Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Episode Resources

Learn more about adoption.

Leslie Basham: Do you know your adoption into God’s family came at an amazingly high cost? Kelly Needham reminds us that Jesus gave everything so that you could become a son or a daughter of God.

Kelly Needham: There is a greater adoption that’s available to all of us through Christ, and that’s really what’s driven our love for adoption and our desire to do it and our willingness to embrace the cost because God embraced those costs for us. It was costly to adopt us.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of Seeking Him, for November 2, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, I have been so blessed by this conversation over the last several days with Jimmy and Kelly Needham.

Thank you all for sharing out of your heart, out of your journey, for not just walking it yourselves, but letting others learn from, grow from your experience with Christ. And it’s been really filling and enriching for me and encouraging in my own walk with the Lord.

We’ve talked about a lot of different aspects of your courtship, your early marriage, some of the hard things you’ve walked through, including a number of miscarriages. I want to come back at the end of this conversation and wrap up the thing about children.

So thank you for being here with us this week, and welcome back to Revive Our Hearts today.

Jimmy Needham: Thanks, Nancy.

Kelly: Thanks.

Nancy: Earlier in the week you talked about your desire when you got married to have children, and then within the first, what couple years of marriage, Kelly, you had three miscarriages?

Kelly: Yes.

Nancy: So were you thinking you weren’t going to be able to have children? Tell us about how . . . now you have three children.

Kelly: Yes, we do.

Nancy: So I want to see how you got there.

Kelly: I definitely, in the moments and the year right after that last miscarriage, that third one, I felt for sure, This is probably not in the cards for me. But it was what allowed our doctor to send us to some fertility treatments to just see if we could find out a problem. And we did find out that there was something easily fixable within my body that was wrong.

And so, by God’s kindness, we discovered that, and we were able after that to have two biological children, which is such a grace from God. We would not have them if I had not found out what was wrong.

Nancy: And so you have two daughters.

Kelly: Yes. Two daughters—seven and five right now. And then we also have a son who is adopted from India. And we have had him in our home now for, going on a year-and-a-half now. He’s three-and-a-half right now.

We have always talked about adoption being something that we wanted to do, and so this has been a really fun season, these last couple of years, getting to actually live that out.

Nancy: I’d love to just unpack some of your adoption journey.

Again, as with some of the other things we’ve talked about this week, it’s not a subject we’ve dealt with a lot on Revive Our Hearts. I’m happy to be able to today. I have a lot of friends who’ve been through the journey of adoption, and many of our listeners do as well. But for others, it’s something that’s maybe not as familiar, and I’d love to just unpack some of your journey.

You say you always thought you might want to adopt. Like, from early in your marriage, was that something you talked about?

Kelly: It was actually before we got married that in just those questions you’re asking each other to see if it’s a good fit for marriage, that came up. One of us mentioned, “I really would love to adopt one day. How do you feel about?” And we both were on the same page, and that was, like, “Great!”

So from the beginning, whether we could have children or not, that was a desire we had just because of how it reflects the heart of God. We both felt a strong sense that we really want to live out the calling of James 1:27, to care for the fatherless, in that way. Though not everyone will adopt, that was something that was really a burden on our hearts from the beginning.

When I was pregnant with my second daughter that Jimmy looked at me and said, “I really don’t want to wait till we’re done biologically having children to adopt. I really want our adopted children to know, ‘You are not an afterthought. This was something we always wanted to do.’”

So we looked into adoption agencies before our second daughter was even born.

Nancy: And you chose to adopt internationally.

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: How did you come to that, arrive at that, versus domestic?

Jimmy: Well, we were debating about that . . . and both are great. We all know families who have adopted domestically, and that’s amazing. For us, our driving question that motivated all our decisions was: “Where’s the greatest need?” and “Who are the most unwanted?”

