Announcer 1: Welcome to the adopting and fostering home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way, and now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tara Melber.
Tera: Welcome to the adopting and fostering home podcast. Although we’re always honored to have guests with us, I know, Lynette, you’re especially excited to have a special guest with us today.
Lynette: Oh Tera, I sure am. When Kevin and I started this journey of adoption, we were at a total loss on where to begin, but before too long, the Lord’s kindness led us to a faith-based adoption agency in Lexington, Kentucky, and as soon as we drove over that day and we met the staff and especially the director, we knew that this agency was where the Lord was leading us. Let me share a quote with you that will help introduce my special friend today. We will care for the orphan wherever she may be found. If he is thirsty, we will give him drink. If she was hungry, we will give her bread. If he is naked, we will clothe him. If she is homeless, we will shelter her. If he is without comfort, we will hold him until he knows everlasting love.
I just love that quote because it perfectly sums up our brother in Christ, Tony Brewer, and it’s all that I have witnessed in his life over these past 15 years, so welcome Tony. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.
Tony: Praise God. Glad to be with you Lynette. It’s wonderful to be able to share with you today.
Lynette: Well we know you’re in the states for just a little while, and so we sure appreciate your time.
Tera: So, Tony, for those of us that don’t know your story, I was reading on your website last night that you’re actually an attorney, so I would like to know … for you to share with us your story of when he placed adoption on your and Cindy’s heart, and how you all ended up in the place that you are today.
Tony: Well, I had been involved in Christian education as a teacher and principal, and Cindy and I in pursuit of that went to grad school, and while I was doing that, I got a law degree, and we moved to northern Virginia where I clerked for a judge for a couple of years, hung out a shingle up there, and then one day, a young man … a young couple in our church came to me and said would you help me adopt a child from China?
Tony: And I worked on that question about 20 years. I had never thought about adoption. I had never thought about adopting children from China. This was in the early 90s. It was before it became regular to do that. There wasn’t even a way to do it, a set way to do it, but God used that question as I worked with that family and helped them adopt that child. That child now is at Harvard. I think she’s graduated from Harvard actually.
Tera: That’s incredible.
Tony: God used that to grab my heart about the plight and about the situation with girls, particularly girls, and that was the introduction to the whole thing.
Tera: Wow, that’s incredible. So, you have children, so tell me about your family and how old your children are now.
Tony: God has blessed us with five. We’ve got five girls, all adopted. God brought them all to us through adoption. Two were born in Kentucky, and three were born in China. They are now, all five, teenagers.
Tera: God bless you.
Tony: Yeah. I’ve got five teenage girls at the house.
Tony: They love each other to death, but I hear a lot. You didn’t ask me if you could wear that. You didn’t ask me to wear my blouse.
Tera: Tony, you’re incredibly outnumbered.
Lynette: Yes you are.
Tony: I am. I am. We love it.
Lynette: Well, Kevin and I have been so grateful for a helping hand adoption agency, so how did the agency formally begin?
Tony: Lynette, I should tell you a story because this is really-
Tony: -this is really part of the helping hand. When that couple in northern Virginia came and asked me to help them adopt a child from China, I began to do the research, and as I said, this was in the early 90s. It wasn’t a popular topic, but there had been a documentary put out by the BBC called the Dying Rooms.
Tony: You all may have seen that.
Tony: Where children in developing world countries … in orphanages in the developing world who maybe no fault of the director of the orphanage, but they’re just without resources, and when a child got to a certain point in sickness, they would have a particular room that they would take them to and just allow the natural process of death to happen, and it was called the dying rooms, and then how the one child policy at that time was affecting little girls, that policy’s now been changed, but that whole story grabbed me, and as I said earlier, I had just hung out a shingle, had just begun a law practice there in northern Virginia, and if any of your listeners have ever begun a business, sometimes you might have work to do and sometimes you might now have work to do, and if I didn’t have any work to do, if I had a two hour stretch, God burdened me with those kids and I would just pray there in my office. I had a very small office, didn’t even have a secretary, but there was enough room for me to lay down on the floor and cry out to God.
