Couples find Gods calling in adopting, raising
(May 12, 2002)
The fact that Jeff and Liz McClelland believe children
should be seen and heard rather than relegated to an obscure corner
of the basement is evident upon entering their homes front door.
Individual 16- by 20-inch pictures of 8-year-old J.R. and 4-year-old
Shannon line the living room walls. J.R.s elaborate train set
is in the basement family room. Shannons play area has taken over
a section of the living room. Their bedrooms have a plethora of gadgets
and toys as well.
(with doll) and J.R. McClelland have a recreation area in a corner
of the family living room.
Even larger images of the children are displayed
along the hallway. Liz, a stay-at-home mother, explains that J.R. and
Shannon are models for a portrait studio. But this home is full of something
more meaningful than pictures and playthings: love.
"We both felt very strongly that we were supposed
to be parents," Liz says. "As parents, we agreed that we wanted
kids to be the center of our lives and they are."
The McClellands married in 1987. Eventually they
learned they could not bear children of their own. Jeff and Liz without
hesitation turned to the Kansas City, Mo.-based Highlands
Child Placement Services, which is under the auspices of the Assemblies
of God Benevolences Department. The McClellands long had supported the
maternity home financially before they thought they might use its services.
Highlands has facilitated more than 700 adoptions
since its inception in 1966. The agency gives priority to couples between
ages 21 and 40 who have been married at least three years, are active
in an Assemblies of God church, and who have no children or only one
child. Parents must have medical evidence of infertility. Couples are
told to expect a wait of at least three years.
In 1992, the McClellands began the application process.
"We knew it could be a long wait," says Liz, 37. "When
youre unable to have children, you are willing to wait however
long it takes. Youre in a place where God wants to have you
on your knees a lot."
Nevertheless, the wait can be emotionally wrenching.
"I cant tell you how many times Highlands staff members prayed
with us on the phone," Liz says.
Many adoptions are completed within three weeks
of the birth, with the newborn in the care of foster parents in the
interim. However, the McClellands didnt receive J.R. for three
months. He had pyloric stenosis, a medical digestive disorder.
The foster parents proved to be instrumental in
J.R.s healing process. They took the baby to a church altar for
healing after doctors said the boy would need multiple surgeries in
order to have a shot at a healthy life.
J.R. has never needed surgery.
Immediately after receiving J.R. into their home,
the McClellands applied to Highlands again because they felt their new
son should have a sister. Highlands explained that the wait could be
much longer because of specifying a girl, but the McClellands pressed
ahead, even though Jeff had reached his early 40s. It turned out that
Shannon arrived only 26 months later, in September 1997.
Today, the children live active lives. J.R. is an
analytical thinker who likes to build train sets, draw pictures, play
piano and fish with his grandparents, all four of whom live in the same
city. Shannon is a petite, cute girl who enjoys dancing, swimming, playing
piano, singing in the childrens church choir and playing board
Their busy schedules are a blessing to their parents.
"You really do not understand the meaning of life until children
come into your life," says Jeff, 48, a computer operator.
Troy and Judy Highfill married in 1985. Seven years
later they applied to Highlands, figuring they had a lengthy wait ahead
before becoming parents. The Highfills brought the infant B.J. home
in April 1994, less than two years after applying to Highlands.
Unlike many adoption agencies, Highlands allows
the mother to choose the couple who will raise the child. She selects
the couple from a submitted profile that includes their photo and a
description of their goals as parents. Highlands first priority is to
meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the person giving
up her infant.
Highlands is a residential maternity home that covers
the housing, clothing and food costs of expectant mothers for up to
The dozen staff members ensure that the expectant
girls and women have the proper medical care and legal services for
Highlands works with prospective parents on how
much, if any, contact they want with the birth mother. For most adoptions,
Highlands acts as a mediator, with the birth mother and adoptive couple
never actually meeting.
For the first five years, the Highfills sent a newsy
letter and photo of B.J. to the birth mother every quarter, with Highlands
screening the communication to keep their whereabouts concealed. Now
the exchanges happen annually.
It is apparent that B.J. loves his parents and
that he is the focus of their life. This would be a much different-looking
home without B.J. No room devoted to homeschool activities. No sprawling
den filled with toys. No backyard full of playground equipment.
Math is B.J.s favorite school subject and
his mechanical abilities show in the contraptions he has built. The
talkative 8-year-old says he wants to become a race car driver and "earn
billions" of dollars.
"Having a child has changed our whole purpose,"
says Judy, 38. "Being a mom has become the most important thing
in my life. Im constantly reminded that its a privilege
to be an adoptive parent. Before, I didnt realize how it changes
Troy, 41, a grocery store produce manager, now views
his Heavenly Father differently.
"As Christians, God has adopted us and taken
us in," he says as B.J. crawls into his lap. "Having a child
makes you focus on whats really important in life."