And for us, the way we answered that was just thinking through the international situation with the orphan crisis. It’s just so bad. The amount of the fatherless and motherless children, internationally, and the system that each country has to take care of them . . . It’s just really not great.

For us, that felt like a confirmation that we could lean international. And then it was a matter of which country. But part of our restriction was based on age, stage of life. Certain countries don’t allow you to adopt if you’re so young, and we’ve just always been young with everyone.

Nancy: Still are.

Jimmy/Kelly: Yes.

Jimmy: We thought, Well, here’s a good criteria: Let’s adopt from a country we already do ministry with or are involved with. We support missionaries in East Asia and China. We support missionaries in India. And then we were doing work in Ethiopia at the time as well. So we had those three countries that we looked into.

It’s a little bit complicated because we didn’t start in India. We started in Ethiopia and got pretty far into the process, pretty far on every front—financially and all that. And, basically, the country shut down their adoption process while we were in the middle of it, which was so hard, because we were all in.

Nancy: Yes. Hope deferred.

Jimmy: No doubt.

Kelly: Yes.

Jimmy: So we just had to re-ask the question: “Okay, do we still want to do this? And, where is it?”

And so India, at the time, was available. They’d changed their age policy, and so we got into that system. And the whole process from doing the paperwork for adoption to our son is home (if you count the Ethiopia part of it) was a four-year journey for us. So it was a long thing.

Kelly: Yes. I think that’s why some people are really intimidated by adoption. There’s a lot of uncertainty in it, even in domestic adoption. A lot of people who get matched with children, then something doesn’t happen—a family member comes forward and they’re not available for adoption anymore. It’s expensive. It’s just a “yes” to lots of unknowns and lots of those moments of hope deferred. So that can be really intimidating.

But adoption is very costly in those ways, but, still, it’s something we’re called to do as believers—not necessarily adopt, but care for the fatherless.

Nancy: So talk about the expense part of it. When I think of adoption, I think of, This is expensive. You guys are a young family, with a career that you don’t think of as being all that lucrative.

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: How did that not scare you away?

Kelly: Oh, it kind of did. (laughter) We finally decided on an agency that we really trusted their vision and their heart. We got online and looked at their programs, and they estimate costs for you. I think India had their cost estimated between $30 and $35,000.

Nancy: Which you probably didn’t have in your pockets at that point.

Kelly: No way.

Jimmy: Not in my wallet, no.

Kelly: And so, in some ways, I think we had this moment of, “Well, I guess that settles it. I guess it wasn’t actually international adoption that we should do. I guess we should just do domestic, because that’s all we can do.”

It was really Jimmy who in that moment said, “We need to pray about this.” And we prayed together and talked to God about it. He really felt like, “I really want to make this decision not based on, ‘Great, all our ducks are in a row. We can do this,’ but ‘Where is God leading us? What is He calling us to do?’”

Nancy: Like faith?

Jimmy: Exactly something like that.

Kelly: We both had a strong sense of really feeling called to do that. But we did not have the means, in a real sense. So we just looked at each other and said, “If you’re asking me to make a decision on what we felt like the Lord is leading us to, not what we can do, then I would also say, ‘I feel like we need to do international.” So we just decided then, “Okay, Lord. We’re just going to take a step, and we’re asking You to provide for us.”

So the first step was $300 deposit with that application. We could do that, so we did that.

Nancy: Not worrying about the other zeros that were coming.

Kelly: Exactly. And every step of the way, God took care of us. And not necessarily all through, even, our job opportunities in all that. We had other individual people. Our church has a fund for adoptive families to help out the cost. If that’s the only thing holding people back from adoption, is cost, there’s a way to apply for funds through our church. There’s an orphan-care ministry.

So all those zeros, all those dollars came into place, but not necessarily all through us getting that together on our own. It really feels like a community thing.

Nancy: The body of Christ saying, “This is a culture we want to have—embracing and bringing into our family those who don’t have parents to care for them.”

