They had two children, but were open to more. Mike and Hayley Jones tell of their radical decision to adopt eight siblings from an orphanage in Sierra Leone, no matter what the cost.
They had two children, but were open to more. Mike and Hayley Jones tell of their radical decision to adopt eight siblings from an orphanage in Sierra Leone, no matter what the cost.
Bob: When God told Mike and Hayley Jones to adopt children, they were willing. When God told them to adopt eight children from the same family, Mike Jones said, “No”; but God wouldn’t let go.
Mike: I mean, I just couldn’t go on anymore—so I was praying. I was like, “It’s time to get serious about it.” Somehow, I decided I would get down on the side of the bed and get on my knees. Well, somehow, I turned from the knees to face down on the floor in front of the wall. I was just praying and begging to God that “I can’t do the eight.” I was just sobbing.
Hayley: I will say—I have never seen this man cry—in all our marriage troubles / everything—even at the birth of our children. I have not seen him cry until it came to these kids.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine.
When you find yourself in a wrestling match with God, guess who usually wins. We’ll hear more from Mike and Hayley Jones today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I love this picture. Don’t you love this picture?—the picture on the front of the book?
Dennis: It really is cool.
Bob: It’s just a great picture of—
Dennis: It’s what heaven’s going to be like.
Bob: It’s a family of —
Dennis: It’s multicolored.
Bob: —ten siblings.
Dennis: There’s a baby missing.
Bob: There is a baby missing from this picture.
Dennis: We got bad bio—we got bad bio information from the guests. [Laughter]
Bob: The picture got taken before the baby arrived.
Dennis: We have with us Mike and Hayley Jones, who are the proud parents of—now, how old of a baby?
Hayley: Five months old.
Dennis: Five months old, which makes 11.
Hayley: Eleven; yes.
Mike: Ten boys.
Hayley: Ten boys / one girl. [Laughter]
Dennis: Ten boys / one girl. That’s a sorority—no; that’s a—
Bob: That’s a fraternity—
Dennis: That’s a minority in a sorority—[Laughter]
Hayley: There you go.
Dennis: —no; it’s a minority in a fraternity. There we go! That ought to be one well-protected little girl; don’t you think?
Hayley: She is—she’s tough.
Mike: She’ll hold her own. [Laughter]
Hayley: Yes; she’ll—yes; that’s for sure.
Dennis: Well, Mike and Hayley live in Franklin, Tennessee. They have written a book called At Any Cost: Overcoming Every Obstacle to Bring Our Children Home. This is a tremendous story of redemption.
Well, Hayley, when you were a young lady, growing up, and prior to your marriage, you dreamed of perhaps being a missionary to the continent of Africa.
Hayley: Yes; yes.
Dennis: And Mike, you had the thought, as a single man, that you might like to adopt one boy—not a bunch. So you both had adoption—or some form of wanting to reach out to a foreign country—in mind.
Do you remember when this subject of adoption and orphans came up as a point of discussion between you two? Was it after you had your biological kids?
Mike: No; it was when we were dating.
Dennis: Oh really!
Dennis: So what did you say?
Hayley: I was—yes; he wanted to adopt—“Yes; I think that sounds like a wonderful idea.” “I would like to do missions,”—he said he doesn’t feel called to that. You know, once we got married, God’s not going to call us into completely different directions. He said: “I really don’t feel that calling yet,”—I don’t know if he ever will. I would still go—I would go to Sierra Leone today, but that’s just not where we are / it’s not where I’m supposed to be right now. So we kind of knew that about each other, yes, from the very beginning.
Bob: You were a teacher when you guys got married.
Bob: You had a student in your class from Sierra Leone.
Hayley: I did—a little girl that was adopted from Sierra Leone. I was a kindergarten teacher. She had just recently come home when she had entered my classroom. I just got to see the family work through that, and I became friends with the mom.
I told her—I said, “We want to adopt one day.” She said: “Well, whenever you’re ready, give me a call and let me know. I’ll walk you through it.”
Bob: And the “we want to adopt one day”—you had conversations about this, but you never put anything really formally in motion; right?
Mike: No. We had a lot of trouble with the birth of our oldest biological son. After that, we started looking into it. There weren’t many options open—
Hayley: —in Africa at that time.
