The joys of adoption: Bobby and Courtney Williams adopt children from Congo and Ethiopia, start Embrace Ministries to encourage others
Bobby and Courtney Williams of Dickinson have a heart for children, but they never expected their family would grow to six so quickly.
Their family included Eli, 7, followed by Ayla, 5, and Owen, 3, when Courtney talked about having one more child, possibly by adoption.
“We had three children, so I thought, no way,” Bobby said. “We started praying and with more praying and thinking about it, it’s amazing how God totally changed my heart.”
Bobby owns Whispering Pines Construction while Courtney teaches part time at Hope Christian Academy. Having been foster parents, they understood the need for foster and adoptive homes.
Adoption process begins They researched several international adoption agencies, and chose America World Adoption.
“You first pick out a country and the agency works with that country,” Courtney said.
They applied for an infant from Ethiopia, but learned the process could take up to two or three years. Then they contacted A Love Beyond Borders to pursue an adoption from the Congo because the wait time was shorter.
“Within a few days, we totally knew what we were supposed to do,” Courtney said.
“It’s amazing how a picture of a child half way around the world can change your heart so much,” Bobby added.
Bringing Addy home In October of 2012, they flew to Congo to bring nine-month-old Addy back to Dickinson.
During their research, the family learned the Congo is rated the world’s poorest nation.
“When we left the orphanage, I cried the whole way back to the hotel — seeing the older kids left behind broke my heart,” she said.
“It was watching the kids with the empty eyes,” Bobby added.
Even with four children, Bobby and Courtney remained on the wait list for an infant from Ethiopia.
During that time, they learned that 90 percent of older Ethiopian children age out of the system before being adopted. If they applied for an older child, the process could begin immediately.
“Our biggest reservation was Eli, who was our oldest child and his mentality of being a big brother,” Bobby said.
“We never talked about older children for adoption, but one day we were sitting in the living room and Eli said, ‘What if God wants us to adopt an older kid like me?’” Courtney said.“So we knew that our biggest concern was obviously not a concern anymore,” Bobby added.
Second adoption The Williams went through America World Adoption for the second adoption.
“When we changed our request to older children, it was pretty much instantaneous,” Courtney said.
They learned about two brothers who were waiting for a family. The cost of paperwork was not much more for a second child, as well.
They flew to Ethiopia where they met brothers, Nahagi and Detcho, who were living at an orphanage.
“Eli got to go with us to meet his brothers,” Bobby said. “It was his first plane ride and it was across the world — it will be a trip he never forgets.”
While in Ethiopia, Bobby and Courtney were evaluated as prospective parents by the court system.
“Thank God we were approved and we then went home (without the boys),” Courtney said.
Having been at the orphanage for four years, the brothers had made many friends. The months that followed gave them an opportunity to say goodbye, