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At Any Cost
Overcoming Every Obstacle to Bring Our Children Home
By Mike Jones, Hayley Jones
Worthy Publishing GroupCopyright © 2015 Mike and Hayley Jones
All rights reserved.
I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.
* * *
Our day started early, as all days do in Sierra Leone. I woke at sunrise to the sounds of babies crying and children laughing and running up and down stairs to fetch water from the well. My guest apartment was in the middle of the orphan center, right in the heart of the action, surrounded by the great noise of one hundred kids. This place had become my second home as I spent weeks and even months at a time there over a heart-wrenching three years. But on that March morning in 2013, everything was new, and my joy was unspeakable. That day would bring a rebirth for eight children. Our children.
Later that afternoon the children and I said our good-byes at The Raining Season orphan care center in Freetown. Then, we piled into taxis to leave the shelter they had lived in for the last three years. Five kids had been in the taxi with me, including our oldest, Melvin, who was fourteen, and Salieu, who bounced on my lap in the front seat.
That hot, ten-minute ride to the hotel was a weird, emotional time. As with many moments during the previous three years, I had felt like a spectator in my own life, as if I were watching myself and all that was happening to me. While it was an exciting time for the kids, they had also just left their friends and everything they knew. We had ridden quietly, alone in our thoughts. Well, except for the little ones, who are never quiet. I was paying special attention to Melvin, calm in his seat, wondering what he was thinking. This child had seen into my soul the first time I met him.
As checked into the Family Kingdom hotel, I felt curious eyes on me, the white lady with eight African children. Speaking in Krio, the children excitedly talked about the slides they'd spied on the hotel's playground, the swimming pool, and the trampoline that was just like the one waiting for them at home. The hotel is a jewel in the middle of Freetown, the capital of one of the poorest nations on earth.
My eight children clambered past each other to get to the room first. Then we all paused at the door. The room was huge. It had four big beds, a couch with a coffee table, a desk, and a large bathroom. This hotel was the most amazing place they had ever seen. My heart smiled. I couldn't wait to show them more.
We were giddy as we plunked down our belongings. It was our final night in Sierra Leone. Mike and our boys, Tyler and Tucker, at home in Tennessee, were praying as they did every night that God would bring me home safely, this time with their brothers and sister.
My sweet daddy came in last, dripping sweat as he carried our suitcases and made sure no little ones had gotten lost along the way. He had flown in to meet me and help get his grandchildren home. I can't imagine what I would have done without him. The children ran around the room, jumping from bed to bed to feel the softness while others clicked and reclicked the TV buttons.
I wondered, What should we do next? The playground? Dinner?
No. First, they wanted their names.
For almost all of the three years we'd traveled, saved, cried, and waited to adopt these children, they continually asked us what their new names would be. None of us can remember exactly why they thought new names were a certainty that comes with adoption or when these conversations started, but now, after all we'd been through, new names made our new beginning even sweeter. The wait was over.
"Okay, Salieu, come on up," I said to the youngest. He popped up off the couch and stood next to me while seven other pairs of eyes expectantly waited and watched. This was finally happening. This moment couldn't have been any more perfect, any more special. And, it couldn't have meant any more to me.
"We're all adopted children of God. God adopted us all," I told them as they sat around the couch. "We all get a new beginning. We get a fresh start. We never forget our past. We always cherish it, and we always remember the good memories because they are forever part of us and what made us who we are," I said. "But there's a time when we can start something new and move on from things that were bad or from things you don't like. You can become a new person; you can be who you want to be. So it's a new start for everybody."
I slowly looked into the face of each precious child around me. This moment was one of those little things along the way that felt right. I could sense God smiling down. "One of the great things about it taking so long to get you guys home is that we got to pray and choose names that really fit your personalities. We chose all biblical names because we know you're God's children, and the only reason we have you is because of Him.
"Your first name is Zion," I said as I looked into four-year-old black eyes that had already seen so much. "The Bible says Jesus will return for His people in the end on Mount Zion," I read from the papers I'd prepared for each child with their photos and the meaning of his or her name. "You are the youngest, the end of our Great Eight. You are strong and beautiful. For these reasons, we chose this name for you."
All eight children yelled and clapped and jumped up and down for Zion's new name.
My daddy sat off to the side trying not to cry. He teared up, pulled out his handkerchief, and pushed up his glasses. Most of the children's middle names are family names, with several of them from my dad's side. He was very proud, and it was sweet watching him. Ask Daddy about that moment now and he still chokes up. "They're just special kids," he says.
