Once-hesitant parents ‘jump in with both feet’ adopting Haitian child
Greg Stephens never dreamed about adopting children.
But after hearing Canyon View Vineyard Church senior pastor Kirk Yamaguchi preach about “the cry of the orphans,” he began to consider it.
Yamaguchi and his wife, Jane, were starting the process of adopting a child from Haiti at the time, but Greg’s wife, Jessica Stephens, at first wasn’t interested in adopting a child from Haiti because of the cost and time. Haiti adoptions cost more than $10,000, and there is the added expense of picking up the child, and they take an average of two years.
The Stephenses, though, prayed about the idea and decided to adopt a Haitian boy.
“The finances fell in place,” Greg Stephens said. “The Lord provided for us supernaturally. I can’t explain it. You have to jump in with both feet in faith. What God calls you to do, let no man stop.”
The Stephenses went to Haiti in June for 10 days to visit orphanages. That’s where they met Jamesley Louis and decided to adopt him.
The Stephenses were scheduled to be in Haiti this week for an adoption hearing, but that schedule changed when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Port-au-Prince area Jan. 12.
“The first thing is knowing the kids are OK,” Greg Stephens said. “I think the Lord really protected the orphanage. We were enamored with the news. We were fixated on the news. You hear about looting, gunshots, and you want your kids out of there.”
With the help of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, several Haitian children in the process of being adopted were brought to the United States.
The Stephenses went to Denver in hopes of getting Jamesley, but Jamesley wasn’t on the plane. Instead, Jamesley was in Orlando, Fla., and wasn’t well. The 2-year-old was dehydrated, had pinkeye in both eyes, was malnourished and not responsive, Jessica Stephens said.
The Stephenses brought him home last weekend, where he quickly became fascinated with his new surroundings.
“He loved the light switches the first time,” Greg Stephens said. “He thought it was the funniest thing.”
He is eating well and is already learning some simple English, such as “mommy” and “daddy.”
Don and Sandy Bavor already have two boys, but they were interested in adoption.
Every time they discussed it, they shied away from it because of all the paperwork and the costs, but the words of their church pastor helped change their minds.
The Bavors, who attend Canyon View Vineyard Church, were led to adopt out of Haiti after hearing Yamaguchi preach about the cry of the orphans a year ago. Don Bavor and his wife, Jane, then decided last fall to start the process of adopting a Haitian girl.
“I think God just placed it on our heart,” Sandy Bavor said.
Then, they doubled their endeavor.
“We were asked if we were willing to take twins,” Sandy Bavor said. “It’s $10,000 per kid. Our agency director wanted the kids placed where a family would take both.”
It was supposed to take about two years for the Bavors to get 10-month-olds Madeline Annie and Jaquoix Annio Bonhomme.
The earthquake that hit Haiti last month, though, dramatically changed the timeline.
“When the earthquake happened, I thought it would hurt us getting the children,” Sandy Bavor said. “I stayed on the computer as much as I could, e-mailing senators and congressmen. We got a referral and had to prove we matched with the kids. The paperwork was not done, but we worked really hard. We were told it’s a long shot, but we knew with God, He can move mountains.
“We got an e-mail that the children have been given humanitarian parole. That brings tears to my eyes every time.”
Bavor received a return call from Sen. Udall’s office explaining they would do what they can to get the orphans already in the process of being adopted by American families to the United States.
The Bavors were able to pick up the twins nearly three weeks ago, even though the adoption process isn’t complete, and they have custody of the twins as humanitarian foster parents.
“They are doing amazingly,” Bavor said. “She is sleeping through the night. He’s teething, but adjusting. They’ve already bonded, which is amazing. She held on as tight as she could to me.
“I knew within two hours what to do with each of them. They only want love. I could’ve got kids that needed more attention. They are very healthy and low weight, but the doctor could tell they came from a good orphanage.”
The Bavors, who both teach at Orchard Mesa Middle School, plan to teach them the Haitian culture.
“I teach social studies,” Bavor said. “I got some books on Haiti. If they want to go back and help in Haiti some day, that would be awesome. My sister and I were talking about them losing their culture, but we’re going to be vigilant in their culture. We’ll read a lot of books and pray a ton.”
Kirk and Jane Yamaguchi’s 10-year-old adopted daughter, Gerdy Vernet, has been through a lot, but is doing well since arriving in Grand Junction.
“She has taken to being here,” Kirk Yamaguchi said. “It’s like everything is new to her. She is going from this toy to watching TV to playing a CD player. She is having stimulation overload, but the greatest thing to truly see in her is the joy of being in a family.”
Bringing home Gerdy has been a roller-coaster experience for the Yamaguchis as well.
“We’d hear she was coming and get our hopes up, then it’s not happening,” Kirk Yamaguchi said. “We had assurance she was coming, but there was some frustration. One instant, we’d hear a story, then we’d hear something else. It was literally like a yo-yo.”
The Yamaguchis were finally able to bring Gerdy home early last week, sooner than originally planned because of the earthquake.
“With the way things were going, we were looking at another two years (before the earthquake),” Kirk Yamaguchi said. “We were not dialed in at all. Fortunately, being a part of a great church, there are tons of people that gave us clothes. We bought minimal stuff.”
They did buy a bunk bed for Gerdy to share with her new sister, 4-year-old Gracie Yamaguchi.
“(Gerdy) has already shown a little bit of will,” Kirk Yamaguchi said. “She tells you no. It’s good to see. She’s already had spats with her sister. It’s good, because Gerdy is socialized, growing up in an orphanage.”
Although Gerdy appears to be adjusting well, the Yamaguchis realize her memory of home could be triggered anytime.
“We’ll check into counseling in case she has any post-traumatic stress disorder with the loss she’s experienced being removed from any family relations and friends,” Kirk Yamaguchi said. “It’s only just beginning for her, but there are so many signs of extreme thankfulness here.”