Hey Brett

Thanks for the opportunity to share on your “Taboo Topics” series in regards to adoption. This is our story thus far:

Myself and Caraleigh decided to pursue adopting Andrew around mid-Jan 2012. We are currently waiting for the adoption to be finalised. This is a process that requires much patience & prayer, but it’s looking really good so far, even better than normal cases for some ‘God-intervening’ reasons I’m sure. In the meantime we have been allowed to be the legal guardians of Andrew since 9 Feb 2012, and he is indefinitely in our care until all the paperwork gets sorted.

I would start off by saying that this wasn’t part of the plan. We never looked to adopt, but rather it seems that God looked to us to adopt. I do remember a conversation when myself and Caz were dating (maybe 7-8 years ago) where she mentioned being open to adopt (while I silently prayed that we’d never cross that road, ha ha). Recently, in our marriage, Caz resigned to a part-time post as an Occupational Therapist to pursue establishing a home of safety for abused and abandoned children (checkout http://www.nthandohome.co.za), something I assumed was the ‘manifestation’ of her ‘want to’ adopt or to help the vulnerable – I was wrong.

In the inevitable networking that occurred while Caz pursued establishing the home of safety she linked up with another home of safety nearby that creates an opportunity for community involvement by letting families take children home during the Christmas holidays to relieve the staff for that period. We signed up to do this mainly because Caz loves this type of ministry, and I was open because we were/are very open to starting our own family soon and what better way to get a taste of what it’s like?

We were fortunate enough to have a wonderful experience (we have friends who did the same who didn’t) with little Asemahle (now, or soon to legally be, Andrew), a 14 month old legend. All the joy parents try to describe to you when you have children proved true – even with the sleeplessness. Many jokes in jest occurred within our church community that we would keep him, all thoughtlessly blown off at the time. Taking him back, understandably, was like someone dying, which we expected and even set a day aside to ‘mourn’.

This is where the story turned. Up to this point we did not know Andrew’s story. Did he have parents? When/where was he born? How long was he at the home? Did he have TB/HIV? Etc. With us both struggling to ‘let go’, we desperately needed to know his situation for our own closure. I assured my wife we would try to find out his story, and that if God desired further involvement from us in his life that we pray He would make this clear to us. I said this knowing that no matter what the story was it would never be good – how could it if we had him for Christmas and his family didn’t? But I assumed or hoped that his being at the home of safety was some temporary arrangement.

We eventually found out his story (difficult when they’d lost his file, and the fact that he did not have a birth certificate, yup!). He was born 10-weeks premature and abandoned at the hospital. Authorities had tried to locate his parents on several occasions with no success. He been staying at the home of safety since Feb 2011, and the first time he’d ever left the home was when we hosted him. And finally, the report in the file declared him eligible for adoption.

If ever one there was an open door, this was it. I admit that personally my initial reaction wasn’t “whoo-hoo” but more like Abraham in Genesis 18:16ff when he repeatedly goes back to God with the whole “May the Lord not be angry but let me speak once more” vibe. Wanting to be the supportive husband I suggested we then go inquire about what an adoption process would entail (hoping this might close the door). We began to go to home affair offices, magistrates, social workers, etc, and doors just kept opening – far easier than they should of according to others we’ve spoken to. During this time we we’re granted permission to have Andrew over on weekends, which we did.

We both did a lot of inward searching, praying, and discussing with people we trust. I’m sure by now you’ve picked up my initial hesitations, admittedly I struggled more with this decision than Caz – but I think necessarily so (rather before than after adoption!). It was important that we not only discern God’s clear will in this opportunity, but that we make the decision to adopt together as a couple, otherwise the potential to blame the other partner becomes huge. An article that helped tremendously was a devotion in John Piper’s “Taste and See” titled “A letter to my wife saying yes to adoption” (pages 57-59) – a must read! Most importantly, I felt, was to have a clear passage of Scripture that you really really really know is from God. God eventually led me to one of my favourite passage in Scripture (which was especially cool) to a verse in Acts 17:
“He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26)
…that verse carried me, and cemented my faith in the Sovereign hand of God in this process.

I would say that aside from the typical fears of becoming an instant parent, all the concerns around ‘cross-cultural’ adoption (especially being a South African with our past), it was the disapproval of some people we love that was the most difficult thing for me to bear. However, you soon discover that this is not uncommon with other folk who have adopted. Thankfully this really was a small minority compared to the vast and overwhelming support we received by many whose opinions we highly value.

It’s all happened so fast, and everything still seems to be racing ahead, but I have more certainty everyday that we’ve made the right decision (even as we grow increasingly tired as new parents, ha ha). I think what I’ve grown to experience more through this in my relationship with God is how he grows our faith, or confidence, in Him through past experiences (just read the story of Abraham and you see this). What helped tremendously as the process of adoption unfolded was when we reflected on other occasions when our faith was being stretched and to remember his faithfulness in to us on past occasions (Psalm 77 is dripping with this truth). There were times when God closed doors for us even when our motives were right (see Prov. 16:2), and though difficult to accept at the time, we’re now grateful (in hindsight) that he did close them. What occurred to me more clearly is that the God who acted like that toward us in the past would continue to do so now in the present and in the future.

I’ll end with two more things.

First, why we named him Andrew. Erwin McManus tells a story about how he got his name (I think it’s some great German pilot from WW2?), which he despised at the time. He was moving to America with his family and needed an English name. Longing for something normal like ‘John’, his grandfather named him Erwin. What occurred to him later is that his grandfather was urging him not to be ordinary. That story inspired the name Andrew long ago before we met Andrew – it was always going to be the name of my first son (inspired by a radical, not ordinary, follower of Christ that I know, which I hope my son will turn out to be). That’s why we gave it to him. We also kept his original name ‘Asemahle’ as his second, because we want to honour any heritage he brings.

Secondly, and lastly, just a recent journal entry I wrote regarding Andrew (more to show how God has changed my hesitant-heart in this journey):

“Andrew himself…growing so fast! Almost walking. Very strong (physically). Great temperament – very happy child (no signs of trauma). Seems to be accepting us as his ‘parents’. Beginning to mouth sounds. Adjusts very well to environments (e.g. camping). Can roar like a lion. Snores! Can give high fives. Has natural rhythm. Enjoys sitting on my shoulders. Sucks his thumbs (may do this forever). Always wakes up happy in the mornings.
It’s hard to imagine our lives without him…and I don’t want to.”

Regards my bro
Tyron & (in spirit) Caraleigh Otto