What is a miracle? According to the dictionary, it is an event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.
Many people in the world today don’t believe in God. They say that things just happen, that they are coincidences. I believe that what some people call a coincidence is really God’s way of letting Himself be known. The issue of whether we recognize and acknowledge that, is what develops our faith.
My latest favorite book is called “Divine Signatures” by Gerald Lund. I truly relate to the experiences and doctrine that he shares in this book, and it has helped me recognize how much my life has been blessed, and how my life is taking certain turns FOR A REASON. One of my favorite sentences in the book says, “The Lord’s timing of His tender mercies can help us discern them, acknowledge them, and treasure them. Sometimes, in addition to the timing, the blessings come with such a unique combination of circumstances that it becomes very clear they are from the Lord.” This is what I am learning to realize and appreciate.
As I think back on the HUNDREDS of “coincidences” that have happened over the last year (and even before that in leading up to our decision to move to American Samoa), I am in awe. I know that Heavenly Father’s hand has been in this journey from the start and I marvel at how patient and kind he is as we cluelessly go about living our lives, not understanding the greater plan that is in store for us. I am so grateful to know that our Father in Heaven loves us and sincerely desires to bless us with those things that will help us the most in life. I know that as we try our best to live our lives in a Christlike manner, we will be guided and directed by His Holy Spirit to say and do things that enable God to make miracles happen. This is one of those stories.
Malia is three days old and is a beautiful baby. She was born to a nineteen year old single mother from Western Samoa who “just so happened” to move to American Samoa about 5 months ago. Her new parents are my friends and neighbors from Utah, Jason and Addie. They are the parents of three adopted children and have longed to have more children. Last year they felt that someone else was supposed to come to their family and so they started looking into their very limited options.
Their other children had been adopted through LDS social services, where you are not allowed to adopt more than three children (and it is extremely rare to get three). Jason and Addie believed that the only way to add to their family was through foster care or IVF. Although they had tried IVF twice before and failed, they decided to try it one more time. After months of pain, emotions, expenses, surgeries, medications and stress, the IVF process was completed, and they were devastated to learn just after Christmas that it had not worked. Full of grief and confusion, they continued faithful, confused at what they were supposed to learn from this experience, still believing that there was another child out there waiting to come to their family.
Now back to American Samoa. Michael and I moved out here last June not knowing why we were supposed to be here, but willing to follow the Lord’s will. We had received a definite answer that we were supposed to come here and so we packed up our home and our family and flew out here.
I had skyped with Addie a few times and we emailed each other almost every day as she was going through the IVF process. I had wished I could have been more available to offer support and encouragement. I felt like I was so far away and that there wasn’t anything I could do to help her through this painful process that anyone who hasn’t experienced infertility can even begin to comprehend.
As I look back on things, I see clearly the many small events that Heavenly Father placed in my way to make this miracle happen. I am usually teaching primary each Sunday, but on Sunday 18th December, it was different, and for only the second time since we’ve been here, I attended Sunday school instead. While I was in the Sunday school class, I looked to the side and saw Anna (birth Mom). She had moved to the ward a few months before and I remember saying “hi” to her, and trying to talk to her, but she was quiet and it seemed that she did not want to talk. She came to church every week, but I was in Primary and so had no interactions with her. On this day when I looked over at her, it was obvious that she was pregnant, something that I hadn’t noticed before. A voice spoke to my mind as clear as day and said, “That’s Addie’s baby”. I ignored it, although I did tell my husband about it, and I also emailed Addie and told her that something had happened at church and that I would talk to her about it another time. This happened on the day AFTER Addie had the fertilized egg implanted. She was completely in IVF mode and I chose to ignore what I had heard and support my friend in the IVF process.
Now fast forward two weeks to Addie finding out that she was not pregnant. I was on vacation in Western Samoa at the time, and a couple of weeks after I got back, I received my new calling to be in the Primary presidency. I took my last chance to attend Relief Society that week since I would now be in Primary (I assume) for the rest of my time here. The Relief Society teacher was a lady I barely knew in the ward, but Anna was living with her, so I assumed they were related somehow. As I sat and tried to listen to the lesson that she was teaching, I was overcome with the spirit. I felt that I needed to talk to her about adoption. My heart was pounding right out of my chest, I could barely breathe, and I knew that I had to talk to her immediately about the baby.
