It was December 8, 2008–the day to finally meet Sam. After years of waiting, Ashli and Kyle Young found themselves in Russia face-to-face with the 3-year-old child they would soon adopt and call their own.
"It was weird," Ashli said of that first interaction. "People talk about instantly connecting with their child. I didn't experience that. He was just a kid with a personality I didn't know."
Five years earlier, the couple began the adoption process after doctors said they had less than a one percent chance of getting pregnant. They wanted children and, through prayer, came to realize that God's way of building their family was going to be through adoption.
In the anxious period of waiting for the call that a child was available, the Youngs battled through learning experiences in their marriage as well as a surprising pregnancy that led to a miscarriage. In the meantime, friends were having children, and patience was difficult to maintain.
"Even though I didn't like God's timing, I had to trust that it was His timing," Ashli admitted.
When the call came through from Buckner International that it was time to meet their son, the commitment to follow through with adopting a child seemed intimidating. The couple, however, chose to trust that God's hand was in the process and brought Sam home to Texas where their lives would never be the same.
Sam adjusted easily. Within four months, he was speaking English. As he began kindergarten, though, evidence of his past struggles began to take effect, and learning difficulties made school more of a challenge than the average student.
Kyle and Ashli decided to take action and figure out what worked best for their son. They found therapists who could help cope with his feelings, doctors who understood international challenges, and teachers who taught with patience.
In June 2014, the Youngs felt God's calling to expand their family once more and adopt a girl domestically. Kayli, at age seven, had lived in seven different households and, because of that, had few reasons to trust that Kyle and Ashli were going to keep their commitment of forever to her.
Kayli quickly began demonstrating behavioral issues at home and in school almost on a daily basis, something that the Youngs expected because of her difficult past and making adjustments to a new family.
"To deal with somebody who hurts because of somebody else's choice can take an emotional toll," Ashli said while fighting back tears. "But I want my kids to feel the safest they can feel."
Day-to-day life can be challenging for the Young family. Ashli said she focuses on rejoicing in the little victories such as Sam not having to call from the nurse's office and Kayli not having to make a mark on the behavior chart.
Through the process of waiting for the calls, meeting their son and daughter for the first time, and now getting to raise their children, Kyle and Ashli have learned to lean on one another, to trust in God's provision, and to count on the support of family and friends.
Though they first saw adoption as God's way of building their family, they now also see it as a calling to choose to love someone who has been rejected, much like God's love for the Church.
Ashli said she looks at the challenges such as dealing with learning difficulties and behavioral issues as a chance to fight for children who did not have someone fighting for them for a long time.
Many people fear adoption will interfere with their lives, but the Youngs can attest to the process being a far greater blessing than an interference. Just knowing they can provide a safe place for children who would otherwise be without a family makes it a call worth surrendering to.
"We love our kids, and adoption fits us," Ashli said. "We're the right four people in this house at this time. Our hope is that our house will always be a safe place for kids."
Everyone can have a part in adoption even when they are unable to take in a child, Ashli said. The Youngs rely a lot on their friends and family who can provide emotional support and would struggle deeply without it.
When considering adoption or ways to help provide support to a family who has adopted, Ashli said the first step is to pray and say, "God, press on my heart what I can do," and He will lead the way.
Though Sam and Kayli share different D.N.A., Kyle and Ashli have chosen to love them as their very own. The children will be forever loved and, as their family motto states, they will be "Forever Young."
For more information about adoption visit texasbaptists.org/adoption.