Don’t know how to describe the events of our family’s life over the last several weeks but I know many people have questions and there is inaccurate information circling around so here the 411 on how our family of 5 slowly became a family of 7… OVERNIGHT!
It all starts and ends with James 1:27 which says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Our family’s life was turned upside when God spoke to us through this verse about 6 years ago. Our journey down the adoption road began with this verse and God has built our family’s life’s work and ministry on that verse.
Jake and I first visited the island of Haiti in March 2005. I didn’t know if we would EVER recover from all the things God revealed to us during that trip. Our comfortable life was turned upside down by everything we saw and experienced there. Thankfully, we never did “get over” it… God began to change our entire life goals from that point on. After we saw what we saw with our own eyes, we were morally obligated to change and “recovery” was not an option. Princess Diana had it right when she said: “You can’t comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable.” God changed our comfortable life forever during first precious those days we spent in Haiti. We realized that proof of our love for Christ was not best reflected in merely going to church, singing praise songs, going to bible study and prayer meetings, or teaching a Sunday school class (although those things are vitally important), but in genuinely loving and serving the sick, the poor, the weak, and the marginalized. I used to be able to ignore those statistics of extreme poverty but once the numbers have faces and stories associated with them… it haunted us. We began to feel a unique calling and burden for the Haitian people.
During our first trip working at GVCM’s all of God’s children orphanage, we felt a divine connection to two little boys there…. Jimso and Jackson. Our hearts were forever connected to those boys (boys that were partners in crime and best buds to their core). After returning home and spending some intense time praying about adoption, our family felt called to adopt Jimso. We continued to love on and pray for Jackson but did not immediately feel called to begin pursuing adopting both boys. After 3 long years, our adoption journey was complete as welcomed Jimso Taylor Lenhart in our home. The journey to bring Jimso home was not easy but I would not change one moment of it. God has spoken so much truth over our lives during this process. I know that each tear that fell and each obstacle that we had to overcome was wrapped with divine purposes. The most powerful lesson we learned on our adoption journey is that He who promised is faithful!!!
Throughout the course of our adoption, we were able to travel to Haiti several times. When the adoption of Jimso was complete and Jake made the journey to bring him home, we learned that Jimso had a biological brother now living at the orphanage named Dieudonne. We were heart broken to learn that our adoption would mean separating Jimso, Jackson, AND Dieudonne.
I visited Haiti to eagerly meet Dieudonne as soon as possible after the dust settled from our first adoption (November 2008) and again felt instantly connected to those two boys. We began visiting the orphanage as often as we could, sharing pictures of Jimso and our family, and just wrapping our arms around these precious boys that had stolen our hearts. We immediately discussed the possibility of adopting Dieudonne and Jackson with GVCM and our family prepared for another long journey to welcome these boys into our forever family.
Shortly after visiting the boys again in 2008, we felt the Lord calling us to full time mission work in Haiti. As we began pursuing that we put our adoptions on hold… hoping that once we got settled in Haiti, we could complete a local adoption first. So prior to the earthquake, we were in full swing of the fund raising aspect of becoming full time missionaries with Christian Service International (CSI).
Life changed for everyone connected with Haiti on Tuesday January 12th… I have nothing to compare it to except for the tragedy of 911. Our hearts literally ached for the nation we loved, the children we loved as our own, and our missionary friends serving there.
There are no words to describe how much we love the people of Haiti. I have read in the book of Ruth where she proclaims to her mother in law Naomi, “Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE MY PEOPLE and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." I do not understand the how’s or why’s of it… but I know that we feel a divine connection and love for the people of Haiti. Maybe it has something to do with the adoption but I know God has placed devotion in our hearts to this nation and its people that will be the foundation upon which we will build our ministry to the people of Haiti.
Jake and our dear friend Belinda (who is a nurse) immediately began making plans to go to Haiti to help provide relief. They were able to leave the Saturday following the earthquake. While they we in process of getting there, I learned that children who were already in the adoption process (and those prospective adoptive parents who had traveled to Haiti and established a previous relationship with the orphan) could possibly be evacuated on a humanitarian parole visas. And the overwhelming sinking feeling in my chest started to feel lighter with the gift of HOPE. The events between finding out that information and Belinda bringing home the 12 orphans that were evacuated are kind of a blur…. It involved days of emails and phone calls from friends and family associated with these children in the States (literal the battery on my phone would be dead by around 11am everyday), frantically gathering the already completed paperwork of several of the families, and TONS AND TONS OF PRAYER!! It involved miracle after miracle leading us down the path God had laid before us. But late Tuesday night, we got word Belinda was on a military flight bringing home 12 precious children to their new families (2 of those 12 were future Lenharts). Jennifer (another adoptive mom from Oklahoma) and I were able to fly down with the Beoughers (another adoptive family from Kansas) to meet Belinda and the kids in Miami. Honestly we were pinching our self’s the entire flight… isn’t it ironic how we pray and pray and PRAY for something and then are awestruck when we see our answered prayers materialize?!
