I have 12 children. It seems like a lot- and it is. With a family of 14, it’s 28 socks each day to wash and 42 meals to cook. And those are just the logistics. Far more challenging is the emotional fortitude required to love, train, and inspire such a large bunch.
Garry and I didn’t set out to be big family people. In fact, most of the time we doubt whether we are very good parents.
I have friends who are good parents. Their children are mannered and speak well. They restrict sugar and screen time, and their children excel in sports and hobbies. They seem to listen well, and their clothes match. We don’t do quite so well.
When I marvel at other people’s children, I often wonder how I got here. Last week over dinner, my 8 year-old son talked about the man who tried to “take” him one day while he rode his bike near the orphanage where he lived in Manila. It’s a typical bad dream of many kids, but it wasn’t a bad dream for Andrew. In his life before us, the fear of being taken was a daily reality, and he always had to be vigilant against such predators. Sadly, his older sister was one of those that disappeared never to be found again.
Andrew is not the only one of my kids with such a story. My oldest son, James, recounts a family who took him to work their farm in Northern China. He thought they were adopting him, but they returned him when the fieldwork was done.
Then there’s my daughter from South India, beaten and tucked into the baggage area of a long-distance train heading to Mumbai once her “caretakers” were done with her. We adopted Luxmi many years later at 8 years old, rescuing her from a lifetime of servanthood.
So we’re not the typical big family. Daily we work through a sequelae of disordered and terrifying early years: trauma, memory loss, brain damage, ADHD, learning challenges, attachment issues, anger, depression, anxiety, and failing grades. It often looks messy, and no one is winning any accolades.
Still, Garry and I feel like we win every day. When I consider where my children might be right now, I know I’m spending all my heart, time, and money investing in the healing success of each of my children. It might not look so good to others, but it is.
Child trafficking is the taking of children for use as a commodity for labor, sex, and indentured servanthood. It’s big business with 1.2 million children moved each year, and it’s often done right under your nose- marketed on the dark web.1 Much trafficking and solicitation happens here in the U.S., with internet investigations by Thorn showing 450 million illicit child videos.2 Children in every country on earth are marketed for exploitation.
We took 10 of those children off the market—and how I wish we could afford to take them all.
But the story doesn’t end there; now we must raise them to heal, trust, learn, and love. I’m not sure we will get there—at least not compared to others’ children. But that’s ok with us. Often life is the messiest and most painful when you’re doing the stuff that matters.
Often life is the messiest and most painful when you’re doing the stuff that matters.
In fact, if you are asking yourself, “how’d I get here” – you are likely on the right track. So take heart when your efforts don’t bare the approvals, timelines, and expectations of others. Sure, we want to quit when stuff gets messy or when we look failure in the face. We are desperate to avoid the discomforts of confusion, risk, and fear. Yet, I propose that the messiest place is actually the place to be. It’s where true meaning lives and where you’ll do your best work. It is the place of legacy.
Yet, I propose that the messiest place is actually the place to be. It’s where true meaning lives and where you’ll do your best work. It is the place of legacy.
So that’s how we got to this messy, wild, unscripted, challenging, and adventurous life. We decided to take our skills to make the money to adopt and raise this bunch. What else were we to do with our time and resources? What else matters?