When Danny and Carrie Paschall arrived in Ethiopia this summer to pick up their 16-month-old adopted son, Brenner, he didn’t want anything to do with either of them. They were just so different from anything he’d ever known.

It took three days for Brenner to warm to his new parents, but when that connection happened, it was all the more meaningful.

“It was kind of this beautiful moment where I felt like God was saying, ‘You and this person are connected now and I have the title Mom for you,’” said Carrie, who graduated from Biola in 1995.

She and Danny, Biola’s associate dean of student development and community life, have now adopted three children and in the process gained a deeper understanding of their own adoption as sons and daughters of God.

Although Brenner was the Paschalls’ third adoption, he was their first international adoption. Their daughter, Ramie, 7, was adopted from Hemet, Calif., and their son Brody, 5, from Amarillo, Texas.

The Paschalls found Brenner through the agency All God’s Children Intl., which owns the Hannah’s Hope orphanage in Ethiopia. They requested a boy under 2 years old, and after completing an abundance of paperwork, they were e-mailed Brenner’s picture, story and medical records. Then they waited for a travel date to get Brenner, which ended up being July 14, 2008. [Follow the Paschalls’ adoption journey on their family blog.]

Returning to the United States with Brenner was a new experience for them. Ramie and Brody’s adoptions had been inconspicuous; no one could tell they were adopted.

“The word adoption didn’t come up that much,” said Danny. “Then we adopted Brenner, and now the word comes up all the time.”

But despite the fact that the five of them are not blood-related, Danny and Carrie believe their family is just like any other.

“There’s five of us and we always tell our kids we love each other more than anyone and genes have nothing to do with it,” Carrie said.

Other Biolans, like professors Erik and Donna Thoennes, recently experienced the joy of adoption for the first time. Erik, an associate professor at Talbot School of Theology, and his wife, Donna, an associate professor in the Torrey Honors Institute, adopted a 7-year-old girl, Caroline, from Taiwan this past summer.

The Thoenneses started considering adoption in 2005 while working with orphans in India. Since girls are undervalued in Asia, that is where they decided to focus their adoption search.

In the process of pursuing a baby through Nightlight Christian Adoptions in Fullerton, Calif., they were immediately drawn to Caroline’s picture.

“I thought, ‘That little girl right there with no teeth, she needs a mommy and daddy,’” said Donna.

The process of adopting her, however, took longer than they expected.

“The waiting part was emotionally challenging for us. Mostly because we knew it was difficult for her,” said Erik. “Our biggest concern was that this little girl have a home sooner rather than later.”

After a year of waiting, five one-hour online conversations with Caroline and mountains of paperwork, the Thoenneses were on their way to pick up their daughter from her orphanage in Taipei.

When they met, Caroline ran and jumped up into Donna’s arms and hugged her and then did the same to Erik. After giving them a tour of the orphanage, she grabbed her bags and actually loaded them into the taxi herself, ready to leave.

“It was obvious when we met her within the first hour that so many issues we anticipated having weren’t going to be an issue for Caroline,” said Erik. “It’s been two months, but she acts like we’ve been her parents for her whole life.”

Throughout the adoption process, Erik and Donna often thought of how God adopts believers as his children. Being on the “other side” of the adoption process in the theological sense brought valuable spiritual insight, they said.

“When we would feel the costliness of adoption, it was a good reminder of how costly it was for God to adopt us in sending his son,” said Erik.

“The Bible describes God’s saving work in our lives as him adopting us into his family. My whole life, I’ve sought to understand that from the perspective of the adoptee, but here I was for the first time in God’s place in the metaphor.”

Carrie experienced this with her first adoption of Ramie when her birth mother handed Ramie to Carrie in the hospital.

“That moment, I had this very, very significant experience. … I was totally pierced through the heart, knowing what that truly means to be gifted with something, and just to receive a gift that I could never return,” said Carrie. “It taught me so much about the gift God gives us in Jesus. Not only is he giving me this gift, but he welcomes me into the family.”

Christian Adoption Resources

Interested in adoption? Check out these national and international Christian adoption agencies:

Nightlight Christian Adoptions (This Fullerton, Calif., nonprofit employs several Biola graduates and its board is chaired by Rick Bee, Biola’s senior director of alumni relations)

All God’s Children International

An Open Door Adoption Agency

Facts About Orphans

  • It is estimated there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide.
  • The current population of the United States is just a little over 300 million… to give you an idea of the enormity of the numbers… (The current population of Russia is 141 million.)
  • Every day, 5,760 more children become orphans.
  • 2,102,400 more children become orphans every year in Africa alone. 
  • Every 15 seconds, another child in Africa becomes an AIDS orphan.
  • There are an estimated 14 million AIDS orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa (a number higher than the total number of under-eighteen year olds in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland combined).
  • Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually.
  • Each year 14,505,000 children grow up as orphans and age out of the system by age sixteen.
  • Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home.
  • In Russia and the Ukraine, studies have shown that 10%-15% of these children commit suicide before they reach age eighteen.
  • These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals.
  • Orphans throughout the world face many challenges-malnutrition, starvation, abuse, disease, loss of family property, decreased school attendance, and death.
  • 2 million children die from pneumonia each year, making it the leading cause of death in children throughout the world, more than AIDS, Malaria, and measles combined.
  • 120 million primary school-aged children, primarily girls, are not in school.
  • Approximately 700,000 new cases of HIV can be prevented each year, if all children receive a complete primary education.
  • 20 million children have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict and human rights violations; more than 1 million of these have be orphaned or separated from their families.