|Obedient Surrender - The Wiley Adoption Story|
Meet the Wileys. Jason and Michelle, high school sweethearts, avid Georgia Bulldog fans, just your typical SUV driving suburban family raising their four children. That is, until a small country in southern Africa forever changed their hearts and lives.
In 2009, Michelle participated in a mission trip to Swaziland, Africa, with her church, Warren Baptist. This small country of just under one million people is also known as The Nation of Orphans. The trip opened Michelle’s eyes to the plight of the orphan and literally brought her to her knees. The more Michelle worked with this ministry, the more she fell in love with the children. “I could not get those chocolate eyes and infectious smiles out of my mind, and I knew I could not simply come home and live my life without doing something about it. I just wasn’t sure what that something was,” said Michelle.
Michelle’s husband, Jason, couldn’t completely understand his wife’s passion for this orphan ministry, but realizing that a large portion of her heart had been left in Swaziland, Jason said, “I had to go find her heart. I had to know what had such a hold on her.” So in May 2010, Jason too traveled to Africa, and he finally understood what captivated his wife’s heart.
He agreed that, together, they had to do something. In Jason’s mind, that something meant continuing to take trips to Swaziland and support the ministry. As Christ followers, Jason and Michelle completely understood and accepted the responsibility to fulfill God’s command of “caring for the orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27 NLT). They could carry out that command on the mission trips to Africa, but it wasn’t enough for Michelle. Something was developing into a much greater calling. This something would require complete obedient surrender to God. It was all too clear for Michelle that something meant adoption.
With a family of four already (ages 5-11), adoption was not at the top of Jason’s list. To be honest, it wasn’t anywhere on his list. While Jason and Michelle had always had a heart for adoption and had even helped friends who were going through the process, they never dreamed it would touch their own family so personally. As Michelle began to share her heart for adoption with Jason, she met with closed doors. The more Michelle talked about it, the more resistant he was. They were more divided over this issue than any other in their 14 years of marriage. From Jason’s viewpoint, the cost was too high for their family in many ways.
After months and months of begging God to change either her heart or Jason’s, Michelle knew what she had to do. This had truly been one of the most difficult times in their marriage. In March 2011, as she sat quietly with God, the only word that came to her mind was surrender. She had to surrender and completely trust God. She had to trust that God was using Jason as the spiritual leader of their family. She had to realize that surrendering to what Jason wanted was also surrendering and obeying God, even though she didn’t agree. At that moment, she wrote the word surrender in her journal. “I nearly shook as that word glared at me from the page. That morning, I trusted God completely. I stopped talking and prayed for unity in our marriage,” said Michelle.
A few weeks later, Michelle noticed how restless Jason was during the night. Eventually, he got out of bed and left the room. The next day, she asked him if he was OK. He simply explained that he needed to pray through some things, and that was the end of that. Michelle prayed for him, but the incident never came up again.
By Mother’s Day (2011), Michelle was looking forward to her traditional handmade cards from her four children. She opened each of them, then one from Jason. With her children gathered around, she began to read. Jason described how God had been leading him to reflect on the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made for him to be a child of God. While these words were beautifully written, Michelle wasn’t sure where he was going with this and why the sudden outpouring of his heart. As she continued to read, Jason listed the “costs” that had been going through his mind regarding adoption. Adoption, the cause of the great divide in their marriage. As she kept reading, Michelle could barely breathe, and tears flooded her eyes as she realized where this was going, Jason’s final words to her in a Mother’s Day card that will never be forgotten:
“It’s time for us to answer God’s call for our family. It’s time for us to enter the journey of adoption.”
Later that day, Jason asked Michelle if she remembered the night he couldn’t sleep. “I was wrestling with God, and He drew my heart and attention to the cross. He kept telling me to ‘surrender,’” said Jason.
Surrender. This word had been so difficult for Jason and Michelle, but God used it to completely unite their hearts. Michelle surrendered to God and accepted Jason’s initial decision not to adopt. Jason surrendered to God and saw the beautiful picture of adoption that only He could paint.
While the desire to adopt began in the small country of Swaziland, the adoption process is not open there, so Jason suggested they look at Ethiopia. Michelle had read of major delays in Ethiopia’s adoption process, and after waiting and waiting for God to change Jason’s heart, Michelle couldn’t stand the thought of more delays. As she pressed Jason for another country, Jason encouraged her: “Just wait.” But to Michelle, it seemed as though that’s all she had been doing. During this conversation, Jason received a text message from a co-worker. It was an excerpt from a Rick Warren’s Daily Hope devotional that Jason shared with Michelle:
God’s delay may be a test of your patience. Anybody can be patient once. And, most people can be patient twice. And, a lot of us can be patient three times. So God tests our patience over and over and over. Why? So He can see how patient you are? No! So you’ll know what’s inside you, and you’ll be able to know your level of commitment. God tests you so that you can know He is faithful, even if the answers you seek are delayed. If you’re discouraged, turn it around by remembering God teaches you patience during delay. Ask Him to transform your discouragement into patience.
