Just so you know—if you marry me, we’re going to adopt someday,” Jen Schmid recalled telling her now husband, Tony, early in their relationship.
Jen had always felt strongly about adoption, so after marrying Tony, she was thrilled when he told her he was ready to start talking about it.
Six years later, what started as “just something on our hearts” has turned into an adoption journey Tony and Jen Schmid had once begged God not to make their own—one that might not end happily.
Tony and Jen began their adoption process in the fall of 2010, but when they discovered they were pregnant, they decided to put their adoption on hold. Once their son Max turned two, they knew it was time to finish the adoption paperwork.
New Years Eve, 2013, the adoption agency sent a photo. It was the first time Tony and Jen saw a picture of Moses, who lived in the Congo. And one look was all they needed. They said yes to the agency—yes to Moses.
“We went and met him in August (2014), and right after we got back, our court date was finalized, so he was legally ours…” Jen said. “He was feisty. He would hit us and scratch us (at first)…He warmed to me right away, and by the end of our trip he was calling us Momma and Dadda.”
The spunky personality of this 1-year-old quickly captured Tony and Jen’s hearts. They couldn’t help but laugh at his mischievous little smile, like he knew he was getting away with something.
Back in the States, Tony and Jen received a phone call from their agency and learned the 30-day period for Moses’ family to reclaim him had passed, and he was living in the foster home. He was officially their son as far as the Congo was concerned. Excitement filled their home as the desire to adopt was finally becoming reality.
An Unexpected Call
But two weeks later, the adoption agency called again. This time, it wasn’t good news. Moses had an aunt, and she had taken him back to her village 12 hours south of his foster home.
“(His family) had already given him up,” Tony explained. “They had given up their rights, which she took back. We’re not really sure what happened.”
The best explanation their agency could give was the Congo did not abide by the same standards of rules as the United States. If a family came for their child, regardless of laws, they were granted permission to take the child.
“That was pretty devastating, to say the least,” Jen said. “For the next year, we had no contact. We had one or two pictures that we got that whole year.”
The Schmids aren’t the only family affected by the Congo adoption process. Tony and Jen learned the country had put a ban on the last piece of paper needed to bring children out of the country. Regardless of where someone was in the adoption process, every case was under investigation. Tony and Jen joined the 400 other helpless families who could do nothing until the country lifted the exit-permit ban.
Nothing, that is, besides hire a private investigator.
The fact that the Schmids had to take everything they were being told as true was downright scary. What if the family was lying to them? What if there actually was something they could do to get Moses home?
The private investigator learned Moses was born to a mother who died shortly after his birth and a father who was nowhere to be found. His aunt had given him up to the orphanage before changing her mind and taking him back to her village. The Schmid’s lawyer told them he had “never seen people as bad off” as Moses’ family.
One More Call
Sound asleep in their bed, Tony and Jen’s phone rang once again. A little groggy and a lot amazed, Jen found herself talking to Moses’ family. And what she learned was surprising.
“I guess they were told we never wanted to meet them, so they were offended—which, of course, we never said,” Jen explained. “So that’s why they said they took him back.”
But as the conversation went on, Jen realized it wasn’t just a get-to-know-you conversation. Moses’ family wanted money.
Human trafficking is a huge problem in Africa, and the Schmids did not feel comfortable giving Moses’ family money under the table in exchange for their son. Instead, they found a legal way to send money to help the entire village.
Amazingly, the family agreed to the adoption.
With a few more documents waiting for approval on the United States side of the process, Tony and Jen now hope Moses’ family sticks to their agreement and brings him to the Embassy to sign off on their final rights. If they don’t, there is nothing more the Schmids can do. The adoption process will cease, and Moses will remain in the Congo.
“We can’t just keep sending money,” Jen said. “We can’t do it anymore. We would do anything for him if we thought it would get him home, but we just don’t think that we’re going to break through that wall if they don’t show up. We’ve tried everything we can possibly try.”
The Most Important Thing
Did we do the right thing? Did we ask the right questions? Will we ever bring our son home?
These are just a few of the questions Tony and Jen have struggled with, wondering why this journey was entrusted to them.
“There’s been a lot of doubt, to be honest,” Tony admitted. “Doubting the entire process and doubting if this was what we were supposed to do. I mean it’s taken almost four years…God has obviously taught us a lot about praying and waiting.”
One step at a time.
That’s how Tony and Jen have approached this year after year. Knowing the last step is the appointment at the Embassy, the Schmids are still waiting to find out if they will bring precious Moses to their home in Michigan or if they will have to let him go in their hearts. A process, Jen says, that would be like grieving over the death of a child.
But until then, they wait. And they search for the good.
“Something good has got to come out of this,” Tony said. “I don’t know why else God would’ve asked us to do this. I just don’t know what that good is yet.”
As they wait, Tony and Jen continue to grow as a couple, as parents and as Christians. The harsh realization that, even though they know they are doing God’s work, they are taking a child away from a family hits hard at times. Other times, the thought of never again holding their baby boy is too much to bear.
“As a mom, when someone calls you and tells you the son you held in your arms, who called you Momma, who cried for you when they pulled you away when you had to leave, you’ll never see him again, and it’s over, that’s literally next to him dying,” Jen said. “That’s how painful that was for me. But I know I still have the thing that is most important to me: my faith.”
Even if they lose the thing they dreamed about most—their family and their children—Tony and Jen have learned God is enough for them.
“That was a hard lesson for me to learn,” Jen said. “Yes, He is enough… Even if the ground falls out from underneath me, and I lose everything, He will still be enough. I found there’s so much to learn about God in the lamenting and in the sadness and in the suffering that you miss when you’re not in those places. I never knew any of that stuff because I never suffered the way I’ve suffered the last three years.”
Tony and Jen know Moses belongs to God first and foremost. Even though they may never see their baby boy again, they would not change anything about the years they have spent fighting to bring Moses home. Their desire to adopt was not a mistake. Even in the waiting and pain, they choose to believe God will bring the good.
Because He is enough for them.