I was able to briefly talk to a weary Belinda as we waited for our flight to join her in Miami… and touched bases with her on how much the kids understood at this point. I wanted to know did Dieudonne and Jackson understand that this was IT and that they were coming home to us?? Belinda shared with me that “they get it!” and our sweet Dieudonne had carried a picture of our family into the Embassy with him confident in who and where he was going!
The first few days following the earthquake I was consumed by the news coverage… somehow seeing first hand accounts of what was happening made me feel connected with the people I love during one of their most difficult hours. Once Jake and Belinda were there, I had to make the decision to avoid the new coverage. Hearing stories of aftershocks and holding my breath until we got word everyone was ok was beyond disheartening.
When we landed in Miami and were moments away from being reunited with our precious children, I walked by a TV monitor reporting the biggest aftershock yet. But again as I had done all week, I had to CHOOSE faith. Earlier in the week, I heard and held onto a MLK quote that said “faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the staircase.”
So pushing the news of the aftershock aside, I was finally able to wrap my arms around my friend Belinda (who had just walked through the valley of the shadow of death literally) and my precious boys!!! Knowing their ages (12,11) and developmentally where my son was at age, I didn’t want to smoother them with hugs and kisses so I had determined not to but…. As soon as they saw me, THEY SMOTHERED me when the hugs and kisses my heart so desperately longed for the last several months since I last saw them. It was one of those moments that can’t be explained with words or pictures but it is completely a heart thing. So after our 5:30am reunion in the Miami international airport hotel, we began the task of making travel arrangements to OklaHOMEa. Over the course of our adventure home with those 12 miracles, I was drooled on, cried on, and peed on. It was one of the longest days of my life but also one of the best days!
I remember when Jimso came home with us… as he sleep between me and Jake that first night, we giggled and cried in awe of this little miracle between us. Because Jake was still Haiti, he missed some of the special “firsts” with Jackson and Dieudonne. And although I wanted him to be there to share in the moment we had prayed for and waited on for years… we wanted him to be where God wanted to be and in that moment that was helping in Haiti. And thankfully I had the help of some AMAZING friends to help our family make this transition once the boys were home.
Sometimes in the moments of sheer joy in seeing these boys finally home with us… I felt guilty knowing what others are still experiencing in Haiti today. I don’t even know how to wrap my mind around the magnitude of loss and suffering there, but even in the midst of that I see God working and good coming from all the hurt. Romans 8:28 promises us that “we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ALL THINGS (even unspeakable tragedies)
One of the biggest questions we have been asked is “are you still moving to Haiti?” And the answer is a resounding “YES!”. The earthquake has changed many things… and the details of WHEN and in what capacity we will serve is still unknown. When we embarked on this journey to become full time missionaries to Haiti, we were really unsure how God was going to work out the logistics of everything. God knew there would be a devastating earthquake when He called us. It was like a Polaroid picture… I knew God had a plan but the final picture was really unclear and blurry yet. Today that Polaroid picture is starting to become clearer and IT’S BEAUTIFUL! Figuring out how the picture ends up and knowing all the details along the way, isn’t my part. My part is just following Him wherever He leads. One day that will be Haiti, but while we wait I have a little more of Haiti (in Jackson and Dieudonne) here with me to love on.
We cannot say thank you enough to our friends, family, and precious church family. The support we have received is overwhelming and just another testament to these Haitian children as to how incredibly loved they are by all of you!!
I know this seems like a long story… but trust me this is the SHORT VERSION. I could (and might) write books full of all the miracles and beautiful moments (mixed with moments of sheer grief) we have had the opportunity to experience over the last 3 weeks.
One of the songs that seems to be on the radio every time I get in the car the last few weeks is “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless and the lyrics could not be more appropriate:
Everybody falls sometimes Gotta find the strength to rise From the ashes and make a new beginning Anyone can feel the ache You think it’s more than you can take But you are stronger, stronger than you know Don’t you give up now The sun will soon be shining You gotta face the clouds To find the silver lining
I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains Hope that doesn’t ever end Even when the sky is falling And I’ve seen miracles just happen Silent prayers get answered Broken hearts become brand new That’s what faith can do
It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard Impossible is not a word It’s just a reason for someone not to try Everybody’s scared to death When they decide to take that step Out on the water It’ll be alright Life is so much more Than what your eyes are seeing You will find your way If you keep believing
Overcome the odds You don't have a chance (That’s what faith can do) When the world says you can’t It’ll tell you that you can!
I am a nurse and most importantly mom of 6 precious children( 2 are homegrown, 1 on loan,& 3 are hand picked). Drew (age 15) Ashlyn (age 13) We have adopted 3 Haitian miracles Jimso (age10), Jackson (age 13) a&Jedone (age 14) We also have a foster daughter who is a constant source of joy!We are passionate about orphan/ foster care. My husband is the lead pastor at Cherokee Hills Christian Church in Oklahoma City.