When Scars Run Deep

We arrived and what seemed like one hundred children swarmed our motorcycles — boda bodas, as they call them here. I held her tight the whole way there, not knowing what an eight (perhaps ten, or eleven?) year-old response might be to revisiting the life she once wore. I wanted her body to retain remainder marks of a mother’s arms as she  re-entered the fields of the fatherless, even if for a few moments.

She was one of them just months before but looked confused as she scanned the sea of curious eyes shouting her name. Had six or eight years really been erased as easily as words on a whiteboard?

She found her friend, one of only two I’ve heard her mention by name. I wonder, is this typical-orphan or is this her tailored survival mechanism to see people as indistinct so to not attach to anyone? After she foisted her gift in the arms of her friend, they ran off together like carefree schoolgirls, which gave me pause to take in the surroundings.

Anyone with God’s heart would have a hard time being impartial towards the life/school arrangements like the ones I saw. But the pain seared hotter at the thought of her years lived so hungry while her mommy and daddy knew abundance so intimately. Love clearly ran free from the staff to the children, but their bellies were empty. One small child with flies swarming around his face approached us with a concoction he’d made in the lid of a plastic bottle. My friend who was with me who knew the small child well took a whiff and said “no more, not good to eat.”

What is good to eat when you have no food?

I found her again and asked her for a trip to her bedroom. She’d forgotten where it was — though she spent years in that bed. Her companion led us to a long, narrow dormer which housed more beds than I could see — as there were no lights — and the path between the beds and the wall was only wide enough for one person to pass. I couldn’t allow my eyes to look closely at the sleeping arrangement;  my heart was already sick.

Lily entreats God with a heart of faith, greater than many a sage I’ve knelt beside in prayer. I paged through her prayer journal and found her request that we come before the courts close to wait with her while the judge says yes. “Answer my prayers, oh God” she wrote.

And He did.

Yet the vacancy which creeps in, behind her eyes, during the moments where she’s not distracted by giggles from her sisters or kisses from Caleb … is dark. Years of her life, “forgotten.” We take walks and cuddle at night and I hold all of her slender-but-tall frame like a baby, praying for the right time to ask questions of her heart. “It was good,” she says many times of her life before us. “Good” is the response I hear many times a day, as if there’s a trap door between her head and her heart that’s never been opened. Little hint of pain over her lost years.

This emotional frame built up all around her makes her look whole, but my mama’s eyes see empty.


I think I’ve finally put my finger on why I feel so protective over the negative impressions about adopting older children. As I have, now, two of them in my care, and am assessing scars which run deeper than I might have guessed, I have no doubt that the transition to family is loaded with challenges. The moments where my eyes are not lifted up are my most dangerous these days because the facts on the ground may appear, to most, as grim.

So it’s not that I want to plug my ears and close my eyes to the very-real struggles a family encounters when they — all of them, children and parents — say “yes” to a life that has seen many invisible years.

Instead, it’s that I am jealous for the name of God to be glorified. I want the world to see that He heals.

And when I cup her face in my hands and press my lips on her forehead — skin that’s not yet been covered with mommy kisses — I know that I am not the first one who has traveled this void. His word is full of promises for the bruised reed. His very life came not as a band-aid to the broken, but as a spring of healing water to their every single wound.

To stand before God, with this child in my arms, and to fear that His countenance may not bring her healing is heretical.

I have stepped into being a medic and have eyes-wide open towards the catastrophic effects of years where ABANDONED was her uniform. I find my heart in my throat at times when I get another glimpse at how deeply the wound has penetrated the surface. Fatherlessness threatens forever-scars.

But I serve a God who sent a Man to know only three days in the grave before breaking death’s grip. And He gave me both His Word and His Spirit as my moment-by-moment reminders that no branding — but His — is forever.

So when the fears slither through my membrane of hope, in a desperate effort to persuade me that the sweet aroma which has surrounded our family is now over, I must choose to fight them with a jealous heart.

I am jealous for God to receive His glory due over my life.

And the opinion that older orphans are forever-tainted crumbles beside the word of God — written on scrolls and whispered into my heart like an IV drip these days — that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Friends, please just wait and see. Her life will be His testimony.

