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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...



Connections: Jenny Young

Eight Gifts, a World of Joy

Married in April 1980, Ron and Jenny Young shared a desire to be adoptive parents. Son Daniel was born in 1982, and four years later the Youngs began to expand their family by inviting children from a spectrum of cultures into their home — Andrew (South Korea), Cyndi (U.S./Mexican Indian), Paul and Dianara (Angola), Monique and Jacoby (U.S./African-American) and Shawna (Alaska/Yupik). Jenny recently shared her family’s story with Managing Editor Scott Harrup.

evangel: You also opened your home to foster children.
YOUNG:
As youth pastors with our biological son and first adopted son, we started offering foster care for teenagers. We did that for about two years and realized we needed a more stable environment than foster care could provide.

evangel: Early on, you began to deal with a series of health issues among your children.
YOUNG:
We didn’t seek out kids with health issues, but it seems like that is what God brought our way. Every child we adopted seemed to have a more severe issue than the last one.

Ron and I are both asthmatic, so even Daniel had his challenges. Besides asthma, he had repeated ear infections until it caused hearing loss, and he had about eight surgeries on his ears. God healed him of asthma and his food allergies — he was allergic to everything. God touched him when he was about 10, and he hasn’t had a problem since. He served in the Marines four years. God has done a wonderful work in his life.

When Andrew came into our home, he had an array of immune system problems. He turned out to be asthmatic too. If anyone around him had a cold or the flu, Andrew would catch it and get it worse than anyone else. We had to give him gamma globulin treatments every few months. He had to have surgery on his eyes too. But Andrew believed God for his healing, and in his later years of high school he was healed of everything. He’s in the Army Reserve now.

All of our U.S. adoptions were drug and alcohol babies. Cyndi was never supposed to walk or talk, and it was predicted that she would be severely mentally challenged. We prayed over her, and God healed her.

Monique was from Colorado. She had spina bifida and was an emotional mess. She had been moved so many times she didn’t believe anyone could ever love her. We would put her in the car, and she would scream, thinking we were taking her to another foster care. It took a long time for her to realize that we loved her. God moved on her and touched her, although she still used crutches and a wheelchair.

When we adopted Jacoby from Texas, we were told he was severely mentally challenged. He was only 10 ounces at birth, with fetal alcohol syndrome and some exposure to drugs. He had been in intensive care for nearly a year before being released to foster care. Jacoby came into our home when he was nearly 5, and he still wasn’t talking. We were told not to expect anything from him, but within in a year he started talking and signing. When he was tested, we found he was not even close to mentally challenged. Today, he’s very active in our church’s youth group. He has participated in Fine Arts in sign language solos, drama and creative arts. He wants to get involved in Master’s Commission.

Paul and Dianara are originally from Africa from a war zone. Paul was suffering from severe malnourishment and post-traumatic stress disorder. Dianara had a blood disorder. Paul and Dianara both came with learning disorders and needed to learn English. Paul is totally up to speed and serving in the Army now. Dianara is now a special education aide and is getting married.

Shawna was our final adoption, and she is profoundly handicapped.

evangel: Shawna came into your home through some unusual circumstances.
YOUNG:
We received a wrong-number call from Alaska. You talk about a God thing. We live in Alabama and have no connection to Alaska. It’s funny that every kid we have adopted with a different nationality, God put that burden on our heart for those cultures before we even thought we would be adopting the next child. In fact, most of our adoptions came about because we were helping someone else adopt, and they backed out and we said, “This child needs a home.”

With Shawna, we felt like we had no room for another child, that our home was bursting. And we got a phone call from Alaska about a Yupik Eskimo girl, 7 years old, who had cerebral palsy. As they were giving me a description of the child, I was thinking, Absolutely not. No way. I cannot handle this child. Her needs are too severe. There is no way, God, that I could take this child. She is way beyond our capacity to offer care.

