Linda and Alex Hilliard of Youngstown, Ohio, planned to have a family. They just had no idea that it would happen as fast as it did.
In June 1994 the two pastors decided to adopt. Within six months they were accepted as future parents to four siblings--Sarah, Elijah, Charity and Bethany.
The children had lived with their birth parents who were suffering from mental illness. They were removed from their home in 1991, along with their brother who now lives in Cleveland.
"It's interesting because their birth mother prayed that they would find a Christian home, and we feel God honored her prayers as well as our prayers and the kids' prayers," says Alex, who is the pastor of an independent Lutheran church and a part-time chaplain. "God heard all our prayers and made it happen."
Linda, an ELCA pastor and chaplain at a local hospital, attends Zion Lutheran Church, Youngstown, with the children.
The adoption process worked smoothly from start to finish, Alex says. They heard about the children as soon as they decided to adopt. They then visited the two foster homes where the children were placed. Weekend sleepovers followed, and in June 1995 the youth came to live with the Hilliards. The adoption became legal in April 1996.
Although the children have no direct contact with their birth parents, the Hilliards send school pictures and the birth parents send birthday cards, which are transferred through a social worker.
"When the kids start wondering how their birth parents are doing, we'll probably have the social worker get an update for us," Alex says.
Linda is writing a book that includes insights from the experience and information about those who want to adopt. She wants other parents to know about the great need to place older children into loving homes.
"We never considered trying to adopt a baby," Linda says. "We wanted to adopt older children, though adopting four wasn't exactly part of the plan. But this was a faith decision and not a family planning decision. It's a walk of faith every day, and things are going so well that we are truly grateful to God."
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