CONNECTIONS Winter 2019
Kids, Chickens, Crockpots, More Kids, Chaos & Christ
While waiting through the super slow Guatemalan adoption process, Julie gave birth to their son Caleb, now a sixth grader at ZCS. And then they all watched the Guatemalan government close the door to international adoption.
“We had already invested all this money, but thought maybe God was trying to tell us ‘You’re good, enjoy your six kids, take care of them, you don’t need two girls,'” Julie said.
But a couple of years later, when Caleb was two, the adoption agency called out of the blue, just when the Meyaards had learned to be content knowing that their money invested into the potential Guatemalan adoption was being used to house and feed other needy Guatemalan mothers and children. Suddenly the adoption agency was offering to transfer a portion of their adoption investment toward adoption from another country—either Vietnam or Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, VP of Operations for Quality Machine and Automation by day, Steve had traveled to Beautiful Gate in Lesotho on a mission trip with a buddy of his, Mike Verkaik, and their Pastor Tim at Haven CRC in Zeeland, and fell in love with all that is Africa.
“I would say that was when my husband became a true Christ-follower,” Julie said. Sure, he was raised a Christian, went to church, believed in Christ, “and yet are you living it out, and letting go? But after that trip, his heart was exploding (while I wasn’t there!) and he was right away on board; ‘Let’s switch!’ he said to me.”
But Julie wasn’t there yet, wasn’t ready to bring an African girl to Zeeland, telling God, “I can do Guatemala, but God, I don’t know about Africa. A black child in Zeeland?”
So they prayed.
And then this seemingly random article comes out from Holland Christian in the Holland Sentinel, declaring something along the lines that “God’s fabric is more colorful,” describing HC’s efforts already back then to diversify its student population.
“The timing was incredible!” Julie says, adding that is how they decided to send their oldest children, then just ready for high school, to Holland Christian. But it’s also how they agreed to switch to an Ethiopian adoption, and two weeks later received a picture of a darling four-year-old girl, dressed in a purple sweatshirt, with an “absolute sparkle in her eye” and “there wasn’t a question, never really even a discussion—and all the kids were absolutely on board.”
But after returning triumphantly from Ethiopia with Myla, things still weren’t exactly easy. “Everything was different than we had signed up for,” said Julie. “I thought if this was God’s plan, why was it so hard?”
Myla’s transition was difficult, the most difficult of their five adopted children, Julie said, though Myla was really excited to have a dad. She had been used to being an only child, to getting her way, was strong-willed, and now she was suddenly the youngest child of seven.
But now, 10 years later? “She’s one of the first ones I call for help,” Julie said. “She’s one of the most capable.” Eventually life began to feel complete, almost normal with seven children, and with absolutely zero thoughts of adopting more.
But then, to make another miraculous, God-interceding story short, along came Desmond, an unexpected gift from northern rural Ethiopia, more Sudanese than Ethiopian. But also pure joy, sheer noise and energy, and so worth the boat Steve sold to pay for his adoption. “Desmond taught us that joy,” Julie said. “With Desmond, we realized that we almost missed this opportunity to have this ray of sunshine, this love for people that he has!”
Desmond taught us that joy. With Desmond, we realized that we almost missed this opportunity to have this ray of sunshine, this love for people that he has!
We could not have asked for something more perfect! God knew when this all started, I will have a place for your kids. That house is such a gift!
I told Steve, I’m not taking a baby! We’ve got chickens and kids and chaos–this is no home for a baby. I’m so done, so over the baby stage!
They had been holding on to a chunk of land for several years, planning to build their dream house on it someday, but now sold their house, and moved all 12 of them into Steve’s parents’ house in anticipation of building.
But then decided they just couldn’t do it. “I decided I don’t care what my countertops looked like, when two years earlier that had been my dream! The thought of going through the building process, and the financial burden of it all” was just too much, Julie said.
So they looked at houses one last time, exhausted even more possibilities than they already had, fully knowing that finding an affordable house in the Zeeland area to fit 13 people was no small task.
But miraculously (in the truest sense of the word!) they found one: “A house is just a house, but it was so handpicked for our family—huge kitchen, big bedrooms, five bathrooms, a laundry room that was huge—more than we could ever have imagined, 10 acres with a pool. We could not have asked for something more perfect! God knew when this all started, I will have a place for your kids. That house is such a gift!”
And their two new daughters? Both girls were very malnourished, thin and extremely small for their registered, but unlikely, ages of 7 and 9. And, again, did not have an easy start in their new home:
“It was rough. Rosina was madder than a hornet! She has a big personality, had been through a lot, and did not want to be loved. We wondered did we finally push it too far? Did we take on too much? But she has come so far! She is such a sweet, fun, sarcastic kid!” Julie said.
At ten kids, an even dozen for their family, the Meyaards felt complete. For real this time. But they wanted to help promote the “Safe Family” ministry of Bethany Christian Services, a passion of Julie’s through their church, Haven CRC in Zeeland. Since they wanted to be able to help others become safe families—families who could do short term child care for under-resourced families in crisis, hopefully preventing Child Protective Services from entering the picture—the Meyaards decided to walk through the certification process themselves, only so that they could better help other families walk through the process.
And you can guess the drill by now. Yup. Another kid showed up.
But how do they make the daily details work? Of life with 11 children? A Christian education for every one?
“We use my crockpot a ton, eat lots of tacos, and eat buffet style. Do a lot of Aldi shopping…” Julie said matter-of-factly. “We’re definitely better with our resources! Things get passed around and utilized, and food seldom goes to waste. It goes through the kids, then the dogs, then the chickens. You learn as your family grows what works, what doesn’t. They grow up different and faster and learn things from their older siblings!”
Not the life Steve and Julie imagined for themselves back in high school, yet one they are grateful for, flourishing in.
“I would say that Holland Christian planted the seeds that made us aware of living for more than just the ‘American Dream,’” Julie said. “It also helped us develop Christian friendships that helped encourage us to step out of the boat when the time was right. A good Christian education gives you a worldview that looks at family differently than the typical American nuclear family. We were blessed to have been taught that Jesus calls us to live a life that matters, and doesn’t always make sense to the rest of the world.”
A good Christian education gives you a worldview that looks at family differently than the typical American nuclear family. We were blessed to have been taught that Jesus calls us to live a life that matters, and doesn’t always make sense to the rest of the world.