In part two of a two-part show, Tony and Lesley Biller talk about their unique family and the path the Lord has been leading them on to bring them to this place in their lives.
INTRODUCTION: Welcome to Family Policy Matters. This week we are pleased to bring you Part 2 of our conversation with Tony and Lesley Biller about their unique family and the blessings and challenges of adoption.
JOHN RUSTIN: Give us a little bit of insight, if you would, about the shift you had from hosting these children to really feeling led that, “Hey, this is what we think we’re being called to do,” and what that looked like within your family at the time.
TONY BILLER: We were filled with fear and trepidation about all the things that we didn’t know and all the things that could go bad. We did a lot of studying in the lead up to hosting and we tried to find big families with big adoptions and we tried to track down the details and find out what happened. On the one hand, it prepares you and you know what to expect; you know what to look for. But on the other hand, Satan really uses that to create fear and uncertainty and: ‘That’s not God really saying that. Why do this to your family? Why takes these risks?” It was really a roller coaster ride heading into the hosting, and even the hosting itself, we talked about it earlier, some wonderful, really special memories, and you have other times that were really very trying. There was a couple of times not 12 hours apart, where we knew we could “not not” adopt these kids! And there were times within 12 hours where we said there’s no way we could adopt these kids. In fact, there was one night where we said I wonder if we need to get them out of the house now—it was all fear. There were a lot of ups; there were a lot of downs. There were a lot of things that we didn’t know. I think it was Lesley that first said, “But there’s a lot of things we do know.” We knew for certain that God is in the details and he was providing; We knew for certain that God was leading us in this direction; We knew for certain that if they went back, there was nobody there, there was an orphanage; We knew for certain there was no church there. And we knew the statistics of kids aging out of orphanages in Eastern Europe: They’re dismal and worse. When we looked at what we did know and we looked at how God had provided, it started making a lot more sense that, “Hey, this is the road that we need to go down.” And there was a lot of people that said, “Maybe we can kind of piece them; We’ll get together and some of us will adopt some and some of us will adopt the others.” But the other thing we realized is that this is all they’ve ever had: each other. God really just kind of step by step brought us down that process of daring to trust Him to adopt them all.
LESLEY BILLER: One thing that was a turning point for me is while you’re hosting you’re not allowed to talk about adopting at all; it’s a taboo word. I had often talked about God adopting us into his family and one night, the 12 of us, or 13—we had someone there sitting around the floor—we would do prayers together, and sometimes I just go into automatic mode and I said, “Thank you God for adop….. “ And I just caught myself and I realized He’s adopted us and here we are trying to decide if we can adopt them. It really kind of shifted my perspective.
JOHN RUSTIN: Clearly, the Lord’s hand was at work from the very beginning, and well before that, before you all even knew that this was part of your plan, He knew that this was part of His plan. And speaking of that, how have you approached with your expanded family bridging matters of faith, culture, tradition, things of that nature, in day-to-day living. How has that worked for you all?
TONY BILLER: Our kids really were almost like a blank slate in a lot of regards. I guess you could say they were pre-evangelized, in that they were aware of Christianity, and they had a summer camp that they went to every summer that was run by American missionaries in Latvia, and they knew about the Bible and they picked up pieces, but they really didn’t have… You know, these kids are, in some regards—I don’t want to dramatize it, it’s not like they were living in the jungle and trying to eat roots and insects—but their survival is much more basic. The things they are dealing with: basic relationships, feeling love, not getting beaten up. Our kids really didn’t have any… They had a need, and to the extent they talked about religion, they wanted to know more, they were very, very hungry. You know, you can’t teach somebody about the gospel and you can’t teach them to pray if you can’t speak their language. We still tried. We found a Latvian Bible and I remember one of the first nights praying with them; It was just the simple stuff with orphans that we take for granted: getting the kids to sit down and listen and stay sitting down long enough to say a prayer was a challenge. It was pretty difficult to get through some of the real basic traditions at the outset. But now, you fast-forward and we talked about fears and we talked about language. When we picked those kids up from the orphanage—that prayer would have been in December 2013; we picked them up from the orphanage August 1, 2014—and one of our fears were that the younger kids in particular are gonna have long-term needs and disabilities, and the littlest girl, she didn’t speak in Latvian till the age of three, didn’t speak Latvian. And so we had heard about kids from foreign countries that never learned the new language, or would be 10 or 12 years old and still couldn’t speak it. So those were some of the things we were grappling with. And like I said, I married up in the gene pool and Lesley’s like, “You know I think you’re being a little bit worried here about what you don’t need to be, about her in particular.” You know, God is in the details and he’s got a wonderful sense of humor, typically at our expense! When we picked those kids up in early August, six months later, and we go back to this house we rented in Latvia, and we all sit around to pray, it might have been the second night, and I’ll never forget it. We go around and it’s her turn, the little girl’s turn, and she starts praying in English. I was just stunned! You know, she hardly spoke Latvian six months earlier, and here she was praying from what she’d picked up or heard before in English. A chill went, “God you’ve got it going on!” My fears were so off base. Well then, it took God to remind me, His sense of humor: The kids would go around in a circle, the rest of the kids keep praying and she jumps up on the bench next to me, she’s got that little tiny girl voice, she’s whispering in my ear, it feels like a feather and it tickles, and I can’t really understand what she’s saying, and it comes round to me, I always pray last, and I prayed and I could feel her stiffen up next to me. And she jumps down in the middle of us in the circle and she starts hobbling around like she’s using a cane—there’s no cane there—she’s pretending to use a cane, and she starts chattering in Latvian and all the Latvian kids are between huge eyeballs of shock and bursting out laughing. I said, “What is she saying?” And they kind of hesitated. She said, “Oh Dad, she’s saying, ‘Poor Dad, his brain doesn’t work; He doesn’t know how to pray in Latvian.'” She had been trying to convince me to say the prayer and tell me how to say the prayer in Latvian. I was put in my place!
