My dear friends Scott and Michelle Harris made a decision EIGHT years ago (April 22, 2010) to adopt a child and on March 21st - in less than two weeks (!!!), they will fly to Ethiopia to meet their five year old son AWENG and bring him home.
In the spring of 2010, Scott wrote the following blog post, entitled "In the Beginning" about a Pastors' conference he and Michelle attended in Southern California and a speech by Kay Warren that would "rock their world" and officially set their adoption journey in motion:
Since the day we were married , we have talked about the possibility of God leading us to adopt. In recent years, it seems as though God has turned up the heat and in the Spring of 2010 we attended the Catalyst West Conference in Southern California. In one of the sessions the speaker was challenging us to step out and live our faith and leadership in tangible expressions of compassion and justice; adoption being one of the things he mentioned. For us, of course this was more then a passing mention. It caused Michelle to squeeze my hand as if to say, “there is the voice of God again!”
To add emphasis, Michelle noticed an Asian girl playing quietly with her mommy just a few seats away. She remembers her eyes filling with mist as God seemed to be gently nudging and doing what He does best, whispering, “Pay attention, this is Me speaking.” Michelle leaned over and whispered sternly, “I need to talk to you after the session.” She was using her 'I'm not joking' tone so I knew she had something serious to talk about. So after the session concluded we hurried out to the courtyard where the Orange County sun greeted us Northwesterners with kindness. Grabbing a cup of coffee, she began to share what was going on in her heart.
I was not surprised. God had been speaking to me too. Our hearts were simultaneously filled with apprehension because we had no idea what our next steps were and exhilaration at the possibility of welcoming another child into our home. We stood in the courtyard, hand in hand, and offered a simple, quick prayer, “God, if this is your direction for us, please continue to confirm it and clarify what we are to do next.”
We had no idea what was coming in the next session. Unbeknownst to either of us, we entered the next session and learned that Kay Warren was speaking. Well, she rocked our world! Her entire talk was about the orphan crisis and our responsibility as followers of Christ and specifically pastors and leaders to do something with James 1:27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress… (NLT).
This wasn’t just one of her points—this was her entire message! Her challenge was crystal clear: God is calling all of us to respond and many to personally adopt.
As she concluded, we just sat there. Holding hands. Tears streaming down our faces. Numb but not paralyzed. The joy of hearing God’s voice and determining in our hearts to respond was both humbling and empowering simultaneously. Our journey is coming to a close. We are being told that we can expect to travel sometime this Fall (2014) for a child or sibling pair from Ethiopia.
After such clarity in this calling and moving diligently forward towards adoption, Scott and Michelle could have never assumed it would be another (tough, crazy, faith-growing) four years until they would meet their child. With each hurdle and every delay, my sweet friends remained faithful and trusted in God's perfect timing. Never did they lose sight of the fact that God had hand-picked the child that was to be theirs and His plans are perfect. Still, even in great faith and resolve to be patient, they've known great heartache - some setbacks tougher than others...
A journal entry of Michelle's from summer 2014:
The light turned green and as I turned onto the highway the big construction sign yelled out at me in big bold letters: EXPECT LONG DELAYS. I laughed out loud. Not because it was at all funny but because I'd just got the news 10 minutes before about the adoption being further delayed, with no time frame given.
The irony of this situation is that I am the most impatient person I know. I am the girl who, when faced with that construction sign immediately starts planning the new route onto the back roads. To sit and wait is torture inside myself. The reality is, if patience was the only fruit of the Spirit that had been listed in the bible, I'm not sure anyone could notice the Spirits presence in my life- ugh! ... We have been waiting four years for this little one that resides in my heart and did I mention I'm not getting any younger! Four years is a long time to wait and I know if there had been a back road available in this ordeal I certainly would have taken it.
Turns out there really aren't any back roads when God writes the directions. ha! In good news, when you travel with Jesus and the road becomes long and difficult - He provides ways to feed you encouragement and hope to keep your eyes steadfast on the road ahead.
A note from a friend written to Michelle, late 2014:
Tonight, I was praying for you guys and the adoption and I felt prodded by the Lord to share some encouragement with you. The devotional I read from a few days ago had a part that read "My delays are My timings and I can be trusted. You know that. Just be reassured of that. My delays are always for a reason—good reasons. Know my peace in that truth."
I can hear God's assurance that these delays in your adoption aren't because of you, or the adoption process...It's not about you at all even in some ways. These delays are so God can work His perfect plan to bring you to the very one that is meant to be your child. There is that God-Picked child that needs you specifically and God is working it out so that he gets you. Hold onto that hope tenaciously...and God will overwhelm you with the outcome.
TENACIOUS HOPE. It is beautiful. But in seasons of waiting... and waiting... it is not the easiest thing to find. The waiting is painful and humbling. Below is Michelle's journal entry of May 2015:
When Jesus asked me to adopt a child and the initial shock wore off, I declared Yes! Soon afterwards a new vision emerged within me.
The picture of a preferrable future had beautiful brush strokes in it that were definately from above but the picture also contained elements of darkness that I wasn't in touch with. They were not from above. They looked in my thoughts like this: "I am going to be the woman who adopts a child of color...oh what a great story this will be. Everywhere I go, I will be one to inspire. Our story will cause others to adopt children from other countries." I wasn't aware that this excitement that grew within me was a vision tainted with pride.
