Today there is #1Less orphan in Ghana, Africa because of the beauty of the Gospel and the transformative effect it has on those who believe it. Believe me, you are about to fall in love with the family we are about to meet and the sweet girl who is no longer an orphan!
The Orphan Crisis Can Change One Child at a Time
James & Kaylee:
We have been living in Ghana for 391 days. 391 days of being Mommy and Daddy. 391 days of watching our daughter heal and flourish. 391 days of witnessing God move mountains for us. 391 of the most challenging days of our lives.
Let’s go back to the beginning…
I never wanted to adopt. When I started dating Kaylee Ausland in 2012, it was very clear that adoption and Africa were very close to her heart. My under-developed 20 year old male mind couldn’t comprehend bringing a child into my family who wasn’t my flesh and blood. We had only been dating under a month when I mentioned that I didn’t see adoption in my future. I loved her and I pictured spending the rest of our lives together. How could we reconcile this big difference between us?
I always dreamed of adopting a little girl from Africa. Growing up, my family sponsored a girl from Uganda and I loved writing letters and sending pictures back and forth. I always wanted to go to Africa and do some sort of missions work, but God never opened the door. When I met James, it was love at first smile. I knew the night I met him that he was the one I wanted to do adventures with for the rest of my life. I talked about adoption openly and shared stories of other adoptive families. I talked about my dream of going to Africa someday. After a few weeks of dating, James told me he really didn’t think adoption was right for him. I told him not to worry about it. I knew God wanted me to marry him, and I knew God put adoption on my heart. I told James that God would change his heart. He smiled and said he would keep an open mind about it.
2 years later I was sitting in church with my wife. It was Missions Sunday. Pictures flashed across the screen of orphans in Kenya. Kaylee was squeezing my arm as she always did when someone started talking about anything related to Africa or orphans. I felt my heart stir more than usual. As I continued to look at the photos, my heart started to break for those children. For all the millions of children that didn’t have families or anyone to love them. It was as if I was finally hearing God’s calling for the first time.
It was October of 2014 and we had just moved to Temecula. In April we had lost our sweet baby 5 weeks into my pregnancy. James and I had been living in Portland, OR, and needed a fresh start with our lives. We decided to chase adventure, leave our family and friends, and move to Southern California. This was our 2nd Sunday at our new church and they were talking about the school they wanted to build for orphaned and poverty stricken children in Kenya. I looked up at James and noticed he seemed emotional. As we walked out of church after the service, I started telling James how cool it would be if we could be involved with building a school like that someday! We got into the car and James started crying. More like weeping. Let’s go with bawling. He proceeded to tell me through his tears that he wanted to adopt children. Lots of children. And he didn’t want to stop there, he wanted to make a difference in the world. He said he wanted to put down roots in Africa. It was in that moment that I realized God was answering my prayer.
James & Kaylee:
June of 2016 felt like the beginning of the rest of our lives. We spent 10 days in Kenya meeting the very same children we had seen on the church screen 2 years ago. Getting to go to Africa for the first time was an amazing experience, and we loved every second of it! We had been home barely 5 minutes when we started talking about starting the adoption process. At this point adoption was plan A, and we knew this is how we wanted to start our family. We didn’t know if it was the right time, since we had also dreamed of opening our coffee company that same year. We decided to contact a Christian adoption agency to find out more about the process. They sent us a link to look at children who were on a waiting list. Most of the kids were special needs, older children, and sibling groups. We prayed and decided that if we saw a little girl pop up on the waiting list, that would be our sign that God was opening the door.
Fast forward one month – July of 2016 we saw Emmanuella’s picture for the first time. She was so beautiful. Was this precious little girl our daughter? We knew she was HIV+ and we had already done research and talked to other families who had HIV+ children. We knew it wasn’t a big deal, and we felt called to this specific “special need”. We also made the amazing realization that our baby that we miscarried would’ve been the same age as Emmanuella. Their birthdays were less than a month apart, a tiny detail that only God could ordain. We knew this was our open door and so we contacted the agency to start our trek up the mountain of never ending paperwork, classes, books, and invasive interviews. We started fundraising and had a generous offer from a friend to help us launch our coffee company online, in order to help with funds.
In October 2016. We got the call that we could travel to Ghana! We were told they were working on a court date and should have one scheduled by the time we arrived. We were told Emmanuella had nearly died because of health issues, so it was clear to us that Kaylee needed to stay in Ghana until they could come home together. We packed 7 suitcases filled with food and diapers since we were headed to a rural village and didn’t know what to expect. We assumed Kaylee would be there no longer than 6 weeks. We still owed $10K to the adoption agency and people called us crazy for jumping on a plane and flying across the world. That was a huge leap of faith for us, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
On November 9th, 2016, we met Emmanuella for the first time. It was a surreal and miraculous moment. She seemed so sad and had no idea how much we loved her. It made us reflect on how God adopted us into His family, and how we are not able to fathom the love He has for us. Each day Emmanuella started to trust us more and more, especially when we introduced her to Cheerios! On the 6th day she stayed the night for the first time, and that was a huge turning point for us. The morning of the 7th day, we woke up to her giggling and smiling at us. Our first 2 weeks bonding as a family was an amazing time that we will cherish forever. It went by way too quickly and on Thanksgiving day James left Ghana.