Jimmy: Yes.

Kelly: Yes. Exactly.

One of the elders at our church actually came to us and said they were just at a stage in life—empty nesters—where they said, “We can’t do this. We can’t adopt. But you guys can. And, you know what? We have the money to help make that happen. So this is what we can do for this child to bring him home.”

Nancy: Wow!

Kelly: And just to hear him say, “I have a call to care for the fatherless as well, but I can’t do what you’re doing. So I’m going to provide what I can. And you’re providing what you can. And together we can make this happen. We can bring children into homes—and not just any home, but homes that they’re going to hear about a God with an adoptive heart who adopts people into His family, at the highest expense of His Son, the blood of Christ.”

We’re adopted into the family of God, and so we have this shadow here in our home of adoption and get to tell our son and the rest of our kids and the people we come in contact with that there is a greater adoption that’s available to all of us through Christ. That’s really what’s driven our love for adoption and our desire to do it and our willingness to embrace the cost, because God embraced those costs for us.

It was costly to adopt us, and we didn’t come without baggage and without hardship into His family. He perseveres with us. So that love for God and what He’s done for us has really motivated us and made it something joyful even in the midst of hard.

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: As you got into this journey, you realized you might be getting a child with special needs that would require extra attention and care and sacrifice.

Jimmy: Yes, which was way harder for me to come to terms with than Kelly. She would adopt any person on the planet, no matter the circumstance, and she would want nine of them. “Let’s go!” (laughter)

Kelly: I’m sending him all these profiles of kids I’m seeing and saying, “Hey, we could do it, like, I’ve already done the research.”

Jimmy: I said, “Kelly, calm down!” (laughter)

It’s interesting: In India, for a non-Indian family to adopt from India, the only children they offer are special-needs children. Now, there’s a broad spectrum of what that means. It doesn’t just mean what Americans think when we think special needs. We think, mostly, mental special needs, that sort of thing. It could be missing a limb, blindness, deafness, HIV positive, all of those things fall into that category for them.

But that was on the table. So when we were saying, “yes” to India, we knew we were saying “yes” to, potentially, special needs—definitely special-needs adoption—but on varying degrees.

And, man, that was just so hard for me to come to terms with. I think I had to forfeit a lot of, just my comfort idolatry of, a “yes” to this could mean a future that I didn’t write down for myself, a future that’s going to have a lot more burden and stressors on me than I anticipated. I just felt, “Lord, if I’m honest, I just don’t want that kind of life.”

I remember talking to another guy in our church, he was one of our pastors at the time, who just adopted a nine-year-old boy from Africa. I was talking to him about my feelings, what I’m saying right now. He just said something that was so profound. It really was one of the things that helped push me past these feelings and to say “yes” to adoption in India.

He said, “You know, Jimmy, if it doesn’t feel a little like dying, it’s probably not the gospel.”

Nancy: Wow!

Jimmy: And I just thought, That is such a helpful way to think about things. It echoes so much of Scripture.

I think about Paul in Philippians where he says it’s been granted for Christ’s sake, not only for you to believe, but also for you to suffer for His name sake, that God bakes into the Christian experience hard things.

Nancy: And it’s granted to you—that’s a gift.

Jimmy: It’s granted. Yes. To use the word “granted” means it’s a gift.

Nancy: It’s not the kind of grant that we might apply for.

Jimmy: No doubt.

It was just helpful for me to go, “Yes. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus costs something.” And that’s beautiful to my God, to my Savior. It’s beautiful.

So we did say “yes” to that, and we did lean into that. And, consequently, in God’s providence, our son was sort of misdiagnosed with something that, when we took him to the pediatrician, they said, “Actually, there’s nothing wrong with him.” So we have a perfectly healthy three-year-old at our house. He has no special needs whatsoever.

But it was definitely a test of faith in that moment to say, “Are you going to be a ‘yes’ to hard if it would adorn the gospel?” And, ultimately, God brought us to a place where we could say “yes” to that.