Mike: —in Africa at that time. You know, that’s where God had always laid it upon my heart. I think the countries open at the time were Ethiopia. Our church had recently started a mission partnership in South Africa. We were just looking to see where God was leading us to.
Dennis: So Mike, you give leadership to a water department in Franklin, Tennessee.
Mike: Yes; I do.
Dennis: I don’t know what a municipal water department pays, but I can’t believe they pay at a level that allows you to adopt from a country out of Africa. [Laughter]
How did that subject of financial resources enter into your discussion?—because I think this is where a lot of it gets shut down.
Bob: Well, you didn’t start off, thinking, “We’re going to go adopt eight kids.”
Bob: You started off thinking you were going to go adopt one child.
Dennis: But even one child, Bob—
Bob: —can be expensive; that’s right.
Dennis: It can be expensive. That’s where the discussion for a lot of couples stops.
Mike: It was God laying upon our hearts to think bigger and do more. And more was kind of the theme we had through the whole process.
Hayley: Before we got to that, it was I had this little girl in my class. Her mom said, “Contact me when you’re ready to adopt, and I’ll talk you through it.” Well, about six/seven years had passed. We had our oldest biological son and, actually, ended up having a second biological son.
I started thinking about the little girl that I had in my class and her mom. It was just really pressed upon my heart to call her—I had kept her number all these years. Well, I go to call it; and of course, it’s not her number anymore. I knew kind of the area where she lived, but I didn’t have an address. I had no idea how to get a hold of her.
Within a week—we get a random free community paper, and I open it up—and there is their family. They have opened an orphan care center in Sierra Leone. I called her; within the next week, she’s at my kitchen table. We’re talking—I tell her, “We are interested in adopting.” I said: “I just really want to hear about what you’re doing in Sierra Leone. What is your organization doing?” She talked to me about it; and when she left that day, I knew then that Sierra Leone was the place and just what we were supposed to do.
Bob: Now, had you, at this point, started to count the cost?—
—because isn’t it $20/25,000 dollars to adopt?
Hayley: This was an independent adoption. This orphan care center that she opened up was not through an adoption agency. This was just a completely independent adoption—that was the only way that we could afford it.
Bob: So that brings the cost down?
Mike: We still had to have the home study for the state of Tennessee, and then, you go through everything with the U.S. government side; but it wasn’t going through an agency.
Hayley: And your attorneys there, and your attorneys here, and you’re plane costs and things like that.
Bob: You were both pretty excited about this possibility—about adopting a child from Sierra Leone. You were just following the path that God had laid out for you.
Hayley: Yes; yes.
Dennis: I have to stop this again. I’ve only done this one other time, Bob, in the history of FamilyLife Today. [Laughter]
Bob: This is “Put your hand on the Bible,” again?
Dennis: It is! I want to ask Mike to put his hand on the Bible.
Bob: Do you question his veracity in general? [Laughter]
Hayley: Yes; I’m wondering about this—you’re going to give him a complex!
Dennis: I want to make sure it’s the truth here.
I just want to ask you—you are the manager / the leader of a municipal water supply. Did you turn the pressure on a little higher, when you started talking about adoption, so you might get a bonus or something out of this?
Mike: No; I just wasn’t going to go against what God told me to do.
Dennis: I knew that’s what he’d say. [Laughter] I didn’t need to have his hand on the Bible.
Bob: What was the next step in the journey for you guys?
Hayley: Our next step is—we met with the lady from the orphanage. She lived here in our town in Tennessee. We met with her, and she was sharing with us the children that she had at the center that she thought would go well into our family; because that’s, you know, important. We had two sons, and we want to make a smooth transition.
At the time, God kept telling us to do more—just that word, “more,” was really pressed upon our hearts—but we didn’t really know exactly what that looked like. We said: “You know what? We could do a sibling group,” because there are a lot of sibling groups.
There aren’t that many single children there; so we were thinking, “Two.”
Dennis: Let me stop you there. Why are there sibling groups?
Hayley: People just have large families. People get married, a lot of times, before they’re even a teenager there; and then they just start having babies. It is a third-world country. I mean, the last statistic that I heard was one in three children do not even make it to the age of five.
