December 2012 – As she approached her 30th birthday, Anna Polsgrove decided to make this milestone really memorable. It had nothing to do with the typical cake, balloons and party, but everything to do with obedience, faith and the glory of God.
God had begun orchestrating Anna’s 30th birthday celebration four years earlier when she and her husband Russ decided it was time to start a family through adoption. They spent nearly a year praying, researching and seeking the Lord about the how, when and where of it all.
“We really felt like God was calling us to adopt outside our culture,” Anna told AFA Journal.
At one point, Anna felt like they would adopt from China; then they felt like a domestic adoption was the way to go. Then suddenly, as if a set of blinders had been removed, God clearly led them to adopt from Ethiopia.
“Obviously, there are orphans in the U.S. and all over the world, so one place is not necessarily better than the other,” she explained. “But for us, Ethiopia was where God had been doing a work in our hearts.”
A journey to remember
Two days later, they officially started the adoption process; two years later they brought home their 14-month-old daughter, Lucy.
Various obstacles stalled the finalization of their adoption, which meant the couple had to spend three weeks in Ethiopia and return to the States without Lucy. It was six hard months of separation before they were able to go back and get her.
And when they did, in August 2011, Anna was 22 weeks pregnant with baby Rivers.
The news of their first biological child brought joy to Russ and Anna and their families. But stopping the adoption of Lucy never crossed their minds. In their hearts, she was already their daughter.
“The way I felt when I saw Lucy’s picture for the first time was the same way I felt when I saw Rivers on my ultrasound for the first time,” Anna said. “It was an unbelievable feeling” – a feeling similar to the ones that welled up inside the Polsgroves when they finally became a family of four at the end of 2011.
Although their hearts were full, they continued to be burdened by the orphan crisis in Ethiopia.
“We were so excited to have Lucy coming with us, but my heart broke,” Anna said. “For the one child who was going home with us, there were millions left that did not have a loving home.”
The images were seared in their minds and imprinted on their hearts, which had a direct impact on the selfless way Anna chose to celebrate her 30th birthday.
A call to celebrate
“I felt like God was calling me to raise an amount of money for something,” Anna recalled. “That one particular government orphanage really struck me, and I wanted to figure out a way to do something there.”
With encouragement from Russ to obey God’s call, Anna began to pray about the situation. Since she was turning 30 in June – a month that contains 30 days – she believed the Lord wanted her to raise the money in that time frame. Still not knowing exactly how the money would be used, she decided $300 would be a good, reachable goal. But she felt like the Lord wanted her to add a zero to that amount, making it $3,000. That amount made Anna uncomfortable, but it was still possible, until the Lord led her to add one more zero to the amount, increasing it $30,000.
“I thought that was just crazy,” Anna said. “I backed off and just sat on the idea for a while because I had a really hard time being obedient.”
Generous people had already helped support the couple’s adoption. They already intended to adopt again, so Anna didn’t want to appear as if they were always asking for money – even for a good cause.
Anna said, “God just kept bringing it up. I said, ‘God, if this is what you want me to do, then I just have to do this. I have to. I can’t worry about us funding another adoption. If you’re telling me to do this, then I need to do it.’”
A reason to rejoice
God led Anna to Bring Love In (www.bringlove.in), a new ministry in Ethiopia that functions to take children out of orphanages, keep them in country and place them in permanent families under the care of a widow, who in turn is given a purpose and a salary.
“Obviously, adoption is one way God takes care of orphans and places them in families,” Anna explained. “[But] that’s not the only solution.”
Anna and Russ fell in love with the way the ministry takes care of both orphans and widows. Plus, BLI places children from the exact government-run baby home for which they had been burdened.
So Anna contacted Levi and Jessie Benkert, founders of BLI, and thus was the beginning of 30/30/30 – raising $30,000 in 30 days in celebration of Anna’s 30th birthday.
“Our first feeling was that this would be interesting to watch, but not possible,” Levi told AFA Journal. “We were thankful that she was doing it, but our faith needed to be stretched as well.”
With the help of a friend, Anna put together a video, and the Benkerts figured out a way for people to give through the BLI website. Anna posted the video online, emailed a few friends, and people began to give.
“Over half the month went by, and we had raised about $9,000,” Anna said. During the third week of June, the Lord took the total from $9,000 to $21,000 in two days time.
“God was doing this, and all He wanted was for me to make a video and ask people to give,” Anna said. “Orphan care is something that God has placed on all our lives. I think that looks different for every single person. While adoption is what Russ and I can do, there is just so much more that needs to be done. It could be right where you are. ... There are ways to get involved in the schools, with foster care and through different organizations.”
Several days before June 30, Anna met her goal of $30,000. But the giving continued, and by mid-July around $40,000 had been given to sponsor a Forever Family House – a home of six orphans and one widow.
“The kids came out of the local government orphanage, and the woman who is now heading up this house came to us from a local church in Ethiopia,” Levi explained. “Together they make a new family. The funds that came in from the 30/30/30 birthday wish not only paid to set up that house, but also will pay for all their expenses for more than four years to come.”
All because of the work the Lord did in the heart of a 30-year-old mother who stepped forward in obedience and faith for the love of orphans and the glory of God.
For more on how you can help orphans, contact:
Bring Love In
Family Life Hope for Orphans