Michelle knew she needed to follow her husband’s lead, but how could she possibly continue waiting? She shrugged off Jason’s encouragement and began to go through her emails. She had been following the blog of another family that was waiting to hear about travel dates in order to bring home their children from Ethiopia. The wife had a new post titled “Lessons in the Waiting,” and as Michelle read it, there was the same excerpt from Rick Warren that Jason had just shared. Michelle thought it had to be a coincidence, so she prayed, “Lord, just make it clear to us … to me.” As she began to delete emails, she found one from One World Prayer Team that reminded her she had committed to pray for the world for one year. She clicked the email to see which country she was supposed to be praying for and what flag popped up? Ethiopia. With tears streaming down her face, she asked the Lord for forgiveness and called Jason, saying, “Our child is in Ethiopia.”
As the Wileys completed the paperwork for adoption in Ethiopia, another wait began. With every phone call Michelle received from their agency, she just knew the news would be, “We have a little girl for you.” After one year of waiting, on Monday, May 20, 2012, Michelle received an email. It was from an agency that was advocating for three little girls waiting to be adopted. Three. Jason had agreed to one, but three? Michelle decided to ask for the girls’ file. The agency sent pictures, and she immediately emailed them to Jason, who was away on a business trip. “Jason, just pray about it,” said Michelle. Somewhat in shock, Jason agreed, and when he returned home Tuesday evening, Jason said to Michelle, “I think this is a door we need to walk through.” On Wednesday morning, as Jason and Michelle continued to pray about adopting three girls, they asked God to show them specifically that they were doing the right thing. Later that evening, as Michelle was walking into church, she got a text message from a friend who had no idea they were going through the adoption process. The text message read, “I don’t know why I’m sending this to you, but God has told me to send you the words ‘surrender to the call.’” There it was again. Surrender. God could not have made this any clearer for Jason and Michelle.
The next morning, Michelle called the agency with their excited response: Yes! But the answer she received was not what she expected. A family from Tennessee had also requested information on the three girls, and they decided to accept them. In a matter of days, she had gone from waiting for one, to preparing for three, to having no child waiting for them. While this was disappointing for Jason and Michelle, they knew now what their call was: to keep their adoption file open for a sibling group with children ages 6 and younger. According to the agency, finding a sibling group in this age range would be very unlikely.
But the Wileys’ wait continued only a few more months. At the end of October, the phone call came. The “very unlikely” had happened. There was a sibling group in Ethiopia waiting to be adopted, ages 6, 4 and 1. With a resounding yes, these three children were about to become Wileys! Jason and Michelle began preparing to make the first trip to Ethiopia to meet their children, Samuel Yohannis (6), Sophie Serkalem (4) and Titus Fiekre (1).
There would still be a bit of waiting, but at least they were able to see pictures of these three little ones and begin praying specifically for each one. On April 15, 2013, Jason and Michelle received news that the court date was set for May 21.
Finally . . . a solid date to look forward to! The Wileys’ four children made a prayer chain to help the days pass. Each day, a link was taken from the chain and the prayer on the link was read together as a family. Jason and Michelle arrived in Ethiopia on May 15 and met their children face to face for the first time. Words could never explain the emotions of this meeting. These precious children a world away, only known through pictures, would soon be placed in a home that God had so lovingly prepared for them. The morning of May 21, Jason and Michelle started the day with a devotional reading from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. The day’s devotion began with “I, Creator of the Universe, am with you and for you. What more could you need?” The devotion ended with, “Stop all your striving, and watch to see what I will do. I am the Lord!” This was one family that was overjoyed to see what He would do. In an unbelievably smooth process, in less than 10 minutes, there were three less orphans in the world and three new Wileys!
Still, the embassy had to complete more paperwork and visas before the children could come home to Georgia. The few days Jason and Michelle got to spend with their children made leaving them so very hard. They had fallen in love with them before they ever met them, and now having to leave after holding them in their arms was heartbreaking. But on returning home to Evans, the Wiley household was in high gear getting ready to add three more to their family. Beds had to be prepared, clothing had to be purchased and now with a one-year-old, the house had to be baby-proofed. Having so much to do helped the days go by more quickly, and before they knew it, they were back on a plane to Ethiopia with three one-way tickets!
After 38 hours of flying, being rerouted through various countries, and many security checks, on July 23, 2013, the three newest Wileys were with Mommy and Daddy, permanently. What a whirlwind this had been! After spending a few final days in Ethiopia, the family arrived in Augusta on Sunday, July 28, to a warm welcome at the airport from family and friends. The Wileys’ four children, Parker (14), Spencer, (10), Brendan (9) and Sara Kate (7) were eagerly waiting to meet their new brothers and a sister whom they had only known through pictures. It was an emotional homecoming that, fortunately, a friend was able to capture on video.
Throughout the entire two-year process, God showed up at every turn. There were no coincidences on this journey, only divine intervention. His grace and sufficiency were there when things seemed to be spiraling out of control. Just to see one more way God showed up, the Wileys learned an interesting fact before they brought their children home. At the same time Michelle told the agency that she and Jason would be willing to adopt the three girls, the birth mother of their three children was signing the paperwork to relinquish all rights to them. This was the sibling group the agency said was “very unlikely.” A coincidence? Absolutely not! God intended for Yohannis, Serkelam and Fiekre to be adopted as Wileys all along. This journey was totally led by God, and before they even knew it, He had chosen the Wileys as his vessels. In their hearts, He made it perfectly clear: The gospel plus surrender meant adoption. And it was all in his perfect timing.
Thanks to Bob Mardock, Executive Director of International Family Services for connecting us with this amazing family, Jason and Michelle Wiley, who adopted from Ethiopia last year.
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