After having four wonderful children, my wife, Jill, and I were very grateful to God for the blessing each one had become to us. But as we opened our hearts before the Lord and prayed about His will for our family, we could sense that He still had much more in store for us if we would be willing to trust Him. We couldn’t shake that feeling that there were still empty chairs around the table.

As Jill and I talked about this, she started talking about adoption. Personally, I had supported the idea of adoption in a general sense. I know God calls us all to care for widows and orphans. But when it came to our own family, I wasn’t so sure. I had heard stories about adoptions not always going well and I didn’t want to mess up the good thing God had already entrusted to us.

A few months later, Jill and I were sitting on an airplane, flying to New York to approve the final master of the movie Courageous. I was reading in John 10 about the Lord being our good shepherd.  I started thinking about my role as a father, being a shepherd to my children. And then I got to verse 16:  “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also … so there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

In that moment, God spoke to my heart very clearly. I know that this passage is about the Gentiles being included in the gospel. But God used it right then to show me His heart as a Shepherd over my little flock. I took a deep breath and turned to Jill and said, “I think God wants us to be open to adoption.”

As usual, she was already there—just waiting quietly for the Lord to say the same thing to her husband. I picked up my pen and wrote “adoption” next to John 10:16 and dated it.


Two years passed. Jill and I had completed all of our adoption paperwork and were traveling with a group from our church. While sitting on the tour bus, an email popped into my cell phone with our first adoption referral. I was elated. There was a picture of an adorable little girl.  We were asked, “Do you want to adopt this child?”

We excitedly looked at her medical condition and prayed together, but there was a clear problem. There was no peace in my heart. I wrestled for hours wondering what was wrong with me. Am I afraid? What will happen to this girl if I say “No”?

I called our adoption rep and asked her what we should do. She said, “This is too big of a decision, Stephen. If it’s not a clear ‘Yes’ from the Lord, then it’s a ‘No.’” So, with fear and trembling, I sent an awkward email and closed the door. Jill cried.

Over the next few weeks, two more referrals came and went. Same situation. Each a precious child. Each an emotional battle of research, prayer, and indecision. But no peace. No “Yes.” More awkward emails. What is wrong with me?

I called our adoption agency and asked how this process is supposed to work. He said that sometimes people may turn down one or two referrals. But he advised Jill and me to do whatever the Lord led us to do. I agreed.

But that is not always so easy. If we are not careful, the fear of man can kick in. What will other people think of me if I keep turning away these cute little orphans that keep being sent to my door? I thought. Didn’t we say God wanted us to adopt? I told Jill that we should not worry about others and keep trusting the Lord.

The one we were waiting for

A fourth referral came. Again, no peace. I turned it down. Jill cried. What was supposed to be a joyous journey had turned into an emotional roller coaster that I wanted to get off of. The agency quit sending referrals. And to be honest, I was somewhat relieved.

March 2013. A fifth referral landed in my inbox. A little, 2-year-old girl in Nanjing, China. When Jill and I saw her, there was an unexpected peace that came over us. It was as though the Lord said, “This is who you have been waiting for.”

She was born with a deadly heart condition. We learned that her birth mother likely couldn’t afford the expensive heart surgeries and had to decide whether to keep her and let her die, or give her up to save her life. She had placed all of her birth information with her in a basket, wrapped her daughter in a red blanket (which in China means “good luck” and “I love you”) and left her outside of a bank with the papers about her needed surgery.

Though her physical condition had been severe, I felt completely right in my heart about adopting this little girl. I turned to Jill and said, “I really like her.”

“Me, too,” she said.

“Do you have a peace about this?


“Me too.”

With joyful tears forming in my eyes, I said, “I think we are about to adopt a baby girl.”

Her file said she was born on February 14, 2011. Jill said, “She was born on Valentine’s Day with a broken heart.”

Recognizing God’s prompting

I sent the un-awkward email and we locked everything in. A few weeks later, Jill asked me, “When did God tell you that we were supposed to adopt?”

I wasn’t sure, so I thumbed through my Bible, looking for John 10:16.  When I opened up the page, there was the word, ADOPTION next to that verse. And there was the date next to it: February 14, 2011.  The day that she was born in China was the same day that God had told me on the airplane, “I want you to adopt.”

I was overwhelmed in awe of the Lord.

We later discovered that on the day in June 2011 when we were prompted to pray for our future child, she was having her life-saving heart surgery.

The Lord led us to name her “Mia.” We chose that name because in Greek, Mia means one (Ephesians 4:5). When we arrived in China to get Mia, we discovered that her mother had given her the Chinese name that also means one. What are the chances?

As we hold our new daughter and see Mia blooming in our family, we can clearly trace God’s handiwork through our adoption journey. It’s vividly clear that He’s been saying, “I’m in this.” After all, He describes Himself in Psalm 68:5-6, as “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families…”

We are reminded again that we can always trust Him with all of our hearts and not rely on our own feeble understanding. If we always acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

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