Tony: For these girls as I learned more about them, and so if I had two hours, I would do that. If I didn’t have any time the next day, I would just do my work. The next day, I would have … usually, I had a good bit of time during the week to pray, and I asked God for 1,000. Now, there’s no adoption agency, and in fact, not even a single child at that point, and for me to ask God for 1,000 at that time was made just as much sense to ask for 10 million.
Tony: Either number seemed ridiculous, but we worked that case and we did get that child back, and I did a few more adoptions as an attorney there in northern Virginia, came back to Lexington. My home’s back in Kentucky. Came back to Lexington, and practiced, and it became clear that in order to proceed to do that, remember, I’d asked God for 1,000.
Tony: That’s what found my heart. That’s what’s the passion of my heart at that point, and I realized that to be able to really do that, we needed to form an agency, and so we did, and we operated that … directed it for 13 years. We got to meet people like Lynette and Kevin Ezell, and hundreds of other couples of that caliber all over the United States, and to fast forward a little bit, at the time we finished and moved on to the next step that we’ll talk about later, I never thought about that prayer really. During the years we were just too busy doing the work, but when we wrapped it up and handed it over to others, I could say that God gave us 1,000 children.
Tony: That we were able to place and had a part in him placing, really, in wonderful Christian homes all over America, and so it was a great privilege.
Lynette: One of those thousand was my daughter, and so she has been the biggest blessing in our life, and phew, I don’t want to live one day without her, and she loves the Lord, and I know when the Lord calls us home, she goes with us, and so Tony, we’re just so grateful to you and the time you spent in prayer and your obedience to the Lord. If we’re talking to families, we have some listening today that are just about to step into this calling for foster or adoption, what would you say to families who are beginning the process to open their homes, to broaden their tent, to fill the empty room in their home or fill up their minivan with more children?
Tony: Well, you can do it, number one. There’s lots of things out there that’ll be discouraging, from finances to what people might say, what people may think, just stepping out of your normal comfort zone, but you can do it. If God is leading you, he will do it. I was just talking to a former adoptive family the other day. They contacted me and reminded me how they had sat in my office and said we feel like God is calling us to do this. We don’t have any money, and I said … I had forgotten this story, but he was reminding me, the father was, he said that we must have had a conversation where I said if God is calling you, I can believe with you for the money.
Tony: And let’s get started, let’s go, and you know, God provided.
Lynette: That’s right.
Tony: God provided, and I’ve worked with so many foster parents, and I am so appreciative of foster parents. I have never seen greater hearts than the foster parents that I’ve met. I did a lot of finalizations of adoptions as an attorney where a foster parent was bringing a child into their home or just … also, holding their hand in the process of when it didn’t work out.
Tony: But I’ve never seen greater hearts. I’ve never seen greater hearts than that group of people than the foster parents. Parents that are willing and interested to foster, what a wonderful ministry.
Tony: What a ministry that God is calling to exhibit the compassion and heart of Christ when there’s going to be some rough things that happen along the way, but to have enough of God’s compassion to stay in there, and what a rescue. That’s such a rescue of a child.
Lynette: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, talking about tough times, I know that you and Cindy had some children kind of come and go in your home, some heartbreak, but what was one of the hardest hurdles for your family as you were going through the adoption process?
Tony: Well, as I said earlier, God has blessed us, like you, God has blessed us through adoption. Our family is formed through adoption, but we had five adoptions that failed before we got one that actually worked, and all of those were hard. The last one was the hardest, but we were with the first mother all the way through the process from early on, so Cindy would take her to the doctor, and we were in the delivery room when the baby was born. Cindy was closer than I was, but I was there, and Cindy was the first … Cindy held him first, Cindy fed him first, changed him first, everything like that. We took him home from the hospital, kept him for three months, and all the things you do with a newborn for three months we were doing, and the adoption ultimately failed. We couldn’t get final termination rights with the birth father, and there was a lot of pressure on the birth mother, and she eventually, after three months, it fell through, and so we had to take him back to her after three months, and the only thing I could liken it to was the death of my father.
Tony: At that time in my life, my mother was still living, but it was very difficult and it was even, of course, more difficult for Cindy.
