Wish to adopt leads to creation of orphanages

By Alyssa Waters

December 24, 2008/Leader Telegram 

When Mary Clark was a little girl looking into the future, she saw herself adopting children from faraway countries.

Years later, after having two biological children of her own, she thought her dreams were lost - until friends Matt and Nikki Ness brought home a daughter from Guatemala three years ago.

Now, during the holidays, the Clark family is reminiscing about the past year and looking forward to next year when they will bring home a boy and a girl from an orphanage in Ethiopia.

The papers are signed and Clark is excited to meet her new children, but the prospect didn't always seem this easy.

"I really always pictured myself adopting children not from the United States, but it seemed like an overwhelming thing for me," she said. "It seemed like it would be really wonderful to do, but for other people.

"I remember thinking, 'I love my kids so much,' and I felt like we missed our opportunity to adopt."

Clark said she and her husband, Gary, decided after their second child that they were done having children. Then, when the Nesses brought home a son from Ethiopia less than two years ago, the feelings stirred in Mary again.

"They came back with pictures of all of these children," Mary said of the Ness' trip to pick up their son. "I stood in the back of the church and just cried. I thought, 'I don't know why God would bring this back to me over and over again if we weren't supposed to do this.' "

So Mary prayed about the possibility of adoption. She told God if that is what he had in store for her, that he should have a talk with her husband. Mary hadn't expressed her wishes to her husband. She thought she already knew his stance on the subject. But she was wrong. Gary was feeling the need to adopt too.

During the summer Mary decided she would travel to Ethiopia. Valleybrook Church sends teams of people there, and she wanted to be considered for the next trip. Once people found out Mary was going to take the trip, they started asking questions.

"People started asking us all the time, 'Are you going to adopt or bring kids home?' " After a couple weeks my husband would say, 'It wouldn't surprise me,' " Mary recalled. "What God had been doing in me, God had been doing in Gary too."

With her husband on board, Mary had one more bombshell to drop - when she pictured adopting, she saw two children. With the communication lines open, Mary asked Gary if he would consider adopting two children and he agreed.

The Clarks, who have biological children Hannah, 4, and Noah, 9, have been approved by a state adoption agency and an international adoption agency to take home a girl, 4, and a boy, 7.

Now they wait.

The family is waiting for their Ethiopian court date. That could be February or March, Mary guessed.

"My first trip to Ethiopia will be to pick up my children," Mary said.

A clear vision

Eight families at Valleybrook Church either have adopted from Africa or are in the process of adopting. That's not a coincidence. Assistant lead pastor, the Rev. Matt Ness, and his wife, Nikki, put the bug in their friends' ears.

Three years ago, when they brought Ana home from Guatemala, Nikki thought her own dream of having an adopted child had been fulfilled. But she felt God had more in store for her family, which includes the Ness' 8-year-old biological son, Carter.

"We just knew that God was calling us to adopt again, and from Africa. That's what led us to our (adopted) son," she said. "When I was in Ethiopia, just seeing the poverty and the lifestyle, I knew I had to give back."

That's how the Ness family became involved in setting up two orphanages in Ethiopia.

"We just started doing basic research - digging around on the Internet," she said.

She also kept in touch with a man from Ethiopia who knew the Ness' son, Durant.

"We would e-mail back and forth. In October (2007) he sent an e-mail that said 'I want to start an orphanage,' " Nikki said. "I remember I read the first line of the e-mail and I had to walk away. It was so emotional. Having that contact was huge."

In January, Matt went to Ethiopia to check out a house to rent. At that time the first two girls moved into the orphanage in the capital city of Addis Ababa. The other is in Nazareth, Ethiopia. The Nesses also put together Kingdom Vision International organization, which is committed to the relief, development and advocacy of disadvantaged children and their families.

Christmas is for reflection

Mary Clark, who likely will pick up her adopted children in a few months, said during this time of year she reflects on past events and looks to the future.

"This year has been really emotional," she said. "A year ago we had really no tangible idea that we would be bringing two children into our family. We feel like those are our kids. We have two kids here and two kids there, and the fact that they're there doesn't make them any less our children.

"We had no clue what God had in store for us."

Waters can be reached at 833-9214, 800-236-7077 or alyssa.waters@ecpc.com.

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