“Mommy, when are you going to Africa to bring my baby brother home?” a little voice whispered as I pulled the blankets around Zachary before saying our nightly prayers.
“Honey, what makes you think you have a baby brother in Africa?” I asked.
“I do mommy, and he is just like me! My baby doesn’t have any legs like me and he doesn’t have fingers either, mommy.”
I had talked a few days before about him being different from other children. Zachary was born missing his lower legs and both lower arms. He had asked me if there were other children like him in the world. I said yes, but he was not likely to see another child quite like himself in northern rural Wisconsin. I wondered if Zachary wanted someone to identify with. Since he was Nigerian by birth, it made sense to go to Africa and get a baby that looked like him!
I kissed Zac’s forehead and told him how very special he was, and that God had truly given mommy and daddy the most perfect boy in the world. I told him I loved his heart for wanting to share our home, but I didn’t know of any child like him in Africa.
“Please mommy, go and get my baby brother because he needs us and he’s crying.” I reassured Zachary that if I ever found out he did have a brother in Africa I would certainly go and get him. We prayed that night for the baby Zac talked about and asked Jesus to protect and care for him.
“Zachary, you’re a fine boy and perhaps someday God will bless us by giving us someone like you”. He smiled and said, “Mommy, you wait and see. My baby IS in Africa and you are going to go and get him.” I sat on the bed gazing at my son until he fell asleep. My heart wept as I thought of the challenges my sweet boy would have to face one day, but I thanked the Lord for giving us the opportunity to be his parents and the joy we have encouraging him to be the best he can be, regardless of his circumstances.
Weeks later, I received a phone call from a woman who told me how my cousin had given her the book I wrote in 1998 called Acres of Hope. She shared with me how my cousin had told her about our son Zachary. It had been years since she read the book, but one day when she heard about a baby in Africa who needed a home.
“I know you don’t know me, but I feel as though I know you through your book,” she explained. “I know this may sound strange to you, but I believe you have a son in Africa. When I heard about this baby, I knew he must be yours.” Naturally my curiosity was working overtime.
“I know of a baby in Liberia, West Africa who was aborted in the seventh month of pregnancy during the civil war. The abortion procedure ripped his little legs from his tiny body and most of his fingers are also missing. By a miracle he survived.” A chill went through my spine as I remembered Zachary’s words. I knew instantly and without a doubt, Zachary’s brother was waiting for me to come and get him.
It is difficult to put into words the overwhelming love and connection I felt toward this tiny baby who was thousands of miles away in a worn torn country. It was amazing how God opened my heart and gave me peace about welcoming another child into our family. I could hardly wait to tell Zachary that his baby brother had been found.
Liberia is a small country on the coast of West Africa. It was the first African Republic established by former Black American slaves. The Liberian civil war began in 1989 and was rated one of the most deadly and devastating wars ever fought in Africa. Its wrath demoralized the Liberian people, and left the entire population suffering with thousands of children being orphaned. There is no running water, electricity or mail service. Generators, wells and cell phones are a luxury. The people have been left with a broken and tattered country. Fighting was still going on in many parts of the country making it unsafe to travel there.
We immediately contacted a Liberian attorney in Washington, DC who offered to go to Liberia and complete the adoption for us. We knew time was of essence, because the baby needed medical care, and the political climate was tenuous. Five days later our attorney left to help us save our son. Many obstacles followed in getting the paperwork through the courts, but finally we got the call that our baby was legally adopted by us in the courts of Liberia.
Just as the plans were materializing for the trip to Africa we received the dreaded news of another out-break of war. The rebels were moving closer to the city of Monrovia and Ganta, the very city our baby was in, had just been hard hit. We tried to find out how the baby and his care takers were. They had been moved to Monrovia. Days went by with no word. I cannot explain the panic and emptiness I felt, not knowing where our son was. I cried out to God, and begged him to spare my son’s life. The helplessness that came over me was almost more than I could bear. My heart bled for my son and the people of Liberia that they should have to endure such tragedy and sorrow.
Then I felt Zachary crawling up in my lap. He gazed at me, wrapped his little stumps around my neck and whispered, “It’s okay mommy, you don’t need to cry. God is watching our baby and he won’t let anything happen to him.” Oh the faith of a child! As I cuddled with Zachary until he fell asleep, I thought of how God was weeping for all those enduring such hardships. I thought of how he gave His own son so that none should perish, but have eternal life. I needed to have child-like faith, like Zachary’s.
The following morning we got word from our contact in Liberia. Our baby and caretaker were safe in Monrovia. Many of the missionaries were leaving Liberia because the war was intensifying. We thought perhaps they could bring him home, but the visa was not ready. It would be a week or so before he would be paper ready to travel and the missionaries would be gone by then.
A few months previously we had celebrated moving into our new custom built home. When I thought of all we had and how little the people of Liberia had it nearly crushed my spirit. I thanked the Lord for our blessings and asked Him to continue watching over our dear baby in Liberia.
Three days later, the unthinkable happened. Our newly built 6,000 square foot home caught fire and burned to the ground. Only by the grace of God did we manage to get all seven children out in time. Zachary was the last to be found, sleeping on the floor between the nightstand and the bed! We lost every earthly possession – our photographs, videos of the children as babies, precious family heirloom antiques and memorabilia from my days growing up as a child in Africa! Nothing was left but a pile of ashes.
Had God forsaken us? Had we not been faithful to Him? How were we going to survive this ordeal? Exhausted and emotionally drained I sat staring at what remained of our beautiful dream home we had waited 25 years to build. Tears fell from my eyes, and then I heard Zachary’s sweet voice, “Mommy, it will be okay. God will take care of us.”
