Kortny and Jeremiah Cox welcomed their 18-month old son with his adoptive father’s playful personality home from Ethiopia at the end of June.
After a two year wait, the adoption process was complete, and their family finally felt intact.
The couple made two trips to Ethiopia without their four-year-old daughter, Olivia to complete Zeri’s adoption process.
“Coming back to the United States when Olivia met us at the airport was probably the best moment of my life,” Kortny said. “When we were all together, and the whole process was finally over.”
The Cox family decided to adopt their second child from Ethopia in April 2011 after they heard a testimony about an adoption from their pastor’s wife, Amy Jo Adams. The Adams family adopted a child from China.
Adams told the congregation that a donor gave them money for the adoption not so the Adams family would be able to get a child, but so a child would have a family.
While adoption had passed Kortny’s mind when Oliva was a baby, the couple hadn’t talked about the possibility until they heard Adams’ testimony. That Sunday afternoon, Kortny and Jeremiah decided to pray about the possibility of adoption.
During Easter service that year, Kortny felt God tell her they needed to adopt. He told her the people within the congregation would help them raise their child.
“I came home, and told Jeremiah,” Kortny said. “He said, ‘If you hear God speak to you, we’re not going to go against it.’”
Kortny and Jeremiah felt drawn to adopt from Africa, particularly Liberia where Quest has helped to build a church and a well. When Liberia fell through as an option, they continued to research until they talked to friends who had adopted from Ethiopia.
“It wasn’t that we just wanted a child, it was that God was telling us there was a child who needed our family,” Kortny said.
They started adoption training in May, but it took until Sept. to get their adoption paperwork finalized. The couple was told it would take six to nine months after the paperwork was completed to be matched with a child.
“It was so much harder than I thought it would be waiting to be matched with him,” Kortny said. “Especially when we were told it was supposed to be six to nine months, and instead of being number one on the list, we were number nine.”
While the family waited to be paired with their child, they received support from their church, family and friends.
“We’ve been changed by the generosity of people,” Kortny said. “Before we went through this adoption process, I don’t think we were as generous as we hope to be now. We just saw people give up their time, money and support.”
Over the course of a year, they became close friends with several other families in Champaign County who have adopted children from Africa. Kortny said these friendships were important to them as they waited for their son to come home.
“They had that same bond.” she said. “They knew what it was like when I was waiting between the Embassy and clearance to go get Zeri. If you hadn’t been through it, you wouldn’t know what the pain was like to wait for the son you’d been longing for to come home. They sent me texts and were very encouraging.”
Their first trip to Ethiopia was in April, and they waited until June to go back to get Zeri.
When the couple first met Zeri, he cried almost the entire time they visited with him.
“It was surreal meeting him because we had longed for him for so long,” Kortny said. “I whispered in his ear, ‘We love you. We’ve prayed for you for so long. We’re not giving up on you. I love you. And we’re never going to leave you once we bring you home.’”
While leaving Zeri was hard, the Coxs said he received exceptional care at the orphanage. The nannies knew how to make him laugh by blowing on his belly.
They decided to treasure the one-on-one time they would have with Olivia in before Zeri came home.
Olivia was so excited to have a baby brother; she saved up money to send supplies for a YWAM family they support in Ethiopia. On the second trip, Olivia spent her own money on coloring books and crayons for older children in the orphanage.
Kortny and Jeremiah became close to their driver in Ethiopia. The man, whose parents worked for the government, lived within the capital city his whole life. Kortny and Jeremiah asked him to take them to a suburb of the city where their YWAM family, a mother and her eight-year-old daughter live.
Although the YWAM church service was in their native language, Kortny and Jeremiah were taken by the joy in the church members as they worshipped.
“It was the coolest church service we’d ever been to,” Kortny said. “They were radiating with love. You could tell they really struggled in life, but they were praising God.”
The service was led by the woman they sponsored. After the service, they went to her house.
“Even though she had little to nothing, she had incredible joy,” Kortny said.
In the affluent city, their driver was not aware the suburb, a former leper refuge, existed. Many of the people in the community now have AIDS. The people in that community get much of their food from a nearby landfill where they also pull out products to resell.
“He told us he went back and told his family and friends that they needed to help this community,” Kortny said. “He’s now going back, and trying to make a difference. He witnessed God working.”
With low expectations to how Zeri would react to leaving the orphanage with them, the couple had low expectations for their second meeting with Zeri. They learned he was so fussy on their first visit because he had an ear infection.
“The first day we got him, he cried a tiny bit, but then he hold on tight and ever since then he’s been attached to me,” Kortny said. “Both of us. It was a little harder with Jeremiah. He’s definitely a mama’s boy.”
The couple said this adoption experience was a test of patience and trusting God’s plan for their life.
“I think we learned that we need to rely on God,” Kortny said. “We cannot take control. We learned that God is in control. I had to keep relearning that God is in control.”
In the beginning, the couple was asked several times why they didn’t want to have another child of their own or if they were sure they wanted to adopt.
“We felt that God was telling us, ‘Your second child is in Ethiopia right now,” Kortny said. “You would go across the world to get your child. We would do anything for Olivia, and whomever our child was going to be, we had to do the same.”
When the family was united in June, Olivia and Zeri had an instant bond. Zeri likes to follow Olivia, and try the things she does. The two like to go to the park together, play tickle, wrestle and dance.
“It’s like they’re related,” Kortny said. “There was never a hesitation with her. She just wrapped her arms around Zeri and hasn’t let go.”