Inside Out, Upside Down: An Interview with Colleen
The following interview is a part of the Inside Out, Upside Down series, in which we will hear the stories of Christ-following families who have taken part in orphan care. To read more about the series, start here.
I have the privilege today of introducing you to Colleen and her beautiful family. Colleen and her family are currently in the process of adopting Andzelika, a teenager from Poland. Should you desire to support this family through their journey, they covet your prayers as they continue waiting through the painfully slow process of international adoption. You can also contribute financially here. Let's help bring Andzelika home!
Introduce yourself! Would you rather have a salty or sweet snack? What are the things you like to do in your down time?
Hi! My name is Colleen D’Angelo, and I am a 47-year old mom of two daughters. My husband and I have been married for 23 years, and our daughters are Sheridan and Jordan. We’ve lived in Washington for the past 7 years after moving from California. My husband is a psychologist for the Department of Defense, and he works on Joint Base Lewis McChord working with soldiers who are experiencing PTSD.
I am definitely a sweet snack girl! In fact, for the past two weeks, our family has been trying to cut out sugar in the form of candy from our diets. I love to cook and bake though, so we still enjoy homemade treats.
In my down time I love to listen to Christian music, read books, cook, go for walks, play Township, and read my Bible. I homeschool both my girls, so down time is not in abundance around here, but I sure enjoy it when it comes!
Tell us about your family.
My husband, Michael, and I have two daughters. Sheridan is 13 and Jordan is 10. Sheridan is in 7th grade and loves horses and horseback riding. She takes lessons each week and longs for her own horse! Jordan is in 4th grade, and she loves to dance and do gymnastics. She also loves to write her own stories.
We homeschool and do a program called Classical Conversations. We go to “school” once per week, and the remainder of the work is done at home. We’ve really been stretched this year, learning things like Latin, improving our writing skills, and learning to draw the whole world with each country labeled.
One thing our family really enjoys is sharing the Gospel. We have been blessed to train others in church how to share the Gospel using Ray Comfort’s “The Way of the Master.” We enjoy going to a nearby college campus to share the good news with anyone who will talk with us, and handing out tracts.
How did God first make you aware of the orphan crisis? What was it specifically that grabbed your attention?
We’ve known many friends over the years who have adopted. Specifically, a close friend of mine adopted a child from Poland two years ago. She was also involved in an orphan hosting program called BLOOM. Last year, she encouraged me to consider hosting an orphan from Poland. After praying about it, my husband and I decided that we would do it. I think in the beginning we sort of assumed this would be our “contribution” to helping orphans.
You first met Andzelika when she stayed with your family for a summer hosting program. Tell us more about this program and how it impacted your family. What did you hope to accomplish through hosting her for a summer?
We hosted Andzelika through a Christian hosting program called BLOOM. Bloom brings orphaned children from Poland and Ukraine to American twice a year and matches them with host families to stay with. Most of the kids that are hosted are available for adoption. Adoption is not the focus, though, and host families are not allowed to discuss adoption with the children while they are here. Their goal is to provide the children with a loving, Christian environment, where they can learn what it is like to live in a family setting. Honestly, going into it, we had no real desire to adopt; we just felt like this was a way to serve the Lord and be able to share the Gospel with a child who may never have heard of Jesus!
Where are you in the adoption process of Andzelika? What have been your fears throughout the process and the most difficult challenges to overcome?
After spending a month with Andzelika living in our home, we knew she was meant to be our daughter! As soon as she went home, we began the adoption process. We’ve been in this process since August of 2017. Before Andzelika, I had no idea what international adoption was like, or what it required. The reality is that it is a very long, very emotional process. We have completed many steps and just recently submitted our dossier to our adoption agency. We have not been able to submit it to Poland yet, because we are still waiting for an approval from the government for Andzelika to be eligible for international adoption.
There are many challenges and fears that go along with adoption. For us, the primary one was how would we raise the money to be able to adopt her. The cost for adoption from Poland is roughly $36,000! A large portion of the cost is the travel that is required. The Polish government requires that each family come to Poland and stay anywhere from 5-8 weeks in country in order to complete the adoption. They call this a “bonding period.”