Nancy: So tell us about your little boy. How did you first become aware of him and the journey to getting to actually meet him?

Kelly: We got a phone call from our agency, and they told us about a nine-month-old little boy in India that fit our family and all the needs that we said that we were open to in adoption.

We got this call; then we got pictures of him. And almost immediately . . . to see the faces of these children and just to know there’s no one there to care for them, and they need a home . . . almost immediately it turns our heart into mush. And we said, “Yes, of course!”

We did some talking with doctors and processed all that information, and then we essentially gave them a “yes” to that. Then we had about another year’s worth of paperwork. And we had several things that really hindered our process and slowed it down. We had several judge changes that happened in India, things that kept us from getting to him, and that was probably the hardest part of the process for us.

Nancy: And where was he in the meantime?

Kelly: In an orphanage in India. There was very little information about what was going on there. He was just behind in some milestones.

Nancy: Developmentally.

Kelly: Yes.

Jimmy: He was born at, like, 2.9 pounds, I think.

Nancy: Wow!

Jimmy: He was just found laying there. The only information they know about him is his birthday because, supposed, they found him the day of his birth. The umbilical cord was still attached—the full deal. He was just abandoned there. So that’s the only information we have about him is this was the day he was born.

Nancy: So, in God’s providence, that child was found.

Kelly: Yes, and survived!

Nancy: And God was keeping that child alive for your family.

Kelly: Yes, we totally believe that, that God is sovereign over that. Some of our babies here in the States don’t live, born that early, in the NICU. So here we have this little boy in a very rural town in India. After seeing his orphanage when we went there, we thought, I don’t know how this . . .

God kept him alive, and God placed him with our family. Even our agency said, “We were really surprised no one had been matched with him yet since he was so young.” She had a sense of, “I think God has purposed this boy for your family.”

Waiting for him was so hard. There’s nothing you can do. It’s out of your control. Every day our girls were asking us, “When’s Baby Ben coming home? Let’s pray for Baby Ben today.”

And some days I didn’t want to think about it. It was too painful just to think, I can do nothing for you—you’re over in this foreign country—but pray for you.

Nancy: Were you seeing pictures along the way?

Kelly: We got picture updates—not very often—a little nine-second video of him learning to walk that we probably watched hundreds of times. We soaked up everything that we could, and we just prayed and waited.

Man, that was hard for us to wait to go over there, but in February of 2017 when we got to go over there, man, how sweet that was.

Nancy: Just you and Jimmy went?

Kelly: Just me and Jimmy. We flew there and went with a translator. We flew to two different airports, drove for about four hours down a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, and found ourselves in a parking lot outside of this small courthouse, in this rural town, and the social worker brings him out to us in the parking lot. Everybody is staring. It’s an odd scene for people in rural India.

Jimmy: They’ve never seen anybody looking like us. They just huddled up, staring at us.

Kelly: We had asked a lot of people at our church . . . A lot of people had been praying at our church and praying for different things. Something we had consistently asked for was for bonding, that he would quickly attach to us.

Nancy: He was how old at this point?

Kelly: He was two at that point. He’s never met us. We had sent books of pictures of our family, but we don’t know if he was seeing those pictures or not. Our translator even told us, “I’ve never seen this before.” This little boy, he immediately clung to us. We got him to even smile within a few minutes.

Even when we went back to the orphanage—where he has been his whole life—and his caretakers went to go and hold him, he clung to my arm. They rejoiced over that. They were happy to see him go to a family. I remember Minaw, our translator, saying, “I’ve never seen a kid grab that tightly and so quickly attach to adoptive parents, somebody he’s just met.”

So we got to spend the next week-and-a-half going from Embassy appointments and other things with him, just getting to know this new little boy in our family. It was just such a joyful, joyful time.

