Bringing a child home
By Jackie Burke, American News Writer
Local teenagers reached out to help a couple bring their adopted child from Cameroon, Africa, to Sioux Falls.
Seven teenagers at Zion Lutheran Church in Aberdeen spent nine months fundraising for a youth group trip to San Antonio, Texas.
"They prayed to God for this money," said the Rev. Marcia Sylvester, a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church. "They promised if they raised more than they needed, they would give it back to God."
It turns out the group had about $1,700 left after raising more than $8,000 for the Texas trip, Sylvester said. That's when Esther, the baby from Cameroon, and Roy and Yvette Christion came to mind.
"We had a couple choices of who to give the money to," said Trene Henderson, one of the teenagers who donated the money. "It was a unanimous decision."
The kids learned of the Christions and their situation from Sylvester, who had met the family while they were working as missionaries in Cameroon.
About three years ago, Roy and Yvette Christion were expecting a child. When the child was stillborn, the Christions made a deal with God.
Roy said they prayed to God, saying that if adoption was what he had in mind for them, they would be willing. He said they weren't interested in going through the application process, but if the child came to them, they would be ready.
Five months later, a baby named Esther was left at the doorstep of a Cameroon hospital.
"We thought of the prayer we made five months ago," Roy said.
The same day the Christions decided to adopt Esther, Yvette found out she was pregnant.
Now, three years later, the Christions have a 2-year-old son, Stephen, and are still filling out the paperwork for Esther's adoption.
Difficulties: The adoption process has been anything but easy, Roy said.
"It's a longer process because of the two different systems," he said.
In Cameroon, the Christions went through the adoption process only to find out the United States wouldn't honor the adoption.
"They said it was legal guardianship," Roy said.
Now, the Christions have to go through the same process in the U.S. In other words, Esther had to be adopted twice, Roy said, once in Cameroon and once in the United States.
The Christions returned to the United States in December 2005. Because the adoption process wasn't finished, Esther wasn't allowed to leave Cameroon - she had to live with Yvette's parents until the Cameroon government would let Esther join her family in the United States.
They had to pay a fee to bring Esther to the United States, Sylvester said. She said the $1,700 helped cover that cost.
In January, 13 months after her parents returned to the United States, Esther joined her family in Sioux Falls.
"It's really fulfilling to have been able to help," Henderson said. "It's really nice."
Help came as surprise: Yvette said the family had no knowledge of the money from the youth group until it was donated to them. She said they found out about the gesture from a friend who had met Sylvester through Lutheran Social Services.
"We had no idea," Yvette said.
Esther and the Christions were in Aberdeen on Sunday to visit the youth group. It was the first time the kids met Esther.
Roy said he was looking forward to meeting the kids who helped bring Esther to the United States.