“FAMILIES STILL NEEDED FOR HOSTING!” became a regular status update on my personal Facebook page as I was recruiting families to participate in a summer hosting program for children from China during Summer 2016.

One Saturday morning, after several posts had been made, I received a private message on Messenger from a former high school teacher that said “Hey Dana, this is Chuck Stallard. May be interested in helping as a host family. Got questions. Call me.” I told him I was on my way out the door to our adoption reunion picnic and would call him later. He made it clear that they were only interested in short term as an advocacy family and looked forward to my call.

As I was driving to the picnic my thoughts drifted back to the late 80s. I was in high school. Chuck and his wife, Cindy, lived in an adjoining subdivision and I was one of their regular babysitters for their children, Will who was a toddler at the time, and Katie, an infant. I had reconnected with the Stallards through Facebook and knew they had both recently retired from education, that Will and Katie were married, successful grownups with children of their own, and that Chuck and Cindy very much enjoyed their grandchildren, who ranged in age from infancy to four years old. I soon had a telephone conversation with Chuck and received the next message two days later. It simply said “Dana, we’re in! Let us know what you need.”

It was fun working with Chuck and Cindy to prepare them for hosting. They decided to open their home to 11-year-old “Wade” from our list. I met with them at their home on a few occasions to go over paperwork, perform a “home safety check,” and go over various Host Parent Education topics to prepare them for Wade’s two-week visit in late summer. During that time, I had the opportunity to meet a few of their grandchildren and had a great time reminiscing and reconnecting with them again. During one of the visits, Cindy stated, “I know we are too old to adopt, but what is the process for adopting a child from China so I can educate people while Wade is here?” I replied, “Actually, given your ages and Wade’s age, you would be eligible to adopt him or any older child.” The side-eye that Cindy gave Chuck did not go unnoticed, and I nonchalantly explained the international adoption process to both of them.

It finally came time for Wade to arrive in Kentucky, where he would meet the Stallard family, get to know extended family members, church friends, and other acquaintances, and be exposed to American culture, food, and rural Kentucky life.

During the first week of hosting, Chuck and Cindy were avid Facebook posters, sharing photos of Wade and boasting all about his smart, sweet, and helpful personality. Each post ended with “If you are interested in meeting Wade or want more information about international adoption, please let us know!” I couldn’t help but notice that all her advocacy stopped during the second week . . . and I had an idea I knew why.

I did not ask questions and did not push them but allowed them to enjoy their last week with Wade. When we met up at the airport to send Wade back to China, Chuck and Cindy both came to me and said “You are going to think we are crazy, but we’ve decided that we want to adopt him!” I got big tears in my eyes . . . I already knew Wade had stolen their hearts and would become a Stallard.

Chuck and Cindy worked at lightning speed to get their home study completed and their dossier submitted and back to China to complete the adoption process and bring Wade back home. They hold the record for the quickest adoption in the 10.5 years I’ve worked in the China program (aside from children who were aging out or required emergency medical intervention) and completed his adoption in only 8 months! Chuck and Cindy, along with a few of their grandchildren, attended our 2017 Adoption Reunion Picnic exactly ONE YEAR after Chuck sent the message saying they were interested in hosting as an advocacy family only. Wade attended with them, officially a Stallard, permanently a part of their forever family!

God always has a bigger plan than we can imagine!