One Million Arrows Christian Parenting Blog

Posted in: Arrow Families

Big Hearts, Open Arms
Guest Author: Judy Wiley
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Alexander FamilyThree or four years ago, the path ahead seemed clear for Emily and Moody Alexander—and much more direct. The native Texans had four children and considered their family complete. They were comfortable in their sizable home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Pantego. Moody had joined his father's practice at what is now Drs. Alexander Orthodontics in Arlington, and Emily was home-schooling the kids.

That was before. Before the entire family went to Ethiopia to adopt Abe. Before they learned, after they got back home, that Abe was suffering from cerebral palsy. Before they returned to Ethiopia and adopted Seth. And before their passion for making a difference against incredible odds began to spread.

The trickle of an idea that grew until it opened the floodgates to their hearts came after Emily read Same Kind of Different as Me, the tale of Ft. Worth art dealer Ron Hall's life-changing friendship with Denver Moore, then homeless and living on the streets. She was left with an uneasy feeling.

"It was just when life was starting to get easier," says Emily, 38. The kids were getting bigger; their future was secure. "But I knew there was something different [ahead] for our family." She didn't want to reach the end of her life and find regrets waiting. The couple started praying for direction.

It came from their kids. Always hounding their parents about wanting more siblings, they saw a family friend's video about orphans in Zambia and that was it. Issy wanted to bring one home. Emily said no. Hill, the oldest, asked her to pray about it. The trickle of an idea turned into research, which revealed that Africa is home to a stunning 25 million orphans—some estimates say 50 million or more. The research led to Ethiopia, which is one of the few African nations that permit international adoptions.

About a year later, the entire family was on the way to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to bring Abe home. The journey, say Emily and Moody, changed their children's lives.

"The day we were getting Abe, I thought they'd be whining," Emily said. The family had waited for hours at the orphanage, where Third World conditions prevailed—sporadic electricity, one outdoor faucet for water. But instead, Wick, then 11 came to her and said, "Mom, this is the best day of my life." She asked her second-oldest son why, and he replied, "They're so happy. They have nothing, and they're so happy."

Emily Alexander and kidsIt was the kids, again, who turned the world around for the couple during the dark days after Abe's diagnosis. Avery had made a collage of photos of her new brother, with the title, "For this child I prayed." The words struck Emily—this child, not another. The little boy likely would not have survived in Ethiopia. Here, he receives hours of therapy, and has begun to progress. His story is in a book by Hall, Moore, and Lynn Vincent 2009's, What Difference Do I Make?

Last year, the Alexanders returned to Ethiopia to pick up Seth, convinced that the drought-stricken country is where they can best give back what they've received in life.

Photo caption: Emily holds her youngest child, Abe, as two of his siblings play with Seth. The four older children helped persuade their parents to adopt Abe, then Seth from Ethiopia.

Article adapted from, "Big Hearts, Open Arms," by Judy Wiley, 360 West Magazine, February 2010, page 76-77. 

Photos by Ralph Lauer

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