The Ordinary Project understands that regular people are the ones truly leaving their mark on this crazy world–marks of courage and hope, selflessness and sacrifice, love and faith.
And, while we will never be able to acknowledge every single unsung hero, my mission with The Ordinary Project is to do exactly as the name suggests: recognize and honor those ordinary people who are coloring the world a more beautiful place, simply because they believe it should be done, typically without any promise of reward or even acknowledgement.
I have a small list of ordinaries whose stories I hope to share, but I would be honored if you chose to send me the names and contact information of ordinary people in your own life that deserve to be known! You may do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, today, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you: DJ and Karlette Yoder.
Tell me a bit about your family!
DJ and I have been married for 14 years. We have two biological children, Brecken is 10 and Neliyah is 7. We just brought home our adopted children, siblings from Haiti. Our daughter, Naika is 5 and son, Benchilot is 3. Our family loves spending time together. We love game night, playing sports, movie night, living room dance parties, following Jesus, music, singing and leading worship at church, reading, swimming, the park, Bible studies, puzzles, dinners out, the zoo, vacations, and hanging out with our families and friends.
I stay at home full time and DJ is the director of technical support for a global software company.
What made you decide to adopt?
Our reason for adopting stems directly from a turn in our spiritual walks with the Lord. In 2008, we were able to attend a marriage conference that ignited a change in the way I was living life and began a hunger for Jesus like never before. We began to realize Christianity was something completely different than we had believed it to be and started seeing the world and the many needs around us differently. We wanted to live like Christ and began a journey of complete surrender to him.
In 2011 I read several books that in some way spoke about the need for adoptive/foster families in our nation and globally. At that time, we were considering growing our family and adoption became a passion for us both. With so many kids in the world without a family, it seemed a logical choice to open our hearts and home to one. We considered both foster care and international adoption but so many doors opened to begin the process of becoming foster parents, so that’s what we did.
We became licensed in April of 2012 with the intent to adopt. Our first placement came in July of 2012. A sibling set of 3, ages 3, 2, and 1. Brecken and Neliyah were 6 and 3 at the time. It’s hard to recall all the lessons I learned during the 19 months they were in our home (most likely they are countless) but somewhere in that time we began to understand the depth of God’s love for all people. We understood the importance of reunification and working with the biological family to make that goal possible.
In October of 2013, after a discussion about keeping those precious kids permanently, even though we loved them deeply and could have said yes, we believed God had a different plan. We agreed to begin praying about international adoption.
I’m not exaggerating when I say the next day, my sweet friend called to chat. We started in just catching up since we hadn’t spoken in awhile. Somewhere mid-conversation, she says that she and her husband are in the beginning stages of pursuing adopting internationally and in her search of agencies, she ran across a sibling set of 4 from Haiti. The agencies plea to place these children included a suggestion to place them with 2 families whose homes were located in close proximity and who had a close relationship in order to keep the siblings together.
So almost jokingly she suggests that DJ and I jump on board with them and adopt these 4 kids who need a home. I couldn’t believe God was already opening a door. We were terrified for so many reasons but felt we needed to boldly say yes and keep taking the next steps as they presented themselves.
Tell me about the adoption process. What challenges did you face? What helped make the process easier?
The process of adopting from Haiti is long and unpredictable. We began paperwork in November of 2013 and worked tirelessly to get it all done. It includes background checks, home studies, adoption training, psych evaluations, doctor appointments, fingerprinting, collection of documents, photos, reference letters, bank statements, and on and on.
During this time we were informed that two other families had begun the process and submitted paperwork for the sibling set of 4 we had originally began the process for. Although we were disappointed, we knew God had opened this door to Haiti and we had learned so much about the country and were excited about what God had in store. We were told that placing children in families from the same community was something they believed to be very beneficial for children from the same orphanage and would help with future transition and adjustments for the kids.
We completed our paperwork in February of 2014 and mailed it to our agency. The agency then verified all of our info and translated our documents and mailed the translated copies to Haiti in June. We then began the 1st and hardest wait of the whole process. We would not know when news would come or who our children were until we received our referral call in March of 2016.
By God’s hand, our friends received a referral for two kids from the same orphanage that same day. After an official referral from the Haitian government, all adoptive couples are required to travel to meet their children, file paperwork with the U.S. embassy in Haiti, and spend 15 days visiting. We did that in April of 2016.
We traveled with Brecken and Neliyah and the family of our friends. We came home without our new kids that trip with the knowledge that most timelines predicted our wait time to be 12 months. God worked miraculously and we brought them home in just under 10 months.
