Ordinary people whisper prayers to a Father who loves to delight His children. He honors our persistent prayers. And at times, He does so in unexpected ways. In the book, Extraordinary: Stories of Adopting Children with Down Syndrome, we discover true stories about ordinary people. These people find not only something extra but also unimaginable blessing and countless answers to prayer.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, approximately 1 in every 700 babies in the United States is born with a little extra on the 21st chromosome. This genetic condition, called Down syndrome, occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition, and yet, many people misunderstand the reality of infants born with Down syndrome. These precious children may come with medical challenges and may experience delays in learning skills. Still, they carry the same ability, potential, and heart song of every person created in God’s image.
Chris and Cady Driver’s son, Lian, is the 2019 Nothing Down ambassador. Nothing Down’s purpose is to promote the acceptance and inclusion of children with Down syndrome. Cady says, “It’s not something to fear. People who adopt children with Down syndrome can live full lives.” She strives to help families understand there’s nothing down about Down syndrome. Marlin and Lisa Miller noticed Cady’s big heart for these precious children and their families. So, they asked her to collect and compile stories from some of the adoptive families she’s come to know. Their request humbled her. But it was an answer to prayer. Cady said “yes” to the God-given opportunity to promote the acceptance and inclusion of children with Down syndrome.
Although Cady gave writing help and answered multiple questions, each family wrote their own story. Extraordinary provides us with a glimpse into thirteen families who answered God’s call to adopt children with that little something extra. Let’s take a peek at just a couple of the stories found on the pages of the book.
The Driver Family
Cady Driver knows well the blessings and challenges of adopting a child with Down syndrome. In 2016, she and her husband Chris welcomed a son into their family. Already the parents of three teenagers, they excitedly moved into the world of adoption. Cady writes, “For so many years, I felt like Hannah in the Bible, praying, longing, and weeping for another child. It wasn’t that I was ungrateful for our three children; I just knew there was another child out there that needed me. I spent many sleepless, tearful nights bargaining with God, begging Him to entrust me with another child. I just knew, deep down inside, that our family wasn’t yet complete. I had waited and doubted, prayed, and yearned.”
God’s answer to prayer was prepared long before the Drivers’ would sign the first paper to adopt an orphan from China. The two-year-old boy with the English name Alexander, who Chris and Cady prayerfully chose, almost wasn’t theirs. You’ll want to read the full adoption story in Extraordinary, but I can tell you this much: The same little English-named Alexander had received the Chinese name, Lian, at birth. The name Lian (pronounced Lee-Un) means, “God has answered.”
With Lian now five years old, Cady says, “He’s done really well.” Still, there were challenges and additional prayers. Cady says, “I went through kind of a mourning process when I realized Lian may not talk.” At four, other children his age were chattering away, but Lian was not. “He’s so bright and funny. I wanted to hear what was going on in that little head.”
In reality, Cady says, “Some children with Down syndrome don’t end up speaking much and some not at all. I just had to let that go. I prayed, ‘Okay God, you’re going to have to let me be okay with this.’ ” On the blessing side, Lian is trying to speak more at age five, and communication is already good thanks to sign language. They began talking to him using sign language from day one. The whole family is fluent in sign language, giving them the wonderful opportunity to communicate with many non-verbal people, aside from Lian.
Another challenge for Cady had nothing to do with an extra chromosome and everything to do with energy. She says, “I was exhausted, my back hurt, my arms hurt. Having kids in your forties is a little bit harder than having kids in your twenties. I felt very achy and old!” Lian came to them a twenty-five-pound toddler, not a seven-pound baby. But Cady says, “We built up our stamina, again.” God meets our every need, doesn’t he? And He answers every request we pray according to His will.
Thankfully, stamina is a gift our Lord has given in abundance to Cady. You’ll discover just how much a bit later in this article. For now, however, let me introduce you to another family who is grateful for God’s gracious blessing.
The Chupp Family
It seems the Lord used the publication you hold in your hands to invite an Amish family from Indiana, Jay and Kristen Chupp, to adopt. Jay shares their family’s endearing story in Extraordinary. About people with Down syndrome, he writes, “I grew up knowing a handful of them, and as I got older, I realized the traits they shared were ones I wanted for myself. Traits I hoped someday to instill in my own children. Love… and I mean reallove. The kind that does not envy, or boast, or judge; a real, genuine, compassionate, we’re-in-this-thing-together type of love.”
One day, as Jay leafed through Just Plain Values, he came upon an ad from the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network (NDSAN). He didn’t just see the ad. It moved right into his heart. Jay writes, “I told God right then and there that I was open to the possibility of adopting a child with Down syndrome. I tend to be pretty frank when having a conversation with God, and I told Him He would have to be the one to tell Kristen if this was something He actually wanted us to pursue. And I left it at that.”
