United States (MNN) – Beth and Harold Schnyders have adopted six children over the last 17 years. Their oldest is 17 years old. The youngest is eight months. We got in contact with the Schnyders through Bethany Christian Services, the adoption agency they have worked with for all six adoptions.
For National Adoption Awareness Month, they shared their adoption story.
When the Schnyder’s decided it was time to start a family, they learned that they couldn’t have biological children. But this isn’t where their adoption story began. In fact, for Beth, it started several years earlier.
She says, “For me, that was just fine. [God] had placed adoption on my heart at a very young age and I had been open and willing to do that for quite some time.”
But Harold had a few reservations about the adoption. He explains that a lot of it grew out of a misunderstanding about what adoption, particularly open adoption, looked like in reality.
Reservations about adoption
Growing up, he witnessed at least one open adoption in his church. The adoptive parents invited the child’s birth mother to church, and she often joined them.
“It was always rather mysterious to me how that all worked,” Harold says. He wondered if there were any disputes between the parents and birth mother about raising the child.
His concerns seem pretty reasonable and are probably not all that uncommon.
“I didn’t know what to expect for some child that wasn’t mine because … I think we all have possibly an idolatrous view of what we would wish in a child. We would like them, maybe, to look a whole lot like us and I don’t doubt that was rattling around in my head as well.
“And it was the skepticism of my broader family and other people that I knew that surely got into my head as well. They had not been first-party to an adoption before. They had witnessed it from afar.”
Some of these people had strong opinions on the subject and it made Harold a bit hesitant.
But the couple decided to start the process anyway.
Beth says, “We were both very excited about what God was going to do through this and our first daughter came April 4, 2000. And I would say—and Harold would probably say—definitely yes that once we brought her home, he had no hesitation about adoption at all after that.”
As with any new child, there were some growing pains. Beth says they had to work through challenges specifically related to the open aspect of the adoption. With their daughter came new relationships with her birth mother, sister, and grandparents. But through these relationships, God opened their eyes to the struggles of other people and grew their compassion. Their child’s biological family became their family, too.
“And since then, we just felt, again and again, God calling us to just try it again,” Beth says.
And it turns out, adoption is contagious. Neither Beth’s nor Harold’s families had a history of adoption. It was unfamiliar territory for them. But now, a spirit of adoption has infiltrated Beth’s family. Both of her sisters and their husbands have now adopted.
“Altogether there are nine on my side of the family that have been adopted,” Beth says.
An unexpected blessing
More recently, the Beth and Harold adopted a baby girl. But unlike the other adoptions, this baby came as a total surprise.
Beth says, “This one, we were not planning on, and we actually hadn’t done any paperwork nor taken any steps. But the Lord knew. And what happened was our son, who’s our fifth child, he was three—had just recently turned three, and his birth mom told us that she was pregnant again and still in a tough situation, still feeling like she couldn’t adequately provide for this child.”
She asked the Schnyders if they would be open to “parenting another munchkin.” At first, they didn’t know how to respond.
“We just took time to pray for a couple of weeks and asked many people to pray for us. We are not young. We are 48. So that was in the back of our minds. And it was just amazing throughout that two-week period the Bible verses that came to mind or that we opened up the Bible and they appeared.”
She references Psalm 127:3 which says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Even the story of Abraham and Sarah having a child at their old age reminded them, they really aren’t that old. They also trusted in the teaching of Philippians 4:13 which proclaims that Christ’s strength makes all things possible in our lives.
So after those two weeks, they knew that the answer was yes.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. We’re very busy but she brings us so much joy as well and we’re just so thankful,” she says.
Adoption through Bethany
The Schnyders were familiar with Bethany Christian Services because their church supported the ministry. They liked that it was a Christian ministry and after six adoptions through Bethany, they’ve never had any reason to look for another agency.
“We believe the help we received was competent and correct. And we also think that the birth parents received good counsel from there.”
Bethany isn’t just focused on the legal aspect of things, but they also counsel the birth parents who are struggling.
Adoption: a picture of salvation
We asked the couple how much their faith interplayed with their decision to adopt, and their understanding of it after.
Not without emotion, Beth says, “Before adopting, we knew that we were adopted, spiritually adopted, that we call God our Father, that we are his children.”
In other words, they knew that adoption was a picture of the Gospel. But after actually adopting their own children, this picture took on much more meaning for them.
Harold says, “We’re not naturally members of his household because we walked away from it and we’re received back in through Jesus’ work and given all the benefits of that household.”
Adoption didn’t just give them a deeper understanding of their relationship with God, it deepened their faith so that they adopted again and again when they felt God calling them to it.
Encouragement to those considering adoption
Have you considered adoption, but feel like you don’t have all your ducks in a row? Maybe you’re not sure that you’ve been uniquely equipped for adoption. Or, you are just scared to take a risk. Making the decision to adopt should never be done lightly. The Schnyders share some advice on how to navigate the uncertainty.
Harold says, “You can’t always discern what the end of something is from the beginning. In adoption, it’s well to not think too far ahead, but rather to be willing to take the first obvious step.”
He explains that if you’re waiting until you can see clear to the end of the process, you’ll likely never begin. Part of that is because we are only human and cannot possibly anticipate all the outcomes of a decision. The other part is that God has mysteriously and divinely orchestrated each adoption story.
“Now what holds a lot of people up perhaps is the idea that they have to be utterly sorted out on all the details. And I say that that’s never the way that you ever approach any challenge that’s before you. You always take the first step and you pray ardently about it,” Harold says.
That may mean scheduling your home for an inspection. They suggest you go for it and see what happens. By starting somewhere with prayer, you’ll know soon enough if God is opening or shutting doors. God has done both for Beth and Harold, allowing them to adopt the children they were meant to have, and keeping them from adopting children who are meant for a different family.
Beth says, “Bottom line … God is sovereign, and just take the steps as [Harold] said and God will either continue to open doors or close them.”
Now for the other issue: you’re convinced that you’re an ordinary person, unequipped for the special call to adoption. But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it. Take it from Harold:
“We’re not superhuman. We collapse into bed at the end of the day. We perhaps wouldn’t have regarded ourselves as gifted specially for this and indeed don’t regard this being able to adopt these children as the ultimate act of service that anyone could do.”
He continues, saying, “We would like it to be well understood that this is an enterprise for average people because we don’t have an average God. We have a superior, supreme God. So I hope that that would be an encouragement to those who think that you need special characteristics to be adoptive parents. I would like to say that that is not the case. If special characteristics are required, they are given to you as meets the occasion and as they are requested from our all-knowing and fantastically rich God who can gift us with anything that is required.”
If you’d like to learn more about adoption, consider speaking to a Bethany Christian Services representative. To get connected, click here.