New Names for a New Country
When God tells you to do something, obey. Despite numerous obstacles, Mike and Hayley Jones leaned into their faith and trusted God to help them adopt eight siblings from Sierra Leone. The Jones recall the wonderful day they brought them home and revealed the new name they gave to each child.
About the Guest
Despite numerous obstacles, Mike and Hayley Jones leaned into their faith and trusted God to help them adopt eight siblings from Sierra Leone.
New Names for a New Country
Bob: Hayley Jones remembers very distinctly her first-ever trip to Sierra Leone in Africa. She went to meet and bring home the eight children that God had arranged for her and her husband Mike to adopt.
Hayley: It was a surreal / absolutely surreal moment. As we’re walking up the driveway, that’s when I finally saw our oldest son—our oldest child at the time. He was the one that I was kind of really—I was a little nervous about. I see him, and we made eye contact. It was like love just came down. All those, over a decade-long, just lost memories that I had with him—God just flooded me with just this pure love.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Bringing the Jones children from Africa to Tennessee was no easy task, as we’ll hear today.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We have some adoptive parents with us in the studio—not just our guests—but our host is an adoptive parent.
Dennis: Yes; you’re right.
Bob: You’re a dad. One of your six was adopted; right?
Dennis: That’s right. We don’t know which one. [Laughter]
Bob: Yes. That’s something that you and Barbara had decided—you didn’t decide before you got married.
Dennis: No. I never had a conscious thought about adopting, prior to marrying Barbara. It’s a disease—[Laughter]—she infected me with it. If you read the Bible, the Bible will infect you with it; because it’s a part of God’s heart. It really isn’t a disease / it’s a blessing—
Dennis: —absolutely. In fact, I want to just call attention to the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit that’s going to be in Nashville May 4th and 5th of 2017—Brentwood Baptist Church.
Go online and check out CAFO—CAFO.org.
Bob: We’ve got a link on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, if folks want to just head by our site and get a direct link. They can find out more about the orphan summit. You’re going to be there / I’m going to be there as well. We always enjoy going and hearing some great stories at the summit.
Dennis: And we’re going to hear the rest of a great story here. They sent us some false information in the bio.
Bob: They did?—our guests did?
Dennis: Our guests did. Their bio says they are the Jones Dozen; okay?
Dennis: The Jones Dozen. Well, by the time they got here, they are the Jones Baker’s Dozen, which is 13.
Bob: There are 13 Jones—11 children at your house.
Bob: And what happened between the time you told us you had ten kids and—how did number eleven get here?
Mike: God’s got a sense of humor.
Hayley: Yes; He does. [Laughter]
Bob: Was there a day that you walked downstairs and said, “Honey, I’ve got some news for you”?
Mike: No; it was on Father’s Day.
Hayley: Yes; I had the news on Father’s Day.
Bob: Tell us the story.
Mike: I got a card for Father’s Day. There, in the card, she told me I was going to be a dad again.
Dennis: Said, “Eight wasn’t enough.” [Laughter]
Bob: You had—your jaw just had to drop.
Mike: I was in shock.
Bob: How long have you guys been married?
Hayley: Seventeen years.
Bob: Alright; and you thought your family was done?
Dennis: Well, now, maybe—
Dennis: —did you think it was done?
Hayley: I have learned to never think anything on your own. I was not planning on having another child, but I have learned you never know what God has planned. I just let Him lead, because He’s done a pretty good job so far.
Bob: Our listeners, who have not been with us this week, don’t know the whole story; but your marriage almost ended, three years in.
You guys were separated, contemplating divorce. God brought you back together again. You had two kids and, then, started thinking about adoption—and went from thinking about one to, maybe, two. All of a sudden, God laid on your heart, Mike, that it needed to be a sibling group of eight.
Dennis: No, no, no. Mike negotiated with God for four—
Bob: Yes; once he heard, “Eight,” he—
Dennis: —and he got into a wrestling match with God.
