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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. ...

The Baby Whisperer

By Scott Harrup
May 11, 2014

To the medical team caring for him, he was simply “Baby Boy.”

At just 5 pounds, 2 ounces, he had a low birth weight. He fought off sleep. There was no family to support him.

Baby Boy lay in a neonatal intensive care unit in the Arizona hospital where he was born Nov. 3, 2013. His birth parents had agreed to place him for adoption. The hospital staff and local adoption agency faced two challenges.

Wean this underweight newborn from a heroin dependency developed in the womb.

Find a family willing to adopt a child whose future was full of questions.

The November Sunday on which Baby Boy entered the world happened to be Orphan Sunday, an initiative sponsored by the Christian Alliance for Orphans and very close to the hearts of Nik and Megan White of Springfield, Mo.

Nik serves as the youth and young adult pastor at Central Assembly of God in Springfield and was preaching that Sunday in both morning services to the full congregation. Some in the audience knew of the Whites’ prayerful pursuit of an adoption following painful experiences a couple years earlier.

“In 2011, we lost two pregnancies back to back,” Megan says.

“Doctors ran an array of tests,” Nik says. “They told us there was no clear reason we had lost the babies, and they couldn’t explain why we were unable to conceive following the miscarriages.”

The Whites had only recently made the decision to go through the approval process required of adoptive parents. They hired an adoption consultant in September 2013. She belonged to a Christian consulting group with adoption agency contacts across the United States. But even this level of proactive networking could not erase one fact: the adoption journey can be long and fraught with setbacks.

“We thought we would be doing great if we had a baby by the end of 2014,” Megan says.

Others were more optimistic.

“You’re going to have a Christmas baby,” Tom Matrone, Central Assembly’s worship arts pastor, assured the couple. Megan is his daughter.

“We’d say, ‘Dad, don’t get your hopes up. You’ll be disappointed,’” Megan remembers.

In Arizona, the week after his birth, Baby Boy continued to eat well. Sleep was another story. His craving for the drug he had encountered in the womb was only partially offset by carefully scheduled doses of morphine. His agitation kept him awake, and his lack of sleep kept him from gaining weight.

A providential series of events in Missouri would soon transform his life.

Wednesday, Nov. 6, the Whites received their first lead from the adoption consultant. A baby girl due in March could be theirs if the remaining steps with the birth mother fell into place. Nik and Megan needed to give their confirmation in 24 hours.

“We prayed and talked about it all day,” Megan says, “and felt it was not the choice for us.”

The very next day they learned about Baby Boy. Initially, in their adoption registration, the Whites had leaned strongly toward requesting a child without health complications. But God began to direct them individually about the real opportunities lying before them.

On that Thursday, Megan participated in a national AG Women’s Ministries focus group.

“The speaker talked about his daughter who had been in special education classes and had been able to be mainstreamed,” Megan says. “Something in my heart began to call on me to look past any surface desire for perfection. It felt like God was saying Nik and I needed to open our hearts up to just love.”

For Nik, a missions class he was taking at nearby Assemblies of God Theological Seminary confronted him with God’s unconditional love for everyone.

“I kept thinking of Paul’s metaphor for adoption, how the Gentiles are adopted into the family of God,” he says. “Paul also stresses that no one’s perfect. No situation is perfect. In one sense, every one of us is a drug-dependent baby, metaphorically. I felt convicted about why I wanted the perfect situation. There was no perfect situation in either adoption scenario — God’s or ours.”

For the Whites, Baby Boy’s exposure to drugs became just one more reason to trust God on their adoption journey. They responded to the Arizona query on Friday and watched the seconds slow to a crawl through the weekend as they waited for confirmation.

On Monday, Megan took the phone call that transformed their lives.

“He’s yours,” the adoption consultant told her. “They picked you.”

For the adoption agency in Arizona, one detail in the Whites’ application proved to be the tipping point.

“In our family profile,” Megan remembers, “you write something about your spouse. Nik had written that I was ‘the baby whisperer.’ The agency director said that stuck out for her, because the baby was not sleeping. ‘We need the baby whisperer to come,’ she had told her team.”

With Monday’s news, everything else went on hold. Nik never made it to the youth retreat he had scheduled. Megan, a photographer, renegotiated deadlines with about a dozen clients waiting for family portraits. Plane tickets purchased Monday night provided seats on a flight to Arizona Tuesday, and Nik and Megan saw their son for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.

As soon as Megan picked him up, Baby Boy’s agitation vanished.

“I knew it,” a staff member said, “the baby whisperer!”

Megan and Nik showered love on their son around the clock. Baby Boy was no longer an anonymous newborn in need of a family. He was Elijah Thomas White.

“We had named him Elijah,” Nik says, “because it means ‘Yahweh is my God.’”

That zeroed-in focus on God’s hand upon their son’s life would help Megan and Nik to weather Elijah’s continued withdrawal symptoms and grow their faith to anticipate continued answers to prayer.

“I’m a worrier and doubter,” Megan admits. “I jump into action, and then I freak out. But I got to the point where I was saying, ‘I’m not going to worry about that because God has been taking care of everything.’”

Taking care, for example, of the maze of legal documentation that would allow Elijah to leave Arizona with his new parents and move to Missouri as their legally recognized son.

“That all went through in two days,” Nik says. “It can take a month.”

God’s hand was evident as Elijah accelerated toward a drug-free life, as he grew from only the fifth percentile in age-appropriate weight toward the national average, as his sleep became more restful and prolonged.

The Whites did have their “Christmas baby.” Elijah Thomas is a well-recognized and deeply loved member of the Central Assembly family, with his regular Facebook updates through 2014 garnering hundreds of likes and encouraging notes.

Megan is overwhelmed with a sense of blessing in their home and on their son. The pain of repeated loss is a rapidly fading memory.

“I think for me — and for other women who struggle to conceive — the question of ‘how is my family going to be created?’ can weigh us down,” she says. “Watching my family be created before my eyes was worth the wait ...

“There’s so much peace now.”

SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.


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