Hiding from the police, being physically assaulted, insulted, and in fear of arrest. This was a typical day in the life of Kim de Blecourt for a year while she tried to adopt a child from Ukraine.
Kim de Blecourt knows about tenacity and perseverance. She knows the patience of waiting. She also knows that God wants her to care for orphans: a reminder of that knowledge now runs around her house at top speed every day.
Kim and her husband, Jahn, adopted Jacob, now 6, from Ukraine, a process that began in 2006 and ended in 2010 when mother and son stepped foot on American soil after she spent nearly a year in Jacob's homeland. Their tale, fraught with tension and danger, is the subject of her new book, Until We All Come Home, which releases in November by FaithWords.
The story really began with Kim's church's mission trip to Ukraine in 2003. In Odessa she saw street children crawling in and out of manholes, the sewers their only home. She saw their sallow skin and tattered clothing, but left Ukraine wishing she could have made an impact on their lives.
"My desire to adopt, and also my orphan advocacy ministry, was birthed right then," says Kim, who lives in Michigan. "That desire was watered as I studied the Bible, especially James 1:27, which says, 'External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need'" (Amplified Bible). "I realized that Jesus was calling the early Christians and us to justice issues. It was a wake-up call to me."
Secondary infertility—the de Blecourts have a daughter, Jacey—prompted research into adoption in 2006, with Ukraine always at the back of Kim's mind. In 2009, they received permission to go to Ukraine to adopt a child.
They adopted Jacob, and began what should have been a weeks-long wait for proper paperwork and permission to take the then 3-year-old from the country. Delay piled on delay, Jahn needed to return home for work and Jacey for school, and Kim was left alone in a country whose language she didn't speak and whose bureaucracy was confounding, corrupt, and occasionally hostile.
Although the government approved the adoption, a prosecutor was unsatisfied and pursued appeals and warrants to have Jacob returned to the orphanage.
"Jake was legally our child," Kim says. "I knew the terrors of what he experienced in the orphanage and there was no way this sweet boy was going back there."
So she and Jacob hid out in tiny apartments to stay away from the post-Soviet authorities who wanted to separate her son from her. Kim found friends in unlikely places, faced depression and despair, and wearily plodded through unscrupulous social service and judicial systems. Finally, in a desperate run for the border fraught with possible arrest and imprisonment, they—with help from a brave Ukrainian Christian—made it out of Ukraine and home to the United States.
A Nagging Feeling
The family is now complete with the addition of Jacob, a lively child who speaks English well and loves to hang out with his sister, Jacey, now 12. While Jacob is doing well, Kim has continued to have a nagging feeling about other orphans who are not in families.
"Through my experience with Jacob, I realized what truly losing yourself to God looks like for one person," says Kim. "I've seen the lengths God will go to for one child. God wants to be involved in our lives, not just as some distant sovereign being, but as close as a father. I saw God's true heart for the orphan. He considers himself father of the fatherless, and wants us to be his hands and feet to love and care for and encourage those children."
Her story, which started as a simple adoption, gave birth to an orphan advocacy ministry, dedicated to educating potential adoptive parents, advocating for adoption at local, state, and national levels, getting churches involved in God's command to care for orphans, and caring for these children around the world.
She also started Nourished Hearts (nourishedhearts.com), a place for the adoption community to gather and talk about the struggles they face, find encouragement, and help inspire others to begin their own adoption journeys.
"I focus on education, inspiration, and building community around orphan care workers, whether social workers, those working with orphans overseas, or parents," says Kim. "We need to build that community, and the best way to do that is online."
She is also affiliated with Food for Orphans, a Colorado Springs-based organization dedicated to providing food—often the most pressing need for orphans and orphan care workers—for the huge numbers of orphans around the world.
"Look, I'm only one person," Kim says. "But I said yes to God's leading. That's something everyone can do. The more I say yes to what God wants, the more strength he provides to get the job done. And it's a huge job!"
Reaching Out To Orphans
Saying yes has not only birthed a ministry, but taken her on trips around the world: back to Ukraine, to the Dominican Republic, and most recently to Zimbabwe, where she visited an orphanage, foster home, and community orphan projects in the bush. These projects bring together school, church, and village government leaders, who ask Food for Orphans to help care for the children. Food for Orphans provides at least one nutritional meal per day, in Zimbabwe a corn-based porridge with nutrients and peanut butter added.
"The trip to Zimbabwe showed me how desperate the situation is for these children," says Kim. "I met children who had been abandoned near the river because the mother thought death by crocodile was better than slowly starving; I met children who were tossed into pit toilets."
Along with feeding the kids, Kim also taught them about David and Goliath, and Esther. "I wanted to tell them the story of Esther, because she was an orphan too. And look what God did in and through her life. These children need to know God's love for them. And who will do that if we don't?"
Adoption is the best way to answer God's call, Kim insists. The reality is that most of these children may never be available for adoption because they have no birth records. "But we can give them a chance to live a normal life."
Her visits around the world have caused her to see life in a way she's been sheltered from in her Midwestern town.
"One orphanage was filled with only young girls saved from the sex traffic trade," she recalls. "That place was eerily quiet. It caused me to start investigating the human trafficking side of the orphan issue; I discovered that the number one group feeding the sex trafficking trade is orphans.
"When I talk about orphan care, I talk from what I've witnessed firsthand. I feel a burden of responsibility to be an orphan-rights advocate," says Kim. "I believe every child has a right to have a family."
Price Tags On Children
One of her biggest battles is against commoditizing children, which she defines in part as putting a price tag on adoptions.
The cost of adopting a child (typically $25,000 to $50,000, according to americanadoptions.com) prohibits many families from taking in these orphaned children. Add in the bureaucracy and politics of governments who get something out of adoptions or lack of, and you get a crisis, Kim explains.
"We've lost the best interest of the child," she says. "The child's interest doesn't exist anymore because of this commoditization of children. We all know we should be helping the poor because it's part of our makeup as Christians, but we don't need a body count to prove that point. Children shouldn't be used that way."
The other problem is that human trafficking threatens international adoptions. Traffickers have infiltrated the international adoption process, with adoption organi-zations crying foul and human-rights organizations wanting to stop the flow of trafficked children. They're succeeding, she says, but at the expense of true orphans.
"They're throwing the orphan baby out with the trafficking bathwater. Orphans are suffering because traffickers will just find another source, but the orphans remain in the orphanages."
Not if she has anything to say about it. With each passing year she becomes more committed to accepting God's call on her life. "This isn't what I envisioned," she says. "I just figured I'd adopt a child and live a nice, quiet life, raising my children. But God clearly had other plans for me!"
Does she ever despair of the immense workload?
"During those long, dark months in Ukraine when I was alone and fighting for this child, God gave me a verse that I still cling to: "I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope" (Psalm 130:5, NIV).
"We can't truly comprehend that God loves our kids more than we ever could. I had to trust God to do what's best for Jake, and if that wasn't me, okay," says Kim. "It took me all that time, almost the whole time I was in Ukraine, to understand that it wasn't about me wanting to be Jake's mom. It was about me trusting God to do what's best for Jake. And that's how I continue to work for these other children who all need homes and loving families. I just put myself out there. God does the rest."
Ann Byle is a TCW regular contributor.