Jimmy: I know that parents are always going to have rose-colored glasses when they’re talking about their kids, but I’m just telling you, Nancy, there’s not a happier kid that I’ve ever met than this kid. He’s just laughing and smiling and hugging. I wake him up in the morning, and he wakes up and just starts laughing. I wish I had some of that. That’s amazing. (laughter) He’s a wonderful, wonderful little boy.

Kelly: I know that there’s a lot of hard in adoption, and we walk with several families in our church that have adopted or are in foster care, and that’s not their story. Attachment disorders and things that are happening like that are really hard .

Nancy: Drug babies . . .

Kelly: Oh, it’s so challenging to walk through. But I think it’s important for people to know, not just those stories, but that there are a lot of kids who . . . there’s both. We don’t know which one it’s going to be, but we don’t know that with biological children either. We don’t know what the Lord will give us.

Jimmy: That’s right.

Kelly: A “yes” to adoption is always a good thing, and there’s hard and good on both sides. So I don’t want to belittle the struggles that I know people are facing going through that—as if that would make it not worth it.

We’re hoping to adopt again from India, and that might not be our story the second time. We might have a lot more challenges than we’ve had with Ben. But we get to celebrate the grace of God, that He’s able to do anything. A “yes” to adoption doesn’t necessarily mean a “yes” to a lot of heartache—it can—but it’s not necessarily what will happen.

Nancy: Listen, life on this earth comes with hard, on this fallen, prodigal earth. Marriage comes with hard.

Kelly: That’s right.

Nancy: Singleness comes with hard. Having children comes with hard. Not having children comes with hard.

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: And if the comfort and the ease and convenience part of it becomes our end all, that’s a god.

Kelly: That’s right.

Nancy: It’s a poor god. It’s a weak god. It’s a powerless god. And God—The God, capital G—in His kindness uses hard in different seasons of life to make us more hungry for him, to make us realize in deeper ways our need for Him, and to satisfy us more deeply with His love.

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: Parenting at all comes with a dying to self.

Kelly: It does.

Nancy: Marriage comes to a dying to self. Staying single comes with a dying to self. But in all of this, as God is writing your story. Robert and I are working on a book called, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. I see that in you. I see that in our lives. We have a very different story than you do.

But I love hearing you talk about God giving you a heart for biological children, as He gave those to you through some hardship—the loss of three, first. And so you came to receive that season, and you received the biological children God has given you. And now, in a different season, receiving one adopted son and maybe more to come.

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: And in every one of those seasons and stages of that journey, it comes back to similar things, doesn’t it? God can be trusted; that I need Him more than I need a well-behaved child or healthy child or a child at all.

Jimmy: Yes, that’s so true. God can be trusted to write our story. That’s right.

Kelly: The same way marriage is a parable, I think adoption is a parable. And so one thing that’s been so fun about bringing adoption into our family is it’s given a lot more opportunities for us to proclaim the gospel to neighbors, to unbelieving family members, to people we’re just with.

Walking down the road we’ll meet neighbors who will ask me, “Well, you have these two biological children. Why would you adopt?” A neighbor of ours actually had that question for me. He didn’t understand why I would enter the process of adoption because I already had biological children.

Nancy: Some could understand it if you couldn’t have children that you might want to adopt.

Jimmy: That’s right.

Kelly: Exactly. And so, for us to essentially say, “We can have biological children, but we want to adopt.”

“Why?”

Then we get a chance to explain, “Because our God is an adoptive God. He’s adopting people into His family by the blood of Christ and then has given us this call to take up the cause of the fatherless and the widow and the downtrodden and these people cannot fight for themselves.”

In Jeremiah He says, “This is what it means to know Me, that you would take up the cause of the helpless.”

So we get a chance to do that and share with people all the time about a God who does that for us through Christ. It’s really fun to get those opportunities, and we’re excited about getting to share with Ben more as he’s older and able to understand those things—not just about what’s been given to him in this life, but also what’s available to him in Christ.

