WOLFE CITY–For Monte and Missy Weaver, adopting a child was just as much a lesson in learning to love a child they had never met as it was in learning to work with God’s agenda and not their own.
The former lesson came easily; quite naturally, really. Missy had known since she was in intermediate school that, someday, she wanted to adopt a child. Her parents had divorced when she was very young and when her mother remarried, Missy’s stepfather adopted her. That act of love made an indelible impression.
Because the conviction to adopt was so impressed upon her heart, Missy said any future husband would have to share that desire. Monte did and nine years ago this March they were married.
They began life together in youth ministry. Having a family was something they always “planned to do later.”
Five years ago the couple moved to Wolfe City, about an hour north of Dallas. Monte is pastor at Calvary Baptist Church and Missy works from home keeping the books for her parents’ pharmacy. Having children was something they would do when they were out of debt and had a little more money in the bank, they reasoned.
In retrospect, Missy said, “The whole idea about planning for children” seemed somewhat ridiculous. Throughout the process of becoming parents God would work on their attitudes and perspectives. Before finally deciding to have children Monte said they had to seek God’s forgiveness for their attitudes about having children.
He confessed, “Our putting off was selfishness or lack of faith in God.”
Once they did decide to have a child of their own Missy never became pregnant. But instead of seeking a diagnosis for what might be an infertility problem, the Weavers sought parenthood through adoption.
As they began to pray about the adoption and for the child they hoped to bring home, Missy said, “We just sensed this overwhelming burden that we had a daughter waiting for us in China.”
Working with the Christian-based America World Adoption agency, the Weavers began in March 2007 the arduous task of filling out the necessary paperwork, completing personal interviews, and submitting to home studies in order to be accepted as potential adoptive parents.
They hoped to travel to China by the summer of 2008. When that did not happen Monte said they began “getting specific with God” and asked “to bring their healthy child home by Thanksgiving 2008.”
That milestone came and passed as well.
They kept praying for Abigail.
The Abigail of Monte and Missy’s expectations was an infant. No more than 3 years old. And healthy.
But God began to put on their hearts the prospect of adopting a special-needs child. By Chinese standards, “special needs” is not only defined by physical ailments or disabilities but by age. Any child older than the age of 3 is considered special needs. After all, it is argued, people want to adopt babies, not older children.
The Weavers had begun to reflect on mission trips they had taken to Mexico working in the orphanages.
“Wouldn’t we have brought home any of those children?” they asked each other.
Not only was God adjusting their perspective on the timing of their adoption but on the age of the child.
So last Feb. 18, the Weavers completed the application for the America World Waiting Child program, putting them in line to adopt a child that did not meet their original ideal. Just five days later they received their first online referral. They would receive a few more before Abigail appeared.
Missy said at the outset of the adoption process she and Monte had prayed specifically for two things; that God would receive the glory for all that transpired and “that we would know her face when we saw her.”
Recognizing Abigail was not necessarily an awe-inspiring moment, they joked. On a Thursday Missy checked their status on the adoption agency’s online account. The face of a little girl with a repaired cleft palette appeared.
“Oh. How cute,” Missy cooed. She called Monte to the computer to show him the image.
“Isn’t she cute?” Missy asked.
Monte’s monosyllabic “Yeah” was a little less enthusiastic.
Neither thought much more of the child until the next day.
Monte recalled, “The Lord put this girl in Missy’s heart to start with. The next day Missy woke up and couldn’t get this girl’s face off her mind.”
But Abigail would be the child the Weavers almost missed.
Missy returned Friday to the America World Adoption agency referral list only to find that the girl she had seen Thursday was no longer in the system.
“We missed her,” Monte said, recalling their disappointment.
The next Monday the agency called the Weavers to say the little girl was back in the system. She was 5 years old, had undergone cleft palette repair surgery and would need more. But, they knew her face.
