I was serving as a missionary at Love & Hope Children’s Home in El Salvador when I met Tonio. I had taken a leave of absence from teaching and before returning I had prayed that God would change my life forever for having lived this experience at Love & Hope. It was a month later that I met Tonio and only a few months after that I realized this was the life changing story God was writing for us. Tonio was a six year old boy who was the most playful, sweet, and tender child I had ever met. He was full of wonder and so joyful every day. We hit it off immediately and I knew quickly that this little boy had more to teach me than I could ever teach him.
Tonio was born with cerebral palsy and caring for a child with special needs in El Salvador is extremely difficult. I would take him to all of his therapies and try to find the best care for him. Those moments turned into a beautiful friendship and pretty soon we were inseparable. I would read bedtime stories to him, sing lots of songs together and I had a permanent seat next to him at mealtimes everyday. God gave me a beautiful vision for adoption a few months after meeting him. It took me awhile to believe that I could do this because I was not married and I didn’t have a family to offer him. But when I thought about standing face to face with the Lord and asking him if I should do this, the answer was an overwhelming, YES! Why wouldn’t God equip and empower me to do His will? The verse that inspired me and gave me courage was Isaiah 58:10, “and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
It took two years for us to finalize the international adoption and on August 9, 2014, I brought Tonio home to Ohio. The biggest joy about adoption has been watching him thrive in a new environment but also preserving his cultural background and ties to his friends and family. Although the journey has its challenges, God has shown his power, love and mercy in ways that I could have missed out on. This calling has changed Tonio’s life forever and the life of his children and their children and other generations to come.