Ministry, Adoption, Special Needs— All Part of Daily Life for the Wards
June 22, 2015
The baptism of new Christians into the faith is one of the greatest privileges given to a church family, so Sunday June 21 was a doubly special day when Pastor had the joy of baptizing both Pedro Pablo and José Ignacio Ward.
We have been privileged to have Chris and Lori Ward as part of the Epworth famiy since Lori served as our interim pastor early in the year 2000 before Pastor Thelander joined us. We were prvileged to baptize their first son Zechariah before they moved to Ohio for Lori to become a fulltime pastor. While they were away they adopted Jeison and Jeffer from Columbia. For the past several years they have been working and ministring in Korea— we like to think of them as our missionaries— and this year they returned for their summer break with Pedro and José also from Columbia.
There is always a special excitement when this exuberant family is with us and we look forward every year to their visits from Korea. We asked Lori to share a bit about their lives with our readers.
What took you to Korea and what is your work like in the school there?
Lori: We received a surprising invitation by some friends of ours for Chris to apply for a Network Administrator's job at a new international Christian school in South Korea. Our friends had been teaching for a number of years at the sister school and had a wonderful experience. We were in a time of transition in our family and felt it was an invitation from the Lord. We hoped that it would be a place to cocoon our family for a while and meet some of the needs of our young children.
Chris is the Network Administrator of our school. It is a very "plugged in" school. All of our secondary students bring their own Apple laptop computers, and our middle school students also bring iPads. In the elementary school, all students have 1-to-1 access to iPads and group access to laptop computers. Chris has two national assistants who help him maintain about 700 devices and service about 700 people (students, staff, and faculty) with their technical needs. He has a great balance of technical work and personal interaction in his position, which is quite satisfying to him.
It took a year or two for Lori to settle in to her permanent role. She has worked with the counselors and as a student life minister (chaplain) as she was coming into her role as the Language Support Coordinator. It has been a learn-as-you-go job that has been challenging and invigorating. Lori leads a team of teachers who support students who are learning English. The support involves both direct contact with students and professional development and consultation with teachers. One of the great perks of working at the school is that Lori has been able to travel to several other countries in Asia for professional development and training.
Adopting 5 children, 4 from South America and some special needs sounds like a daunting--not to say overwhelming--challenge. Tell us about your amazing family.
Lori: Our children do indeed amaze us! We have been blessed with 5 boys, each with such a unique story and personality. Adoption has been our family plan from the beginning of our marriage (20 years ago this summer!). However, we would have never expected at that time for it to look like it does now. We adopted our oldest son, Zachariah, as an infant. We were at the hospital when he was born in Boise. Such an outgoing, energetic, bright, and delightful boy, he was the very center of our lives for 7 1/2 years.
When Zachariah was about 5 we finally settled that we wanted him to have a sibling, and that we had room in our family for another child. Having had the baby experience, we felt that we could be open to an older, and therefore harder-to-place, child. We also decided to adopt from a Latin American country. A series of events led us to settle on Colombia. Over the course of 2 years we encountered a few different waiting children that we had hoped would be ours. The emotional roller coaster of that adoption process came with a phone call from our case worker, "I have twin four-year-old boys." We learned that our Jeffer had a physical condition that prevented him from walking. After a bit of research and a large gulp of faith, we said, "YES!" to welcoming Jeffer and Jeison into our family. Their homecoming opened our world to all kinds of new challenges and delights. Jeison is a deeply-feeling, kind, and creative boy who gives himself whole-heartedly in care for others. Jeffer is an engaging, active people-person with a strong and loving heart. Both of them teach us so much.
These three boys brought fullness to our lives and busyness to our home. About 4 years ago, however, we had the gnawing itch to welcome one more child into our home. Our hands were pretty full, but we felt like we had space in our family for one more child who needed some big brothers, and who would round us out to an even 4 children. We found the adoption pursuit to be excessively daunting while living abroad. After two years of closed doors, broken hearts, and no leads, we were completely ready to throw in the towel. Then, one night before bed, Lori encountered the profile of a then 2-year-old boy with achondroplasia dwarfism who had a 4-year-old birth sibling. The boys were at immediate risk of being permanently separated with different adoptive families. Only one month remained for a family to be identified to keep them together. We began to weep in prayer over these brothers. "Lord, you must find them a family together." We could hear in our Jeison's voice echo in our minds saying, "Brothers must stay together." As we prayed we heard the voice of God whisper, "How about your family." It was a completely ridiculous and outlandish idea. Adding one more child would be a stretch, but TWO?! And each with their individual needs? It was a step-into-the-Jordan-River-at-flood-stage kind of faith move for us. But the Lord has walked with us every moment and provided above and beyond what we would have ever imagined or thought. We returned to Colombia last summer to meet Pedro and José. They have added so much to our lives. We are so glad we did not miss out on the blessing of being their family!
Yes. Some days are really challenging, sometimes overwhelming. But mostly, we are overcome with the love and grace of God, recreating each of us to become the persons the Creator designed for us to be from the beginning.
What is daily life like for your family in Seoul? I believe you live in a 17th floor apartment? That alone must be a challenge with active boys who want to be outdoors playing.
Lori: We live across the street from our school on the 17th floor of a 19-floor apartment building. We are a bit cozy in our space, but it works pretty well for us. In the mornings, we walk together to school. The older three kids head to their classes while we deliver the younger two to theirs. Then, it's to our respective offices. At lunch time we check in with the boys and often get to eat together. On the occasion that one of our boys has a need throughout the day (which happens!), we are nearby to check in or problem-solve or offer a hug. At the end of the day different ones have different activities. The older boys are able to go home as they are free, and we bring the younger ones home with us. We do homework. Eat dinner. Take baths, and go to bed! Apartment living is not ideal for growing boys, but we have lovely playgrounds throughout our neighborhood, and full access to our school facilities including gymnasiums and an indoor swimming pool. Furthermore, South Korea is an incredibly safe place for young children. The older ones are able to play unattended outside and can occasionally even supervise the little ones for a short time.
Tell us about your house church.
Lori: Our house church started the first year we were in South Korea, arising from a need in our family for an accessible community of worship in English. Over the years we have had a number of different families and individuals join us for various lengths of time. We follow an adapted form of the service Epworth uses with a guided discussion in lieu of a formal sermon. This has been a rich time of inclusion and development for adults and children alike over the years. We enjoy tea and snacks after worship. While we recognize that it is a small and limited corner of the Church, it has been for us and for many others a means of grace. We are thankful for this gift.
Thank you somuch, Wards for sharing your life with us!