JOHN RUSTIN: Tony and Lesley, looking back at all of the logistics and spiritual preparations and all the other things that you all had to do to prepare your home and your hearts for this adoption, what would you say to couples who may feel that the Lord is leading them toward adoption but who feel intimidated or maybe uncertain about the prospects of opening their home or their lives to additional children, especially if they already have children of their own?
LESLEY BILLER: I think a big lesson that we learned and that we hope to pass to others is to put your faith into action. So many of us will, our automatic response is, “I need to pray about that.” These children are growing; they’re not stopping. For example, we were just asked to host another child and she had passed the deadline. She had a failed adoption recently and then a failed hosting, so she’s passed the deadline to list on the hosting page. You can’t just say, “I’m going to pray about this.” I mean pray about it, yes, but when it’s something obvious that the Lord is calling you to do, you step out and do it until it’s stopped and the Lord stops it. I think it’s especially a great lesson for your children to witness, is we’re not just going to talk the talk but we’re going to actually put our faith in action and step out in that way.
TONY BILLER: Absolutely! And Lesley and I have grown so much through this process; I think all our children, but our biological children have as well. I know that the new kids have really grown literally, and certainly spiritually and academically, but just trust God. Our natural disposition, at least mine and Lesley’s, is to think of all the reasons why not, or why should I do that. And looking back, the right answer is, why shouldn’t I do that if I know this is something that pleases God? There should be a compelling reason for me to say no. But we don’t go about it that way; our fallen nature is, this is a big commitment; I need of a compelling case to do it. Of course, that’s absolutely backwards. We can say that because we went about it absolutely backwards. And looking back, God absolutely provides. It’s not necessarily easy, but you look to Him; He provides across the board and makes life that much more worth living.
JOHN RUSTIN: As we wind down our conversation, I know you all have kept a blog and some other insights that I’m sure would be very helpful and of great interest to our listeners. Having heard your experiences and your willingness to share the insights on this program, that many of our listeners may be wanting to know how they can learn more, and how they can pray for you all. Where can they go to learn more about your story and where would you suggest that individuals go if they are considering adoption; what resources were helpful to you that may be helpful to them?
LESLEY BILLER: We have a Facebook group called Adopt Six and if anybody looks that up and requests to join— Latvia requires until the adoption is finalized, they are very particular about privacy issues and making pictures of their children public, so we started this private Facebook group.
TONY BILLER: A real blessing to us, and was given to us by our hosting agency—referred to us by our hosting agency—is a book by Karen Purvis, The Connected Child. A must read if you are going to go down this road to really understand what’s going on inside these kids.
LESLEY BILLER: And I would also add that hosting is a really big blessing for the children and the families. I was skeptical going into it that these children might go back being very disappointed. But in a lot of cases, and the cases of our children, they would not agree to be adopted had they not been hosted because they had never experienced a functional family. They didn’t want to leave the orphanage; that was their safe place. So hosting really does work and there are several hosting agencies. The one we went through is called Open Hearts and Homes. Another big one in this area is New Horizon. There’s Project 143.
JOHN RUSTIN: For those who are listening on the radio, we will have this program on our website ncfamily.org, again that’s ncfamily.org and we will provide links and other information about the resources that you all have provided, as well as some additional helpful resources. And with that, unfortunately Tony and Lesley Biller, we are out of time. But it has been just a wonderful opportunity to visit with you all. I know our listeners appreciate you so much. We appreciate you and the example that you set, your willingness to open your heart and your home to these incredible children, and to make a difference in the lives of so many, both within our family and well beyond. So, thank you so much! We appreciate you and wish you all the best this Christmas.
LESLEY BILLER: Thank you.
TONY BILLER: Thank you John, it’s an honor to be here.
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