Friday, January 14, 2011
On November 20, 2010, while most in America had thoughts of Christmas gifts under a tree, God was at work halfway across the world putting a special gift under a tree for Preetika and me.
This particular tree in Livingstone, Zambia was roughly 10,000 miles away from where we were in California at that time. On that Saturday evening, one of our missionary friends in Zambia, Tammy Haden, heard a baby crying outside. She thought to herself that the baby sounded so loud that it seemed to be right inside her yard. As the crying did not diminish and no one seemed to be calming the baby, she went outside to see what was going on. As she stepped outside and headed for the gate in her wall fence, the Lord impressed upon her heart that the crying baby had been abandoned. At that point she began running toward the sound of the cry which was coming from outside her wall at the base of a tree. There she found a 4-6 week old baby boy The crying must have also caught the attention of her landlord who lives across the street. He, being a long-time resident of Zambia, and not nearly as tender-hearted as a missionary wife, told Ms. Tammy not to touch the baby while he went to get the police. As he turned the corner, she picked up the baby and was joined by Bro. Joe, her husband, who was just returning from a village trip in the midst of all the commotion. After picking him up and soothing his crying, the baby gave her one of his beaming smiles for which he is now well-known.!
Soon after, the police arrived. They took a statement from Ms. Tammy, but did not seem to have any procedure in place to handle the abandoned child. Their only instruction was to take the baby to the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, Ms. Tammy was directed toward the registration desk with the baby. The registration nurse asked his name in order to register him. Since she hadn’t really thought about his name, Ms. Tammy was unsure of what to say. The nurse insisted that he needed a name, so Ms. Tammy replied that he is Moses, which makes sense to all familiar with the Exodus story of the baby Moses being saved from death when his mother sent him afloat down the river in a basket. He was found, cared for, and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter as her own son. Despite that inspired name choice, the LORD had a different name in mind. The nurse responded that Moses was not a good name because there were too many babies with that name already. The next name that came to mind at the registration desk was Elijah. This name was promptly accepted by the nurse who attached Haden as the last name. As the doors to adoption have opened up for Preetika and me, we have kept these names and expanded upon them. His full name is Elijah Paul Haden Warner – a bit of a mouthful no doubt but each name is full of meaning. Paul, by the way, is my wife’s maiden name, not to mention a great missionary of the New Testament.
After examination at the hospital, Elijah was sent home with the Hadens with a clean bill of health. Ms. Tammy and Bro. Joe were quite relieved to be able to take him home as they feared he may be put “in the system” that night. The nurses and policemen, on the other hand, seemed surprised that these Americans would be willing to take home and care for an abandoned Zambian baby. As promised the Hadens reluctantly brought Elijah back to the hospital the next day late on Sunday afternoon. When some of the nurses saw them approaching, they asked if Elijah was sick. Ms. Tammy said that he was not, but they were bringing him back as they had agreed to. The nurses replied that since it was Sunday and the administration offices were closed, there was no one who could see them today about the situation. They said the best thing to do was to wait until Monday and bring him to the Social Welfare Office in town. Through the next week (Thanksgiving week), the Hadens had several interviews and a home inspection. By Friday, they were in the magistrate’s office getting legal papers naming them Elijah’s foster parents.
We have been amazed at God’s Hand in orchestrating every detail. Notwithstanding a few appointment changes, the relative speed and ease of the process has been astounding and very “un-Zambia-like.” That God is at work here is extremely evident. Many Westerners have the idea that since the number of orphaned children in Africa is so alarmingly high (due to AIDS and other such calamities), therefore adoption is quite common. The opposite is actually true. In fact, since the year 2000, the number of Zambian orphans adopted by American families has been 77 -- or less than 8 per year. Compare that with China, India, or the Philippines whose lowest number of adopted orphans per year over the last decade are 3001, 297, and 171 respectively. Those countries have many more orphans adopted per year than Zambia has per decade. Most orphans in Zambia are cared for by their extended family members. Cases of abandonment are even rarer which indicates to us that Elijah’s family situation at his birth may have been unthinkably desperate. The social worker handling our case says Elijah’s is only the fourth abandonment he has heard of since he began working at the Social Welfare Office over 5 years ago. All of these stats emphatically remind Preetika and me of what a miracle Elijah’s life has been to this point has been.
We cannot help but recognize that God has a purpose and plan for his life. How privileged we are to be used of the Lord in the working of His plan!
