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World Changers We Know – The Berger Family (2 of 2)

Last week I introduced the Berger Family.  Their story is full of examples of active compassion.  The goal for their Family Compassion Focus this year is GO Hope (Giving Orphans Hope).  They hope to make 100 backpacks for kids entering the foster care system.  In between writing letters to companies asking for contributions for the backpacks, organizing clothes drives for Safe Families, and assembling all these Grab n Go Bags, they found a way to do a fundraiser to help Nepal after the massive earthquake this spring.  Their kids lived outdoors for a week and got pledges of more than $2300 buy 34 tents for those recovering from the quake.  All of these things are amazing, but not their headline news for 2015.

In the midst of all that the Bergers had another baby.  They surrendered their hearts, plans, and family and adopted their 5th child.

I am intensely drawn toward adoption.  The idea of being chosen, fought for, and given a new name echoes in the deepest part of my heart.  As a child I had a lot of uninformed fantasies about being adopted (probably a little too much Little Orphan Annie in the record player).  Now as a parent and adult I understand more clearly the risk and heartache involved.

Kevin and Shannon have adopted 3 times.  Three sons from three places.  Three very different stories.  I hope you feel the fervent love the Bergers have for their children as you read them in their own words.

Adopting Levi from Nepal

Our adoption journey began in early 2006 when our youngest daughter Naomi was 18 months old. We began with submitting paperwork and our dossier for a China adoption, but what began as a 9-10 month process from dossier to adoption, turned into an over four year adoption process. But, the positive thing was that our agency knew that we had wanted to adopt more than one child, so they contacted us when they had received referrals from a new adoption program in the country of Nepal. We then received a referral for a little boy who was 9 months old at the time, our son “Levi”.

We made our first trip of two to Nepal to meet our future son. It was incredible to meet him when he was so young, but he was very sick and we actually had him admitted to the hospital when we were there.   We cried many times over how malnourished he was. I had seen children like this before, and it is always heartbreaking, but this was my kid and I feared for his life.

levi

Levi struggling with malnutrition in Nepal

We tried getting an exception so that we could bring him home early to get him medical care in the US, but the Nepali government did not allow this. We were sad to leave him, but once we left, we received word that he was moved from the hospital in Kathmandu to a malnutrition center where his health steadily improved.

We were home for several months before finding out that they had shut down the adoption process in Nepal. At this point we weren’t sure that we were going to be able to even adopt him anymore. This was a very difficult time. [Shannon is the Queen of Understatement.]

nepal

Eventually they did open adoptions again for those already in process and we were able to make travel plans. When we made travel arrangements, we knew that not all of the necessary paperwork had been signed by the Nepalese officials, but we expected that this would be done shortly. So we said goodbye to our two daughters and got on a plane to Nepal.

It turned out that the paperwork was not done shortly and we ended up being there, sipping way too many cups of tea with Nepali officials in an attempt to get the paperwork moving along, for 39 days. THIRTY NINE DAYS! The hardest part was that we didn’t have our other children with us. This was such a difficult time.  It wasn’t the best start to our family of 5, but we have grown much through the process.

Levi

Levi at his dedication

Adopting Aris from China:

Almost two years after bringing Levi home from Nepal, we finally received a referral for a little boy from China, who’s name was Ao Tao (which means Olympic Wave as he was born around the time of the Beijing Olympics). He has pretty much been a tidal wave too! There is a reason that his nickname is “A-Bomb.”

aris

Aris in China

Although this process took over four years, once we left for China it was like clock-work and within two weeks, we were home and now a family of 6. Due to missing our kids so much when we were in Nepal, we decided to bring them with us to China and we all were able to share this incredible experience together.

aris at 2

Aris at 2 years old.