Zion's middle name is Davidson, the surname of his great-grandparents.
"Your middle names are family names because now you have an even bigger family and even more people who love you. I wanted to make sure you always feel and know you're part of this one big family."
Over those years of waiting, whenever the children asked Mike and me about their names, we'd say we didn't know yet and were praying about it. And then we'd change the subject. Because it wasn't time. But two weeks earlier, right before I left to come to Sierra Leone to hopefully bring our children home, Mike and I finally decided on their new names.
For years God had been weaving this tapestry, redeeming all of our lives. Redeeming heartache. He had watched over these children; He had guarded and protected them. The fact that they are alive and well was a miracle from Him. We knew these children belonged to Him, and we wanted their names to reflect that.
I called up Alusine. At six, he was a ball of energy. "Your first name is Isaiah, which means 'the Lord helps me.' The Lord has helped you and watched over you and us." His middle name is William, the name of his grandfather and two great grandfathers.
Next was Victor, our seven-year-old. "Your name is Judah. We praise the Lord for you. Your strength is one of the reasons we gave you this name." Currell, his middle name, was his great-grandfather's name.
They yelled, jumped up and down, and clapped. Every time. I probably could have said any name and they would have screamed. Their reactions were priceless.
As I looked around the room at all their sweet faces, I saw the backpacks I had given them strewn about. I still smile when I think about how many times at home I'd packed and unpacked each backpack with a toothbrush, toothpaste, pajamas, underwear, socks, and an outfit to wear home to America. When we were leaving the center, I told them to pack anything they wanted to bring home. But, there wasn't anything. They had some clothes, some of which we'd sent earlier, and a few African clothes I'd had made by a vendor at the Freetown market. They had tried for a while to keep a few sentimental possessions, but most things there tend to get lost or taken. It was sad, especially for the older ones. They had nothing to show from the first dozen or so years of their lives. All they had was in those backpacks.
"Mohammed," I called to our next child. I looked him in the eyes and told him, "Your name is Malachi. It means 'messenger of God.'" At eight, he could quote more scripture than anyone we knew. He would ride around the orphan center on a bike reciting Bible verses. I said, "You are a messenger of God!" His middle name is Drake, my maiden name. My father's last name. And, out came Daddy's handkerchief again as he pushed up his glasses.
I didn't cry. I was so excited, and I wanted to soak in the moment, catch every detail as I watched their faces. I didn't want my emotions to get in the way. Was our struggle actually over? Was this real? Were our three years of heartache to bring our Great Eight home finally at an end?
"Peter." My nine-year-old. "Your name is Levi. It means 'pledged' or 'joined.' You are now joined to our family." He's our artist, and they say people with this name tend to be creative. We kept Peter as his middle name. The rock. Jesus named His apostle Peter the rock of the church.
Kadiatu, our princess and our only girl, was eleven. "Your name is Gabrielle. Woman of God." Her faith and prayers during those years showed she is a true woman of God. Grace is her middle name, which is the name of her great-grandmother. Oh, His amazing grace and favor.
Yusufu was thirteen. "Your name is Samuel, which means 'God heard.'" How much we had prayed for him and God had answered. We chose his middle name, Titus, which means "pleasing," because of his gentle, loving spirit.
And, finally, our oldest, Melvin. "Your name is Michael, the angel warrior, the leader." He loved that. He really claimed that name. At fourteen, he was a natural leader and had led his brothers and sister for years (and now leads all nine of them). As our oldest, he also shares the name of his father. His middle name is Thomas, after great-uncles on both sides of our family.
Oh, they loved their new names and never once said they wished for something else. They studied their own papers, which I later collected for safekeeping. In the days to come, if I got mixed up and used their birth names, which I'd been calling them for three years, I was quickly corrected, believe me.
After a chicken dinner at a restaurant next door, the kids couldn't get enough of the soccer game on TV. They were fascinated and took hundreds of pictures of the TV with my phone. They had their first hot showers. My dad stood in the bathroom with groups of them, instructing how to wash faces first, then body parts. With his clothes soaked, he laughed out loud as he opened the bathroom door and I watched steam roll out along with my wet kids.
We fit two or three to a bed, and I felt the cool breeze from the only air conditioner I had felt in the last two weeks. Still, the familiar smell of heat and humidity pressed through the hotel window, and my emotions were so strong that I worried they may be heard. Surely the other hotel guests could hear my heartbeat through the walls.