Dennis: I was wondering, as you said about the sibling groups, about HIV, AIDS—if that wasn’t wiping out some adults and leaving some children without a family.
Hayley: AIDS is not very prevalent in that part of Africa. There are a few cases that I know of, but not even at the orphanage where the children were.
Bob: So, you went in your thinking from, “We’re going to adopt a child,” to “God’s pressing the word, ‘more,’ on our hearts.
Hayley: And that means “two,” because two is more than one.
Bob: “We’ll have two. We’ll get a sibling group—we’ll get a brother and a sister / maybe a couple of brothers—whatever. We’ll just see.” Now your heart’s open to that. What was the next step?
Mike: Well, we met with the lady again. She had joked on the phone with us about a sibling group of four. I was just kind of: “Whoa! What?” But she wasn’t serious; she just—Hayley had told her that we were thinking about / God was calling us to do more—and we didn’t know if more was two, or three, or four.
Hayley: Because nobody adopts four children at one time—that’s silly.
Dennis: Yes; that would triple your family. You move from two to six—boom!
Hayley: So that was: “No way!”
Mike: When we met with her that day, she never even mentioned the four—didn’t show us pictures of them or anything—but as she was getting near the end of the meeting we had with her, I said, “Well, what is this over here on the side?” She said, “Well, that’s a sibling group of six we have and a sibling group of eight.”
It was like I got hit in the head with a hammer when she said the eight.
I knew, right then, that the eight was what we were supposed to do. I didn’t say a word. All I could say—
Bob: Yes; I wouldn’t say a word if I got hit in the head with that either. [Laughter]
Mike: I was already—I was already like, “Let’s get out of here.” I don’t remember the rest of the meeting at all—it might have been two minutes / it might have been another 45 minutes—I don’t know.
Dennis: Why did you want to get out of there?
Mike: Because—who, in their right mind, adopts eight children?
Bob: You had no idea, Hayley, that this thought had even dawned on him.
Hayley: No; I had no idea. We left there—about a week or two went by—and—
Mike: And I’ll say—the wheels on the car were not going as fast as the wheels in my head were. [Laughter]
Dennis: Had you already started negotiating with God?
Mike: Oh, dickering, and bargaining, and everything else—but I didn’t say a word.
Dennis: Who was winning?
Mike: He wasn’t answering!
Bob: Let me show you the picture on the front of the book. [Laughter]
Hayley: Yes. [Laughter] I knew, in that next week or two, that something was just eating him up. I mean, he was just—he was so bothered, but he didn’t say a word to me about this.
Dennis: He didn’t tell you?
This is the guy who wants to talk everything out!
Mike: On the way home, I told her—
Hayley: Yes; here’s what he said.
Mike: On the way home, I told her—I said: “You know, she didn’t mention anything about the four. Don’t bother her now; but on Monday, shoot her an email and ask her to send us some pictures so we could, at least, talk and look at the group of four that she’d told us about before.” That was my, already, trying to negotiate and bargain. I kind of left it at that, waiting for the group of four.
But for the next two weeks, I was just miserable and eaten up. I tried to make the appearance, at work, that everything was fine and dandy and just deal with business while I was there; but it was a lot of prayer and talking, back and forth, to God. It was just, “How am I supposed to do this?” I didn’t think I could do four; but “Sure; I’ll sign up for the four over the eight any day.”
Hayley: I knew something was bothering him; but I thought: “When he’s ready, he’ll communicate it with me. I don’t want to go bug him about it. I’ll just let him share it with me.” It was a Sunday night, and he shared. [Laughter]
Bob: So take me to that conversation. Where did it happen and what happened?
Mike: Well, Hayley had gone to get in the shower. We’d already put the other boys to bed. It was after nine o’ clock or so; but while she was in the shower, I would usually—that was pretty much my bedtime too—I get up early in the mornings. I was praying, and I was just miserable. That previous Sunday, I had gotten up and walked out of church just because I—I had to walk the halls, and I was trying not to look like a crazy person.
That Sunday night, I was praying. I was like, “It’s time to get serious about it,”—I just couldn’t go on anymore. Somehow, I decided I would get down on the side of the bed and get on my knees. Well, somehow, I turned from the knees to face down on the floor, in front of the wall. She was, like I said, in the shower. I was just praying and begging to God that “I can’t do the eight, but I’ll do the four. I’ll do whatever You want; but I’ll do the four, but I can’t do the eight.” He just clearly said that “I can feed twice as many, and the eight is what you must do.” That was it.