Tony: That was clearly our toughest experience, but you know, God used … of course, God uses these things, and he used it in our life, and one thing he showed me to it, I had taken the little boy out for a drive for my home area, farming area, and we were just parked on my family’s farm, and I was thinking, God, he’ll never know that we loved him. He’ll never know that we were there to love him. He was loved. He will never know that. I said God, that’s the hardest thing. He’ll never know that we loved him, and that’s true, but the Lord showed me his own heart for people, and if you think about it, that’s the situation that God finds himself in.
Tony: He’s reaching out to the multitude. He’s reaching out, and with great love, and so many, though, don’t know and don’t really understand and don’t appreciate and don’t comprehend his love for them, and so while I felt that very deeply at the time, God used him to show me and give me more compassion, not only for other children but for people that he’s always wanting to reach, and thankfully he does, but that was our most difficult experience. It was not long after that, that the first adoption that was successful happened, and we got our first born, Jillian, and it just seemed like they just came. The rest of them just kind of came in a torrent, and so we never had any more experiences with failed adoptions after that. They all worked.
Tera: The Lord does tell us weeping comes in the night and joy comes in the morning.
Lynette: That’s right.
Tera: And the Lord has much to teach us through the painful situations.
Lynette: Yes he does, and Jillian’s picture was posted everywhere in our area because her little picture in that purple sweater we use to promote adoptions, meetings and seminars in the Louisville area, but from personal experience, I know there was so much more to a helping hand than adoption, and our family, we ate beans and rice and saved money for a year, and took our three oldest children, our biological children to China on a friendship team under your leadership one time. You were not able to go with us, but you had just put a great team together, the Lord did, and I have to tell you, Tony, that was life changing for my children, and so those friendship teams were able to even do so much more than just bringing home a child into a family.
Tony: Praise God. Yes we did do that a lot, and yours is a wonderful testimony about that team. God used those teams that way. Not only in the lives of the people, and think about the people that you helped, and the way it affected your daughters. That was a great … that really was the start of what we’re doing now.
Lynette: Wow. That was just a blessing. I was in China not too long ago, Tony, and when I learned that that orphanage is now shut down, still trapped, no one gets in, no one gets out, and so we may have been the last team to go in, but I know a helping hand did so much more than just completing adoptions. How has this with your children in your home now, your five girls, how do you see them kind of grabbing onto and putting their arms around this calling for orphans and to helping the least of these?
Tony: Well, it’s easier for me to see it because where we live now, living in Vietnam. They come and participate. They participate in our outreach work. I love that, to be able to take them out. I know we’ll talk more about this later, but we’re involved in it really as a full time job.
Tony: In some ways, it’s just like a job anywhere else. We get up in the morning, we pray, we have breakfast, we go to the office, we do the work, and then we do that again the next day, and we do that for the week, and then we do it for the next week, but they jump in. While I’ve been gone, they joined Cindy and my staff, who was working with a family to try to keep the family together so the mother would not have to place her child in an orphanage.
Tony: And they went down there, and they were helping her with a micro enterprise project to help her make some more money for her family, and they took one of their bicycles to the middle girl. There was three children involved. Took one of their bicycles to the girl. They’re just kind of naturally turned towards that, and I’m glad of it.
Lynette: Well, they’re naturally turned toward it because you live it. You and Cindy hae lived it before them, and so we are just so grateful for your testimony today, for the encouragement you will be to those families listening today, and to just say you can do it. You can step into the waters, yes, and just how it’s life changing. It’s not all about us just bringing a child home. It’s what God’s doing in our hearts and in our lives, and the other children in our home and how he changes their lives as well.
Tera: Tony, it’s been a blessing to hear from you and to see how the Lord has worked in your life, prompted your heart initially, and has answered your prayers, and so we are excited as you continue on in your work, and we’re looking forward to you joining us the next time as we talk about your new work called orphan voice, so we do look forward to hearing more from you in that, and you can find Tony’s website, orphanvoice.org in our show notes, and you’ve been listening today to the adopting and fostering home, which is a resource of the North American Mission Board. We’re excited to have you again, Tony, and we look forward to hearing from you again. Thank you so much.
Tony: Thank you. Praise God.