And don’t you know, the very next evening Kristen brought the ad to Jay! The discussion began, the prayers went up, and their wills were laid down before the Lord. Not surprisingly, God continued to answer their prayers.
Although they know they aren’t a perfect family, Jay writes, “Our home is filled with forgiveness, love, and laughter, and then forgiveness again, because it takes a lot of that some days. Our home is one where Mom and Dad love each other and are in it for the long haul. We also knew that our child with Down syndrome would receive plenty of stimulation every waking hour from his siblings, which would work as well as professional therapy services. On the flip side, we felt as though this child could teach us a thing or two about love.”
Don’t miss the rest of the story found in Extraordinary. I don’t want to spoil the fun of reading about the newest Chupp for yourself, but I will share one more piece. Jay writes, “We have been asked whether we would encourage other folks to adopt a child with Down syndrome. Our reply is that we would never talk anyone into a decision to adopt, nor condemn anyone who chooses not to. The decision to adopt should be a unanimous one, made by a team of three: God, husband, and wife. But simply put, we sure are glad we did!”
Open Hearts for Orphans
Some hearts open real wide. In Extraordinary, Lisa Murphy tells how she and her husband, Jim, have five “extra-precious blessings, all adopted internationally from China.” Each child came with a challenge, but none as severe as little Daniel’s. Four heart defects could not lessen the measure of love, but sadly, the length of his earthly life was cut short. The Murphy family’s story is full of prayer, trust, rescue, joy, heartache, perseverance, and always prayer.
As if it’s not enough to adopt five orphans from China, in May of 2016 the organization called Open Hearts for Orphans was born in loving memory of their Daniel. Lisa writes, “Our charity’s mission has always been divided in three areas of need: medical intervention for orphaned children, meeting the basic needs of orphaned children, and providing financial assistance for adoptive families through our ‘Say Yes’ adoption grant program.”
Lisa has come to know all about adoption, but what can she know about children with Down syndrome, since none of her children have the extra 21st chromosome? She writes, “I’ve always known that children with Down syndrome are special gifts from the Lord. Those two letters stand for ‘Delightfully Special’ in my mind, and I believe that extra chromosome is a little gift from God—an extra measure of sweetness to their human recipe. I love how they seem to see the world through a more heavenly lens—they have the ability to filter out hatred and meanness more easily than the average person can.”
After reading an article explaining how people with Down syndrome are nearly nonexistent in Iceland due to the use of ultrasound and abortion, Lisa’s heart opened even wider. She writes, “The fact that an entire country on our globe would choose to negate and destroy the lives of precious gifts from God just wrecked me, and I became determined to make orphans with Down syndrome a specific part of our Open Hearts for Orphans fundraising mission in 2018 and beyond.”
Only God could orchestrate the next portion of Lisa’s story. She writes, “Lo and behold, the Lord made a clear path in early 2018 and brought a lovely adoptive mama into my life named Cady Driver. I was immediately drawn to her creative mind and artistic hand.” Soon, Lisa discovered Cady had adopted the most adorable boy with Down syndrome. Cady was yet another answer to prayer. She and Lisa worked together to create a t-shirt fundraiser they named “Downright Lovable.” Lisa writes, “[Cady] inked the perfect design, and we raised enough funds to give three of our ‘Say Yes’ grants to families adopting children with Down syndrome.”
It seems these two lovely ladies are not finished collaborating. The plan for Extraordinary has them working for the same cause, again. As you know, Cady compiled the stories, but you may not know her little boy Lian is smiling brightly in the book’s cover photo. Lisa Murphy is grateful that profits from the sale of Extraordinary will be used to fund adoption grants for children with Down syndrome. JPV Press Publisher, Marlin, and Lisa Miller have chosen to donate the royalties from the book to Open Hearts for Orphans. Every book purchase will benefit the reader, as well as a family needing funds to adopt a precious child with Down syndrome.
What Children Say
The Open Hearts for Orphans website displays a profoundly moving video. Children featured in the video were once orphans, but now they’re cherished sons and daughters with forever families. They have received the answer to their prayers. Their experiences as both orphans, and adopted child bring credibility to the following explanations.
What does the word orphan mean to you?
“Sad, very sad, lonely, don’t have a mama or daddy, no one to care for me, lost, unloved, lonely, hopeless, nobody wants me, treated like an animal, no hugs, no making new memories.”
Why do kids need families?
“So they can have lovings, to be nice and helpful and kind, so parents can teach them how to love so that when they grow up they can love their own children, so they can have fun, so they don’t be alone, so they can be alive.”
