Spend any time at River Stone Community Church in San Marcos, Texas and I guarantee the subject of orphan care/adoption will come up. I was raised in church, but prior to our arrival at River Stone in 2009, never before had I heard orphan care preached as part of the gospel message. I naively thought adoption was something only people who were unable to have children in the traditional manner pursued. Boy was I wrong!!!
When we arrived at River Stone in 2009 there were already five former orphans living with their forever families; four international adoptions and one domestic. Since 2009 eight more families have adopted eleven children. Having closely witnessed many of these adoptions unfold, I can honestly say, adoption is a completely unselfish, expensive, complicated, difficult and heart wrenching but extremely beautiful and worthwhile process. Not only have I witnessed these children united with their forever families, but I have been honored to play a role on many different levels; one of my favorite has been participating in the Chosen Half Marathon for Adoption hosted in Gruene, TX.
Had I not been challenged to register for the Chosen in 2010, I don’t believe I would be the runner I am today. Training for that race is where I got my start as a distance runner, but no matter how many half marathons I run, none will ever have the special meaning this one does. When registering, runners may choose to run for a certain team; the teams are made up of families who are in the process of adopting. In 2010 I ran for the Bollinger Family. When I crossed the finish line their beautiful new Ukrainian daughters, Olivia & Natalia were there to greet me. In 2011 I ran for the Guenther Family. Heart breaking to me is the circumstances that keep their son, Wilson in a Haitian orphanage, held up by paperwork. Yesterday I ran for the Simmons Family. I met their son Leo, also from Ukraine, for the first time today.
In 2010, I completed the race in 2:28, my goal was 2:30. I spent the next year training hard and finished 2011’s race in 2:08!! There were quite a few runners from River Stone & I was the second member to cross the finish line. I had planned for a sub 2 hour race in 2012, little did I know I would be side lined after a terrible car accident in November 2011 that left me with a broken neck. Starting the race yesterday, my only goal was to finish. I finished the USAF Half Marathon in Dayton, Ohio 6 weeks ago in 2:25, but I had only completed two long 10 mile training runs since then. I honestly wasn’t sure I was prepared, but this race was all about Leo, I was out there for him. Surprisingly I finished the race in 2:16, faster than I’d run just 6 weeks ago!! Part of me struggled over the athletic set back, part of me struggled with being the last River Stone runner to finish this year, but then I stopped to think about what could have been, and realized that I had nothing to be sad about.
James 1:27 has become one of my favorite verses; “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” My hope is that every aspect of my life would be a reflection of this verse.