I was back in the room. I felt just fine—got up, and it was just normal to me. I mean, I accepted it / I didn’t ever question it—that is what I had to do. God clearly told me what I was to do.
So when she got out of the shower and came to the bedroom, I said, “I have to talk to you.” That’s when I told her.
Hayley: He looked at me and he told me: “I was just praying / I was praying,” and he said, “God just told me that I had to adopt these eight children.” I just kind of sat there a second; and I said, “Well, okay; I mean, if that’s what He just said.”
Bob: Wait, wait, wait. Like that? Like, “Okay”?
Hayley: Yes; yes.
Bob: There was not a, “Well, when God comes and tells me, ‘eight,’ then we’ll be on the same page with this”?
Hayley: No; because I’d never seen him broken like that / I’d never seen him upset. I knew it.
And, in the meantime, this was going on—where he was struggling—after we left the meeting that day, I went home and kept getting out my computer and looking at the information that the lady from the orphanage had sent us about the kids and their pictures. I got this like sick feeling in the pit of my stomach—kind of that: “What gives me the right to pick a child? How do I pick you—that you get a mommy and daddy—but you don’t?”
I said, “God, if You want me to adopt a child, then You’re going to have to show me which one.” I closed the computer, and I didn’t look at it again. And that was that week—so when he said that, I said: “Well, this is it. God has answered the prayer. I mean, He did exactly what I asked Him to do.”
Bob: So, I understand, in the moment, going, “Okay; this is what God’s called me to”; but the next morning, it is like: “Now, wait. What did I say last night?”
Hayley: That’s exactly it! It was like we were on top of the world—we knew exactly what we had to do: “This is it!” And then we went to sleep, and then I woke up.
Bob: And you think, “I have two kids now—
Dennis: Well, you had signed anything at that point.
Dennis: It was just you two and God.
Hayley: It was God, but it was fearful. At the beginning, the fear was, “How do you tell people that?” First of all, it’s us—we don’t have a lot of money, we don’t have a big house, we don’t have a lot of money—I mean, we could keep reiterating that.
Bob: You’ve said that, now, twice. [Laughter]
Hayley: Yes. So—and we don’t have a lot of money. It was: “What’s everybody going to think? I mean: ‘How? How do we do this? We can’t answer that question.’” We couldn’t answer that question when people would say: “Well, how are you going to do it? How will you afford it?” “We don’t know.” So our answer is always: “We don’t know, but we know God’s called us to this. We’ll just have to see how He provides.”
Dennis: Okay; so you now have some evidence of how God provides. Share with us one choice story—out of everything that happened—was just God’s signature that He showed up and He wrote it down in the process of you adopting those eight.
Hayley: I think of the freezer story.
Mike: Yes; the freezer story’s an easy one, but also it would be—if she was going on a trip over there—she might go with a mission team—and it was literally we burned up a coin machine, trying to roll pennies and quarters and everything else to try to pay for the—
Hayley: Yes; we collected change from people just to roll so we could have money.
Mike: But I mean, if it was a deadline of Sunday night at midnight, or whatever—you have to have your fees paid to go on this trip so she could go over there and try to get some more done on the adoption process—I mean, at the eleventh hour, somebody would bring out the money.
There was another time, where somebody was giving us the beef / the cow, and our freezer had gone out. I was grateful for the meat; but “What am I supposed to do with it?” Somebody called me that following Monday—
Hayley: We had never said anything to anyone about the freezer.
Mike: Never said anything to anybody about the freezer. Some lady called me from an appliance store in Nashville and was like, “Somebody came in and bought a freezer for you.” She said, “All I need to know is where you want me to deliver it and which one you want.”
Mike: I was like: “Excuse me? Do what?” And this just happened on Sunday—that the thing had gone out. So—
Dennis: Next day.
Hayley: The next day.
