Adoption is darling. And Meg and I have big hearts for adoption. That's why when we met Paul and Bettina Stevens, we knew we wanted to collaborate with them here at the shop. Paul and Bettina are adopting two little boys from Uganda, and to raise funds and support for the adoption expenses, they custom-make furniture and sell handmade in Uganda jewelry and accessories.
This Friday, August 7, from 6-9pm, come shop for a cause and meet this beautiful couple. Live music, refreshments, their furniture and Ugandan pieces for sale, and 10% of the sales during the event go straight to their adoption.
Meet this couple as they tell their adoption story in their own words!
Q&A with Paul & Bettina Stevens
Tell us a little about you (both of you). Where are you from? If not the Charlottesville area, what brought you here?
We grew up in Brockport, NY, a small town just outside of Rochester. We lived only 10 minutes apart most of our lives, but didn't meet until high school. We started dating during our senior year and have been together ever since!
Paul went to college in Dayton, Ohio for mechanical engineering and in 2008, accepted his first job in Charlottesville, VA; thus starting our relocation to the south. Bettina went to college in NYC to pursue a career in dance. She danced professionally for a contemporary dance company and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines before joining Paul in Charlottesville. We were married in May 2009 and have enjoyed navigating and exploring life together.
Paul loves spending time with people (especially while watching sports!) and enjoys playing squash, pickleball, and soccer. He has the heart of a servant and is always looking out for the wellness of others. He would be willing to give you the shirt off his back and if you're lucky enough, you might catch him giving away donuts on the downtown mall!
Bettina also loves spending time with people and is often hosting people in their home. She loves good food of all kinds (especially cheese!), spontaneous dance parties and sweatpants. She enjoys baking, cooking and crafting in her spare time, and more than likely you've been to one of her many gatherings and left completely stuffed!
In 2012, we made the decision to stay south of the Mason-Dixon Line and bought our first home with the intention of growing our family. We have loved being a part of the Charlottesville community and look forward to raising our children here.
Describe what you do in town.
Paul is currently a Project Manager/Mechanical Engineer at 2rw Consultants, Inc. They are a local firm who offer traditional engineering services such as mechanical, plumbing, and electrical system design, with a focus on energy efficient operation, conservation, and sustainability.
Bettina is a Physical Therapist at ACAC, graduating with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from VCU in 2013. She treats people of all ages and with a broad range of ailments. Bettina enjoys teaching people how to manage their symptoms and loves being a part of their physical and emotional recovery.
In a few weeks, you will be traveling to Uganda to bring home two beautiful little boys. Share your adoption story, and how you have seen God work in this process.
Our adoption story seems relatively straight forward to us, but since sharing that we were adopting we’ve had to really be thoughtful in our responses. When we were first married in 2009 we had a lot of discussions about how many children we wanted, when we wanted to have them, what we wanted to name them, etc. At some point in these conversations we both tentatively brought up the idea of adoption, not knowing what the other would think. Thankfully we realized we were both on the same page. In March 2014, we went to Uganda for a short-term mission trip to help a sweet Ugandan friend, Gertrude Kabatalemwa. While we were there, our hearts were taken with the country and we fell in love with the beautiful people we worked side by side with.Though our original plan was to adopt down the road (when we were out of debt and living in our dream home and had some savings set aside and, and, and ), once we got home we realized God had completely changed our hearts and we are unconditionally committed to this journey now. We had prayed many hours about this decision and we knew without a doubt that this is how we were intended to start our family.
After we had submitted all of our paperwork (9 lbs in all!), we were matched with 2 little boys, ages 3 and 4 years old. Originally we were tentative to accept 2 children, but were open to the opportunity if this was God’s plan. We asked our orphanage director to give us a few days to pray and she agreed. Over the next week we fasted and prayed fervently for God to let us know if these were our children. During that time neither of us heard anything concrete, but we continued to seek God. The last night before we were to give an answer, Bettina asked God specifically to give her a dream if these children we’re supposed to be our sons. Well, needless to say, God came through! That night Bettina dreamt of the boys and saw them vividly as toddlers, than older children, than teenagers, than adults. She saw the progression of their lives intertwined with theirs, and when she woke up she knew it was God. That morning, we immediately called our director and accepted the referral of our 2 boys! Since that time it has been a 9 month wait for “the call.” Our paperwork was submitted to the Ugandan courts in the Spring, and we have been waiting for a date assignment from the judge as to when he would hear our case. Well that call came on July 23 and we are leaving August 17 to go get our boys!