This is it, I said to myself as I checked the time on my phone. I looked over the passports again ... still eight, just as there had been five minutes earlier. I recounted the giant, sealed, white envelopes given to me by the U.S. Embassy. Waves of peace, complete and utter perfection, rushed over me. Only God had gotten us here. No one could ever imagine what He had done for me this final week and what He had shown me. When He says the time has come, then the time has come. There is nothing anyone can do to stop it. God had proven that to me.
Mixed with the gratitude came a darkness and a fear that I still cannot adequately put into words. Thoughts raced through my mind: What if we get stopped at the airport?What if the government chases me down, changes its mind about our adoption, and won't let us go? What if my children are not allowed to come home? Again, I checked the time, counted the passports, and flipped through the envelopes.
I studied the children lying in the beds and pleaded silently to them. Here we all are. Together. We are going home. No more sad good-byes. No more leaving my children in an orphanage in a third-world country. No more "let's keep praying" for God to move the mountains. He has done it. Now is the time to rejoice, to praise Him. Children, remember this. Think of it often. Breathe in this moment and taste it. Never stop thanking Him for this. No matter what the future holds and what happens in your lives, this is a moment when God gave you victory. Hold on to it.CHAPTER 2
The Journey Began Years Ago
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
* * *
As a girl, I dreamed of being a missionary in Africa. If I saw something on TV about Africa, it mesmerized me. Maybe it was the adventure and the challenge that called to me from my comfortable home in Franklin, Tennessee. I don't know where this deep love for Africa originated. I just know I feel it. Even before I ever set foot on that big continent, I felt a longing deep down in my soul for it. When I first landed in Sierra Leone, that longing became a peace. I can't put this peace into words, but I feel it every time I am there.
When I visited Sierra Leone, time was passed meeting the needs of others. Days consisted of surrendering to God and allowing Him to use me to help. It can be overwhelming, all the need; that's why you really have to listen to God and let Him guide you. I could go crazy and broke trying to figure out what to do and meet every need, so I quickly learned that needs will always be plenty, and I certainly cannot meet them all. But I must do my part. That's all I have to do ... my part. My prayer when I'm there is simply, "Use me, God." I learned that when I feel like I am being poured out is also when I feel the most complete. Surrendering and letting go made me feel so strong and so humble. When I was emptied of myself, there was plenty of room for Jesus to fill me up.
When I was little, Mom says I was very sensitive, stopping her to pray if we heard an ambulance siren. So early on God had fertile ground in me to plant the seed to love Africa and, over the years, to water it. My older sister felt the call too. She and her husband and five children lived in South Africa for over four years as missionaries. Our middle-class upbringing was wonderful, yet typical, and my parents still marvel at what God has done in their girls' lives.
God also worked on Mike. From a young age, Mike had always thought he'd adopt a boy from Africa. He doesn't recall ever telling his parents or brother; it was a sense of something he would do later in life to fulfill a purpose. God was preparing him for adoption when he barely understood the concept of adoption and he didn't know anyone who had been adopted. Even so, he was very confident he would adopt a little boy from Africa. Funny how God knows exactly how to prepare us, one idea at a time. (Seven boys and a girl! Well, that He would reveal later.)
God sparked these little fires in us that we stoked as we dated and shared our dreams. Years later, after our first child, Tyler, was born, Mike and I restarted the adoption conversation, wondering what it might look like for our family. We considered adopting from Ethiopia and even got the paperwork for it. But, the papers sat because we didn't feel peaceful about it. Five years later, when our second son, Tucker, was a year old, we got serious and looked into different adoption agencies. At that time we considered South Africa because our church had a ministry there. But once again, nothing felt right.
People still ask me, "Why not adopt here in the United States?" Well, that wasn't our call. One kind of adoption is not more right than another kind. It's like asking someone, "Why aren't you a doctor? Don't you know there are so many sick people in the world?" Mike says that God calls us to certain places. For us, that place was Sierra Leone, a place that will always hold a part of my heart. And we knew that God was calling us to adopt.
Excerpted from At Any Cost by Mike Jones, Hayley Jones. Copyright © 2015 Mike and Hayley Jones. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. New Names,
2. The Journey Began Years Ago,
3. Wrestling with God,
4. Going Separate Ways,
5. Restoration and Renewed Hope,
6. Starting a Family,
7. Think Big!,
8. Sharing Our Dream with the World,
9. Our Great Eight's Story,
10. When One Door Closes, Bang on Another,
11. Work, Pray, Work,
12. When Months Turn into Years,
13. The Breaking Point,
14. Home Front,
15. Mighty Ways,
16. Coming Home,
Conclusion: The Jones Dozen,