Adopting Daxton through Foster Care: [**His adoption was finalized last week, 9/4/15!**]

We wanted to adopt another child, and we were open to adopting any child placed with us through Foster Care.  When we received the call about Daxton, we were told that we would most likely be able to adopt him.  We planned on it.
As an approved foster family through Bethany Christian Services, we knew we could receive a child at any point.  We had specified a preference for a girl, age 2-4, so we were a bit surprised when we received a call for a baby boy that had been born 12 days prior and was needing a home.  It honestly wasn’t the easiest decision for us as we weren’t really wanting to go through the baby stages again.  But we are so thankful that we said yes (especially now that the “baby stage” is mostly behind us!).
The other kids were and are THRILLED about the baby!!!!!  His four big siblings love him so much and are incredibly helpful in taking care of him.  Honestly, I’m not sure we could’ve handled another child without their help.
Berger Family

The Bergers at the game with infant Daxton last summer

Our daughters have been incredible with each of their brothers and have at times been an example to me of unconditional love.  Levi & Aris both came to join our family from different countries and cultures when they were around two years old… yep… the terrible 2’s.  The changes that they had to go through were incredible and along with these changes came challenges.  Both of our girls were able to love them greatly through these challenges (even when Mom – who admittedly got the brunt of the challenges – greatly struggled).
Berger Family at Greenfield Village Summer 2015

Team Berger

Daxton is our first adoption through foster care.  It’s very different from international adoptions.  In all foster care cases, there is a chance that the child will go back to the birth parent(s) until the birth parent rights are terminated by the court.  Our other two boys were both international adoptions from Asia.  In those cases, we pretty much knew the adoptions would go through, so there was less angst about permanency.  Another big difference is that Dax came to us from the hospital rather than as a 2 year old like our other sons.  This has made attachment much easier.  (Note: you can adopt children from foster care where parental rights have already been terminated by the court.)
I want to take this opportunity to tell your readers something:  Be Brave and Do It!  The Lord is needing families to take care of His beloved children and He is asking us to partner with Him.  What an honor it is to do this.
Daxton Berger

Daxton Justice Berger – I can’t handle the cuteness

We have had many people tell us that they just couldn’t do it because it would be too hard if the child goes back to their birth family.  It’s true…it is INCREDIBLY hard to let them go… we had a foster daughter for almost one year that we had to say goodbye to – and I still cry over this loss… but I wouldn’t change the fact that we got to care for her, love on her and pray for her during that time.  We will all have to let go of our children at some point – but we can love them fiercely when we have them and pray for them forever!
I believe that when we have brought foster children/newly adopted children/Safe Families children into our home that our previous children have greatly benefited from this.  I have been amazed to see how loving and giving my children become when they know that we get to take care of another child.  They truly go into action making a plan for that child to enter our home… where they will sleep, toys that they can play with, what they can wear, etc.  It is a beautiful thing when you see your children being the hands and feet of Jesus!
Rejoice with us by thanking God Dax’s birth mother chose life.  He is a blessing to us and we know he will be a blessing to others someday.  You can also pray for our family.  We thank God that we have the privilege to parent each of our children, but it isn’t always easy.  There are days that are great and days that are hard (as I suppose is true for all families).  However, there are unique issues with adopted children that requires an additional level of grace as we help them navigate through the hurts and losses in their lives.
Berger Family 0915

All seven official members of the Berger Family. September 2015. Photo by Fetter Design and Photography.

Thank you for these adoption stories, Shannon!  We celebrate with you!  You are a World Changing mama, teacher, organizer, implementer, and risk taker.  We are honored to know you.

There are a million different way to do compassion as a family.  Maybe reading about adoption and fostering feels amazing and grand and beautiful, but also way too big and intimidating?  I feel that way.  Compassion is something we learn and grow.  I give you permission to start small. Send a text to a haggard mom.  Look up Safe Families in your area and see if they need any donations.  Look a child in the face and smile with your whole heart.  We can do this.

To read Part 1 about the Bergers, read here.

To learn more about how the Family Compassion Focus got started, read here.

To get started on your own Family Compassion Focus, read here.  It’s never too late!

To learn about my family’s focus for 2015, read here.

©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2015.

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