Adoption Story: The Hess Family

By Emily Hess

Stacy Parmarter Photography
Living in modern day America, our family already looked a little strange. With four young children we had more than double the 1.7 the average American woman has. Also making us stand out was the simple fact that all our children are girls. It became common even for Amish women to ask if all the children were mine. I loved it.

But God. He has this way of working in our hearts and minds, working with our past experiences to shape us into who He wants us to become. Ultimately, if we allow it and yes, put in some effort on our end, we should look more like him and less like the world.

James 4:17 says that “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.”

For years my heart was for adoption. We had looked into an international program in 2011, but after much prayer felt God was closing the door for that time. We spent a short time as foster parents in 2012-2013 and it didn't go the way I planned. But it was exactly what God planned. God used that hard time to draw Trent and me closer to Him and closer to each other as couple. Those agonizing months as foster parents would later serve us to make a more informed decision when the time was right to grow our family through international adoption.

After literal years of prayer, both Trent and I agreed that the time was right to grow our family through adoption.

We applied to our adoption agency's China program in January, 2016. We were told to expect about a two year process. In my mind, this was perfect because our little 2-year-old baby would be four by the time we would need to travel to China. That's a big girl age, and easier to leave because we would travel to China for eighteen days to finalize the adoption. 

After some normal hiccups with paperwork, our dossier went to China in June, 2016. Right on schedule. We were anticipating approximately a nine to twelve month wait to be matched with our daughter. The last step was six more months of paperwork until we would travel to bring her home.

When one looks at the cost of international adoption, it can feel overwhelming. Most of us don't have an extra $35,000 sitting around. But God. I took such comfort from the Scripture during this time.

Isaiah 59:1 says “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” 

The Lord provided the finances for us in a myriad of ways during this time. We received two grants, totaling $5,000. We held a fundraiser which raised about $5,000. Friends and family gave directly about $5,000. My very small sign painting business which previous years made a modest $3 to 5,000 made nearly $15,000 the year we adopted. Only God. The additional funds needed came from our savings. Every single penny needed was provided. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, provided not just funds, but such encouragement to our family.

Much to our surprise, the day before Thanksgiving (after five months waiting) the phone rang. It was our adoption agency. They had just received the file of a little girl who looked like she would be a great fit for our family. Would we like to look at her medical file? Yes!

When Trent and I opened her file together we saw a tiny, tiny girl a year and seven months old. She had just undergone a cleft lip surgery and learned to walk at 18 months. She weighed only 15 pounds. We saw a girl with so much potential and we knew this was our daughter, the girl God had planned for our family. We felt we could more fully understand the love God has for us when we accept him and we are welcomed into his “forever family” as heirs, adopted children, fully loved by Him. 

Stacy Parmarter Photography
We decided to name her Ruth, which means “loyal friend”. She would never need to be alone in the world again because she had us, and most importantly, she would get to know the love Jesus has for her and perhaps one day accept it for herself. We prayed that one day the words from Ruth 1:16 would become her words, Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

As the next six months dragged by with paperwork and travel planning we were given a priceless gift. 

Our Ruth had been so frail in the orphanage in China that she had been sent hours away from her home province to a small group home in Beijing (this happened before we started the adoption process but while we were in the thick of praying about adoption). While there, she still barely grew, and a foster family stepped forward, offering to foster her until her forever family could get her.

While we were here in the United States, working on paperwork, God was working in China. Not only did our Ruth receive a foster family, but they were a British/Scottish family who live and work in Beijing. They worked hard on getting her to grow and gain weight while we worked hard to fund raise. They supported her through her lip surgery and cheered her on as she learned to roll over, sit up, and take her first steps. All this while we were on the other side of the world, not yet knowing who our child would be but praying that God would put people in her life to love and nurture her until we could be together. 

After we were matched, Ruth's foster family offered to Face Time with us so we could see our daughter. Every week, without fail, they worked their schedule out so we could see our daughter halfway around the world. We learned so much about her history and her personality from them. They gave us countless photographs from when she was small. This is a treasure that most children adopted internationally do not have. 

There were so many details that God was working out. Things that looked like a delay were actually meant to bring us all together. For example, Ruth joined her foster family in April, 2016. They were told that her adoption file should be ready the next month, and she would have a family soon. If that had actually happened, we would not have been her family, because our paperwork didn't even go to China until June, 2016. God was working out those delays and the timing all for his greater purpose. 

God worked out the timing in such a way that our adult niece would be home from college for summer break the exact day we needed to leave for China. She lived at our house and took care of our children for the two and a half week stay. Friends and other family helped by providing meals, laundry, mowing, and cleaning.

We traveled to China May, 2017 and were delighted to welcome a new 2-year-old into our family. Ruth's transition has gone remarkably well. She is a cherished sister, daughter, and friend. We have had a front-row seat to watch miracles unfold in her life. Ruth is a feisty, high-spirited girl. She loves her sisters, and is especially bonded to her closest in age sister, Caroline.

Ruth has gone from an anxious toddler to a brave little girl. She underwent a painful oral surgery to repair her cleft palate and bounced back in three days. She has had four different speech therapists and gone from three times a week, down to two, to now just once a week speech therapy. She is so bright and clever. She is just four but is determined to start home school Kindergarten with her five-year-old sister. She is competitive and strong-willed. Most of all, we are grateful to God for bringing her into our lives.

Our hearts were so moved by our visit to Ruth's orphanage that we started the adoption process again a year after Ruth came home (June, 2018). We are matched with our new daughter but are in the midst of what I see as a delay. A document that normally takes about three weeks to receive has taken eight weeks and we are still waiting. We are eager to see how God is working out this delay for His glory. I'm so grateful to have our first adoption experience to look back on as an example of how God works out all things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Stacy Parmarter Photography

Emily has been married to Trent for nearly 14 years. They live in southern Lancaster county with their five (soon six) daughters (Anne, Abigail, Magdalena, Caroline, Ruth and Heidi) and an ever-growing menagerie. Emily is an accidental homeschooling mom who is passionate about good coffee, strong families, children, adoption, and is a wanna be lavender & lamb farmer. You can follow her website to energize Christian families at or her personal blog at 

**The Hess Family will be welcoming their 6th daughter home in the next few weeks!


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