Ethiopian Sunrise from the roof of the Hilton

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wednesday: 11/28/07 --- Details Behind Our Calling to Adopt

Dear Friends and Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We want to share this additional detail behind our adoption story. We felt that we needed to share this with you sooner rather than later.

Please don't overlook the P.S. section at the end.

With love and appreciation,

Bill & Michelle
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Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26

We wanted to share the story of our adoption journey with you and a little more of the detail behind the calling to adopt. With all journeys there is a beginning. However, the beginning of our journey is a little bit unusual. It starts with a name.

I have always attached great significance to names, especially those of my children. Each one has a name that is rich in meaning to Michelle and me. Names are important.

Take my name. William means "protector" or "defender." As a believer with a military background as an Army Ranger, I have contemplated this name repeatedly through life's physical and spiritual battles. I want to protect my family physically but I am especially interested in protecting their minds and hearts spiritually. When I fail them, sometimes I think of myself as a "pretender" rather than a "defender."

There is great significance in a name.

One Sunday morning in August of 2006, I received a Word from the Lord. Relax, I'm not going to get all weird on you. When I say that I received a Word from the Lord, I don't mean some great truth that came to me in a flash of blinding light to be delivered to others for their edification. I mean that the Lord gave me exactly one Word.

On that Sunday morning I was reading in Isaiah, and this Word, one that I might have ignored on other mornings kept surfacing in the Scriptures. My reading took me also to the Psalms, where the Word kept popping up here and there in the text. I could feel God drawing my attention to the Word.

When I got to church that Sunday morning my day transitioned from the curious to the bizarre. Song after song after song, that Word kept ringing out. Now it was stalking me.

As others continued singing, I asked "Lord, what are you saying to me?" Immediately, an image flashed into my mind. It was me holding up a tiny black child. We were smiling and laughing at each other.

I asked, "Lord, who is that?"

He replied over the singing, "Your daughter."

I asked, "What is her name?"

He replied - you guessed it - with that Word. Forgive me for keeping you in suspense regarding this one Word; I will reveal it shortly - because her name means everything to me.

As the Lord spoke to me, my legs became weak and I left everyone else standing while I sat. I knew God had just spoken to me. I knew that voice. I heard His voice like this only a handful of times before. It was the same voice that told me on the way to the hospital that my first son Joshua had died in Michelle's womb and would be stillborn. It was the same voice that spoke to me in the delivery room when complications arose during the birth of my twin sons. It was the same voice that spoke to me when I almost lost Michelle to a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. It was the same voice that spoke to me several weeks before we found out that one of the twins, Jacob, had cancer. And again it was that same voice that I heard during the dark months of Jacob’s treatment.

I knew this Voice. But this time, God's voice brought a message of a daughter who was a complete stranger to me, known only for an instant in an image God brought to mind.

Should I share this with Michelle?

No way! You see, I married Mrs. Baby Woman… some call her the Baby Whisperer. She has yet to meet a baby she could not love and could not pacify. Her whole life from an early age has been marked by caring for babies, including our wonderful four children, various foster babies, and a continuous host of others through the years.

Michelle never cared how she got a baby or where it came from just as long as she had one to care for. Could I trust her with the vision God had given me? I didn’t think so. I determined that, for the time being, the events of that Sunday morning would be shared only by me, God, and the tiny black child who's eyes sparkled back at me as she laughed in my arms.

The truth is, caring for babies has always been on Michelle’s radar screen but she has never pressured me. I felt God had been preparing me over the last few years to lead our family into a different ministry opportunity. Michelle and I have talked about adoption plenty of times, but I didn’t think where God was leading us had anything to do with adoption. Adoption was Michelle’s vision and related to the gifts God has given her. What role could I play and how could I use the gifts God has given me in the adoption arena? Isn’t the vision supposed to come from the man of the family? Isn’t God supposed to speak through me first?

But Michelle is wise and Godly enough to know that if it was God's will for us to adopt, God would have to start by changing my heart.

I kept my vision secret for about three months waiting for God to say more. Then one night Michelle shared with me a story she had come across about a woman who had somehow stumbled into a secluded room in an orphanage she had been visiting. In that room she saw something that gripped her heart. She found a particular group of babies that were getting almost no care whatsoever.

You see, this group of babies had no hope of getting adopted because they were very sick. No one wanted them. Written on the back of each of these tiny babies in large red print was the letter H and a plus (+) sign. You know what that means.

These little babies were HIV positive and they were basically being left isolated in a place where they were expected to die. No access to medications, virtually no comfort or love. These precious little ones would spend what little they had of their lives in this room, waiting… waiting to die.

As Michelle told me this woman's story, I felt myself screaming inside. Who is going to love those babies? Someone has to love those babies. Somebody just has to do something.

Then I heard His voice again. He said, “You.”


As I stated earlier names mean so much. God seemingly made my next mission clear to me. I, William, as a protector was being called to defend, to love and to help, an adopted international child with HIV. But would God confirm this call through Michelle?

Some nights later, Michelle was busy with her favorite pastime - surfing adoption web sites on the internet. She related to me that a new country was becoming increasingly open to adoption - Ethiopia. Immediately the picture of the tiny black girl laughing in my arms came to mind.

I said, “Oh really.”

Michelle further explained that this country had one of the highest populations of orphans in the world because of the ravaging effects of AIDS. Many of the children born to AIDS victims had, themselves, contracted HIV from the parents.

I said again, “Oh really.”

