“As we began to walk out the doors together, one of the workers asked Kalina where she was going, to which she simply replied in her Polish tongue, ‘Home.’”
This is the story of God’s grace towards Matt and Sarah Robertson and their daughters Kalina (12 years old) and Annabelle (8 years old). When the time came for them to start a family, they began considering adoption. Sarah shares their powerful story below:
“Matt and I led worship together at our church in Columbus, Georgia from 2002-2007. During our time as youth and youth leaders, we had opportunities to go on short-term mission trips which the Lord used to stir our hearts for other nations in carrying out the Great Commission both here and abroad. The Lord would use this desire in the future of our family, for He had begun a good work that would be carried out to completion.
After getting married in 2010, Matt and I entered the world of entrepreneurship which eventually offered flexibility in our schedules. When the time came for us to start a family, this flexibility served as a key factor in our decision to adopt internationally. Adoption had been a means by which we believed the Lord was guiding us toward the dream of starting a family. Talking with our friends who had walked through domestic and international adoption made us realize that no matter the outcome of our own ability to conceive children, we needed to start the adoption process sooner than later because everyone’s adoption story had one thing in common: waiting.
As we considered domestic versus international adoption, we looked for ways in which the Lord had already opened doors to the path we would take. He had given us a desire for the nations, He had provided financially for more costly international adoption expenses, and He had allowed our work schedules the necessary flexibility to spend time overseas. Furthermore, we understood that children in other nations were more susceptible to dangerous and even fatal outcomes if left unadopted than those here in the states.
The next step was which of the 195 countries of the world would we choose, or rather, would God choose for us? Thankfully, our adoption agency, Lifeline Children’s Services, made this process fairly simple. After completing application paperwork, we were eligible to adopt from three countries. Of those three, we decided upon the only country from where we could adopt an infant—Ethiopia.
It was during this application and home study process when Matt and I found out we were expecting our first child, Annabelle. The anticipation of meeting our biological child and fighting for our adoptive child stirred up a plethora of emotions; nonetheless, the Lord, in His goodness, allowed this time of pregnancy to ease the long wait of adoption.
While I was six months pregnant, Matt and I finalized our dossier and sent it off to Ethiopia. We were told that we were number 34 on the wait list, which seemed short, but we were assured that the waiting could take up to five years. As we waited, Annabelle was born in September of 2014. Months later, we received news from Lifeline that Ethiopia had ceased international adoptions. After a full year of pouring out our efforts and waiting, this came as a blow. But God, in His sovereignty, provided. A new country, Poland, had just been opened for international adoption, and we met the requirements for it. Although we were no longer guaranteed we would be adopting an infant, we continued our pursuit of adoption in Poland.
As we waited to be matched with a child from Poland, Lifeline was holding a webinar specific to waiting children in Eurasian countries. Since this fell into our new purview, Matt and I decided to look at the waiting children list for Poland. Waiting children are typically those who are older, who have special or severe medical needs, or who are a part of a sibling group to be adopted together. Looking through the list we saw many children who fell into these categories. But one child in particular caught our eye: Kalina. We saw her adorable round face and curious gaze. She was four years old at the time and labeled as epileptic. Although we originally did not intend to introduce medical complications into our family dynamic, we considered that epilepsy could be treated more easily here in the states, depending on the severity. Overcome by compassion for this child, we inquired more about Kalina. Upon reviewing her documents, we found out that Kalina was not epileptic at all. Her birth mother had epilepsy, and Kalina had been given a false label that put her on a long waiting child list. While our hearts were saddened for Kalina’s long wait made longer by a false label, we were also relieved that the child we were pursuing did not have severe medical complications. After much prayer, we decided to tell Lifeline that we wanted to be matched with Kalina.
While we waited during the matching process, Matt and I had begun the process of building a new home. It was important to us for this new home to be completed before adopting so that our child would not be uprooted from one home environment to another in the states.
On a sunny October afternoon in 2015, as Matt and I were standing on the slab of our soon-to-be home, we received a call from Lifeline that we had officially been matched with Kalina.
This date was made all the more special for several reasons. Not only was this the day that we officially matched our child, but it was also my late Granny’s birthday which was just so happened to be Kalina’s fifth birthday. There was much to be celebrated and remembered on this day.
Being matched came with a departure date of mid-March, leaving us with less than five months to complete our new home. Now, instead of sitting back and waiting, we shifted gears to a hurried pace. On March 11, 2016, our home was completed with a certificate of occupancy. We moved, unpacked, and left for Poland within three days’ time. While we would be away for the next seven weeks, my family would accomplish the enormous task of unpacking the rest of the boxes, organizing our belongings, and decorating the house so that it would be ready for us to settle in when we arrived back home.
On March 18, we met Kalina for the very first time in Poland. We nervously awaited her presence at the center – anticipating not only seeing her but hugging her and talking to her even through the language barrier.
We sat in a small room with bare walls when she literally walked – or more accurately, bounced – into our lives.
Her hair was in high pigtails and her face seemed to glow a little despite the fact that she hadn’t mastered the art of smiling yet. She excitedly showed us around her “home” as she knew it up to that point. Her bed was no bigger than a crib and she shared a room with three others who were all unable to speak.
Kalina was then told that we were not just visitors but would be her parents. Her eyes lit up and she let out an excited, “Oooh!” for which we needed no translation. On March 19, 2016, we arrived for the second and final time at her center where Kalina was eagerly waiting with a suitcase of belongings. She skipped along in the halls as she willingly said goodbye to her friends and caregivers.
As we began to walk out the doors together, one of the workers asked Kalina where she was going, to which she simply replied in her Polish tongue, “Home.”
We have had the privilege of having Kalina as part of our family for the past seven years. Lifeline has been supportive throughout every step of our journey, offering post-adoptive counseling and resources, which helped us tremendously as we navigated inevitable challenges along the way, communication being the most prominent. Nonetheless, there have been immense blessings as well.
Just recently, this past January, Matt and I had the privilege of praying with Kalina to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Kalina went from an adopted child of ours to an adopted child of the King—the greatest blessing of all.
In closing, I would like to leave you with these thoughts I wrote when we announced Kalina’s adoption to our friends and family:
Although adopting a child into our family is certainly new to us, adoption is not. We were once orphans ourselves, separated by sin from our heavenly Father. While we were in our distress, God pursued us, sent His Son Jesus to reconcile us, and adopted us into His forever family. By adopting our precious child, we are simply living out (although imperfectly and on a small scale) what Christ has already done for us — and this gives us great encouragement, for we know He has gone before us. Furthermore, we celebrate our own adoption as a son and daughter of the King. He did not leave us in our distress but made a way for us through Jesus.”