but there was a lot more that was buried deep inside. And honestly nothing in my life had stirred it up quite like becoming a mom to a very independent, strong-willed 3 and a half year old who wanted to be near me every second of the day and night - even while sleeping. He needed nurturing and attachment but he was in that 3 year old stage where he wanted to do everything himself. And there was a language barrier. And he didn't know really what was happening. I can only imagine what kind of fear and stress must be going on in a child that age to have this person who is pretty much a stranger come in to where you live and take you with them, take you on an airplane and a whole new journey completely different than the world you've been living in for the first few years of life. Even if much of your new life is better, it's still new and unfamiliar and scary. So much is different. Pretty much everything. You now have access to food whenever you want and you get to have choices and a clean diaper whenever you need one. And as many baths in a day as you want (he actually took 6 in one day that first month). And everything is new and you're testing everything out. Including this person who keeps calling herself mommy. Mihretu clung to me for dear life. He had some pretty intense tantrums and would throw himself on the floor for things like me turning the dvd player off instead of him because apparently he wanted to do it that time. He was terrified of our dog. He would climb on me in the middle of the night because he wanted to be close at all times. He didn't want me to help him with anything. He wasn't having some of the many major issues I had read about but he was still exhibiting signs of distrust, trying to grasp for control in anything and everything and some over the top reactions. It was a very hard first year. And I'm a single mom so I didn't have a spouse to turn to. Most of the times, when he pushed my buttons to the very limits of my patience, I could feel it happening. If I had a spouse, I would have totally been like "you take him - I just need a minute, I'm about to lose it." But I didn't have that person there for backup. And I couldn't just walk away and have a minute. Even turning to walk toward the other side of the room would set off a freak out reaction of fear in my kiddo. He wanted to be near me every single second. I could not get any personal space. Not even to take a shower or go to the bathroom or sleep. It was hard. And his trauma and my trauma were all wrapped up together in that first year. 

I think the hardest part for me that first year was that my junk made me feel like a horrible person. It made me feel isolated and alone and awful. And it was so overwhelming that I didn't attach instantly like I expected to. And that made me feel awful too. And I didn't know what to do or when or if it would get better. Thankfully I have some amazing friends that I was honest with and who prayed with me and encouraged me and gave me some breaks so I could get out of the house and have some me time. Just having people to talk to made a huge difference. And then our staff did a bible study dvd series called Counseled by God and you spend a lot of time praying and journaling and I got time with the Lord and He spoke to my heart. And I started to come out of the funk I was in. 

And then this past January, I started counseling at a place in Nashville called Rock House Center. We got right into it and started unpacking my junk and all the layers underneath to reveal where it was coming from. We walked through forgiveness and realigning my beliefs about myself and my responsibility as a mom with who God says I am and the fact that God is ultimately responsible for my child. I was carrying around this burden that I had to be the one to solely heal him and it was too much for me to carry. The amount of weight that was lifted in those first few weeks and months of counseling felt so freeing. Joy returned. And as I loosened my own grip of trying to control everything, a crazy thing happened - my son started to loosen his control grip too. Our household became much more pleasant and a whole lot of fun. Praise the Lord - THIS is what I always pictured when I dreamed of being a mom. It's not perfect and there are still tantrums cause he's a kid and that's what kids sometimes do. But I'm not getting my buttons pushed like I was and therefore those moments don't seem so big or overwhelming. God is good! And I am so thankful for all the healing He has brought me and how that is helping my son heal. And it's giving me new insight into some of his behavior and what it might be stemming from and helping me have patience and compassion for it. I absolutely adore this child that I am blessed to be mom to. He is funny and smart and a natural leader. We have so much fun together. I can't imagine my life without him in it. I am so thankful!

March 2014 - 5 year old birthday photo shoot

So that's my vulnerable moment of sharing my own story and why I personally am passionate about helping adoptive and foster parents get the healing they need. I have a feeling I'm not the only one who got their junk stirred up when bringing home a child from a hard place.

If you want to be part of seeing this vision become a reality for Visiting Orphans to offer healing conferences for adoptive and foster parents - please consider joining the Visiting Orphans Monthly Giving Program. There is so much we feel like God is calling us to for this next season and we need your help to bring these things to life. To read more about the 127 Campaign, watch the campaign videos and sign up to be a world changer, go to:

You can keep up with Autumn's adoption journey on her blog here:

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