As the plane took off from Ghanaian soil, I couldn’t believe that I was leaving my wife and daughter behind. We were still in desperate need of financial help, so I needed to go back to work and continue with our fundraising. Little did I know that it would be 6 months before I saw them again. During those 6 months I focused on work, emotionally supporting Kaylee (whenever she had internet), and celebrated my birthday and holidays with family in a zombie-like state. I just went through the motions of everyday life. I so badly wanted to go be with them, but we didn’t have the finances. I continually prayed for Kaylee and Emmanuella’s safety, for them to be able to come home soon, and for God’s strength to make it through that time.
Those 6 months without James were the hardest months of my life. Sometimes I would go 8 days without talking to him (or the outside world) because of Wi-Fi issues. God was the only thing that kept both of us strong. As painful as that time was, it was also a special bonding time for us girls. I wasted no time teaching her sign language (so that she could communicate with me), and potty training her. I was one of the few white people who lived in the village of Kpando. When I went shopping at market, strangers would come up and touch my skin. Being the minority was really difficult but I am glad that I got to experience it, because I’m sure Emmanuella will know that feeling one day. Every day I waited for the call saying we had a court date, but the call never came. There were issues and complications with the new president of Ghana, and no one was signing off on the paperwork we needed. God brought me to my knees so many times during those months. He was the only thing I could cling to. I read through the Bible for the first time, it took me 63 days! I listened to sermons and podcasts to keep me encouraged. I chided myself many times because I was living TWO of my dreams – I was adopting my daughter from Ghana, and I was living on the beautiful continent of Africa. But learning how to be a mom, and single parenting in this rural village without shopping centers or running water or anything familiar, was HARD. God held every single one of my tears in His hands and I prayed fervently that we could get things finalized and go home. God had other plans for us and after a few months I realized that He probably wasn’t going to take us home anytime soon. I started focusing on my attitude and being more grateful. I stopped pleading to go home and started asking for God to teach me patience, gentleness, and how to know Him more. I prayed that I could find purpose in the wait.
James & Kaylee:
In April of 2017 we received a phone call that changed everything. The Tim Tebow Foundation was on the other end of the call, and they wanted to give us an adoption grant for $8,000!!! We were FLOORED! We didn’t even apply for the grant, but they heard about us through Show Hope, the organization started by Steven Curtis Chapman. The grant would cover almost all of the fees we owed, and we had enough in our savings account for James to come back to Ghana until October. On May 9th, 2017, we were reunited for the first time in 6 months. We were a family again! We were so grateful that God allowed us to be brought back together.
On July 10th, we finally had a successful court hearing (after 2 failed attempts) and Emmanuella Faith Wilson legally became our daughter! We decided to leave the rural village and move into the big city of Accra. In August we filed our i600 immigration paperwork at the U.S. Embassy, and hoped it would be approved within a couple weeks. During this time we took Wella to a medical lab to check her viral load, only to be told that she didn’t have HIV. We were absolutely shocked! We are so happy that she doesn’t have to be on medication the rest of her life, but we still feel called to advocate for HIV and adopt many HIV+ kiddos into our family.
We are currently still waiting for the Embassy to complete their investigation and approve our case. We receive many stressful phone calls and emails requesting more documents on a regular basis. We are weary from battle, but our daughter is worth the fight. Once our i600 is approved, we will be able to move to the final step of getting Wella a visa to come HOME! We fill our days by growing our business (Level Grounds Xpresso), listening to audiobooks and podcasts, reading through the Bible together, and making videos! So many people have blessed us financially, through coffee sales, and by prayer. We love the encouraging messages people send us! Our hometown of Temecula has also surrounded and supported us during this whole process – from donating items to our fundraiser yard sale, to helping us find petsitters.
The past couple of months we have started to struggle financially as we watch our savings account dwindle. Neither of us could stand the thought of James leaving again, and that meant we needed another option. As a result of many tears and prayers, friends and family recently gathered to move us out of our home in Temecula. With all our belongings in a storage unit, we will only have to worry about our one rent payment here in Ghana. We are also in the process of selling our car, and that money along with the money from our coffee sales, will allow us to stay together as a family for a bit longer.
We can look back on this year and see a glimpse of why things have happened as they did. God has certainly given us purpose in the wait, and He has stayed faithful by performing miracles for us every step of the way. I heard a quote recently that went something like this: If it feels a little bit like dying, then it’s probably the gospel. Many chapters are yet to be written in our story, and
we invite you to turn the page with us as we watch our journey unfold.
A Note from Hospitable Homemaker:
Below you will find the links to continue following this amazing family’s journey! I know they would love to have your prayers and support! As some of you know, I like coffee with my air, so I will be buying lots of coffee from them and I hope you will too! <3 Be sure to come back next week as we continue to look at God’s work of welcome all over the world! Click here to check out an overview of what this series is all about!