There were several challenges throughout the process. The few that stand out significantly are: a suggested match that fell through, the heart attack DJ suffered on our socialization trip in April that resulted in 8 days in a Haitian hospital and then 4 stents when we arrived in Lincoln, traveling back home without the kids we’d just spent two weeks falling in love with, waiting on any news of progress throughout the whole journey, a misprinted passport, and hurricane Matthew tearing across Haiti was a desperately scary time.
The process was made easier mostly by faith in and dependence on God. Our hope is found in Him. He is sovereign over all! He continually answered our prayers and made impossible things happen. Sharing this journey with our dear friends, the encouragement, support, prayers, and love from our families, church, and friends, a great adoption agency, and several social media support groups also helped to make the process possible.
What has been the hardest part about adjusting to doubling the number of children in your home?
Honestly, because of our experience in foster care, we really felt prepared for adjusting to life as a family of 6. I would say the hardest part has been the language barrier and the inability to communicate in depth makes it hard to explain the reason for time-outs or explanations for any little and big thing. They are catching on quickly, but it lacks depth, and communicating through expression and physical examples can become exhausting.
What has been the most rewarding?
The most rewarding part is the realization of our hearts capacity to love. It is such a joy to watch these children almost instantaneously become part of our family. Experiencing so many of their firsts after missing out on the first few years of their lives has been so sweet. We cherish each of those moments.
How have your biological children reacted during this process?
Brecken and Neliyah have been amazing. They were involved in the entire process. They waited and prayed every day along side us. Again foster care prepared their hearts in more ways than we ever could have without those experiences. DJ and I learned a lot about their individual personalities during that time so we are able to recognize a few signs that they are in need of one-on-one attention. I also think it’s helpful that they are in school all day so I am able to give necessary attention to the little ones during the day and then the big kids when they get home from school. Ask me again in the summer, it may be more difficult when they’re all home every day.
How would you define an ordinary hero?
That’s a tough one. I think an ordinary hero would be anyone pursuing and embracing the plan and purpose that God has prepared for them, no matter how big or small or visible that purpose might be.
Would you consider yourself/your family to be ordinary heroes? Why or why not?
Oh, even tougher. It’s what we strive for but only by God’s grace. I would say the only reason we are capable of embracing God’s plan for our lives is because of Jesus. An attempt to daily surrender our fleshly desires and live for the cause of Christ has led us to say yes to things that have brought us to where we are today. We just love a quote by David Platt “we care for orphans NOT because we are rescuers, but because we are the rescued.” That pretty much sums up our hearts.
What is your life motto?
Our life motto would be along those same lines. Live life daily surrendered to the cause of Christ. We seek to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and ask Him to live in and through us. Deny ourselves, follow Christ.
How has this motto affected your lives through the growing of your family?
That is the only reason we do anything we do. A decision to follow Jesus meant living for Him and not ourselves. It means, wherever/whatever He calls us to, our answer will always be yes, again only by God’s grace.
What has this process done to your faith?
Our faith and dependence on the Lord has grown exponentially through this process. When we place ourselves in His will, we are forced to fully depend and trust in Him and his promises over our lives. To experience God’s provision and see Him working in all things is to know Him deeply. And once you’ve tasted even just a portion of the goodness of the Creator of the universe, how can you long for anything else? Nothing compares.
It sounds simple enough and although we know and have experienced this beautiful truth throughout our adoption journey, somehow in the daily living, we begin to believe the lie that we know best, that we can depend on ourselves to create a world of fulfillment and satisfaction. We seek our own comfort above serving others, we cling to the things of this world and lose sight of eternity. Oh how often we fail. But then, through God’s mercy and unending pursuit of our hearts, He reminds us that true and lasting contentment comes from him alone and we realize again our desperate need for Jesus.
If you were able to leave a lasting impact or legacy with those who hear your story, what would you want it to be?
This is not us. We are incapable of this kind of love. Jesus in us is everything and anything. At the end of our lives, our desire and prayer would be that people would know that our only hope was in the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Kari Jobe’s song “The Cause of Christ” would be our anthem song. It starts with this line…”the only thing I want in life is to be known for loving Christ, to build His church, to love His bride, to make His name known far and wide.”. Then ends with…”I pray it’s said about my life, that I lived more to build his name than mine.” That’s it. That’s everything.
Ugh. Tears, guys, all the tears. My heart is so happy every time I hear or read the Yoder family’s story of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
May we all be ordinary heroes, right where we are.