Bob: And guess who won?
Dennis: Guess who won? [Laughter] He doubled the four to eight children—a whole family. I want to make sure our listeners know this / the whole story is in their book, At Any Cost: Overcoming Every Obstacle to Bring Our Children Home.
I want to know how you finally met your children for the first time. I’m not talking about when they were your children. I just want to know, face to face, how early in the process did you see, and touch, and hug the seven boys and one girl, out of one family, that you would adopt?
Mike: That’s the thing—when we committed to and God told me that I was to adopt eight children—we didn’t know if that was six girls and two boys / any of them had special needs—we had no idea. They were just a list of names on paper that we didn’t even read.
We had to learn—after we had told the lady that started the orphan care center, we had to learn and wanted to know information about these children that God wanted us to have. Hayley’s got a good story about sending her that email, trying to explain it.
Hayley: I typed up the email, telling her this story and that we’re supposed to adopt eight children. I typed it—I don’t know how many times. I kept deleting it, because it just seemed so silly. I mean, how do you tell people that? She knows us, and she knows we didn’t have the money. It just seemed—the whole idea did just seem ridiculous: “But I’ve got to do it!” So, I did. Of course, her heart for orphans and just her understanding for how God worked—
—she wasn’t worried about that. She knew God would work it out.
I told her to send us information about the children. We’re sitting on a couch, with a laptop. She’s sending me these pictures of the kids—we’re opening them up. Tyler is sitting with us. It’s one of these big files—so it takes a really long time for the picture to load. It kind of starts at the top and scrolls down.
As we’re opening, we’re like: “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!”—another picture: “It’s a boy!” They just kept coming. It was a really exciting moment for our family—especially, Tyler had been praying with us. Now, he’s getting to see who is going to be his future brothers and sister.
Dennis: Your little story there, kind of reminds me of one about a boy, who heard his mom and dad talking about having another baby. The little boy decided he’d start praying—so he prayed, and prayed, and prayed. The parents came to him one time and said, “We’re going to have—we’re going to have a child.”
The mother, of course, ultimately gave birth—not to one, but to two. They brought the little boy in. There she is—holding two babies in her arms—and said, “Now, Johnny, aren’t you glad you prayed?” He looked back at them and said, “Yes; and aren’t you glad I quit when I did?” [Laughter]
You kept praying, and God kept providing those seven boys and one little girl.
Bob: And I just have to know—it is one thing to send the adoption worker your plans: “We want to adopt the sibling group.” She says: “Praise the Lord! God’s going to provide.” But you had to tell your parents / you had to tell your parents. I mean, this is not news that is going to be universally embraced by all of your friends and family members, I’m guessing.
Hayley: No; that was the most nerve-wrecking for me during that time. We had committed in May. We decided, on Father’s Day that year—Father’s Day is always a big day for us with news—
—we decided, on Father’s Day, to tell the grandparents. We went to his parents’ house that afternoon, and my parents came over that night. I was just so nervous and just felt sick to my stomach. I was dreading it.
Dennis: This is how many years after your marriage had nearly dissolved in a divorce?
Hayley: Four—about four-and-a-half.
Dennis: So, there had been time for a track record between you two to be established, where there was a good amount of trust—
Dennis: —that your marriage wasn’t on the precipice any longer.
Mike: And we had two children at the time.
Hayley: Yes; his parents came over, and we sat on the couch. Mike just started telling them the story of what had happened, and he just broke down. His parents knew him in the same way that I did—that he’s not one to breakdown. So, they knew that God had really been working on him. We showed them the pictures that we had printed out from the computer that she had sent us.
It was one of those things, where they were completely in shock; but they were trying—probably, trying not to overreact—but his mother did say, “If this is what God’s called you to do, then, you just have to do it.”
