Saturday, April 23, 2011


You guys might remember the neglected looking little dog we took in a couple of months ago, the one whose owner turned out to be a young man with a rare disorder known as Robinow Syndrome . I said at the time that I felt like God had his reasons for how all of that played out. And while I was right, it was not for the reasons I originally believed. I originally thought it was about returning a much beloved pet to a young man who needed him. It turns out, it was about making sacrifices, big and small.

Interestingly, I learned all of this on Good Friday.  Yesterday.

I was doing homework when I received a phone call from Ryland's mother, Kim, asking me if she could come by for a quick visit. She said she felt really bad that it had been so long, but she'd had her hands full with the farm and their (relatively) new baby. I looked around my dirty house and considered demurring. While we've seen a lot of her over the last twenty years and I've had her son in the after school program and in VBS and so on, I can't say that I know her very well.

But I took a deep breath and said yes. At the last minute, it occurred to me that there might still be a way out of having her into my house (Can you tell I stress about this?). I had to run the two younger boys up to the church for a Good Friday program so I offered to meet her there under the guise of it being easier than having her drive all the way out to our house. We are not easy to find, so this wasn't exactly a lie.

She arrived shortly after  I did, jumped out her car and handed me a ham (from one of their own pigs) and a thank you card. "I cannot thank you enough for everything you did for our dog," she said. "Not only did you take him in, you took really good care of him--he's like a new dog."

"It was our pleasure," I told her. And it was. He was an easy dog to have around and we enjoyed having him. We sat in my van for a few minutes and talked. I began to feel an odd mix of guilt and a sense that this person was not going to judge me on my house keeping so I took a risk and invited her back to the house for a cup of coffee.

It was probably one of the best ideas I've had in a long time.

We talked about teenagers and gardening and husbands and farming and homeschooling and God's hand in our lives. Interestingly, shortly before we bought our home, she and her husband had considered buying it. They decided they needed a place with more acreage. 

She also talked about going back and forth to Minnesota to adopt her youngest and what a strain it had been on their finances and her family, but what an incredible blessing he'd been. I finally asked her why she chose to adopt a second child with Robinow and she beamed, like she'd been waiting for someone to ask. 

"God sent him to me." 

Her son, whose name is James, is Ethiopian. He was born just over a year ago in a hospital there to two loving parents. The doctors suspected that he had Robinow or another rare disorder, but didn't have the technology to test for it (there are only a handful of doctors in the world who understand it, and they're all in the US). They recommended that the parents let him die. In Ethiopia, handicapped children are viewed a curse and are ostracized by society.  When the parents refused to do so, the doctors began trying to treat him, but he began to lose ground quickly. No one could figure out why.

The mother turned to the internet looking for information about the condition and ran across the website above. Kim is the resource manager for the foundation so her email address was at the bottom. She emailed Kim in a desperate plea for help, including pictures of the baby.  He was skin and bones and clearly in a crisis.

Kim immediately contacted her and agreed to do what she could. She contacted doctors at the hospital in Minnesota. Without a moment's hesitation, they agreed to help. Kim and the doctors found a sponsor to pay for the baby and mother's passage over here. All of the visa paperwork came together with extraordinary speed.

Kim drove to Minnesota and met them at the airport. Her only plan at that point was to simply help them get settled and make sure the mother and son had an advocate who understood both doctors and Robinow. Ryland, her older son, spent a lot of time in hospitals when he was little.

They stabilized James (children with this condition require a special approach to feeding--which was the only reason he was not thriving) and educated the mother as to what Robinow was. 

Kim traveled back and forth as she could over the next couple of months, trying to run her farm and look after Ryland while helping this family. James got stronger and was excelling developmentally, but questions about his future loomed. 

Sending him back to Ethiopia meant sending him back to substandard medical care and an isolated life. The mother and father had two older children and were both professionals, but knew that they could not control all the factors of the society they lived in. 

After much soul searching, the mother asked Kim if she would raise him here. Kim, of course, said yes. 

Lawyers stepped forward and aided in the adoption of the child for free. James became legally Kim's son, last month. She could not be more joyous. They have a long road ahead of them. He needs more surgeries and no one here will insure him because of his health problems. The system (Medicaid) won't cover him until he's been here for two years. He has one more year. Meanwhile, the doctors in Minnesota are overseeing his care for free. James is doing his part--last week he took his first steps and Kim is optimistic. 

"The best part about this is that James has two families," she said. "Us and his family in Ethiopia. We Skype back and forth all the time." Kim has educated herself as to his culture. She even speaks a little of the language. She is determined to help him know who he is.

Swallowing my tears at the story, I said,"Kim, you are incredible."

"No. All I did was say yes. That was easy. I was already in love with him. His mother is the hero. Can you imagine loving your child so much that you could give them up so they could have a better life?"

After I dropped Kim off at her car, Gary and I went to church program. It was a walk-thru dramatization of Christ's death on the cross, beginning with Pilot's washing of his hands of the entire affair. Those of us walking through each of the scenes had small ceremonies we performed, readings, and prayers.  At the end, we all prayed a prayer of thanks for Christ's sacrifice. It made me think a lot about Kim and that mother who gave him up and I prayed that God would continue to bless little James and both his families--all of them an excellent example of Christ's love in action, whether they know it or not. 


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Everyone sounds like they are sacrificing for this little boy. Hope your Easter ham is tasty and you have a lovely holiday. :)

Mary O. Paddock said...

Yes, they are. And I am was so blessed to hear this story.