Most people in adoption circles shy away from adopting older children, some even strongly discourage it. “There is too much risk”, “they will have too much baggage” “there is so much psycological damage that you will have to deal with”.
I met the Kambers in 2009. I had no idea they would be my future adopted parents. I was 14 years old then. At that time they were just familiar faces that I labeled as neighbours. They went to church and loved Jesus, two things that were foreign to me at that point in my life. Carey Kamber swooped in weeks after I had become a Christian and offered the most genuine friendship I have ever had.
Earlier in that year Carey had been praying that God would give her a baby. The process of adopting from China was slow, tiring, and demanded patience. It hadn’t been working out the way they thought it was going to, and after a few years of waiting both Carey and Ernie were asking God for a baby. Just weeks after that the Kambers got a call: a baby had been abandoned at the church and they needed a home for him.
That began the process of Caleb’s adoption. I had the privilege to witness it all, not as his older sister, but as his neighbour. My friendship with the family grew and I really started to love them. Carey was my best friend. The more our relationship developed, the more I felt comfortable to share about the home that I had come from. Abuse, mental illness, substance abuse, neglect, and abandonment lead me to a reality of social workers, government institutions, court cases and moving from home to home before I should have even known about those things. Though I had biological parents, I was an orphan at heart.
—– Fast forward a few months ——
Carey and Ernie were going to visit their sister in North Carolina. That trip entailed a 6 month old baby and nearly 4 hours of driving, and they asked me to come along with them to help take care of Caleb. On the first night that we were there we all sat down together and they told me what had been on their heart and what they wanted more than anything: for me to be their daughter.
I’m not even going to lie, it was weird. It was amazing, beautiful, overwhelming and everything felt right in that moment… and weird all at the same time. My 15 year old self couldn’t fully grasp it. “They want me to be their daughter?” Theirs. It felt so surreal.
After a hectic court battle and one of the most difficult days of my life, the Kambers were granted custody of me for 2 years. When that finished, I would be a legal adult. I was theirs. Within less than half a year they added a baby and a teenager to their family.
People say that adoption changes lives. The Kambers went against what most people say is wise – they adopted a teenager with tons of baggage and a completely misconstrued understanding of love. We went to counselling together. We fought a lot. I carried my understanding of family and love into their home: if they truly love me, they will leave me. I subconsiously tested them with that idea that had always been true for me. And yet they never left. They loved me when I was too difficult, too broken, too rebellious, too “psychologically damaged.” They gave me the space to flesh out my understanding of love, and then together we deconstructed it and replaced it with the reality of unconditional love.
The unconditional love that was shown to me through adoption has changed my life dramatically..
We are all orphaned at heart. We are all messed up and broken in some way, and our hearts were made to know unconditional love so that we can flourish into the people that we were made to be. Adoption does that. Adoption chooses despite brokenness. Adoption loves when it is difficult.