In No Time at All
— Julie Cramer · Tuesday, May 23, 2017 —
The distance between Ohio and China is 7,110 miles, or more than 14 hours in flight. Yet when Adam and Johanna Speas met their daughter, Jenna Mei, in Xuzhou, it took no time at all for them to fall in love.
Pastor of adult ministries at Grace Church in Newton, Ohio, Adam and his wife, Johanna—a teacher at a virtual school—met at the University of Akron. They married in 2008 and in June of that year, moved to South Africa for one year to work as missionaries. Returning home, the couple settled into life in Akron, which sits on the shores of the Ohio and Erie Canalway and saw the rise of tire giants BFGoodrich and Goodyear. Their family grew with the addition of daughter Maggie (now 5), then son Cooper (now 3). They were young and happy with fulfilling careers and children to snuggle.
But the long-held desire to adopt a child played on Adam’s heart.
“Adam was all about adoption for a really long time and I wasn’t,” Johanna admits. “But my parents are foster parents, and with that piece of the puzzle in the equation, I spent the summer of 2016 praying. It opened my eyes, and I thought, ‘Okay. I think we can go down this road.’ I saw God’s heart for adoption and thankfully my feelings followed. I knew this was how we were going to expand our family. From that time, there was no looking back.”
“We wrestled more with the question, ‘Why not adopt?’ than the question, ‘Why adopt?’” Adam says. They knew they had the support of their parents, church family, and friends. As with any change, though, Johanna worried that adoption would upset their family’s balance. In hindsight, however, she says, “Just do it. I know that’s easier said than done, but for us it’s been an incredible adventure of faith and we would have missed it if we had listened to fear and let that drive our decision. This is the gospel. We adopted because we were rescued, not because we came to rescue.”
Parenting in general, they both agree, is risky—and it’s a lifelong commitment. They began the adoption process with all its paperwork, and the business of funding it. Although the Speas had raised money for their work in South Africa, they chose to forego it in pursuing adoption. As a pastor, Adam knew he had an “unique platform” within his church and did not want to jeopardize that. They had to find another way. A friend referred them to Joseph’s DreamCoat, the ministry arm of Orphan Outreach that awards grant funding for adoptive parents.
With their own funds plus the grant from Joseph’s DreamCoat—the first grant it gave under the Orphan Outreach wing—the couple could journey to China to bring their daughter home. For months prior to the trip—with no name for their girl and only seven photographs—the family prayed for their daughter and sister. In January 2017, they arrived in Ohio to their children, family, and friends welcoming them at the gate.
“Jenna was 16 months old when we met her,” Johanna says. “She was scared, but has really blossomed and come to life since. She is a sweet little lady that loves to be on the go, play outside, and eat. She has really found her place in our family and is just one of the kids!” Some of her first words have been mama, dada, food, eat, puppy, and ball.
In those first weeks, Adam says they would put Jenna in her crib to sleep and she would arch her back, he believes, as a display of independence. “It was like she was saying in her body language, ‘I can do this by myself.’ Now, she’ll lay her head on our shoulder and let us sing to her. The most surprising thing for me is that Jenna felt like mine the minute we got her,” he adds. “I have a fierce love for my children and I instantly had that with her. I know that not everyone has that feeling, but I’m thankful I did.”
“This experience has been amazing. I think in any life-changing season, it causes you to lean on the Lord and find your strength in Him alone,” Johanna says. “One of the coolest things to see is how our older kids have taken to her. They love her and beg to wake her up in the morning.”
“The statistics always shock me about how many people talk about adoption but don’t actually do it,” Adam says. “Many consider adoption to be a Plan B, but I think it can be Plan A. It may not be the easiest route by any means, but it’s a joyful route.”
Learn more about Joseph's DreamCoat adoption grants - and how you can support families who long to grow through adoption.