There was no more running from God’s will or keeping this a secret from Michelle any longer. The flood gates opened and I unleashed the full story to Michelle of what God had been showing me from beginning to end. Her reaction surprised me. Now it was her turn.

She said, “Oh really.”

Calmly she reminded me about the time in early spring of 2006 when she approached me with the idea of doing foster care for babies with HIV. It was during this time that God put it in her heart to adopt an HIV child. Her plan was to introduce the idea of HIV adoption gradually by starting with foster care for HIV positive infants.

I thought that was a crazy idea then. Armed with the best information urban legend had to offer, I was confident that the risk of HIV disease transmission was just too great to subject our children to, and to submit other children to.

I still had many fears and apprehensions, but with God's will now confirmed through Michelle, I knew that I could not allow my fears to stop us from taking some initial steps. You see, we sat under the preaching of a wise ‘old’ pastor who would say over and over again through the years, "God hits a moving target."

We needed to get moving.

Our adoption paperwork was completed in July 2007 and we began our wait for a referral. None came. Michelle posted a question to the members of a widely subscribed HIV+ adoption forum. She asked if anyone knew of any waiting HIV+ children from Ethiopia who were available for adoption.

Michelle received exactly four unposted, private email replies from forum subscribers. All four responses, sent without knowledge of the others, talked about the very same little girl. One woman who knew Michelle from the online forum mentioned that she even thought of Michelle while holding the child in Ethiopia but had ‘forgotten’ all about it until Michelle posted her question.

Did I mention that names are important?

This little baby girl's name is Tinsae. After doing some research we discovered that Tinsae means “Resurrection." This little girl, now our little girl will keep her given name as her middle name. You see God gave me the first name already.

It was the Word that stalked me, that showed up all over Scripture and all throughout our songs on that Sunday morning when God first showed me holding little Tinsae in my arms as we laughed. That Word is "Praise." Our new daughter's name is Praise Tinsae McConomy. Her name forms a sentence. Actually it is a command to Michelle and me. Praise the Resurrection McConomy. What could be more meaningful to a HIV+ baby than to praise the resurrection that restores life?

What could be more meaningful to all of us?

Jesus Christ, the "Name above all names" has not only ordained Praise from the lips of infants, He has built it into the very name of His gift to us, our child Praise Tinsae McConomy - an HIV+ child with a certain future, one of everlasting life in the loving arms of her Savior, Jesus Christ.

Michelle and I struggled with the timing of sharing with you Tinsae’s HIV+ status. Ultimately, God impressed upon us that we needed to share this with you because you are part of our family and we need to treat you as such. We are also going to need your prayers in the final leg of our adoption journey as we work to bring Tinsae home.

This November 5th, the adoption was finalized and Praise became our daughter. We will be leaving for Ethiopia on Sunday, November 18th to get Praise and will be gone for about two weeks. We praise Jesus for everything that she is - her name means everything to us.

Thank you for allowing us to share our story with you, our family.

Praise the Resurrection.

Praise Jesus!

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26

P.S.
If you have read this and think we are wonderful people, I have failed in communicating this chapter of our journey with you. This is not about us. This is not about Tinsae. This is about the amazing grace and love of our God. The journey to adopt Tinsae is just a subplot of His amazing love and the kinds of things God will do to get one of His children. By faith and by force God will use us to gather His children. If you have any doubts about the efforts God will use to gather his children, please read Isaiah chapter 43 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isa%2043&version=31).

At what expense has God paid to rescue you? He gave up the most valuable thing He had to offer. He gave us Himself. He laid down His life for us. He sacrificed His Son to pay the penalty for my sin and for yours. This is the greatest love story ever told and He’s retelling it in each of our lives. Do you have a love relationship with Jesus? If you do, I rejoice. If you question or wonder if you really do, ask Him. Ask Jesus to show you the love He has for you and ask Him to become the Lord of you life and in ‘all’ areas of your life.

We will be calling her by her given name, Tinsae, and slowly transition it to Praise over a period of time. We just didn’t want you to be confused by us not calling her Praise right away.

Below are some links to references that we found helpful for information about HIV and you may find these references helpful as well.

HIV Transmission
http://www.mnaidsproject.org/learn/transmission.htm

HIV Basics
http://www.mnaidsproject.org/learn/basics.htm

HIV Myths
http://www.mnaidsproject.org/learn/myths.htm

Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.mnaidsproject.org/learn/faq.htm

Statistics
http://www.aids.gov/basic/factsheets/index.html#stats


His love for us is…more than we can ever begin to imagine,

Bill & Michelle

5 comments:

The Bascom Family said...

Bill and Michelle,

Thank you for sharing your personal testimony of your call to adopt. It is very powerful. We too have had an experince very similar to yours. We have been called to adopt too.

Best wishes as you settle in with your new arrival!

The Bascom Bunch

Jeanne A said...

My first son's name is Joshua and he was also stillborn. His 18th birthday is coming up in 11 days.

Since then I've adopted 5 kids, 2 from Ethiopia........

Debbie said...

Wow, I just was told of your website today. I think I have seen it before though. I read your calling to adopt. God bless you for following His leading. I will keep your family in our prayers.

God keep you in the palm of His hand!
Debbie Wankel

shawn and tisha said...

What a beautiful story of God's love and faithfulness.
Tisha

Andrea H. said...

This must have been the most amazing story I have ever read on how you were lead to adopt your daughter. And yippie, I just noticed in the pics when you picked her up that she is from Kidane. First I saw the striped sofa and than SR. Lutgarda. My kids are from Kidane also. Thanks again for sharing your story.