In June of 2009 the Weavers received pre-approval from the Chinese government to begin the adoption process. By mid-October the work was done. China had approved the adoption and sent the respective paperwork to the Weavers. They signed it and sent it via FedEx to the adoption agency. In order to finalize the contract America World had to send the signed paperwork back to China. The agency was one day away from doing that when they received a disturbing phone call.
They passed the news on to Monte and Missy. Abigail was sick and had been hospitalized—bedridden and paralyzed from the waist down. She was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis, a rare condition caused by swelling on the spinal cord.
The agency immediately put a stop action on the adoption. The physical condition of the prospective adoptive child had changed dramatically and the agency needed to be assured the Weavers would go through with the adoption once they arrived in China.
“They basically gave us the option to get out,” Monte said.
If they had traveled to China and then bowed out of the process they would never again be permitted to adopt from that nation.
The thought never crossed their minds. Before Missy and Monte ever saw her face they knew they had a daughter in China whom they would name Abigail (Hebrew for the father rejoiced or father’s joy). They had loved her before they could hold her. And now they feared they never would.
Monte said convincing the adoption agency that they were sincere about their desire to bring Abigail home, in spite of her condition, was not a problem. What they feared was the Chinese government putting a halt to the process.
He said, “Our greatest fear was they weren’t going to let us take her home.”
For the Weavers, Abigail was already their child and they needed to get to her so they could bring her home and care for her.
The agency was convinced and within a week Monte and Missy were on their way to China. Expediting the travel was a miracle, Missy said. Getting travel arrangements so quickly is unheard of.
Once in China there was some confusion regarding Abigail’s condition: When had she become sick? How long had she been hospitalized? What treatment had she received? Communication was hampered by the fact that the province in which they traveled was a Cantonese-speaking region and the Weavers’ guide spoke Mandarin.
But it was finally determined that Abigail had been in the hospital for about two months. The Weavers believe her care was most likely not up to U.S. standards and therefore, if there had been any chance of recovering in the early treatment stage, that hope was gone.
But no matter, they said. She was their daughter and they were taking her home. Monte said there had been so many confirmations of God’s hand in the whole process, guiding them from their own preconceived ideas of who they would adopt and when. God even had a sense of humor with regard to one of their more specific prayer requests.
With a chuckle Monte said, “We were in China with our daughter on Thanksgiving Day 2009 eating pizza at a Pizza Hut,” an allusion to the previous year’s prayer that they would have their daughter by Thanksgiving 2008. Right day, albeit a year later, he said.
Missy said Abigail is adjusting well to her new home and loves her extended family. Monte said it took three weeks for him to get a hug out of his daughter. Because there were few if any men in her life in China he believes she was apprehensive about making that physical connection. But, he said with a touch of feigned jealously, it only took three days for his brother to coax a hug from her.
Their church family has been extraordinarily gracious to their newest addition and Abigail has warmed up to them. Missy said she is becoming less shy though she still wants to have her mother in sight at all times.
The Weavers have even had Abigail examined by a doctor in the Dallas area who specializes in diagnosing and treating acute transverse myelitis. There will be more exams and probably one last surgery on her palette. Monte said unsolicited donations have been made to the family to offset some of their medical expenses. As an SBTC pastor, Monte has insurance through GuideStone and Abigail has been added to that policy just as a birth child would be.
Missy suspects their daughter had little education in China but she is picking up English and fundamental academics rather quickly.
The Weavers were afraid that their story would be a discouragement to anyone with thoughts of adopting, but they have seen the opposite. A family member who had been considering adoption is now going through with the commitment, encouraged by how Missy and Mont dealt with the situation they were thrust into. Missy said she hopes their church, and others, can be a source of information and support for those considering adoption.
Their advice to prospective adoptive parents?
“Don’t wait until you think everything is lined up. Start to pursue it and see what God opens up.”
To read about the Weavers’ adoption process and see pictures of the family, visit lovingabigailhome.blogspot.com.