The last 9 months of waiting has felt like an eternity, but God has met us every step of the way and we have grown and stretched and learn to trust Him unlike any other time in our lives.
The in-country process can take up to 12 weeks, so once we leave we are committed to moving to Uganda for that period of time. There are a lot of hurdles to jump while in the country, but we trust God’s timing and we know He will guide us every step of the way. Words can't describe the joy and anticipation we already feel to give these little ones a home; to show them God's unconditional love and help them experience the love of a mother and father.
Why did you decide to adopt? What was the process like (choosing a country, the application and approval process, etc.)?
We decided to adopt because it just makes sense to us :) Most people have asked, “Why would you want to adopt when you can have your own?” Now don't get us wrong, we want to have biological children some day, because let's face it, who doesn't want to have a little munchkin running around who looks just like you? Most of us have the human desire to procreate, but for us, the thought of a child who has no one to love them, support them, encourage them, pray for them or help them grow to be the best little human they can be, breaks our hearts.
The deepest and strongest foundation of adoption is not in the act of humans adopting humans, but in God adopting humans. Galations 4:4-5 states, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." God did not have to use the concept of adoption to explain how He saved us, or even how we become part of His family, but He did.
The idea of a child through adoption being different than a child through birth is something we have wrestled with for quite some time. In the beginning of this process, we at times were made to feel that adopting a child would not be as significant as birthing a child. However, the Bible says in Ephesians 1:5, "In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will."
Adoption in God's mind was not Plan B. He predestined us for adoption BEFORE the creation of the world. Adoption was not second best, it was planned from the beginning. While the choice to adopt may sequentially be second, it does not have to be secondary. There is something uniquely precious about having children by birth, and while different, adoption can be equally precious and significant; it is to God.
The process for us was long, analytical and spiritual. Bettina began researching adoption about a year before we made the decision to adopt. We looked at domestic, international and foster care options, but after praying, discussing and a whole lot of research, we both felt led to Africa. Once we chose which continent, we began to narrow down our options. Every country has different criteria for potential adoptive parents and we determined Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia would be available to us at that time. Needless to say, adoption laws change monthly and there is always so much inside knowledge that gives insight into the future of adoptions. By the time we were ready to begin our process, Kenya was closed to international adoption and we were left with Uganda and Ethiopia.
In March 2014 we traveled to Uganda to help serve a rural school near Fort Portal and assist with the organization NEEPUganda. While this trip was meant to bring help and support to Gertrude and the beautiful children at Nyamabuga School, we were the ones who were changed. We were blown away by the incredible people of Uganda and our hearts were forever taken with their country. Not only were they kind, gracious and giving, but they exuded joy in all that they said and did, and never muttered a single complaint. Words cannot express how humbled we were to serve alongside Gertrude and see the abundance of God's love and joy she exudes everyday. This trip was truly life-changing for us and during this time we were able to get a small glimpse of God's extravagant love for His people. Once we returned from our trip, we were without a doubt, 100% committed to adopting from Uganda.
After choosing the country the paper race began! We first completed a home-study which includes 4 visits from a social worker and everything about your lives in 25-30 pages. Once we were approved we began the dossier process. An adoption dossier is a collection of documents that are necessary to meet the legal requirements for adoption from a foreign country as well as the immigration requirements of the U.S. Government. Your dossier represents your family to the foreign adoption authority. Is contains very detailed information about you, and involves gathering documents, having these documents notarized, and then adding various seals from your county, your state, and the U.S. government. Once our dossier was complete we submitted all of our paperwork to our lawyer in Uganda for review. Once things were complete, our case was submitted to the Ugandan courts, we were assigned a judge and finally a court date.