Nancy: As I heard you describing how this child was abandoned—premature and, humanly speaking, had very little chance, if any, of survival—but found, rescued, cared for, and then brought into your family; the passage that keeps coming to my heart is Ezekiel chapter 16, where God uses a similar metaphor to describe His heart for His people.

Jimmy: Yes. I think I read that maybe a week or two after I’d heard Ben’s story about him being found and his umbilical cord was still attached, and then I just read Ezekiel 16. If you don’t mind, I’ll read an excerpt.

Nancy: Go ahead. We’ve both got our Bibles open at the same passage—and we didn’t discuss this in advance.

Jimmy: No. So, He says this:

The word of the Lord came to me again, ‘Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices. You are to say, “This is what the Lord God says to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother was a Hittite. As for your birth, your umbilical cord wasn’t cut on the day you were born, and you weren’t washed clean with water. You were not rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one cared enough about you to do even one of these things out of compassion for you. But you were thrown out into the open field because you were despised on the day you were born.’” I passed by you and saw you thrashing around in your blood, and I said to you as you lay in your bed, ‘Live.’ Yes, I said to you as you lay in your blood, ‘Live’” (vv. 2–6).

I read that, and I just thought, That’s his story. And, by God’s grace, we get to be the people who are saying, with God, to this little boy, “Live.”

In fact, we so want him to see this truth as he gets older that we baked it into his name. His name is Benjamin Ezekiel Needham, so that, when he gets old enough, he can begin making these connections.

Nancy: I love that!

Jimmy: And the prayer that we pray for him is that, just like he would probably see the overlap of this story in Ezekiel 16 with his natural birth, that he would believe that, in a spiritual way, God wants to do the exact same thing with him—which is what God wants to do in all of us.

Nancy: Yes.

Jimmy: And what God has done with everybody who has trusted in His Son.

Nancy: He breathed the life of His Spirit into us. And then, even that very next phrase, verse 7: “I made you flourish.”

Jimmy: Amen.

Nancy: So not just survival, but flourishing.

Jimmy: That’s amazing.

Nancy: And what God is giving you grace to do—with your biological children and your adopted son—what a picture. What a beautiful, powerful picture of how God found us—wallowing in our blood, and not having a chance of survival—spiritually dead.

Jimmy: Yes.

Nancy: And He came and found us and said, “Live. I want you to flourish.”

Well, as we’ve been hearing your story, Jimmy and Kelly, I know that some of our listeners have been already feeling, perhaps, a tug from the Lord, “I wonder if this is something we’re supposed to be doing.”

We have some resources available at our website. If you go to www.ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ll link you to those resources.

And just a reminder, that even though God might not be calling you to do this, there is a culture of adoption in your local church, Jimmy and Kelly, and there were those who helped financially, even though they weren’t in a season of life to do this. They said, “We’re bringing this child home, not to our own family,” but there were others who came around and said, “We’re part of this process with you.”

So I hope this program is a prompt, even if you’re not the one who’s supposed to be adopting, to say, “How can I exhibit the heart of Christ, His love for the fatherless, and how can I do that in a practical, tangible way?”

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us this week and your music as well. Jimmy and Kelly Needham have been such an encouragement to us, and I hope that something from their journey has spoken to you in your walk with the Lord.

And, then again, coming back to: Christ is all and in all. He is our satisfier. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Water of Life. He’s the one who gives us life. And thank you both for helping to point us in a really sweet way to Him.

Jimmy: Thank you, Nancy.

Kelly: Thank you.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. We just wrapped up an engaging conversation with Jimmy and Kelly Needham. If you missed any part of the series, go to ReviveOurHearts.com to listen to the audio or read the transcript.

There you’ll also find the resources on adoption that Nancy referenced earlier. If you’re contemplating whether to explore adoption, go check these out at ReviveOurHearts.com.

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