NEW FREEDOM, Pa. (BRN) — In 2005, it was reported by the Gladney Center for Adoption, that nearly 46,000 children were adopted worldwide, with roughly half of those children finding homes in the United States. Since then, that number has dropped by nearly 72 percent.

“I would say that, even though it’s hard, if it’s something God would be calling any of your listeners or readers to, it is well worth it,” said Pastor Terry Felton, as he reflected on the adoption of his son.

Felton has served at Mason Dixon Baptist Church in New Freedom, Pennsylvania, since 2001, where he first started as an intern and then later took over as lead pastor. He and his wife, Amanda, have four biological children and one adopted son, Elijah.

Prior to bringing Elijah into their family, the Feltons shared that they were “not really thinking about adoption.” It wasn’t until she received a prayer request for an adoptive family that Amanda started to feel drawn towards adoption.

“Through a mutual friend, I got a prayer request about this little girl who had been adopted in Bulgaria and the family had went to get her, but when they got to the States, they had to go straight to the hospital…. I think she was 10 years old, and only nine pounds…it was absolutely insane,” said Amanda.

“Over this time, I followed the blog that the mom had kept everyone up-to-date [on] and I got to see her go from that tiny, tiny, skinny, malnourished child to– she was all of a sudden loved and had proper care.”

It was then Amanda realized God may be calling her to adoption.

“I really just started to feel like God was tugging at my heart at that point, and I knew that Scripture said to take care of the orphan and the widow. So, I started to talk to Terry about it.”

Pastor Terry said he was not opposed to adoption, but was unsure if it was the right time to pursue this call.

“If I’m being honest, I was really thinking that when our other kids were older, not necessarily that we would have a whole new family, but I thought it would honestly be around this time that we would be pursuing this,” he said. “But, the Lord, in His goodness, connected us with some people through a mutual friend, who now have become great friends, and they had adopted a little girl from China.”

He went on to explain how the little girl would cry at night when “talking about her friends that she left behind…two older boys.” After much conversation and reading the Word, the Feltons decided to adopt one of the older boys.

“By early January, we are filing paperwork…God made it so we started in January of 2016 and by December we had Elijah,” said Terry.

He explained the unusually fast pace of the adoption: “So, Elijah had a file, he was older, and he had a special need, so I believe it was those things combined with God’s mercy and just favor on it that made it happen so quickly.”

Since adopting Elijah, both Terry and Amanda have seen God use the adoption process, and their son, to open their eyes to His characteristics.

“God’s truly shown us what His love is like, because we are adopted into His family through Jesus,” shared Amanda.

Continuing, she said, “The one time that I even remotely understood what that was like, which I’ll never completely understand, but when we were leaving for China I had to leave the other four behind for two weeks. The Lord just showed me, He said through Scripture, ‘This is what I did; I left my one true Son and I came and got you.”

Terry added to this thought, by explaining how all adoptions come from a place of brokenness.

“Something went wrong so that child was left without a family. We have to admit that and be real about that, and [that’s] just like our adoption as Christians…we’re not naturally born into the family of God because of our sin.”

It’s been five years since Elijah joined the Felton family, and five years since God blessed the Felton family through adoption.

“Our kids, seeing God tenderize their hearts to be open to this and then to welcome Elijah in, literally as a brother, really from the moment he got here… God’s brought him in and graciously just fit him in,” said Terry.

After bringing Elijah home, the Feltons saw God work yet again through another adoption.

“After we got Elijah, we had a family visit our church, and we got to have a meal with them …  the wife just was really talking to Amanda and then asking questions about adopting Elijah.”

Terry continued: “Well, really long, amazing story short, we adopted Elijah due to this mutual friend who had a daughter who was crying for her two friends. We shared with this family that there’s still one [child] left and this family [ended] up going to China themselves and adopting the third of that one.”

The two boys have since been reunited and just recently had their first sleepover together since their days at the orphanage.

“We went away overnight last night, and Elijah stayed with Joshua, the other little boy, and they got to sleep in the same room together again for the first time in almost five years,” shared Amanda.

Terry also shared that, along with sleepovers, the boys worship together at church and have quickly become an essential part of the Mason Dixon community.

“So now, every Sunday, we have these two boys, who grew up in an orphanage together, worshiping Jesus in our faith family,” he said. “To see the church be open to two little boys from China with some physical needs and welcome them in was just an amazing testimony of God’s grace and provision.”

Listen to the podcast interview:

The “50 Stories of Transformation” series, told in honor of the Baptist Resource Network’s 50th anniversary, highlights the many ways God has moved throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey and beyond. Your generous support of the Cooperative Program makes this ministry possible and fuels evangelism and outreach in our local churches and all over the world! Thank you!