The rest of the story, especially concerning what was going on in our hearts and lives in California concurrently with the events related from Zambia can be found in our January 2011 Prayer Letter which can also be found on this site. Preetika and I look forward to further updates along our journey to adopt Elijah and raise him up in the nurture and admonition of the LORD.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Dear Praying Friends,
We hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas, and we wish you a very happy New Year! This holiday season has been a blessed one for us for one extremely special reason. The Lord has seen fit to add to our family. A few days before Thanksgiving, after having delayed our return to Zambia because of a few necessary medical tests, my wife noticed a rather unusual post on Facebook from a friend and fellow missionary in Zambia. Joe and Tammy Haden, who live in our town, had found an abandoned baby outside their fence. Unbeknownst to my wife, I asked God to let the Hadens contact us if He wanted us to adopt this four- to six-week old baby boy. Preetika and I have considered and prayed about adopting a Zambian child for the past three years. The process always seemed rather daunting, and we were overwhelmed with thoughts of where to begin. Incidentally, I had been told in my research of Zambian adoption that a prospective adoptive parent had to have a targeted child in mind before beginning the process. Our purpose in considering adoption was not only to fulfill our desire of parenting but also to care for a child truly in need. Though there are plenty of orphans in Zambia, most are cared for by their extended family members. While this can often lead to mistreatment and a “Cinderella” syndrome for the orphaned children, it is the typical way of handling this common situation in Africa. So we planned on visiting some of the orphanages in our country on several occasions; but each time God closed the door, and our plans for a visit fell through for some reason or other. We are now convinced that He already had His plan set in motion. And when God does something, He does it right!
Now that you have been brought up to speed on God’s pre-workings in our hearts regarding what He is shortly to bring to pass, this is where the story really gets good. The next day after hearing about the baby (and praying for God’s will to be known) was a Sunday. While returning from church that afternoon with my wife and her parents, Preetika checked her Facebook page on our cell phone. She was sitting in the backseat, and I was driving. When we arrived home, she came to me with tears in her eyes, looking like she was about to burst with excitement. When I asked what was the matter, she replied that Ms. Tammy had sent her a message asking if we would be interested in adopting Elijah, the abandoned baby’s name given by default by Ms. Tammy. (For the complete story about his name, please see our website, www.warnersinzambia.blogspot.com.) I told Preetika that the Lord had answered my prayer, and we replied that we were VERY interested in adopting Him. Within one week, the Hadens had been court-appointed as his foster parents until he turned 19 or was adopted. We laughed about that “until age 19” clause since Bro. Joe and Ms. Tammy are doting grandparents expecting their 13th grandchild in a few months (actually that unborn grandchild has been pushed to number 14 now that Elijah has entered their life!). Over the next two weeks, Preetika and I frantically prepared for a new baby in our house—from 10,000 miles away. We praise God for the tremendous support, encouragement, and help in preparing for Elijah from our family and Foothill Baptist Church family, my wife’s home church.
We traveled to Zambia with at least 150 pounds of baby gear in tow. It especially attracted a lot of attention to be carrying a baby car seat with no baby in it. Several times we were asked if we had mistakenly left our child behind somewhere. We didn’t mind the questions, but I just imagine all those that thought the same thing but didn’t ask. I am sure there are dozens of people from Los Angeles to London to Johannesburg, South Africa, who think we are the most careless parents alive. At any rate, the anomaly of the situation allowed us to share Elijah’s story several times over the journey. Preetika and I have decided to work on a tract or pamphlet tying in the message of God’s adoption of sinners into His family through Christ with our own adoption of Elijah to prepare for the questions that we will undoubtedly field regarding our multicultural family over the years. Since our arrival in Zambia, we have spent much time with Elijah at Nonna and Granddaddy Haden’s house. We have met with Mr. Kawana, the social worker handling our case, and he has encouraged us with his effort and concern to push Elijah’s adoption through the system. He also enabled us to have the unspeakable gift of having Elijah in our home over the Christmas weekend! We have been assured that Elijah should come for good to our home in the first or second week of January as we take over the fostering of him while waiting for the adoption to be finalized. Please be in prayer that God will open doors and allow the paperwork to be completed soon. We are trusting God and have been amazed at His working in this situation. Many times through the last couple of weeks, we have remarked that things are just going too smoothly—nothing is this easy in Zambia. We can’t go to the store and buy groceries as easily as things have worked so far in this process! While we don’t completely expect smooth sailing, we know God is in control, and He opens doors no man can shut! For more on Elijah’s story including pictures, you can find my wife on Facebook or check out our website. Thanks as always for your prayers.
“God setteth the solitary in families….” (Psalm 68:6) Praise God He does!
In His service,
Justin & Preetika Warner