And there are many faces like this one we saw a few days ago, who are waiting to live that testimony.

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20 Responses to “When Scars Run Deep”

  1. Barb G on

    Oh, Sara! How very deep the scars run. Your hope, your patience, your love will be tested so much in the years ahead. But, I too know a God Who can heal, and I pray so hard for our son’s heart to allow that healing. I too yearn for the world to see this God Who heals, not only in our son’s life, but mine as well. And He has been faithful. Most when the road seems impossible to travel down.

    We have been through trials I could not imagine. I’m sure we have some ahead. But, our God faithfully walks this journey with me, leading and guiding. I’m sure He will do the same for you. Adopting an older child is not for the faint of heart. But, it is a decision I would do all over again. And when it is safe for another child to be in the same home with our son, we will probably take the very same journey, knowing what we know.

    Blessings to you, my friend. Cleave to Him. Trust that He heals, that He redeems what the locusts have stolen. And love. Even when they refuse the love. Love more then. And when you cannot feel any love in your heart for your child (and you will), ask Him to love through you. That has worked miracles in our family.

  2. Gillian Tucker on

    OH, honey, we are waiting and walking this out with you in the TRUEST of realities that deliverance IS found in Jesus. (Isaiah 61)

    Tears, hugs!!

    In His compassion He reached out and healed them


    the…wounded…diseased…abandoned… (Luke 9,Matthew 12)

    to bring immediate


    to bodies, souls, spirits..


    no ONE..

    is beyond His reach of love…

    It will be our honor to watch with you in prayer and love until we see the gift of love arrive in healing and deliverance from our loving Father’s hands. It surely WILL come. This we believe…Love from God’s family in Missouri…

    Love, Gillian and the Tucker Family

  3. Gillian Tucker on

    Beautiful and true! ~ LOVE this comment ~ It rings true with our experiences with older adoptive children. Know there is real hope. Light rises in the darkness…it really will…especially when there is nothing left in us…that’s when Jesus fills our hearts full of that incredible,powerful,mysterious,AWESOME love that could only come from Him…Blessings sweet Hagertys..

  4. Sharon on

    Oh, the beautiful redemption that lies ahead…it will be a challenging road (as we’re in the midst of experiencing too), but I love the sensitivity and insight that the Lord has already given you. Trust Him. Hope in Him. Cling to Him.

  5. love on



    as we prepare to bring our 6th & 7th children into our families and prepare for our first ‘older child’ adoptions, THIS is what has being ringing in my heart:

    “And the opinion that older orphans are forever-tainted crumbles beside the word of God — written on scrolls and whispered into my heart like an IV drip these days — that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

    Friends, please just wait and see. Her life will be His testimony.”

    not that there won’t be challenges. not that there won’t be much grace needed. but, that God is bigger. He is bigger than that ‘older child’ adoption label and i ache to get our boys home and watch their journey unfold. to watch their lives be His testimony.

  6. Anonymous on

    I saw this post re-posted by someone on Facebook, and it made me weep. A good weeping, of course. I was told every year after the age of 10 that I wasn’t good enough to adopt simply because I was too old, and that I deserved abuse b/c I had no family. I’m now in college and struggling to make it alone, but God has and always will look out for me.

    Thank you for adopting older kids. You could never know how much difference it makes.

  7. Sara on

    Wow — anonymous — thank you for leaving this note. I would love to know more of your story. My email is sarahagerty(at)gmail.com if you feel comfortable sharing.

  8. Jennifer on

    Thank you for posting this picture. It was not the “idea” of orphans that so gripped my heart, but it was seeing their faces that led me & Adam to adopt. You plant seeds in your readers hearts when they see real faces. Each with their own story, and a dream that God has for each of them.

    Don’t forget YOUR story. It’s my story as well. God has changed us. He has done the impossible, took us when we were dark & has turned us lovely. And is TURNING us lovely. It is His nature to redeem. He changes us. You’ve learned it for yourself, and now you get to watch it in your own children. He is faithful.