That afternoon, when my parents came over, it was kind of the same thing. I got to do more of the talking then. He made me do more of the talking then, I should say; because he talked for his parents. And my mother—she was really funny—because afterwards, she said—once I said the “eight,”—like: “We’re adopting eight siblings,”—she said, “I could see your mouth moving, but I have absolutely no idea what you said the rest of the time.” [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, in John 14, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” That’s His statement about us He was making to the disciples, speaking that He was not going to abandon us—but He was going to ransom His life to adopt us if we trust in Him.
Bob: Yes; we’re talking to a couple who know that full well. They’ve written a book called At Any Cost: Overcoming Every Obstacle to Bring Our Children Home. Mike and Hayley Jones are our guests today. We’ve got copies of their book at FamilyLifeToday.com if you’re interested in finding out more about the eight children that they adopted to go along with their, now, three biological children to make a family of 11, living outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
Let me go back to what Dennis asked you earlier—the first time you were, face to face, with the eight Jones children—who were not yet Jones children but had been ordained to be Jones children from before the foundation of the earth; right?
Hayley: Yes; I flew over to Sierra Leone. The flight arrived very late at night; so I didn’t get to see the children that night.
Dennis: You’re by yourself?
Hayley: I was—well, I was with a team of about ten other ladies. We were staying at a house that was just two doors down from where the orphanage was at the time.
We were staying there. I could not sleep at all / I was just so excited—trying—you know, I had these pictures, and I was imagining them; but I was so ready—I just wanted to see them / to touch them.
The next morning, bright and early, we all got ready and started walking to the next driveway. The kids—they do a great big celebration at the orphanage anytime people come. They had lined up down the long driveway, and they sing a couple of different songs. We can hear all the little voices, and two of my younger children were right up front. So, I saw them, just first thing; and they came running up to me—they’re singing. It was a surreal / absolutely surreal moment as we’re walking up the driveway.
And when we get up into the orphanage, they have chairs lined up for all the guests to sit. That’s when I finally saw our oldest. He was one that I was kind of really—
—I was a little nervous about. He was the oldest / he had been the father figure. I don’t know—I didn’t have a child that old / I wasn’t sure. I was kind of nervous about that relationship—would he be accepting to me? It was kind of a nerve-wracking moment.
Dennis: How old was he?
Hayley: He was 12 at the time.
Dennis: A father figure—
Dennis: —at 12.
Hayley: Yes. So, we get up there, and all the guests are lined up in front. I see him, and we made eye contact. I don’t know how else to describe that moment, but just—it was like love just came down. [Emotion in voice] All those, over a decade-long, lost memories that I had with him—God just flooded me just with this pure love. I knew, right then, that it was just kind of another God-nod along the way. That just sealed the deal—that: “I don’t care what I have to go through. These kids are ours, and I will fight for it.”
Bob: You had no idea in that moment the fight that you were going to be in for.
Bob: How many trips?—how many months in Sierra Leone?
Hayley: It was about ten trips; but during those trips, I would stay—it varied two, three, four months, at a time, just trying to work with the government there to get things moving and get things done.
Bob: This was a three-year process.
Bob: And you said, even to the day before, you had no idea that you were on the verge of a breakthrough.
Hayley: Yes. No; it was—even up to the point of getting visas, our counselor was saying: “Yes; you’ll have the visas. Come pick them up this day.” Other people in the embassy: “No; no one is leaving.” It was just—it was this whirlwind.
Dennis: What about the danger in the country? Did you feel like you were ever in danger?
Hayley: The first time I landed in Sierra Leone—my first visit there—I just felt a peace there. There is something about that land, something about those people, and something about that country that I love.
I love the simple way of life. It’s not easy—I mean, there’s no running water / there’s no electricity. You hand wash all your clothes. You have to go fetch your water and carry it with buckets on your head.
Mike: If you have $5; and I needed the $5, you would give it to me—
Hayley: Yes; you wouldn’t think anything about it—you’d just give it. They take care of each other—
Mike: —and you have nothing.
