In 1993, we got married. We soon became professional career folks fulfilled in our ministry involvement. My wife traveled internationally as a missions pastor. I travelled as well for a non-profit organization. We were happy extroverts and our plate was full. It wasn’t so much that we decided not to have children, as we never decided to have them. Getting on in age, I had a procedure to prevent us from having children naturally.

Fast forward fifteen years. I went on a trip to Ethiopia in April 2008, and an eleven-year-old girl in one of the orphanages latched on to me. A connection clicked and she awakened the “dad gene” in me. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be a father. But when I approached my wife about adoption, Karen shook her head. “No, not for us.” I knew unless we were both on board, it could never be a reality.

Karen looked up from the book and said, “Hey, I think we should adopt internationally.”

In April 2009 Karen read a statistic that changed her mind. There were more Christians in the world than orphans and if more families adopted children, the orphanages would close. The article’s call to action stemmed from Psalm 68:5-6, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Karen looked up from the book and said, “Hey, I think we should adopt internationally.”

We decide to adopt from India for several reasons. As part of The Hague Convention, India was one of the countries which had a system to ensure all would be above board and we wouldn’t be adopting a child sold into slavery. Karen had previously visited Calcutta and developed a heart for the people there. Her twin sister had married a man of Indian descent, so it made sense for us to adopt a child from his native land because she might feel more at ease growing up around her cousin. Plus, Karen’s brother-in-law could also assist us with the inevitable cultural challenges we’d face.

All adoptions, domestic or international, start with a screening process called a home study to determine if you are fit to be parents. Luckily, we passed muster. In a short while we received the license to adopt. Our confidence levels soared. The agency in Canada began to work with CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) in India.

What a roller coaster ride. We’d receive a bit of encouraging news, then silence again.

Natural mothers wait nine months to hold their child, but adoptive parents may have to wait many years. However, we were sure our case would be different. In 2010, we received word that we had been approved to receive a little girl. We decided to pray for her as Ruthie because that made her real to us. We had two prayers — first, to speed up the process so we could meet her, and secondly, for her to be safe and protected until then. We could hardly wait.

But we had to wait…and wait and wait.

What a roller coaster ride. We’d receive a bit of encouraging news, then silence again. As the months dragged on without any progress, we found different ways to cope, including keeping busy in our work. As I look back on it now, I recall there were times I’d have to lift my wife’s spirit and carry the hope torch. At other times she did it for me. We also had faithful friends surrounding us, which anyone going through this process desperately needs.

In the summer of 2012, we learned that the person assigned to our case had been fired. After spending thousands of dollars on fees and processes only to endure eighteen months of non-progress, we decided we were through. However, the agency assigned Krista to assist us. She picked up the deflated ball, pumped it up, and began to run with it.

On a trip to New Delhi, she worked with the Indian agency’s database as part of the matching process. She discovered a four-year-old girl who seemed to meet the criteria — the exact age we’d figured in our heads. Our hearts told us the child destined to be ours had been born close to the time we came into agreement and started the process. Could this one be our Ruthie?

On our anniversary weekend in October, we learned her name — Deepika, meaning “little light.” A common name, it also happened to be the name of the ministry my wife was involved in around Calcutta. We saw it as a sign. The fading torch of hope in our hearts began to burn brightly again.

We stood in the orphanage holding a sock monkey, ready to finally see our little girl.

However, five months later, we were no closer to making plans to meet Deepika. Once again, we felt let down. Heading on vacation in March 2013, we decided it would be our time to grieve. We turned off the light on our dream and were prepared to tell Krista to shut the door. Then, my wife noticed the airport agent’s badge as we went through security. Deepika. Literally a few moments later, Krista called to say we had a firm referral — the holy grail of adoption. We had been approved by CARA to adopt Deepika. She was now close to six years old.

Elated, we received her picture and made arrangements to meet her. After several more legal hoops and roadblocks, the day finally came. In Feb 2014, we stood in the orphanage holding a sock monkey, ready to finally see our little girl. It didn’t go as we expected. We’d been on such a tumultuous ride and had built it up so high in our hearts that the actual event proved anticlimactic. No fireworks, parades, or balloons. Sign here. Done.

Having never really travelled before or been in a car with strangers, Deepika was terrified and nauseated. The plane ride to Canada and the outpouring of attention from good-meaning friends and family overwhelmed her. In the orphanage, we later learned, they had told her that her parents left her there to learn to behave, and they’d one day come back for her. Of course this wasn’t fact. She tried so hard to please us, though often she didn’t understand our language. The stress became tremendous.

One day, Deepika was bouncing on the mattress and jumped. I caught her and she squealed with joy.

Experts say an orphan misses out on the normal developmental stages kids go through. It takes as many years to adjust as they were in age when adopted. We faced six tough years ahead of us until the emotional scarring somewhat healed.

It became apparent that Deepika needed a full-time mom, so Karen made the decision to quit her job. She sank into a depression, similar I imagine to the post-partum that mothers who give birth go through. But together, the three of us muddled through. And little Deepika was the light in our lives!

One day, Deepika was bouncing on the mattress and jumped. I caught her and she squealed with joy. My wife’s hand went to clutch her blouse. “Look. She trusts you, Dwayne.” That moment is branded in my heart.

Under Canadian law, after a year we could go to court in order to give Deepika our family name. Unfortunately, Deepika didn’t like Ruthie as a middle name like we had been thinking. She wanted “Mermaid,” and then “Karen,” after my wife. Finally, she decided on Alisha, named after an Indian-born YouTube singer living in Kenya. I looked it up and discovered it had an Indian root meaning, “protected by God.” Chills zipped over my neck. The prayer we’d prayed for so many years was for her to be protected while we snail-paced through the adoption process. By choosing Deepika Alisha, her name literally meant, “a little light protected by God.” How perfect! It was as if, in that moment, the last six years of prayer had been validated.

Now, looking back on the past nine years from the day my dad gene awoke to the precious “almost hug” Deepika gave me at breakfast this morning, I can truly say she was worth the wait. Timing is everything, and it looks like God was protecting us all in the meantime.

Photo Credit: Caroline Hernandez