Now bear in mind that I have no idea who the pregnant girl was or any of her circumstances. I didn’t know if she was married, single, in a relationship, nothing. You don’t exactly approach a pregnant stranger out of nowhere and ask about adoption. Add to that the fact that is is very unusual for Samoans to adopt out their babies to anyone who is not related to them. As I have mentioned before, there are lots of young single mothers here, but the baby will be raised by another family member. This is common. Because of a scam by some palagis several years ago on the island, the judges refuse to sign any adoption papers to white people on this island. No adoptions can be done here.
Anyway, as soon as the lesson was over, I went to the front and asked the teacher if I could speak with her. I felt like I was going to explode, the spirit was so strong, and I just went forward not knowing beforehand what I was going to say, but trying to follow the impressions that I was receiving. The last thing I wanted to do was offend someone. It could have been an extremely awkward conversation. We walked over to the side of the room and I apologized that I didn’t know who the girl was that was living with them or any of her circumstances, but that I needed to talk to her about the impressions that had come to me. I told her that our two oldest children were adopted and shared my testimony about how I knew that our boys had been placed in our family for a reason, and that the Lord had His hand in our lives. I told her about when we were sealed in the temple, and what a joy that had been.
As we talked, I found out that the girl (Anna) was her niece, and had come to live with them when she had discovered that she was pregnant because she was ostracized from her friends in Western Samoa. The only way to approach this was to tell the truth, so I told her about the impressions I had received, and about my friends in Utah. She was very quiet and listened carefully with a solemn face. I was bawling my eyes out while I was talking to her. I was so afraid that she was angry and that I was offending both her and her culture. When I was finished, the tables turned and her tears started to flow.
It turns out that her sister (baby’s grandmother) had asked her to adopt the baby because they did want to keep it in the family. She didn’t feel right about this, and over the last few months had been attending the temple and praying about what to do with this baby. While in the temple, they were approached by three couples who inquired about what would happen to the baby and asked to adopt it. This didn’t feel right to the family, so they still struggled and prayed to find out what the Lord’s will was for this child. Time went by and the due date approached and they still didn’t know what to do. On this very day that I spoke to her, the whole family had been fasting to find an answer as to what should happen to this baby, and then I approached her. She told me that she would go home and talk to the birth mother and the family that night and then call me.
I went home with so many emotions. I had had no idea if this birth mother was even considering adoption, and there was no way I wanted to give any false hope to my friend Addie who was still in the grieving process. I decided not to talk to her about it unless I heard back from the mother.
I didn’t have long to wait. On Tuesday morning, the aunt showed up at Michael’s office insistent that Michael and I come over to their house that night so that they could talk to us all. Apparently there had been dreams and answers received, and they wanted to relay it to us firsthand.
Wow. The stress. The pressure. This just so happened to be my first day of teaching kindergarten, and my first day of my presidency meeting with my new church calling. I started to feel like I was caving. This was huge. I hadn’t slept much and knew it was time to talk to Addie.
This was on the 17th January, one month since I had first noticed Anna and received the impressions. I skyped with Addie that day, and she was trying to be all friendly and show me Lily and chit chat. I couldn’t handle it and needed to get straight to the point. I told her she needed to get all the kids out of the room and that I had to talk to her. Can you imagine how scared I was to talk to her about this and risk putting her broken heart through more heartache without any certainty at all? I felt responsible and so afraid, but through my sobs and tears, I was able to tell her about the experiences that I had had, and how Michael and I were going that night to have a face to face with the birth mother and her family, and oh, just to make sure, would she consider an adoption from American Samoa?
Shock and confused would be an understatement. For an opportunity like this to rise up from the depths of their sorrow was truly a miracle, and Addie and Jason like always, were trusting and faithful for whatever Heavenly Father had in store for them.
Michael and I found a babysitter and off we went to meet Anna. As with any face-to-face adoption meeting, emotions are very close to the surface. I reflected back on our adoptions with our boys and how they were both stressful and tender. Feelings of needing to impress, wanting so desperately to be chosen, but at the same time, wanting it to be a natural process where it only works out if it is Heavenly Father’s will.
At first, there was friendly chit chat, and of course, we were served huge amounts of food. Then after an hour and half when the socializing was done, the room was cleared, and Michael and I were left at a table with Anna and her mother. That was when we heard the most beautiful stories of faith, testimony and answers to prayer. Anna’s mother had spent many hours in the temple in fasting and prayer. She had received dreams, including one the night before where she was in a dream with a child. She has been to Utah before, and said that there were mountains in her dream and that it looked like Utah. She said that a car pulled up and a woman got out. The woman was me. I picked up the child to take to someone else. There were more dreams, and more experiences. Too many to mention here, but the conclusion of all of these experiences were that I was a vital piece of this puzzle, and they truly believed that I was here to get this special baby to its proper parents. They were sorrowful, but convinced that this was supposed to be. They have sincere testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and more than anything, they knew that this baby deserved the right to be raised by a father and a mother who could have the child sealed to them in the holy temple.