Hayley: —in a way. You know, when you need $5, somebody is going to give it to you.
Dennis: And I ask that question, because we’re talking about overcoming the obstacles—
Dennis: —to get those children back to America, in your home. Just going there—for a lot of people—is a big deal.
Hayley: And I would always travel by myself. Mike and I never travelled together, because one of us had to be at home with the other children; but God kept me safe. There were definitely safety precautions and things that you had to take, and I can’t be out at night. I can’t carry a purse that’s visible for people to see—
—you know, things like that.
But when I was there, I had such a purpose. I knew every time, when I was in that country, that I was supposed be when I was supposed to be there.
Bob: Mike, tell me about the phone call you got from Hayley, when she said: “It’s done. We’re coming home.”
Mike: It was just joyful. I mean, knowing what God had told us, all along, was coming to fruition—I mean—
Bob: This had been a three-year journey; right?
Bob: And so, to get that phone call—kind of out of the blue—it wasn’t like she said, “Maybe, tomorrow or, maybe, next week.” She just calls and says: “It happened. We’re coming”?
Hayley: Well, leading up to that, it took about two-and-a-half years to get our court order.
Mike: Another six to eight months to get the visas.
Hayley: And another six to eight months to get the visas.
After we had our court order, I was working with the U.S. Embassy, trying to get visas; but I sat down, one day, at the dining room table. I said: “God, I need You to give me a word. I feel lost here. We’ve got the adoption court order. I have no idea when the kids are coming home, and I need some reassurance.”
I opened up my Bible, and it went to 2 Kings 19:25—it says: “Have you not heard long ago I ordained it? In days of old, I planned it. Now, I have brought it to pass.” That day, I felt such a peace; and I called Mike—I said: “We don’t have the visa appointment yet. We don’t have permission to leave with the kids, but I think I need to call and buy plane tickets. I think they are coming home.” Literally, I called the airline; and we booked all the plane tickets—we had no visas / we had nothing yet.
Dennis: How did you pay for that many tickets?
Hayley: We did some fundraising for the plane tickets.
Bob: And these are kids, who have never been near an airplane, much less—
Bob: —ridden on one.
Hayley: Yes; yes.
Dennis: So, take us to the airport in America. I’d love to know more about the ride—I mean, that had to be one fascinating—
Hayley: I will say it was the first time, obviously, they had ever seen a plane. Walking up those steps into the airplane, it was like going up the ladder into heaven. It was just—it was such an excitement and such a relief. I will say one of the biggest lessons I think we learned in the three-year journey—and kind of the biggest blessing was—it gave us time to become a family. I lived over there. We were Mom and Dad long before they came home. So, they were ready.
They had prayed for this moment as well / they had dreamed of this moment as well. So, it made this excitement for them; and they got to see how God works through problems. Sometimes, things aren’t always easy; but they got to learn to depend on God through this process too.
Bob: You’re at the Nashville airport with, I imagine, a lot of your church family around you / a lot of your biological family around you. There had to be a welcome-home contingency as big as anything Nashville’s ever seen.
Mike: We probably had a couple hundred people there.
Mike and Hayley: Yes.
Dennis: Sure. So, what was it like, Dad?
Mike: It was surreal, holding my daughter’s hand, and walking my kids up to meet and greet everybody. It was just—it was a proud moment.
Bob: Your sedan had been traded in, long ago, for something that holds a few more passengers.
Mike: Yes; we got a fifteen-passenger van. [Laughter]
Dennis: There is one more story I want you to tell, but I want Bob to tell our listeners how they can get a copy of your book. But I don’t want them to miss this story about how you named the eight kids.
Bob: We do have copies of Mike and Hayley’s book—it’s called At Any Cost: Overcoming Every Obstacle to Bring Our Children Home.
