By Rachel Biddy
Boasting the same big, brown eyes and tan complexion, six-year-old Tatiana López closely resembles her mom, Karen López. Coincidentally, Tatiana and her dad, Hugo López, were born in the same region of Colombia. Because they share so many physical and cultural similarities, no stranger would meet the López family and wonder if Tatiana had been adopted. Karen marveled at the fact that “she looks just like us.” When a stranger does meet the López family, what quickly becomes apparent, apart from the family’s many similarities, is their heart for the vulnerable.
Despite their similarities, Hugo and Karen experienced vastly different upbringings. Hugo was born in Colombia and lived there until he was 19. According to Hugo, he experienced a traditional Colombian upbringing. Karen was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the United States as a young child. Despite Karen’s difficult childhood, she became acclimated to and identified with American culture. Because Hugo grew up in Colombia, he witnessed the need that occurs when children age out of orphanages and end up on the street. He desired to help children in Colombia through adoption from a young age because he understood the poverty around him. Hugo said, “I knew from the bottom of my heart that I just wanted to help a little girl.” Karen observed that as they started the adoption process, “the Lord had put the seed in him when he was a young man. For us, it was extremely important that we honor that.”
Karen’s journey toward desiring adoption was a longer road. The couple struggled with infertility. Karen became disheartened through the experience and gave up on the idea of being a mom completely. Eventually, after years of prayer that God would soften her heart to the idea of adoption, Karen realized, “I started feeling this longing.” Karen faithfully attended counseling to prepare her heart for her daughter. She knows the Lord healed her heart during that time and further equipped her to be Tatiana’s mom.
After Karen and Hugo decided to pursue adoption, they contacted an adoption agency. They were caught off guard by the financial aspect of adoption, and they decided to pause their newfound desire to adopt. Although the timing didn’t work out, Karen professed, “God did not allow us to forget. He kept pursuing it in us.” A few months later, in September 2019, Hugo started a new job at a nonprofit that connected them to Lifeline.
Karen and Hugo faithfully served their church for years before their adoption journey began. Karen believes “the Lord was setting a foundation” for their future adoption. They poured into their children’s ministry long before the desire to adopt was set on Karen’s heart. When they began the adoption process and required financial assistance, Karen explained, “People took us seriously. They knew our hearts.” She knew, “We could not have done it without our church, without our pastors, without our community, without our small group leaders.”
In 2015 the López family bought a house. They didn’t know it at the time, but they later found out that was the same year Tatiana was born. Karen and Hugo had been hopeful about purchasing a house for a long time. Hugo said the Lord orchestrated the timing and prepared them for Tatiana by allowing them to buy her future home in 2015.
The miracles that occurred during their waiting process made it clear that the Lord was leading Karen and Hugo to Tatiana. Karen needed a new birth certificate from El Salvador because her documentation accidentally had the wrong birth month. El Salvador’s Embassy told her she needed to travel to El Salvador to complete the paperwork. That same week, Karen reconnected with an aunt she had not spoken to in years. Her aunt happened to be traveling to El Salvador, and she was able to complete the necessary paperwork for Karen. Karen and Hugo also experienced another miracle with their marriage license, which they knew, “is another miracle within itself.” Karen said, “He showed up in every roadblock we had… He cleared the way.” Hugo agreed, “He parted the seas.” Karen and Hugo know that all the trials they experienced perfectly led them to Tatiana. Karen said, “I know that all the things I went through in my youth and all the struggles that I went through and all of the things that happened in my journey, I know that he was preparing me.”
Hugo shared that what happened next in their adoption journey is “a testimony of what God did in our lives and especially in the process of adoption.” Initially, Hugo and Karen were matched with a six-and-a-half-year-old girl from a different region of Colombia than Hugo’s childhood home. Hugo had difficulty accepting this referral because he expected to adopt a child from the same region he is from. They both had hopes of adopting a younger child too. Karen and Hugo prayed and asked God to soften their hearts to the idea of adopting a child who didn’t match their initial expectations. Hugo said, “If this is what God has for me, then this is what we will do.” The couple became genuinely excited and grew to love this little girl. When the match fell through, Karen explained, “We correlate that as if you were pregnant, then you had a miscarriage. It felt like it was a loss.” She said, “We mourned the loss because it was a loss.” The devastation that Karen and Hugo felt came from that feeling of loss and the realization that they had surrendered their desires to the Lord but did not receive an immediate reward. “I surrendered my heart to You. My husband surrendered his wants and needs to You. And it’s not the one. So that was incredibly hard,” Karen elaborated about her feelings of confusion during that time.
That loss was in September, and then Hugo and Karen received a Christmas miracle. They were matched with Tatiana on December 21, 2020. The family calls Tatiana their Christmas miracle, because, typically, people in Colombia begin celebrating Christmas during the last few weeks of December. “In His amazing faithfulness and mercy towards us, we got a match with our daughter,” said Karen. Karen and Hugo traveled to Colombia in April 2021. After quarantine and more waiting, their daughter was finally going home after five years of living in foster care. Karen knew, “The enemy tried to do everything possible to stop this process from happening. God did not allow it. In His infinite grace towards me, He softened my heart. Because He knew that little girl from when she was being formed in her mother’s womb, (that) we were going to be her parents.”
When Tatiana arrived home, Hugo and Karen realized more fully the gift of their shared cultural background. Tatiana had experienced trauma in her past, but her transition to her forever family was made easier by Hugo’s understanding of her culture. Karen said, “We were even more prepared than the typical Hispanic family.” Hugo and Tatiana already knew all the same songs, ate the same food, and spoke the same dialect. Sharing a common culture with her father was a comfort to Tatiana because she had already experienced enough uncertainty during her young life. He especially noted the miracle that he and Tatiana are from the same region. “You can come from the same country, but you’re very different people,” Hugo observed about people from different regions of Colombia because of how vastly they can differ in culture. Karen recognized “there are challenges, but that’s one area where God has been really faithful.”
Karen and Hugo have a wealth of advice they want potential adoptive families to know. Karen said, “Make sure it’s a calling. It’s not something that you just say, okay, I woke up this morning, and I feel like adopting a little person from another country.” Hugo wants people to know, “If you’re going to adopt, make sure you have a strong community. If your community doesn’t back you up, there’s no way that you’re going to be able to succeed in this.”
They emphasized the importance of adoptive parents preparing their minds with knowledge along with preparing their hearts. Karen wants adoptive parents to know the significance of educating themselves on trauma. Through Lifeline’s Rooted in Love™ conference, along with her own research, Karen felt more equipped to care for Tatiana and to understand the circumstances her daughter had experienced prior to adoption. She and Hugo also urged adoptive parents to learn about the culture of their child’s home country. They know that regardless of sharing cultural heritage, the Lord can break cultural barriers to bring families together.
The Lord planted seeds of faith in Karen and Hugo that grew to fruition in them individually. Because both of their roots remained firmly planted in the gospel, their faith stayed steadfast through every hardship that led them to Tatiana. The result allowed them to be used by God to then sow seeds of faith in Tatiana’s life. The family now shares a common inheritance from the Lord along with their common culture. Karen wisely stated, “This is my prayer to Him every morning: Guide me. Give me wisdom so she can know you.”