By Debbie Googeg
All of my children have come from God with different delivery stories. Our first child, Riane, was born during the hot, Virginia summer. The second child, Braydon, came two and half years later after an Ohio ice storm. The next two (Adela and Ricky) arrived by phone call. After sixteen months of foster care, we were allowed to finalize their adoption. The last two children (Mary and Wokelle) were delivered in the Chicago airport, conceived by the mighty prayers of their brothers and sisters.
My son Braydon is the one who started the clamor for more children, which quickly turned into a praying team consisting of all four of my children. At first I didn’t give them much attention, but my heart soon softened.
“Yes, I know how you feel. I have to be honest; I have been praying too, and I could see myself having more children. But we will have to pray about Dad. We will also have to be ready to accept whatever decision we get from him as he is the head of our family and God will answer us through him,” I counseled the children one day.
In November 2006, Jerome arrived at the family devotion table with our prayer notebook. He opened it up with his pen poised and announced, “I think it is time for us to pray about adoption.”
I felt like a mighty redwood had just fallen to the ground. I also knew that we would be having more children. That morning Jerome asked me to begin to research adoption agencies. We prayed over each one. Our family finally settled on a small adoption agency in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the country of Liberia.
We were concerned about the costs of international adoption and we were committed to proceeding without debt. Our financial advisor had talked with us regarding an investment that had matured. We had to make a decision about where to invest it next. No matter how many times we ran the numbers, it matched this investment. We finally called our financial advisor with our decision; we would be investing in children.
The next few months were dubbed “the Amazing Race.” They were filled with paperwork deadlines and a lot of waiting. In July 2007 we received a referral for two children: Mary, who was said to be 7 years old, and her brother, Wokelle, 3 years old. We were able to send small photo albums to them as we waited out the endless paperwork process. We also received photos and DVDs of Mary and Wokelle.
After much more racing to finish immigration paperwork, we were given a travel date of March 2008. The plan was for us to meet the children at an airport about two hours away. Sunday morning I was asked to briefly speak to the congregation, since they had been faithfully praying us through. I tearfully announced the coming arrival of the children and took their prayer card out of the prayer room. I also removed their pictures from my purse. Now I would be carrying my children with me in the flesh.
That Sunday afternoon we received the news that the escort team and several children had arrived at the airport in Monrovia, only to be pulled off the plane. An official at the airport had refused to allow them to fly. All the paperwork was in order and the airport official did not appear to have any authority in this area, but it was a weekend and he was the only one on duty. Our family was crushed. I contacted friends, I cried, I prayed, and I headed back to Sunday evening church service. I did not know where else to go, but to God’s people and His house. I cried my way through the evening.
After many frantic updates from Liberia and more than one change in plane schedule, the children took off with their escorts. We actually didn’t know which flight schedule they were following, since the travel agent was booking flights as they were traveling, but we knew that they had safely left the country. On March 20, 2008, we raced to Chicago, the closest airport they could book at the last minute, five hours away, for the delivery of our children.
They have been home more than a year now, and their arrival was only the beginning of our incredible journey. The first of our interesting developments was learning that the legal ages of our children were probably not correct. Initially, this did not surprise us; it is very common. Wokelle’s age is probably off by about a year—we believe he is slightly younger than stated. However, Mary is more likely four years older than her legal age. We celebrated her eighth birthday and then learned she had probably actually turned twelve.
The area of schooling has provided interesting challenges. Since Wokelle is in the 3-to 4-year-old age range, I chose not to work with him in the beginning. Mary had not had much opportunity at all to attend school. She could copy anything down in beautiful printing, but she could not read, and her math skills were very basic indeed. I began with a review of kindergarten and moved into first grade. This all sounds so reasonable, but Mary was 12 years old.
I felt a tremendous sense of pressure when I worked with Mary. She could not recognize patterns, did not know basic shapes and letter sounds, and she could not count backwards at all. In addition to her academic weaknesses, she was struggling with English. I found out much later that she really didn’t know Liberian English at all. She had spoken a tribal language almost all of her growing up years and had begun to learn Liberian English only when she arrived at the foster home where she had lived for nine months. I knew that she had a tribal language, but I had never thought to ask her how long she had been speaking Liberian English until we had been working for about ten months.
My first inclination was to try to help Mary “catch up.” I did not think we could go from first grade to sixth grade in one year, but I thought that maybe we could just do an extra lesson each day. She was eager to move forward but not eager to work. Some days I found that she was not in the mood and simply wouldn’t. She couldn’t read, so I could not assign work. I had to sit with her as she learned to skip count, practiced reading, etc. On the off days, she couldn’t or wouldn’t read words or count things, like we had practiced just the day before. I was frustrated and getting angry.
When things finally came to a head, I realized where I had gone wrong. In my zeal to move Mary forward, I had not taken into account all that Mary was trying to swallow. She was grieving for her country and birth family that she had lost. She was attempting to communicate in what was essentially a foreign language. She was trying to figure out the American culture, not to mention trying to understand and live in a brand-new family structure, and Mary also was entering puberty. I was ashamed of myself. This was not our family’s first adoption; why hadn’t I taken into account all of the adjustments she was dealing with?
Jerome and I sat with Mary one night and asked her to forgive us for putting undue pressure on her. After clearing the air with Mary and reassuring her that we loved her very much, I set about working up a plan. What I realized most is that my goal for her is not to get her “on track” academically but to help Mary grow into a Godly young woman.
I slowed her school down to one lesson a day in math and reading. As she waits for her lesson time, she uses a Walkman to listen to a Bible CD for children. She loves the stories and songs, and her lesson time is becoming more productive. It does seem hard for her to retain material, especially after a break. We are enjoying each other more now, and she is learning something new every day.
Our last two children may have been born in Liberia, Africa, but the hand of God delivered them to our family on a spring day at the Chicago airport. Finally, after racing around the baggage claim and ticketing areas, and up and down the elevator, we saw them. Mostly we saw him first; he was the smallest little boy holding hands with his escort. My husband grabbed the escort first and hugged her before he swept our new son up in his arms. I reached out and grabbed my daughter and put my arms around her. I think my first words were “You must be so scared.” Such was the delivery of our last two children.
All the children have come with far different delivery stories, but they were all delivered by the hand of God. We rest in the certain faith that God knew the plans for each child before we knew the child was planned. The Googeg family is quite a tribe indeed, but we continue to walk in faith and serve Him.
Debbie and Jerome Googeg live in New Knoxville, Ohio. Debbie enjoys writing around the chaos as they homeschool their six children. They have been homeschooling for ten years and expect to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (See Hebrews 12:1.) Their family blog is at TheGoogegs.blogspot.com, and Debbie blogs sporadically at HomeschoolBlogger.com/allmyetc.
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2009.
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