By Sonja White
Every adoptive family has a story and a journey. For Greg and Julie Nettle, their story began on December 1, 2001.
Greg explains, “We had good friends who had decided to adopt [a child] from Kazakhstan. It was a difficult time for our country following the events of September 11th, and our friends had to leave their two biological boys with grandparents to complete their adoption in Kazakhstan, a country just 500 miles north of Afghanistan. At the end of their three-week trip, we were at the airport to greet them as they came home with their daughter.
“There was a moment when they were hugging their boys and their daughter—a family together for the first time—that stands out. We were privileged to watch that moment. And that is when a seed was planted in my heart.”
The Nettles’ journey continued as they watched the church, where Greg is senior pastor, explode with families caring for at-risk children. “It has been something that is difficult to capture in words, watching as our RiverTree partners go out and love children on the margins of society. They are doing this in a multitude of ways, including domestic and international adoptions, foster care, and sponsorships through Compassion International.” Nettle regularly challenges his congregation to answer the question, “How will I help orphans and widows?”
In the fall of 2006, the Nettles answered this question by deciding to pursue domestic adoption. They chose an agency, filled out the required paperwork, and attended adoption and parenting classes. Then the waiting began, which is one of the most difficult aspects of the adoption journey.
Finally, in March 2008, they received a call informing them a birth mom in Cleveland had chosen the Nettles as the adoptive family for her baby. “It’s an emotional roller coaster,” says Nettle. “You are excited and at the same time nervous, and a little bit afraid to get your hopes up, yet at the same time you have this incredible sense of anticipation.”
The Nettles began planning for the baby’s arrival. Excitement grew as the due date came closer. And then the Nettles received a dreaded phone call. The birth mom had delivered a healthy baby boy; however, she had decided against the adoption.
“It is devastating,” Greg Nettle says. “One moment you are buying a stroller and a crib, the next you are left with a feeling of emptiness. Julie, Tabitha, and I had just begun to process through some of the grief when the next phone call happened.” Three weeks after the delivery, the birth mom decided that adoption really was the best decision and she was ready to move forward. Nettle explains, “So, one minute you have tears of pain, and the next, tears of joy.”
Finally, the day arrived. After a short drive to Cleveland and some final paperwork, Elijah was placed in his parents’ arms.
“This is an enormous adjustment. Our 9-year-old, Tabitha, has been amazing; she loves her brother and is doing great. Julie and I had forgotten what it’s like to function on a limited amount of sleep.” Elijah’s adoption was finalized October 16, 2008.
The Nettles, along with the rest of those involved with Born in Our Hearts, agree that one of the great things about being part of this community is that your child doesn’t stand out as being different. They are looking forward to celebrating Elijah’s first birthday and are excited to be part of a group of people who unexpectedly decided to go out and change the world one child at a time.
Sonja White and her husband, Brett, have two biological sons and adopted their daughter, Anna, from Kazakhstan in 2001. To learn more about RiverTree Christian Church or Born in Our Hearts, visit rivertreechristian.com or borninourhearts.org.