Once we arrive in Uganda the process is lengthy, but worth every moment. We will need to:
- Attend court
- Wait for the verbal and written rulings from our Judge
- Apply and wait for approval for their passports
- Take them for medical exams
- Take them for follow-up medical exams
- Have a document check at the U.S. Embassy for full review
- Have an exit interview at the U.S. Embassy
- Pick up their Visas
- Come home!
Every step of the process is lengthy, expensive and time-consuming, but we are believing God to intervene on our behalf and help us get home in His timing.
The handmade pieces from your travels in Africa are stunning. Talk about the jewelry, purses, and sandals for sale at Darling, and the Ugandan women who made them.
The pieces we have displayed at Darling are a combination of items from women in the NEEPUganda program and the Tukula program.
NEEPUganda takes the time to teach women a skilled trade in order for them to be able to make a living, support their family and make plans for their future. NEEP uses microfinancing to help get these women back on their feet and give them the tools they need to survive. They spend years perfecting the art of bead-making, sandal-making and basket weaving and in the end produce exquisite pieces of art. These women are often suffering from HIV or AIDS and have been given months or years to live. Since these women have joined the NEEP program their health and fulfillment has flourished and they are still living and thriving today. God is so good.
Tukula (meaning "we grow") partners with organizations and businesses to develop amazing products, created by a beautiful team of artisans in Uganda. Along with a fair wage, the women they work with receive medical care, an encouraging work environment, and access to savings programs. By relieving the pressure of school fees for their children, medical fees for themselves and their families, and daily expenses in general, these ladies are able to walk with confidence and joy.
Talk about the pieces you all make (furniture) to fund the adoption. Are you self taught? What inspired you to make these pieces?
The furniture making began out of a selfish desire to decorate our home on a budget! Bettina would see expensive pieces of furniture in high end stores she loved, but couldn’t afford. After we bought our new home in 2012, we decided we would try to furnish our home with hand-built items to be able to achieve the look we wanted without the costly price tag. We initially found tutorials that were similar to what we wanted, but not quite the same. So we began to tweak the design and dimensions until we had the look we wanted. We began with a coffee table and side table thinking they would be fairly straight forward, but seeing as neither of us had any background in wood-work, it was a large learning curve!
However, the pieces turned out just like we wanted them and over time we began to hone our skills and create more intricate pieces. As our home became filled with our own designs, friends would comment on their interest; thus came the idea to begin making and selling pieces of furniture to help supplement our adoption costs. Since that time we have made tables, china cabinets, desks, bookshelves, beds, benches, storage benches and headboards, and have began taking custom orders.
All of our business is local and mainly word of mouth as we are unable to afford the cost (and time) of a website and shipping. We have loved learning this craft over the years and enjoy being able to do it together. It has been a huge blessing for our adoption fund, and we hope to continue to make pieces in the years to come!
It's story time. Talk about your collaboration with Darling Boutique!
Our collaboration with Darling Boutique came out of a dinner :) We had recently met one of the owners, Megan Tiernan, at our church and found we had many things in common. After getting to know her more and sharing our adoption story over dinner, she and Linnea were so kind and generous to offer to help. They agreed to sell our Ugandan pieces and some furniture in their shop, which will be a HUGE financial help to us. The cost of adoption is astronomical and even after saving for years, working extra shifts at work, selling our hand-made furniture, selling things from our home, and having multiple fundraisers, we still wouldn’t be able to pay for all the expenses. We have worked hard to not go into debt during this process and God has been so faithful to provide for us every step of the way. Despite the stress of this process, God has continually brought people into our lives to help us financially, emotionally, and spiritually and we have been amazed at people’s generosity. Darling is no exception to this! It is a beautiful shop with even more beautiful owners and it has been a pleasure and privilege to work with them on this endeavor.
How can someone donate to your adoption?
People can donate to our adoption in a few ways:
- Tax deductible option: http://www.projecthopeful.org/matched-families/stevens-family
- Go Fund Me: http://www.gofundme.com/6x9s6sf45d
- Paypal: email@example.com - choose the friends and family option
- Attend our fundraisers! - Come to Darling on August 7 from 6-9pm!!!
Thank you for your prayers and support!