Bob: And then you said, “We’ll take the big one.” [Laughter]
Mike: That’s what I said—I said, “What’s the largest one you have?” [Laughter]
Dennis: We kind of brushed on by this, and we can’t get into the details now about it, but how long—how many trips did it take for this to ultimately bring back a small African nation to Franklin, Tennessee?
Hayley: Well, it turned out it was a lot more difficult than what we ever thought. We thought: “When God calls you to do something, it’s going to be easy. We’ll get there, and it’s going to be smooth sailing.”
Mike: —“and the gates of heaven are going to open up, and you’re going to walk right through them.”
Hayley: Yes; it took three years. I lived over there, in Sierra Leone, for months at a time. I would be months there / months here in the States—months there / months in the States. I had to leave my two biological children here to go over there.
It was torturous—we weren’t getting anywhere. Adoptions were closed. They said we would never leave / we could never get the kids out—
Mike: Never get all eight of them—
Hayley: “It’s a pipe dream. Pick two kids; forget about the rest…” Up until the day before they came home, I was still being told, “No,”—that my children would not be leaving.
Bob: Three years in the process.
Hayley: Three years in the process, just a rollercoaster ride. Again, since we didn’t have the money to adopt, we had to fundraise. We just have a one-story ranch house; but we had a basement, and it was unfinished. We had to finish the basement. Sunday school classes helped us, and they raised money. We’re like Noah building the ark / we’re preparing for this, and we don’t have anything to show for it.
Mike: Because God told us they were going to come.
Hayley: God told us they were going to come, and He never told us anything different. In the three years, a lot of people started doubting / people started wondering. People started saying: “You know, I don’t think it’s really going to happen.
“Maybe you were just called to say, ‘Yes,’ but He doesn’t actually expect you to go through with it.”
Mike is the one that said—one day, he looked at me; and he said, “God hasn’t told me anything different; so we’re going to keep going.” And we did.
Dennis: Hebrews, Chapter 11, verse 6: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
My question for the listener: “What issue of faith are you facing today? What does God want you to do? Will you draw some courage from this couple’s courage?—because that’s what it is.”
I think, for some, who are listening to our broadcast, it’s not adopting kids—it’s making a marriage go the distance.
It’s maybe a health issue, a loss of a job, a new season of life—I don’t know.
Bob: A prodigal teen—it could be anything.
Dennis: Yes; it sure could—but “…without faith it is impossible to please Him.” “Will you believe God?”—that’s the question for the listener today.
Bob: I think a lot of listeners are going to draw courage from reading what the two of you have shared in your book, called At Any Cost: Overcoming Every Obstacle to Bring Our Children Home. It’s the book that tells the story of how eight siblings from Africa came to live in Tennessee as Joneses.
We have copies of your book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, to order at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of the book At Any Cost. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask for the book, At Any Cost, when you get in touch with us.
Now, we want to say, “Happy anniversary!” today to a couple who have been married since the Ford administration—1975. That’s when Archie and Glenda Moore became husband and wife. They live in Greenwood, South Carolina. Forty-one years ago today: “Happy anniversary!” to the Moores. Hope you have a great celebration of your 41st anniversary today. We also want to say, “Happy anniversary!” to Anthone and Marissa Wallace, who live in Nassau, in the Bahamas. Today’s their 13th wedding anniversary—and the same for all of you who are celebrating anniversaries today.
We’re big on anniversaries, here at FamilyLife. God has created this ministry to help more couples celebrate more anniversaries. We want to effectively develop godly marriages and families, who change the world, one home at a time.
I want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who partner with us—those of you who share our burden for strong, healthy, thriving marriages and families. When you invest in FamilyLife, that’s what you’re investing in—the lives of husbands and wives / moms and dads, all around the globe, who are seeking to order their family around what the Bible teaches.
If you’re able to help with a donation today, we’d love to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a resource designed for preschool and early elementary-aged children. You can use this during the Christmas season with your Christmas tree. These are ornaments the kids hang on the tree, each ornament telling them something different about who Jesus is. It’s called “The Twelve Names of Christmas.” The resource is yours when you go, online, to donate at FamilyLifeToday.com; or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to pick up the story of Mike and Hayley Jones. It was not an easy trip for them—to just fly to Africa, pick up their kids, and bring them home. It was a little more complicated than that, and we’ll hear the story tomorrow. I hope you can tune in to be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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