For the first three years I waited patiently for the child He would give us, because I was distracted with the busyness of my business and the raising of my two teenage daughters. Into the fourth year I had the rug pulled out from underneath me. My older daughter got married, my job changed, I struggled with bouts of sickness, and the 40 something hormones started to do their unsettling shift. As the many things that were attached to my identity started to change I became aware of a great ache within my heart. I felt so alone and the ache to love a child became greater and greater.
As I presently sit and write the pain in my heart remains. Where there once was a confidence and faith that Jesus would bring this child to me there are moments when I doubt that I willl ever hold my Ethiopian child.
As I presently sit and write there is something new that I am aware of that has been birthed in this season of pain. Its name is humility. The dark strokes in the picture now sound like my painful prayer: Forgive me Father. It is only you who gave me this vision to adopt a child and it is only you who can save this child and place it in my home. I am so thankful that you would allow me to love another child. Forgive me Father. I have made this about me. It is about your great love for your child in Ethiopia.
This story doesn't have an ending. It is still being written. What I do know about the ending is that it will be about the great love Jesus has for his Ethiopian child and the great love He has for me to give me the grace to raise this beautiful child and to call him my own.
Nearly another two years passed until Scott and Michelle would learn the identity of their son in February 2017. Shortly after learning of Aweng, Michelle had a vivid dream of her son. He was drowning. She was desperate to save him but was not strong enough herself. She cried out for a stronger swimmer...
”Help...I need a strong swimmer now!” And someone dove into the water and brought up my precious boy.
I hold onto this dream believing that God gave this to me, knowing ahead of time the journey I am on and to give me hope that my cries for help and my prayer will be heard by Jesus and Aweng will come home to me.
My husband and I are no strangers to the delays, the ups and downs, the sucker punches that come with the process of adopting a child. Our own journey is in a period of wait, pray and see... When we were still in what seemed to be a "green-light-go" season, we hosted a big fundraising party. Scott and Michelle were of course in attendance and we could feel their supportive vibes (prayers) all night long. And we knew that their prayers were about our child as well as their own. And with every orphan the world over. Michelle prayed shortly following that night:
Jesus, even as I write I feel anxious. My heart is filled with more and more emotion as we get notices from the Embassy about the steps and processe happening in Ethiopia to get Aweng here/home. Last night we met an African couple at Wario's birthday party who came from Sudan. They are tall and dark skinned and they told us that Gambella (where Aweng is from) is right next to the border so the people on the border are often from the same tribe. This is why Aweng's skin is dark like their own and they too were tall like the Gambella people. It's as if I got to touch a part of my son when I met them... they had two children as well...so beautiful. Please Father help me not to worry - help me to trust. Give my heart your peace. I say to you let your will be done...I trust you. Continue to lead and direct the process and I ask that it would be your will to bring Aweng home. And help prepare him for the transition...help us all dear Father. I also pray for Nikki and Ryan, ...your will be done Father. .. AMEN.
The wait continued. So did the Faith of my dear friends, even as tears fell...
I am holding onto the fact that He is with me, it is His heart to help me, and His mercies are new every morning!
AMEN! His mercies are new! every. single. morning. Yesterday, March 9, 2018 - Scott and Michelle Harris (along with their beautiful daughters Cambria and Marissa, and son-in-laws Mason and Fletcher) recieved AMAZING, LONG-AWAITED news - their official court date in Ethiopia: March 29, 2018 (just shy of 8 years after Kay Warren's speech on adoption...).
I don't know about you, but this story is one of the greatest stories I've heard in my life. Here is the best part though - In the next chapter, sweet AWENG gets to fall into the arms of his loving forever family. He will be doted upon. He will be read to. He will be tickled. He will be tucked in at night. He will melt mother Michelle's heart and he will cause his dad Scott to wrestle on the floor like a child. He will grow up in a family who LOVES Jesus and will teach him about how he was created perfectly in God's image and that he, out of all the children on the Earth, was the ONE who was meant to be Scott and Michelle's son.
Friends, Scott and Michelle have been faithful in this journey. They are finally ready to meet their son. There is one final hurdle - the final $15,000 of adoption and travel expenses. The costs of adoption present such a financial burdern. Until this point, Scott and Michelle have covered these expenses on their own. It is my honor to ask you to help them overcome this last financial hurdle. Any amount you are able to contribute is greatly appreciated!!! From my own mama heart, I thank you in advance for your help!!! And can I get an AMEN for how incredible the stories of our Lord are?!
I leave you with this letter, written last month from Michelle to HER SON:
My sweet Aweng,
I want your heart to know how we have longed for you. I want you to know what a special boy you are. I haven’t spent time with you yet, only time watching videos of you and time spent praying that you would come home to us. Yesterday we got word from Ethiopia that they will not put anymore adoption cases through the courts. Daddy and I are praying with all of our hearts against this. I went into your room and painted for 3 hours to paint one wall gray...it felt like a gray day for sure. But as I painted I prayed and at one point I sat on my stool and cried your name out to Jesus...I know He heard me.
I wish I could tell you that I was free of fear because I am your mama and I want to be strong, but I worry that you won’t be able to come home and then I cannot bare the thought. I have held you in my heart for almost 8 years... when we felt God ask us to adopt...April 22nd 2010. That was before you were even born and I believe God saw you even before you were born and had compassion on you...I must believe Aweng that the loving Father has a good plan for you and my tears are begging Jesus to bring you home to us soon.
- Carol Cox
- Coco Tomlinson
- Katie Cook
- Teresa Simpson
- Frank Martin
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