MEET WHITNEY HOLLENBECK: she followed His call and found her life forever changed and her family forever larger.
What led you and your husband to want to grow your family through adoption, and how did the Lord call you to adopt from India?
Adoption has been on my heart for as long as I can remember. I've always had the desire to love a child that has felt abandoned or unloved. I actually felt that way as a child, as my mom and I always had a strained relationship. Thankfully, Joey has also felt the call to adopt too. We knew we wanted to have biological children as well as adopted. We somewhat started pursuing adoption after Emerson was born. After a difficult pregnancy, delivery and postpartum, I wasn't sure if I ever planned to be pregnant again or at least not for a long time. Truthfully, once we started looking into adopting and meeting with others, the fear sank in. I didn't think I could do it. It was going to be too hard, too messy, how could I love a child I hadn't given birth to. You name it, I thought it. So we put it on the back burner not really sure if we would revisit that again. We had our second born, Eden, and let me tell you that the desire has not gone away. If anything it has been so strong that it's all I can think about and has consumed my thoughts. The Lord has really been stirring my heart for the last six to eight months. Truthfully, I prayed He would take the desire away. I told Him I was too scared, I wasn't equipped, we aren't good enough, I couldn't handle it, etc. I've learned those thoughts are from the enemy. Scripture says "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment." That fear isn't from our Lord, it's from the enemy himself, and he'd love nothing more than for us to say no to what the Lord has put on our hearts. We want to be obedient in what we are feeling called to do. I am having to completely place my trust in the Lord. It has been the strangest pull between being completely terrified to say yes but also being completely terrified to say no because we believe we have a child oceans away that belongs in our family.
Why India? The short answer is that is where we felt the Lord calling us.
The long (very long, sorry) answer is that we were both open to either domestic or international. We knew we had to make that decision first. I just prayed that the Lord would open the doors for the route we should take and close the doors for the other. We believe there is a need for both, and we don't believe that one is better than the other. All children deserve to be in a loving family regardless of what country they are from. I don't believe the Lord sees us as Americans, Indians, Chinese, or any other race. As the song goes, "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world". We are all his children no matter what country we live in, and we all need to feel loved and cared for.
Also, the only two families we know personally that have adopted internationally both adopted from India. That is how we initially felt the Lord pulling us towards India. We started to really think about India and what that would look like for our family. A more practical reason is that it is one trip of ten to fourteen days. Many countries require multiple trips and many weeks or months of visits. We knew because of Joey's job that would not be an option for our family, BUT we were willing to travel and willing to get out of our comfort zone and GO!
Another reason, and for me the biggest reason, is that India has one of the largest populations of orphans. Thirty-one million orphans. Just let that number sink in. It breaks my heart. India is also the second most populated country in the world, but only 2.3% of that population are Christians. We felt the Lord calling us to a place where children are not very likely to hear the gospel. A place where there isn't much hope. Not that Christ can't do whatever he wants. We aren't the Savior, Christ is. We just know that the Lord has placed this desire on our hearts, and we want to be obedient. We want to be good stewards of the grace that the Lord has given our family. We want to share that grace where there is an urgent physical and spiritual need. We also look forward to growing our family and welcoming another sweet babe into our home!
Oh and India is a beautiful country. They are a beautiful people group and they have delicious food. What's not to love!?
What has this journey taught you so far about the love of Jesus?
It's because of His love in us that allows us to show love to others. Jesus paid the ultimate price to show love. He gave up his life. This adoption journey comes with a lot of sacrifices, but those sacrifices are worth the joy that comes with the journey.
What can you recommend for someone who doesn’t necessarily feel called to adopt but would like to learn more about the need for global orphan care?
I would recommend reaching out to your church to see what resources they have available. You can also contact the agency we are using, Lifeline Children's Services.
What’s one way you’ve felt encouraged and supported by other believers during the adoption process?
We have a really great tribe of friends and family that are always there to offer encouragement when the stress, frustrations, sadness of the journey get to be too much. This tribe has prayed for us, spoken encouragement directly to us, and just overall has been a listening ear to say, "I'm sorry this is hard". They are also the ones that have celebrated every next step we have reached. They have cheered us on and just shown great support. So many people have given their time and finances to help with fundraising. These people have just really shown up for us during this journey. It has been one of the more emotional parts of this journey thus far. Just watching the way our tribe has been the hands and feet of Jesus when we have needed them! We don't have enough words to express our gratitude to everyone!
What advice do you have for someone who is about to start their journey to adopt?
Just go into this knowing that the Lord has already written this story. This child has already been chosen, and the Lord knows the exact moment you will first see and embrace your child. This journey isn't going to go without speed bumps. It's not going to happen in your time. There are going to be times where you may feel like you're taking one step forward but falling two steps back. But trust and know that there isn't a pandemic big enough or another mishap bad enough that can change His plan for your child. Trust His timing. He can see the whole picture, and we can not. Rest in Him, He is near, and He hasn't forgotten.