In the summer of 2005 my parents told my two brothers, Jackson and Christian, and myself that they felt called by God to adopt children. We all accepted the idea and my parents began the process of adoption. It was a lengthy and difficult ordeal but they finally got everything figured out. My mom flew to Liberia, Africa to pick up two little girls. She stayed for two weeks and flew back with my soon to be sisters, Naomi and Zoe. They were one and two years old. I remember staying up later than I should have to meet them. I was nine at the time and had school the next day, so staying up that late was unheard of. I played off my tired state of mind to prove to my parents that I was “a big kid.” My mother arrived with Naomi and Zoe, both asleep. I quickly ran into my room to make a bed so I could tuck them in. I was excited and proud. I didn’t realize it until my time of reflection at Summit Semester that these two girls were the first half of the greatest gift I have ever gotten. I don’t remember much of this short period of my life, other than the first night they arrived.
About two years later, my parents decided to adopt again. June 9th, 2007 marked the day I had received the second half of The Greatest Gift Ever Given to Me. The gift was completed with the arrival of William, my new seven-year-old brother. I walked through the doors and saw him playing soccer in the basement with Christian. After William’s adoption, things quickly changed for the better in my household. It was evident that William was happy by the way his smile lit up the room with a sense of joy that couldn’t be beaten. William told us stories of his life in Africa and perhaps the funniest was when he told us about the time when he had climbed a mango tree and was met with an army of fire ants approaching to gather the very thing he had in his hand. He could do nothing but jump. He had all of us in stitches from laughing so hard. He would say things like “Praise Jesus!” whenever we read the bible as a family. This was a habit he brought to the states from his homeland Liberia, Africa. For the sake of this writing, I’m focusing on William’s life because he was at an older age than Naomi and Zoe which allowed him to feel and be influenced by the events in his life. Adding to this, William recently shared that my brother Jackson and I are those whom he trusts the most. This relationship with William has allowed me to experience firsthand Christ’s love from a different perspective.
Orphans are perhaps seen as the lowest in society, the ones who are often rejected by those who are supposed to love them most. In most cases they haven’t experienced what we all long for, what Jesus himself came here for; unconditional love. These young and broken children want and need something that is hard to find, a genuine sense of security and love. In class, we were sharing what we thought women wanted most in a relationship. There were some humorous answers, one being “Women want men to figure it out.” We all laughed, rightfully so. The next answer hit home for me, “Women want security.” I agree, but so do I. And so does every other person. We were created so that we could grow a relationship that is meaningful and honorable to God. In a sense, I fell in love with William. Yes, it may sound weird, but it’s true. My family became a safe place for him to go, a place for him to feel love. Growing up in a Christian home, I experienced a reflection of the love of Christ. My new siblings had never experienced anything like that before.
William had no “real” family in Liberia. His life consisted of a dad that was out of the picture, a nonexistent mother, vague stories of a grandmother, and a half-sister. His life was broken. He was placed into an orphanage along with his half-sister and was later adopted. However, it was not by my family. For the first time, William was going to have a real dad, and he knew it. Unfortunately, a bee sting killed his soon-to-be father before William had a chance to meet him. A small, young boy’s expectations were broken. Deep down I know he longed for a father, a real father. Despite their adoptive father’s death, William and his half-sister went on to live with their new family. Although the now single mother had good intentions, she found herself unable to provide for two new children. Not long after their arrival, they were once again put up for adoption. A family took him in but he was separated from his beloved sister. This would be the first time he was in a real family, a place where he had a sense of security and love. He had a mom, a dad, and a few brothers. It was real, for a few months. The family said he was too much. Why? I don’t know and I don’t really care. It is frustrating to think about. Feeling rejected and lonely, he faced the world. So for the last time William was adopted, this time by my family. When my mother went to pick him up, William said, “They told me they would love me forever.” He was broken.
I truly believe our greatest calling in life is to love others. To love others as Christ Himself has loved us. Not many people get the opportunity to share the love of Christ in such an intimate setting as I was given. It hurts to think about all of those that won’t ever feel the love that Christ gives us. Even worse, on top of never being in a relationship with Him, many are neglected, abused, broken, abandoned, deserted, forsaken, disregarded, and ignored. This is just the opposite of Christ’s love; a separation from God’s presence. To a degree, William and the girls experienced this place of destitution. Philippians 2:3-4 says this, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” This is what Jesus did for us by His ultimate sacrifice. We reflect this by showing the same place of security and love in our own personal relationship with Christ. My greatest fear in life is not being rejected, but being the one who rejects. Not being the one who isn’t loved, but telling someone else I don’t love them. William and the girls were in a place of brokenness, darkness, and loneliness, but gaining their trust by sharing with them love, security, and family has proven to be The Greatest Gift Ever Given to Me.
Nehemiah Wood left his family’s maple farm in Vermont to attend Summit Semester. Earlier this summer, Nehemiah attended the Summit Student Conference in California. It was there that a former Semester student encouraged him to spend the three-month fall semester at Snow Wolf Lodge. Nehemiah is passionate about serving his fellow man, and enjoys serving at his local Fire Department and Rescue Squad. Presently, he believes that his career path may lead him into the realm of paramedic or fire services. At Summit Semester, Nehemiah hopes to acquire a more firm foundation for his faith and learn to apply it to each aspect of his life.