Becoming a Forever Family Through Adoption: An Interview with Greg and Hillary Gilland
As you have probably noticed, here at Waypoint, we strive to take seriously God’s call to care for orphans, and we love to celebrate the many ways God knits us together as family. It was such a joy for me to be able to hear about the amazing way God put the Gilland family together, and learn more about their adoption journey. I hope their story will encourage those of you who are contemplating adoption, and I pray it will remind us all to rejoice that, through the Spirit, we have been adopted by God (Romans 8:15).
How did you come to the decision to adopt the first time?
Hillary: We were not able to have a child on our own, so we tried fertility treatments. Greg had come to terms with not having biological children, but I was not able to move past it. After about a year of prayer, we decided to move forward with adopting from China. I had a friend from Bible study who adopted from China and we decided to use the same adoption agency. After that, all doors seemed to fly open! When we were doing fertility treatments, we had every door shutting on us. We were constantly disappointed with results and confronted with many obstacles. It was clear that God did not intend for us to have a child that way. When we decided to adopt, we were given such peace.
What were some of the biggest challenges of the adoption process?
Hillary: The paperwork is overwhelming. I would get so frustrated that we were getting finger printed for what felt like the 30th time and filling out forms that felt like we had already filled out, but we just tried to focus on the end result. In our hearts we knew that God had a child picked for us. We just needed to jump through a few hoops to get there. There were also the fees involved with adoption. International adoption is about $35,000 to $40,000. We took out a loan to cover the expenses. We were trusting God that we would be able to pay the loan back quickly. He was faithful and we were able to pay off all of the adoption expenses within a year after bringing Ethan home!
Greg: Adjustments once we were home were a challenge in various ways as well. However, those challenges varied for each of our boys.
What were some of the biggest blessings?
Hillary: Being parents for the first time! We had waited about 8 years for a child. We were matched with Ethan after completing our home study, but we still had 7 months to wait until our paperwork was finished and we could travel to get him. We had 7 months to stare at his pictures and anxiously wait to get him. Meeting him felt like winning the lottery. The first thing I said was, “He’s even cuter in person!” We were fortunate enough to get to Skype with his foster mom before meeting him. When we met him on adoption day, he took us by the hands and led us to sit with him. He had absolutely no fear or tears when he met us. He left with us that day happy and ready to start his new life. We were shocked by how well he did!
Greg: In addition, we met such an amazing community of other families who have adopted and we believe God has used our story to encourage more families to provide orphans with forever homes.
What have you learned about God in the process? How have you grown?
Greg: We have learned that God is sovereign. He hears our cries to him, and He is concerned about us. He knows the desires of our heart, and He wants us to have them. We learned that our desires are not always met in the ways we expect them to be met. When we decided to have children, we expected things to go a certain way. When it didn’t go as planned, we had to shift our prayers to ask God what it was he wanted for our lives. Once we shifted our prayers, we were given peace. With our second adoption, we have learned patience. God is our father and he has tremendous patience with us. We need to be patient parents like God is with us.
How did you come to the decision to adopt a second time?
Hillary: It’s a long story! We have to blame it on Jina Yoo! Lawrence and Jina used the same agency as us. We had stayed in contact with the agency and the foster home where Ethan was living. There were two boys, Michael and Sean, who had been there a long time. Lawrence and Jina were considering adopting Michael, but they were instead matched with their son, Hudson. About a month later, Jina got an e-mail from the agency with new files available. She forwarded the e-mail to me, and Sean was one of the kids. Sean had been in the same foster home since he was 2 months old, being cared for by the same people who cared for Ethan. We have pictures of Sean and Ethan in their foster home together in China! We couldn’t stop thinking about Ethan becoming his older brother. So we decided to start the mountains of paperwork again, and we were amazingly matched with Sean. God opened every door again!
How do you talk to Ethan and Sean about adoption and their individual life stories?
Hillary: We try to speak positively of their adoption. We have photos of their foster family and of our trips to China. Ethan is starting to ask more questions about being adopted, and we don’t always have answers for him. There are some mysteries related to their birth families. We want to pray for their birth families. We know there will be sadness and unanswered questions. We hope that they can be at peace with that. We don’t know why God chose for them to leave China and be in our family, but we are thankful to have them. We are thankful to be their parents!
Is there any advice you would give others about how they talk to adoptive parents and adoptive children?
Hillary: I tend to laugh when people tell us the boys are so lucky. We feel that we are the lucky ones to be their parents. But, we would ask people to just continue to pray for them, love them, and encourage them.
What advice would you give a couple contemplating international adoption?
Hillary: Ask God for guidance and patience. The paperwork is overwhelming, but the end result it amazing!
Greg: Perhaps most of all, we would just encourage others to allow God to work on his timing and follow His voice. There are no easy answers, but the work God has done in our family is far more amazing than anything we could have worked out if we had made all the decisions on our own. So, trust God, listen to the Spirit, and lean on your spouse. Talk frequently, pray regularly, and enjoy the journey.