SPARTANBURG — When two Upstate families sat down for Thanksgiving dinner last year, something was missing.
They had the turkey, dressing and all the fixings, but there was still room for one more at the table. Both Spartanburg families felt a calling from God to open their hearts and adopt special needs children from China. They spent months raising money and filing the paperwork.
David and Katherine Dennis and Michael and Beth York traveled halfway around the world this past summer to adopt two young girls from China. They returned home in August with the newest additions to their families. The girls are settled in their new homes, and both couples are thankful today because their families are complete.
“People think we are a blessing to them (adopted daughters), but they are a blessing to us, "David Dennis Jr. said. “The blessings and the thanks that come from these little girls are a thousand times more than what we can do for them.”
The Dennis family recently adopted, Katie-Kay, who is now 18 months old. She is the second young girl the Dennis’ have adopted from China. They adopted Kirby, 3, in 2010.
“We are a conspicuous family because these little girls don’t look like us, but we have grown to learn there is only one race, "David said. “It gives us an opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel.”
The couple also spent a couple of days this summer volunteering in an orphanage in Beijing. It gave them a good perspective on what life is like for children in orphanages in China.
“It is overwhelming to see both of our adopted daughters here with a big family on Thanksgiving, "Katherine said. “To go from having nobody in the world to having such a big family with lots of cousins is incredible.”
David a church administrator at First Baptist Spartanburg, said he and his wife felt a strong need to adopt. Their journey began several years ago when David started having dreams about a feminine, Asian face. It took some time before he really understood that it was a calling to adopt. After having the dream for three nights, he told his wife, Katherine, an eighth-grade math and algebra teacher at McCracken Middle School. Katherine wasn’t as eager about the idea, but it didn’t take long to persuade her.
“Part of what convinced me to adopt was his (David’s) calmness, “Katherine said. “He didn’t pressure me and the kids were onboard with the idea.”
It took more than four years to adopt Kirby through America World Adoption, but the process was much shorter the second time. It took less than two years to file the paperwork and adopt Katie-Kay.
The Dennis’ have four biological children. Their two oldest children, Laura-Sims and David III, are both in college, and they have twin sons, James and Nathan, who are sophomores at Spartanburg High School.
David calls his biological children his Old Testament children and his two adopted daughters his New Testament children. Both David and Katherine are 50 years old, and say they pray their adopted daughters will always feel a connection to each other.
“Statistically, we might not be able to see our daughters’ children become adults, so we adopted girls from orphanages that were about 100 miles apart,” David said. “It was important to us to have another child with the same history as Kirby.”
During a recent visit to the Dennis home, Katie-Kay was playing and getting into almost everything in sight. She is a very active toddler. The only problem Katie-Kay has is a large birthmark looking area on one of her legs that she doesn’t like to show, but the family is checking into a procedure to have it removed. Her older sister, Kirby, is just as active.
“It is like a chain reaction,” David said. “We all have a responsibility to care for the orphans. It is mentioned in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. We can’t adopt them all, but we can be advocates for adoption.”
Last year when the Dennis family was in the process of adopting Katie-Kay, they forgot to sign one of the forms. The form was sent back to them and that put their adoption on the same schedule as the York family’s. Both couples attend First Baptist Spartanburg and used the same Christian-based adoption agency, but didn’t know each others plans until this summer before they left for China.
“For us to go through three quarters of an adoption and not sign a form is unbelievable, but God has a plan, "David said. “He put us on the same path with Michael and Beth York.”
Sounds of children laughing and playing can be heard at the York house. Michael and Beth York have two biological daughters Averi, 4, and Darcy, 2. Their youngest daughter, Molly, was adopted from China in August. Molly is 20 months old today.
Molly’s adoption information indicated that she had an underdeveloped brain mantle. After the Yorks got her home, they took her to a physician for a checkup. Her growth and maturity are slightly delayed, but she is a healthy and active toddler.
“Darcy and Molly are eight months apart, so it’s almost like having twins, "Beth said. “I was terrified when I started hearing God call me to adopt because I didn’t think we could afford it. We have two small children. Now we see how awesome God’s blessings are.”
The York family felt God calling them to adopt two years ago after Beth gave birth to Darcy. She was on bed rest for a few weeks and returned to church on the Sunday the Dennis family dedicated Kirby.
“I started hearing God calling us to adopt,” Beth said. “My reaction was I know God isn’t calling me to adopt because I have a 10-week old baby. I started having that argument in my head with God, but I kept hearing him say, ‘Trust me.’”
When she told her husband, Michael, that she felt God was calling them to adopt, he also was shocked. However, he too felt something stirring in his heart.
“I thought, let me get the 10-week old situated, but I felt it too, "said Michael, who works for Shire, a pharmaceutical company. “Beth was quick to verbalize it because it pulled her strongly.”
The couple decided to wait and see what direction God would lead them. As Christians, they wanted to obey, but it was almost hard to believe God was calling them to adopt. It didn’t make sense at first, but Beth said she relied on her faith.
“My thought process was adoption is for people who have problems with conceiving, and I felt really embarrassed for thinking that way, "Beth said. “Adoption signs kept showing up. There wasn’t anything dramatic, but there were a lot of little signs.”
She felt the calling stronger after watching the Dennis family dedicate Kirby in church two years ago. After the ceremony, David presented a video on orphans. Beth was moved to tears after seeing the video. The signs started building up to the point the couple could not deny.
“It came to the point that I knew if adoption is not where we should be, then God would steer us in another direction, "Michael said.
The couple continued with their calling, but felt anxious because they were unfamiliar with the adoption process. Their families also were concerned because they were unfamiliar with adoption.
The Yorks originally considered domestic adoption, but there was a long wait. That’s when they decided to pursue a foreign adoption. At first, they were discouraged because an adoption family coordinator said it could take six to eight years to get a healthy child.
“Our family coordinator asked if we would consider adopting a special needs child, "Beth said. “That scared me because we have two small children, but the family coordinator said a special needs child could have something as minor as a birthmark, a cleft lip or a missing finger. I thought about it and decided that we could handle something minor.”
Once again, the couple continued with the adoption process. They had to wait until Beth turned 291/2 to file some paperwork because parents have to be at least 30 years old to adopt from China. The journey was almost complete when they saw Molly’s picture on the adoption website. They inquired about her and fell in love.
The Yorks flew to China to adopt Molly the day after David and Katherine Dennis left to pick up Katie-Kay. The couples met up with each other later in China and spent time bonding with their children. The Yorks returned home the day before the Dennis family.
“I am thankful that we listened to God, "Beth said. “She (Molly) got parents, but we as a couple grew so much closer to God.”
Both families say they are thankful today for the joy and blessings God has given them for following his will and adopting such special children.
“If other couples feel God is calling them to adopt, don’t let anything interfere with fulfilling that calling,” David said. “You have to be flexible and know that there will be obstacles and know that it isn’t going to be just step A, step B and step C. You have to work through that and pray through those things and God shows up, and he gets the glory for what he can do.”