Another fear for us was wondering how this would affect our biological children. We were fearful that bringing another child into our home (especially one that was older than both our children) would disrupt our family patterns and our family dynamics. Would this be upsetting to our girls? Would this make them angry/sad/displaced? And, is this what the Lord wants us to do? These were all questions that we asked and prayed over. We finally decided that our girls belong to the Lord. We are going to be obedient to Him, even if it is uncomfortable and hard. A friend of mine who has adopted 4 children once gave me a quote that I have held onto dearly through this adoption: “We willingly suffer for the good of another.” Isn’t that the Gospel in a nutshell? Adoption mirrors the Gospel in so many ways!
In what ways has your adoption journey turned your world inside out and upside down?
The biggest way our world has been turned inside out through adoption is knowing that a piece of our hearts is on the other side of the world in an orphanage! It is hard to “live life” each day while desperately missing someone! Wondering how she is. Wondering if she is safe, and has enough to eat.
Another way is that the adoption is always on our minds, especially, is when spending money. We often say things like “we don’t need that, we can use that money for the adoption!” Each decision we make, we look at how it will affect our adoption process. Take that vacation? Nope. Buy those new clothes? Nope. It really puts your priorities in line and shows you how much you can live without when someone else is depending on you!
How has God deepened your understanding of the Gospel through pursuing the adoption of Andzelika?
Where do I begin????
First, it really allows you to see yourself as an orphan! Most of us don’t consider ourselves to be “orphans”; however, that is exactly what we were before we knew Jesus! We were alone, lost, and abandoned before we were Christians. We were in the exact position that Andzelika is in now, and Jesus rescued us. He loved us so much that he ADOPTED us, and we are now called Sons and Daughters of God! We have been transferred from being alone and lost to being loved, cherished and found! To love Andzelika has given us a small taste of how the Lord loves us.
Secondly, since Andzelika went back to Poland, she has made a few bad choices. She now has her first boyfriend, and because of this, in October, she told us that she didn’t want to be adopted anymore! We spent a few months in agony, watching her decisions play out on Facebook, but loving her anyway. Praise the Lord, she changed her mind and is now committed to being adopted, but that situation really showed us that we oftentimes treat God the same way. Here is the Lord, holding out hope for our future, holding out what He knows is best for us, but in our sin, in our shortsightedness, we reject that for our OWN way. Andzelika was doing to us exactly what we often do to the Lord! God knows what is best for us, and yet we reject that, thinking that we know a better way, and God loves us anyway. He still pursues us, and waits patiently for us to leave our sin behind. Praise the Lord that He is a kind and patient father.
Where would you tell someone to start if they wanted to host a child through a hosting program? Are there any resources or organizations that have been especially helpful to your family as you’ve pursued her adoption?
If someone was interested in hosting, I’d tell them to start with going on to the BLOOM website. You can let them know you are interested in hosting and someone will contact you. They are very friendly and will not pressure you, but they will answer any questions you may have. Also, once you register on the website, you are able to browse photos of the kids available for hosting. Most kids are matched for summer hosting by May.
Another great resource if you are interested in adopting is Reece’s Rainbow. This is an organization that advocates for children that have disabilities to be adopted. It is a wonderful organization to support, and if you are not able to adopt, there are many families there that could use your prayer support or even your financial support.
Lastly, another helpful resource has been the book The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karyn Purvis. Dr. Purvis is a respected authority on adoption and on helping families with children from “hard places,” as she calls it. Most people go into adoption thinking that just loving these kids will be enough. However, most of these kids, Andzelika included, have been through trauma along the way. Realizing that is an important step in paving the way for success in the future. Andzelika has been in an orphanage since she was 7 years old, and there will be repercussions from that, many that may not show themselves for months, or even years, to come.
What is one piece of wisdom you would tell a family as they go through the adoption journey?
Surrender your plans to the Lord! Just in the 6 months that we have been in the process for adoption, there have been many setbacks, many L O N G waits. When you love someone and want them home, this is very hard. Many times I’ve cried out to the Lord over why something is taking so long, or why do they have to do things “that way” etc. The Lord is slowly teaching me to release my plans and schedules to Him. He is teaching me to desire His will over my own, and that is very difficult.
Also, find another family that has gone through adoption before you. They will be a valuable resource when you are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. They will be able to listen, and to understand what you are feeling, and to guide you through this long process.