So I told the person on the phone that we were done taking in children and that they had the wrong number anyway. But I said I would talk to Ron. And when Ron and I were talking, he felt we needed to look more closely. So I called back for more information, and only became more scared. They sent us a video of her, and that was it. We adopted her.

When Shawna came into our home, she acted more like an animal than a person. She had lived in a village where she could not get the services or care she needed. There had been no early intervention. Initially, she could scream for seven hours straight until she fell asleep. She wasn’t feeding herself. It was very hard.

And yet, I’ve never heard God’s voice more clearly than when I called to say that we would take Shawna. He left the choice to me, but He also showed me that Shawna’s future in Alaska was hopeless. “That’s not fair, God,” I prayed. “I’m supposed to be able to just say no.” But because I could see what her life would be like without our family, I couldn’t say no.

Now, I wouldn’t trade a single day I’ve had with Shawna. She needs round-the-clock care. She is profoundly handicapped, nonverbal, and can hurt herself. The local schools have explained they are not able to care for her and keep her safe. So I care for her full time. But she is a joy and a blessing. I would never change a thing, even though my life and my family’s lives have been completely changed.

evangel: Your family endured multiple tragedies last year. Please talk about that.
YOUNG:
Cyndi was 20 years old and 7½ months pregnant with our first grandson, Keshon. Her husband worked a graveyard shift, and they were driving home at 1 a.m. on Aug. 22. A driver ran a red light and hit Cyndi’s side of the car. We lost both Cyndi and Keshon.

Three days after the memorial service for Cyndi and Keshon, Monique collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. She spent 13 days in ICU unconscious and on a ventilator.  She died due to complications from the H1N1 virus. Monique was welcomed into heaven on Sept. 13, 2009. She was 19 years old.

evangel: How did the support you received help you through those months?
YOUNG:
The Christian community and deaf community wonderfully supported us. We were overwhelmed that Cyndi and Monique had made that much of an impact on their communities at the age that they died. We received more than 2,000 cards. Complete strangers have called and said, “Cyndi (or Monique) has made a difference in my life, and we want to do something in their name.”

I don’t think we knew how much we were loved until we went through this. We don’t have a lot of friends we spend a lot of time with because we’re nurturing and caring for kids. But after Cyndi and Monique died, we were absolutely shocked at how the Christian community and our larger community supported us.

The Army flew Paul back. Andrew was in Iraq, and they flew him back. We buried Cyndi, and the boys flew back overseas. Then we lost Monique and the Army flew them home again. If it hadn’t been for our church being there and supporting us, and if it hadn’t been for the community, the first months would have been unbearable.

evangel: Where did you find your personal strength to face your loss?
YOUNG:
God must be your Source. For the last months, this is the hardest thing our family has had to go through. You’ve got to have God as your Source, number one, beyond anything people can offer as comfort.

As you’re going through the long days, you can’t be tied to other people around the clock. You’ve got to get things right with God and rely on His strength. Even though your friends are there for you, they’re not the ones who are going to bring healing. I found that as I read books of other people’s experiences, as I got back into the Word, as I spent more time on my knees, as I journaled, it allowed me to get through my day and offer the encouragement our children needed.

Ron and I have talked a lot with the kids. We first of all had to be at peace in the belief that God had this in His control. Then we had to do a lot of forgiving, particularly with the car accident. We made decisions that we would forgive, and let it go, and that God would take care of it. God is bigger than we are.

evangel: Ministry to the special needs community is a continuing passion of yours.
YOUNG:
Ron and I thought youth ministry was where we were going to be all of our lives. As we started accepting these kids in our home, we realized the church didn’t have programs for them, so we began to develop and lead those programs. We have learned sign language and have started an interpreters program in our church [Calvary Assembly of God in Decatur, Ala.] and are training interpreters.

Disability ministry has taken a primary place in our lives. We started working in the church knowing we wanted our kids to love God and realizing that nobody knew how to work with them. We had to learn and then started teaching others. So that has become our primary ministry all these years.

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