By Katy Devereaux
Step inside the home of Rick and Jamie DeBoest, of Community Grace Brethren Church in Warsaw, Ind., and you will instantly feel like you’ve come home. With four young children running around in their pajamas and making a fort out of the kitchen table, anyone can clearly see the love and laughter that bind this family assembled from the far corners of the world.
Three of the four DeBoest children are adopted. The two older children, Ericka and Donovan, were born in Vietnam, while Melissa is of African-American descent. All joined the family with fascinating stories, but even little Megan has a story intertwined with Melissa’s.
“You forget you look… a little colorful,” said Jamie, who also grew up in a Michigan home as the youngest of six – three birth siblings and three adopted.
“They’re just your brothers and sisters.” She laughed, remembering how she sometimes struggled to remember which of her siblings were adopted because they were treated so positively. She and her two birth siblings used to joke that the only difference between them and their adopted sister and brothers was that the adopted children had better “coming home” stories.
Although the DeBoests had always planned to adopt, they wanted to pay off their school loans, have children by birth, then adopt. But Jamie began to have the overwhelming feeling they were to adopt first. One night, she dreamed that Jesus Christ was standing in front of her holding the hand of a bronzed-skinned, dark-haired child and saying, “I have a gift for you.” So the couple called Holt International, an agency recognized as a leader in international adoptions and one her parents had used decades before to adopt her brother, Chris, from Korea.
The timing was perfect. The DeBoests had just met the agency’s requirements of being 25 years old and married for five years to enter the adoption process. Looking back, Jamie said they could see the “fingerprints of God along the way.” Ericka, now nine years old, was born during a time when Jamie was struggling over not having a family.
It took 15 months to complete the necessary paperwork, but when the call came that they had been matched with a little girl, it was all worth it, Jamie recalled. The child’s information had been delivered to their social worker in Fort Wayne, 45 miles away.
The couple rushed to the social worker’s office to learn the details. When they finally had the paperwork in their hands, Rick held out the girl’s picture to his wife and asked, “Do you want to hold her?”
Yet their trip to Vietnam to bring Ericka home was only the beginning. At the orphanage, Rick videotaped the facility for his daughter to watch when she was older. In doing so, he caught the image of a little boy peeking over the edge of his crib, almost as if to ask whether they had come for him.
Back in the United States, they fell in love with the little boy on the tape but never thought they could have him as their own because they were required to have their first child home for a year. The application process could add another year.
It wasn’t long before Jamie discovered his photo in the “Some Children Wait” section of the agency’s magazine. Medical problems had prevented him from being adopted previously.
“He’s a little miracle,” said Jamie, recounting how they learned that Donnie, now nearly nine years old, had no chance of living without surgery and had little more possibility of surviving the operation needed to correct his condition. With those odds, the orphanage staff was reluctant to spend the money on the procedure, but an unexpected financial gift allowed them to perform the operation. Donnie not only lived, he began to thrive.
After Donnie’s arrival, the couple planned to adopt again, but decided to look domestically. The doors to adoption through the foster care system seemed to close, so they looked at other avenues. Within six months, they received a call that Melissa, a bi-racial child who is now four years old, had just been born.
“Early in our journey of adopting Ericka, we saw the need for adoption more clearly,” Jamie recalls. “We fell so in love with the blessing of adoption that we decided we wouldn’t have children by birth,” she adds.
Imagine their surprise in learning, as they brought a new baby home from the hospital, that Jamie was two months pregnant.
“We had a beautiful newborn and pregnancy all wrapped up in one crazy year,” she remembers. “Melissa and I had many doctors appointments together – she for her well-baby check-ups and me for prenatal appointments.”
Within seven months of Melissa’s arrival, Megan, who now is nearly four, was born.
“I think adoption changes your perspective,” commented Rick, adding that he’s learned how “God’s plans are so much bigger and better than our plans.”
The biggest impact has been on the children.
“Our kids have a different perspective on the world and who God is,” Jaime says. She says that the fact that they came together from different parts of the world gives them a greater sense of love for everyone all over the world. The biggest struggles have been, and may always be, people who don’t understand and ask inappropriate questions out of ignorance.
But God has taught them a lot through their experiences and the DeBoests would never trade their family.
“If God has laid adoption on your heart, you do not want to miss out on this incredible gift,” stresses Jamie. “I am much more in awe of God than I would’ve been (if we hadn’t adopted).”
Grace College student, Katy Devereaux, was an editorial intern with the Brethren Missionary Herald Company during the fall 2006 semester. She is from Jackson, Mich.