If you had one wish for orphans, what would it be?
“A loving family, to be raised the right way, to know that they’re loved deep-down by their God, to find a home, happiness, to know what playing is like, that there would be no more orphans.”
Driver Family Adoption #2
Cady says, “If every Christian family adopted one orphan, there would be not one orphan left in the world. Sadly, the church is a sleeping giant in this regard.” However, the Drivers are doing their part, wouldn’t you agree? They’re in the process of adopting again and hope to travel in November or December to bring their newest little girl home from China. Her adoption story is also one bathed in prayer.
The greatest challenge for the second adoption was financing. Chris suggested they raise the required funds through Cady’s art business. Taking their request to God, Cady trusted and prayed with this reminder, “Okay, God. I’ve never raised more than $5,000 in a year.” But God showed her the way. Cady says, “He kept sending ideas through people. One friend suggested I paint birds on antique hymnal pages. So, I put the idea out there, and within a week, I had seventy-four orders!” Once people learned Cady was painting birds on hymnal pages, she says, “people out of nowhere” began sending their old hymnals for her painting projects. “It took me four months to paint them for my very patient customers, but the profits paid for the first step in the adoption proceedings.”
The bird-painting plan was a moneymaker, but also a time drain. Cady could not continue that much painting and still have the time to be a good wife and mom. So, she prayed again. Cady says, “He sent a friend with the suggestion to sell prints of the original paintings. The Lord opened the door, and I found this printer downtown who makes prints for me, very affordably. And they’ve been selling like hotcakes! The proceeds have paid for the entire adoption, so far.” Cady has shipped her 8×10 bird prints all over the United States. She says, “I dabble with art, but I never thought I could raise enough money to fund the adoption. I’ve never earned that much money.” Don’t you love the delightful ways our God provides?
His hand continued to guide as the Driver’s prayed and considered a middle name for their little girl soon to come from China. Her name is Ella, but the Drivers’, wanting to honor her heritage, decided to give her a Chinese middle name. They settled on Fei (pronounced FAY). Cady says, “Her name will be Ella Fei.” When their adoption coordinator heard the name, she said, “I have to tell you, in Chinese dialect, Ella Fei means, let’s fly together.” Cady says, “I got goosebumps on my arms.” Even her name is perfectly provided. How appropriate it is for Ella Fei to receive this name after her soon to be mama painted and sold birds to make it happen.
“More times than I can count. Every step along the way. There have been a series of answered prayers.” From name choices to finances to traveling mercies, and from Lian feeling comfortable in his new home to adopting a second child, Cady says, “We clearly saw God answering prayer.”
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5).
Cady is thankful for the opportunity to compile stories for Extraordinary. She says, “It’s been an honor and a privilege because I don’t consider myself someone who should’ve been asked. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and I homeschool my kids. I lead a quiet, ordinary life. It’s taken a lot of hard work and a lot of time, but the thought of breaking down all the fears people have about adopting children with Down syndrome has been very exciting for me. In the adoption world, many people don’t consider adopting a child with Down syndrome, but they desperately need help.”
Cady explains the plight of orphaned children with Down syndrome. She says, “In foreign countries, once the children outgrow the baby orphanage, they’re placed in adult mental institutions and typically don’t live very long.” Because they lack medical care, love, and food, they usually die within a couple of years. “These children can thrive in the home, once given a chance. Yes, there are different challenges, but these children have a lot to give. They’re a blessing. Every family I’ve talked to, who go on to adopt these kids, love their families. It’s just beautiful.”
The God who hears our prayers and loves to delight His children is the One who lovingly guides every step of the journey. Cady knows. She says, “You’ll never regret stepping out in faith when God asks you to step out. It’s big, and it’s scary, but I don’t want to get to the end of my life and for God to say, ‘I asked you, and you wanted to be comfortable. You wanted your life to be predictable, and you didn’t do it.’ ” She doesn’t want to disappoint or wonder what she would have missed by wanting to be safe.
It’s true. Ordinary people whisper prayers to a Father who loves to delight His children. He honors our persistent prayers. And at times, He answers in unexpected ways. God can and does use ordinary families to do something extraordinary by giving them children who have that something extra.
Elaine Tomski is an award-winning writer and lifetime supporter of mamas and babies. Living in Ohio’s Amish Country, Elaine pens faith-based articles for the Amish in Plain Values magazine. She has also contributed articles to Clubhouse Jr. and Prayer Connect magazines. Elaine is grateful for her husband, Jeff, and family, Adam, Arlette, Lauren, and Ryan. She prays for three beloved creations who call her Mamaw.
photos © Jackie Beachy Photography