This week we launched a new Adoption Journal in collaboration with The Archibald Project. A portion of the proceeds from our collab will go straight to The Archibald Project to aid in their efforts to advocate for children worldwide and help end the global orphan crisis. We're both believers in the power of storytelling and capturing your own personal journey. Inspired by the Archibald Project's hashtag #storytellingchangestheworld, we're sharing some of their most powerful adoption stories here on the blog.
Today we're sharing the story of the Shaw Family who adopted their daughter, Elsie, from Mwana Villages in the Republic of Congo. Below, read their answers to prompts from our Adoption Journal and see photos from their journey. Hop over to The Archibald Project to read and see even more of their adoption story!
Why did you choose to adopt?
KRISTIN SHAW: Joel and I met when we were in middle school, and we said even at that young age that we “knew we would get married” ha! By the time we were in high school and college, we were already talking about our future family and how we both felt that God had placed adoption on our hearts. We felt open to having children biologically as well, and when the time came to start our family we started adoption paperwork as well as prayed for the lines on that pregnancy test!
By God’s grace, He took us on a journey these past 5 years that I never would have chosen myself but that we are so grateful for. We have experienced being chosen by a birth mother in a domestic adoption where that birth mother made the decision to parent days after the child was in our home. What did this show us? That our hearts, although believing they were in the right place, didn’t fully think through the other side of adoption and all of the love, bravery, care, and difficulty that a mother goes through when making a decision to parent or to make an adoption plan. That has drastically shaped our view of the approach we want to take with adoption—which is one that is holistic and places the needs of others above our own desire for a family.
We also worked with an international adoption program from which we walked away when we felt ethics became blurry. What did this teach us? That God calls us to be advocates for every child: to be certain that adoption is the right plan for a child, and to first ensure that familial reconciliation is not possible. These experiences led us to Mwana Villages in the Republic of Congo. Their mission statement is “Mwana Villages is a grass-roots ministry. We exist to serve the Littles, Bigs and Mamas through practical and sustainable ways, creating long-term solutions with a goal toward preserving the family.” We first saw our daughter’s face in January 2016. We walked through that process to bring her home and finally did in September 2017, which we had the privilege of sharing with The Archibald Project.
How did you prepare for the arrival of your child?
We had been in the adoption process for a few years before we even knew about our daughter, Elsie. So, we had a lot of time to prepare! In some ways we prepared by reading, talking with other adoptive parents, and praying that Jesus would equip our hearts with what we needed to know and learn to love our children well—both adopted and biological.
By the time we started the process to adopt Elsie, we also had our son, Simeon, to prepare. Simeon is our biological son that was born in April 2015. We started talking about Elsie and had the privilege of FaceTiming with her at least once a week for a year prior to her homecoming. We made up songs about her, sent her pictures of our family, and included her in our conversations with Simeon daily. By the time we went to go bring Elsie home, both she and Simeon were familiar with each other which was such a blessing!
For us, spending time in prayer for Elsie and Simeon, as well as preparing ourselves with the expectation that life would be a challenge when she arrived was so important. The truth is that adding a two-year-old to your family IS going to be challenging—but that is to be expected, AND our kind, spunky, and silly Elsie Gene was worth every difficult moment, every tear, and every challenge.
Where were you when first met?
Well, the first time we “met” Elsie was over FaceTime! She just stared at us, and honestly, that is pretty much what she did for most of our FaceTimes. But, meeting her in person in September 2017 you could tell she knew exactly who we were. She was tentative, nervous, and uncertain. We were so excited, and nervous as well! We were in the Republic of Congo (Pointe-Noire) and it was about 6 a.m. when we walked into the gates of Mwana Villages to meet Elsie. I’ll never forget her questioning face, blue and white dress, and inquisitive eyes as we swooped her up into our arms.
We spent two weeks with her in Congo before bringing her home, and it was amazing to see her go from not talking at all to slowly humming, singing, wanting to be held, and reaching for us. Now, almost a year later, we are still seeing progress made and are all learning how to show each other love, understanding, and patience as there are so many different emotions and experiences that go into molding a family together.
Describe the love you feel for your children?
Oh man, it is impossible to describe this! What I can tell you is that when we wake up in the morning to hear Simeon and Elsie chatting, giggling and talking about how they are “best friends” our heart melts. This journey has not always been easy, but one thing that has been so beneficial is giving ourselves, and Elsie, grace to have hard days. To see love GROW and to realize that God is transforming all of our hearts everyday.
With any child—biological or adopted—you think you love them more than anything and then the next day somehow you love them more. That has been our experience with Elsie—oh how we loved her the moment we saw her, yet a little over two years later our love has grown and grown. To have my beautifully kind daughter look at me in the eyes and ask for a kiss and to know that a year ago that would never happen. To have my heart swell when she says “I love you” and the truth is to know it didn’t feel the exact same a year ago, and that’s OK. To be forever grateful everyday as we have watched our hearts transform in love towards Elsie, so that now none of us could imagine our lives without her.
One of my favorite things in life is to see Elsie and Simeon’s love for each other. It’s as if they looked at each other last September and said “there you are. I’ve been waiting for you.” We know that isn’t the case in every adoption, and so we praise the Lord for that gift.
Photos: The Archibald Project
Capture your own adoption story in an Adoption Journal—a portion of the proceeds from our new Adoption Journal collab will go straight to The Archibald Project.
A portion of the proceeds from our new Adoption Journal collab will go straight to The Archibald Project