What did I do to deserve such a wonderful little boy? Surely God had given me more than all the earthly material treasures anyone could ever acquire. I had my husband and my children. Truly I was blessed, but there was one thing missing… our son Tucker.
After ears, frustration and settling into an old farm house, we did not have the luxury of wallowing in self pity. Tucker was still in Liberia and in danger from the bullets of war, starvation and exposure to health hazards such as cholera and malaria. Malaria is the number one killer of children under the age of one year. Food was becoming scarce and medical care nearly non-existent. We were in contact with the state department every other day.
Then the dreaded news came… rebels had taken over the city of Monrovia. The embassy was barricaded in, gun fire was rampart in the streets and the food storage was critical. Tucker was sick and needing medical care. They had no formula to give him and would probably not be able to call again. They begged us to pray and said they would try to keep the baby alive. Those words rung in my ear. They would try to keep the baby alive? Shedding tears and struggling to keep my faith, while fearing the next reports from Liberia, I desperately held on to Zachary’s earlier words of encouragement, “Mommy, God will take care of our baby”.
I knew Zachary was right. God knew this baby in his mother’s womb. He saved him from four different abortion attempts, and even though he lost his legs and fingers in the last abortion attempt, God spared his life and he did it for a reason. I found comfort in knowing that Tucker’s story was not finished. Surely God could not have brought this baby into our lives, only to have his life snuffed out.
The days went by so slowly. We tried to concentrate on replacing a few household things thinking it would take our minds off of what was happening in Liberia, but little Tucker was never out of our thoughts. As a mother, I found comfort in holding Zachary our youngest. I knew Zachary had a special connection with Tucker and in some strange way I felt as if I were holding both of them.
By now we were working with an agency called Ethica who advocate on behalf of adopted children caught in unusual circumstances.
After almost two weeks we got a call from our contact. Tucker was seriously ill. Many of the children had gone days without food. I knew this could mean death for an infant like my son. Frantic, I called Trish, director at Ethica. She suggested we apply for a humanitarian parole and try to get Tucker out that way. We rushed through the paperwork and Trish hand-delivered it in Washington. Between her expertise in knowing what to ask for and my relentless phone calls to political figures in Washington, we finally received an approval to allow Tucker out of the country..
Within hours I had a plane ticket to West Africa. I contacted a doctor from our church that helped me put together an emergency medical backpack full of IV hydration, antibiotics, fever reducer, bandages, etc. Fortunately, I had a medical background as a lab technologist and could start an IV if it became necessary and with my experience of living in Africa I was the logical choice to go instead of my husband.
When I landed in West Africa, I was quickly reminded of growing up in the Congo. The surroundings and the sounds and smells flooded every ounce of my being. I took a deep breath, enjoyed reminiscing for a short time, and then began to focus on why I was there. I was overwhelmed by the anticipation of holding my baby in my arms for the first time.
When we arrived at our meeting point, my heart literally skipped a beat when I realized that within minutes my precious baby would be in my arms. And then the miracle moment happened. I reached out for the most beautiful baby in the world! As I brought him in close to me, our eyes met. It was if he knew me… and I had always known him.
I thanked our Liberian friend who had cared for Tucker the best he could under the stressful conditions of war. Tucker was malnourished, dehydrated, had a high fever, a bloated stomach, and a nasty cough. I started intravenous fluids on him, began malaria treatment and administered liquid fever reducer. Then I held him close to me all night.
In the morning I could see a marked improvement although one of Tucker’s stumps was inflamed and swollen. This could be life threatening. I did what I could to make sure he was stabilized for the flight home later that night, prayed a lot and left the rest up to the Lord.
Shortly before leaving for the States, I carried Tucker down to the beach to watch the waves come in. There is something calming and peaceful about the ocean. So much had happened in the last several months. It was difficult to put it all into perspective. I was half way around the world, yet I felt as if I was at home. What did it all mean? I thanked God for saving Tucker’s life and dedicated him “African style” by raising him up to the heavens right there on the beach. Then, we sat and cuddled for a while. I looked at this beautiful baby that God had spared and I was overcome with joy for the gift God had given our family. I began to think of all the orphan children left behind who may never know the love of a family like Tucker would. I asked the Lord to help me never forget the “orphans of war”.
Then God spoke to me as if he were sitting right next to me. “My child, I allowed you to experience the fire and lose all you had to open your heart for the work I have for you. When you were only 12 years old, I gave you the heart to reach out to the orphan children in Africa. Now I am calling you to the mission field. The fire took your home and stripped you of earthly possessions. You will rebuild, but it will be for the children of Africa.”
It all made sense! I had a desire when I was 12 that one day I would have an orphanage in Africa. Little did I know I would wait nearly 40 years before God would give me the desires of my heart. God has His perfect timing, and exact plan for our lives. The experiences he allows us to go through are often in preparation for what he calls us to do later.
We turned the tragedy of losing our home into a miracle of saving children’s lives in Africa. In 2003, Acres of Hope Liberia, Inc began its ministry of establishing orphanages, feeding programs, medical clinics and schools. Today we currently serve over 13,000 children. God saw the value of one tiny aborted orphaned baby, touched the heart of four-year-old Zachary, and gave us an opportunity to turn tragedy into a blessing.
Mason, Wisconsin, USA (Written 2005)
Harold and Patty Anglin are the parents of 19 children, twelve of whom are adopted.
For more information on how you too can become a part of this life-saving ministry, please contact:
Acres of Hope, Inc. &
Acres of Hope Liberia, Inc.
Attn: Patty Anglin, Executive Director