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Risks Worth Taking

Many people are amazed at the risks we were willing to take to adopt five teenage children we had never met. And from a war-torn country. We already had seven children! They are even more amazed at the beautiful reflection of God’s mercy, grace, and love they see in our family today.

From the beginning, well-meaning people and supposed experts laid out their fears for us. Their list of potential risks was long! We heard everything from, “You’ll need a Yellow School Bus to get around” to “It’s dangerous to upset the age order in your home by adopting children older than the ones you already have.” Then there were behavior/abuse issues (sexual being the scariest) the children might have suffered, and would possibly act out in our home and with our biological children. Of course, we were also warned of the potential for AIDS/HIV, other diseases from Africa, war-trauma, etc. As a result, we prepared for the worst, hoped for the best, and were pleasantly surprised.

Some of the obvious risks were the huge financial implications of adopting five teenagers internationally. We knew we would be radically changing our family’s comfort zone. In the year 1999, my precious father died and left our family resources that allowed us to change our lifestyle quite a bit. My husband built our house, and stayed home to help teach, train and disciple our children. That could change if we adopted five more children; he may have to go back to work outside of the home.

Something  Bigger than Ourselves!

We absolutely love our Dad-built house and property in the country, but we could not allow it to be an idol in our life and get in the way of our serving God. We needed to be willing to offer it all up on the altar of God and open our hearts to the possibility of not continuing in this comfortable lifestyle.

Truthfully, we always wanted to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We had a sense of urgency to put ourselves on the line in whatever way God was calling us. We kept asking ourselves the question, “What do we want the end of our life to speak of?”

Glenn and I had just been through a season of losing all our parents, our few remaining grandparents, and even a few friends our age to illness and disease. Life became all too fragile and eternal life’s reality became extremely REAL. We were ready to be living for what was REAL, painfully aware life here on earth was much shorter than we once thought.

The hole left in our lives from the death of our parents was significant. We all noticed it. Holidays, birthdays, fun-times and weekends spent with our folks… now they were gone.  Somehow, the vacuum left inside made room for a strong call on our lives. It was a call that spoke to our spirits and encouraged us that we were equipped for “such a time as this.

For 19 years, we did what so many other Christian families similar to ourselves had been doing. We focused on our family by home-centered living, learning to parent with love and grace. We learned to home-school with God’s design in mind for each child while trying to discover their personal interest and learning style. Our babies were born at home, we eat healthy and take care of ourselves.

I have always held the word ‘liberty’ dear in my heart. We named our youngest daughter, Liberty. Now, God has used that word to bring my faith to a place of action with my precious Liberian children. The Latin root for Liberia is liber meaning free. The Country’s motto is, “The love of Liberty brought us here." It reminds me of the quote, “True biblical liberty is a paradox! You’re never truly free unless you’re bound… to Christ.” I think this quote explains why we’ve sacrificed our comfortable life and risked so much. No man is ever truly free unless he is bound to his Savior. We are all bound to something in life; if not the Lord and His desires, we will serve ourselves and our own sinful nature.

Missionaries in our own home!

As we considered adopting these five children, we realized we were making a huge decision. I needed to be extra certain that I was not deceived in my emotions or in my heart. Experience had taught me my emotions were open game for the enemy’s deception!  As we stepped out in radical faith, we were aware that many, many changes would be coming. For us, it would be like becoming missionaries in our own home. To my prayers, I added fasting (something that doesn’t normally come easy to me). We had been praying and trusting God could, and would, make His will known to us. I am blessed to report that He did in so many miraculous ways.

Someone said to me recently that adoption should not just be about rescuing children but about making a family. True! But why does "making a family" have to negate the fact that we are rescuing children? We are making a family--a lovely family--and we have also rescued children in the meantime.

The first two children, Boto (now Botianna) and Lightning, we chose to adopt because they had only months left before they would become un-adoptable. This pulled on our heartstrings. How could we let these precious children, who had been in this orphanage for ten years, reach this status of being un-adoptable? These children know we rescued them, feel rescued, and are thankful we rescued them!

Our children arrived home October 5, 2006. It is now four months later and they are an integral part of our lives. I periodically check with our younger biological children to see how they are really doing. I wish the world could see the joy and hear the responses. They absolutely love their new brothers and sisters! I actually see my children having beautiful compassion in their hearts for their new siblings and understanding for their weaknesses. They are getting missionary hearts.