And that’s how it happened. Skyping with Addie the next day to report on what had happened was again emotional. The baby was due in a month. And thus our daily communications turned to three or four emails a day, where they focused on getting passport applications, home study, criminal checks, physicals, and all of the legal documents for an adoption. The plan was to get Anna to sign travel documents allowing Addie to take the baby into the United States, and then the adoption would proceed in Utah. My time here was filled with helping Anna, who had no official identification. I took her to get a social security card, then took her passport photos and filled out the application and took her for her appointment. With no birth certificate, she needed someone else to vouch for her identity, so there were lots of minor details that needed to be taken care of. We had to arrange flights, and luckily I have a friend who works for Hawaiian airlines who was able to help me out. I had to gather baby supplies together and prepare my lesson plans at school so that I could have some time off.
This sounds so much simpler than it was in reality, and in actual fact, there were so many more miracles that happened in this short 3 week period to make this possible. Without going into every detail, there were miracles regarding free access to an infant car seat here (Samoans just hold their babies on their laps in the car), Jason’s car selling after more than a month of no-one coming to look at it, and when the buyer came, he didn’t even drive it, just paid the cash and took the car. Anonymous money donations were left for my friends whose flight and adoption expenses were unexpected, especially after the huge expense of the recent IVF. Many connections were found between the birth family and myself, which helped to solidify the relationship. The birth mother loves junk food and likes to play netball. The birth grandmother is an avid genealogist. They also had so much in common with Addie. Anna was born in Hawaii and her Mom went to BYU Hawaii. So did Addie and her parents. Addie had spiritual experiences regarding her posterity when she was in the Hawaii temple last June when she flew down with me to help with the kids. During this experience she remembered that, and this strengthened her. A huge miracle was a scare that the birth Mom had a couple of weeks ago with some bleeding and she was told she would have the baby any day. They wanted Jason and Addie to come out earlier, but it wasn’t possible because the necessary paperwork wasn’t in place, and there are only two flights a week to American Samoa anyway. At the end of the story, Jason and Addie arrived here at 10pm on Thursday night, and Anna went into labor the very next morning. Precious Malia (Malia is the birth Mom’s middle name and is the Samoan name for Mary), waited patiently for her parents to arrive before making her appearance, and we were able to be at the hospital for the labor and see her when she had just been born. Malia’s umbilical cord had a knot in it, and if Anna had not gone into labor, it could have been extremely dangerous, even fatal. We had other small things happening, like when the baby was born, the doctors insisted that Anna breastfeed the baby, even though she was adopting (no-one bottle feeds here). I had bought bottles and formula for Anna to take to the hospital, so they had the supplies, but the nurses wouldn’t let them feed Malia powdered formula. They said it had to be liquid. There is only one store on the island that I knew of that had liquid formula, and when we drove there, it was closed. We were about to give up and just put up a fight for the powdered formula when I passed an open store and swerved in. I thought it was worth one more try. Addie and I went inside and I walked down the baby aisle where there were diapers, wipes, and baby food, but no formula. Rejected I headed back to the front of the store where I saw Addie staring at a random shelf facing her. There on the top shelf looking straight at her was some liquid formula among a bunch of other things that weren’t baby related at all. Another tender mercy.
There are too many of these “coincidences” to mention here so I’ll finish this post. What each one of us who has been involved in this process knows is that Malia was supposed to come to this family. Having to come half way across the world to make it happen makes it even more special. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for each one of us and loves us dearly. Do we allow ourselves to be led and directed, or do we let ourselves to get in the way?
It is such a thrill to have been a part of this miracle. I can’t wait to see Malia grow up with her eternal family, and I have learned that when the spirit speaks, you should listen…even if you don’t understand why at the time. Sometimes taking that leap of faith is scary, but it is a wonderful teaching tool. I have certainly learned many important lessons over the last few months, the most important of which is that our Father in Heaven is aware of us as individuals and that He loves us, and wants to bless us. When we try to be obedient and live righteously, we allow Him to do this. Through His grace, He can intercede and make up for what we lack, and miracles happen. Welcome home Malia!