Names and identifying details in this story have been changed to maintain anonymity.
Ask any of them and they will all say; their favourite memory is going to Gold Reef City (an amusement park in Johannesburg). It’s hard to get eleven people to agree on anything, but this was unanimous. Four adults and seven kids piled into two cars, for a day of wild rides, junk food, sunshine, laughter. They set out in hopes of an adventure and came back sweaty, tired, and grinning with a memory they’ll never forget.
But this was no ordinary outing among friends. This day…this whole month, was special. Jack and Sam were visiting the country of their birth for the first time.
Jack and Sam are brothers who grew up as part of the Door of Hope family. At ages one and three they were adopted into a loving family and moved overseas. This March they had the opportunity to return to their birthplace and spend time with the family who loved and cared for them for a year of their young lives.
The story begins, however, long before Gold Reef City, and long before Jack and Sam’s adoption. It starts with two couples with similar stories on different sides of the world, listening to God’s call.
Mark and Anne were married in 2004 with dreams of a big family. They were already connected to Door of Hope with two children of their own, when Anne stumbled across a problem to be solved. Circumstances and a two-year age difference made it difficult for Jack and Sam to remain together at Door of Hope. Anne brought the problem home to her husband Mark and with some prayer and discernment, what started as a problem quickly transformed into an incredible opportunity. Anne and Mark would foster Jack and Sam until they were adopted.
Cynthia and Clark were also married in 2004 and they, too, had dreams of a family. They, however, would not learn about Door of Hope until 2011, after three and a half years of struggling with infertility and a two-year adoption process.
Cynthia still remembers the day she got the call from the adoption agency. She was at work when the phone rang. She quickly stepped out of a meeting and found a quiet corner. “Do you have a paper and pen?” the social worker asked. “You’ve been matched with a boy… and another boy.” Cynthia still has the paper where she scrawled, in big shaky letters, the details of the adoption. Two weeks later they were on a plane to Johannesburg to collect not one, but two sons!
Anne and Mark got a similar call the same day. Jack and Sam had been matched, it was time to start preparing them to go home on an airplane with their new Mommy and Daddy. “Their adoption day was God-ordained,” Anne reflected. “I tried to prepare them for a younger energetic, bouncy boy who didn’t like to be held, and a timid, reserved boy who may not attach immediately. But the opposite happened. Sam went right up to his mom, held up his arms, and didn’t want to be put down. And Jack went running straight to his dad and never left his side.” The boys attached to their new parents quickly and Jack was even distraught that he couldn’t leave to go to his new home immediately. This newly united family counted down the three weeks until their flight home on a calendar, marking off each day until they reached the square decorated with an airplane sticker. Jack and Sam adjusted to life in their new family quickly; picking up a new language and settling into a new home with ease.
Because of adoption regulations, several years went by before there was much contact between the two families. Eventually, a Facebook relationship began, and one day a message came for Anne from Cynthia. “We are thinking about coming to visit, could we come visit you?” Soon it was arranged. The whole family would be coming to visit Jack and Sam’s birth country. “We wanted to know a normal day in South Africa,” Clark explained. “We got a rugby ball to take home with us and now we know what a braai is.” For Cynthia it was important for her boys to live normal life with the family who took care of them when they were young. “We could have taken lots of trips, but we chose to spend most of our time here” she stated.
With time, some memories began to come back for Jack. He remembers the birthday he had while in foster care; the present he was given, and the cake Anne made especially for him. Both boys celebrated their birthdays during their trip to South Africa and they participated in the unique birthday traditions of their hosts. Birthdays began with being awoken to singing and celebration by the whole family and ended with the birthday-boy’s favorite dinner, cake, ice cream and a slideshow of pictures from their time in foster care. These were precious moments for Mark and Anne as they got to share with these boys, for the first time, images of their time together.
Jack and Sam went hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains, explored Durban, and went on a safari in Pilanesberg, but when asked about their favorite moment there was no hesitation. Spending the day with the whole family at Gold Reef City was definitely the highlight. It was a wild ride that brought these two families together; an incredible adventure they will never forget.