  9. Lisa on

    Wow Sara thank you for allowing us this glimpse into your story. I am watching with baited breath for y’all to receive a favorable judgement and to be able to come home. Our family is just waiting for our turn to be there and hold our child/children I would love to talk with you when you return. Love Lisa

  10. Janelle on

    My heart beats for older children. I don’t know what God has in store for me and my family. I do know He’s placed a love for Africa and its people for a reason though. This post made me weep, thank you for that.

    God bless!

  11. Jamie @ See Jamie blog on

    I love how you put this into words. Our stories are different, but so similar, too — especially having a heart for older orphans and the testimony they have potential to live out for Christ. Thank you for expressing this in ways I haven’t been able to.

  12. Moira Leppard on

    Hi Sarah, I am so excited for you to be where you are. I know you are so full of love and so ready to acknowledge your desperate need for Him that He will heal your beautiful girls. I loved your line about how it is heretical to think He can’t heal the pain of your daughters. I have had to remind myself of that same fact at time. He is more than able to heal our children. He has a wonderful plan for all of you. I am so excited to know the love they will feel from you and from Him. I know the road ahead is not smooth but it is perfect. God has given you the perfect pasture for you and your family. Your sweet nature shone out to me when we met in NC and I am always thrilled to read of your journey in motherhood, life and with Jesus. May this time you have now, no matter how difficult, be a time of drawing a family close to each other and to His throne!!

  13. Jen Serpe Paterno on

    How beautiful to read your story and God’s story in this! It is just beautiful for me to see the road the Lord has taken you down since doing YL training at UVA… praying for your sweet family in this time- may you be full of joy and may your eyes be open to see Jesus in everything…

  14. Katie on

    My brother Kevin was 3 when he came home and my brother Michael was 6. The scars are deep, but God is so good. I love psalm 27:13 too.

  15. Monica on


    Thank you for once again being a vessel that God has used to bring encouragement to my heart!!! We are in the deep end of the pool after completing our second older child adoption in less than 2 years. I am believing also in seeing the goodness of Lord in the land of the living!! I am claiming this promise and many more over my children daily! I look forward to reading more of your journey!!

  16. Melanie Kerr on

    I just want to share my testimony with older child adoption. God truly heals the broken heart and we have seen it first hand. We adopted Jordyn from China when she was 8 years old and she has been with us four years now. She accepted Jesus as her savior during her first year with us by watching The Jesus film with me. Jesus touched her heart during that filmed and I will never forget her reaction. She nearly jumped off the couch and cried “Oh Jesus!” She immediately believed and understood. She has prayed for her mother in China to know Jesus someday as well as others. We have had struggles growing as a family and still do at times. She has been touched by God and she has come a long way. She is loving, sweet, and full of joy. She says that she thanks God for her family (us) and she is thankful for being adopted. We never pushed for her to be thankful or even talked about that aspect of adoption. The point is that she has been healed from a hurt, abandoned and angry in the beginning of our journey. Now she has such a sweet disposition and she is always the first to come running to help in any way. She loves the Father and His Son and she has made tremendous progress. The process took time but as I poured out my love into her, prayed for her, allowed her to talk about her China momma, allowed her to express her hurt andprayed for her and with her, the Lord began to heal her wounded soul. I hope that is encouraging, I know it is not easy, but the rewards are beyound what can ever be expressed in words. Watching her dance with her sisters to her favorite songs brings my heart such joy and happiness. We adopted her in 2007 and she was our fifth child, we then adopted her friend from the same orphanage in 2009 as our6th child, and now we are reurning in Novemeber to the same orphanage to adopt our 8th child. Older child adoption is such a tremendous journey and my heart breaks for the orphans. Thank you for sharing your adoption story so beautifully. Jesus will heal your daughter and transform her into His glory!

  17. Sara on

    Melanie –

    Your testimony has encouraged me in the way that only the truest testimonies of Jesus can. *Thank you* for taking the time to comment and write this out. Oh, I want to shout it from the rooftops against the lies of the enemy that so many have swallowed whole …your daughter’s dance tells the story.

    Love this.


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