Our two oldest biological children, Shepherd and Prayse, have both been to Liberia, and can’t wait to go back the minute funds are available. Shepherd is developing “Liberty Vision Productions” comprised of himself, his video camera, and a great purpose - to bring people who will never go to Liberia “the eyes to see and the ears to hear”.  He is developing vision for his future and desires to use his video talents to assist the missionary aid effort of Children Concerned.

Prayse strongly desires to go back to Liberia and love on the children who remain. Since coming home from Africa, she is gaining vision for her future and a life in ministry wherever her mission field may be. Even the younger children Joshua (9), Robert (8), Hope (7), and even Noah (5) have pen pals in Liberia. They are always asking their new brothers and sisters to tell them more about their friends there. They want to save their money and go to the dollar store to buy something for their friends in Liberia.

Our home is better than before!

How have our Liberian children fitted in?

Botianna (17) is quickly becoming a wonderful mother’s helper. She absolutely adores Liberty and loves to take care of her for me. Likewise, Liberty adores Botianna and enjoys going to her. She has faithfully taken over managing the laundry. Wow! She helps with cooking and sometimes makes the entire meal. She does this especially well when we eat African. She is learning to make 30 loaves of bread on “bread day” and loves it. She has a GREAT personality and a beautiful, contagious smile. We would not want to be without her, and being the oldest Liberian, we all look to her for understanding. She takes her responsibilities in our family seriously. We all love her so much!

Andrew (16) is the calm, reserved one. His nature is to take things more seriously than the rest of us but, thankfully, he can be playful and laugh. He thrives on responsibility, is trustworthy,  honest and focused. I can always trust him to speak the truth because his conscience is strong. I’ve so connected to him as a son, and we’ve had many long heart-to-heart conversations that have proven glorious. He will make a wonderful father and leader one day! Our home is a more beautiful and wonderful place because he is in it.

Lightning (15) has surprised us all. When we processed our adoption for him, all we heard about him was that “he loves soccer”! We live way out in the country and had no plans of busying ourselves with a sport like soccer for only one of our children. We thought he would grieve this activity. Little did we know Lightning has so many interests! His younger brothers think he is a genius for all his creativity.  He amazes us constantly. No one in this house can speak too highly of Lightning; we all adore him. Lightning doesn’t know the phrase “I’m bored”. None of them do, thankfully! His other absolute number one passion around here is food. He loves to eat! He’s so excited because he can tell his fingernails and hair condition have improved greatly since coming home, not to mention, he loves to hop on those scales! Lightning’s smile can light up a room!  In fact, it does almost everywhere we go.  When we are out people always ask, “Does he always have such a big smile on his face?” and we get to say “Yes!”

Cherish (12) is soft, sweet, tender and mild. She is sensitive and just a little girl inside. Cherish came here obviously wounded and bound; she had a hard time giving and receiving affection. However, she has been the most rewarding in terms of seeing her set free. One day, in the first few weeks of their being home, I had one of those migraines that got out of control. Cherish had never seen me sick and she could not stop crying for me. The next day while I was in recovery she laid all day cuddled up with me and never left my side. She is a nurturer and loves babies! I am amazed at how quickly we all came to cherish Cherish!

Kabiera (12) has the most expressive personality you could ever want to see, or should I say, experience. She is the queen of facial expressions! One day we were asking each child what some of his or her favorite things were. Andrew answered, “Laughing at Kabiera!” We all could relate. She is definitely a highlight to our home. She is spunky, cute, affectionate, warm and friendly. Just today, I had the privilege of leading her to the Lord. What a joy! Her heart was soft and pliable for Jesus, ready to hear and receive the gospel message.

The children had all heard enough Scriptures in the orphanage to have a foundation, but they still need one-on-one, individual discipleship. They need a personal relationship with wise and Godly parents. They are so receptive if parents can walk in lots and lots of love, patience, and grace! The mission field is right in our home!

Whatever risks we took we feel were worth taking! We are all better people today because we stepped out in faith and recognized that our ministry, once again, really is in our home!

ALICIA AHLERS

Pendleton, Kentucky,. USA

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www.theahlersfamily.com

 

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