You can order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,”—1-800-FL-TODAY—to get your copy of this book that tells the story of them bringing home eight children from a sibling group in Africa.
And before you guys tell the story of how your kids were named, we want to say—not “Happy anniversary!”—but “Happy wedding day!” to Ron and Kathie York, who live in West Lafayette, Indiana. Today is the day they become husband and wife. Next year, we’ll say, “Happy anniversary!” to the Yorks; but this year, it’s: “Congratulations on your wedding.” And these are smart folks—they went to the Weekend to Remember® getaway, back in Indianapolis, a few months ago, to get ready for this day. We hope you have a great celebration today with your friends and family.
And we just want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who help support this ministry, partnering with us to help couples, like Ron and Kathie, begin their marriage right or to help other couples, who find themselves in a difficult spot later on, who need some help and hope. Your financial support of this ministry makes all of that possible. We’re grateful to those of you who do partner with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Dennis: We’ve been listening to a great story of courage—definitely of faith—and of family, and God’s heart for adoption of us, and how He’s transplanted that heart in ours, and how we are to go near the orphan.
Mike and Hayley Jones have been our guests. Thank you for writing your book, At Any Cost, and thank you for sharing your story with our listeners.
I have to ask you to tell the story about how you named all eight of the kids—the little girl and the seven boys. You have to be able to do this before Swindoll or—
Bob: —whomever is coming up next. [Laughter]
Dennis: —Jim Daly / whomever is next—just real quickly tell the story. It’s great.
Hayley: Okay. We had three years to get to know each of these children, and their personalities, and what they’re like. They had always wanted new names when they came home. And for years, God had just been—He had taken care of them. We wanted each of their names to reflect that; so they each have a biblical name.
Bob: You know, there are times all through Scripture, where names get changed. It’s a significant moment that marks the difference between an old life and a new life.
That’s what you were doing; isn’t it?
Hayley: That’s exactly what I explained to them—I said: “We’re all adopted children of God. God adopted us all.” And I said: “You all have a birth name, and that’s your past—that’s part of who you are—but now, we get to have a new beginning and start something new. We don’t lose or forget the past, but we get to add on and make something new with our future.”
Dennis: And so, tell how you got the first one.
Hayley: Okay; so our oldest one, we named Michael. Of course, we all know that is an angel warrior—so that is where his name came from. It’s also Mike’s name—he gets to share that name with his dad. Michael is our oldest—our kind of angel warrior / the leader. Samuel means “God heard.” Of course, he’s prayed for; and God answered our prayers. Gabrielle is the feminine form of Gabriel—it means “Woman of God.” Levi means “Pledged or joined”; and he joined our family.
Malachi means “Messenger of God,” and that kid knows more Scripture than anybody I know and quotes it all the time. He is definitely a messenger of God.
Dennis: I notice that you’re reading this out of your book—so just to give heart to parents who can’t remember their kids’ names. [Laughter]
Hayley: I’m making sure I get the meaning right!
Dennis: I know. Now, keep going.
Hayley: Okay; Judah means “I will praise the Lord.” Isaiah means, “Salvation of God; the Lord helps me.” The Lord has helped each one of them tremendously. And Zion is used to represent Jerusalem—and heaven in the end. Jesus—it says Jesus will come back, in the end, on Mount Zion. And he was the end of our Great Eight. That’s how we came up with their names.
Dennis: Okay, Dad; the boys and the girl are gathered around the radio. They are listening to their parents tell their story. What do you want to say to them?
Mike: Well, people always say that we did such a great thing for them; but they bless us more than we ever think about blessing them. [Emotion in voice]
We love them.
Dennis: When you go near the orphan, you do go near the heart of God.
Mike: I never cried before these kids were told, by God, to be mine. I always used to break and train horses. I used to say, “Break them like a colt.” God broke me, and I always repeat that same thing you keep saying—you know: “God, make my heart more like Yours,”—and it’s for His children. We’re all His children.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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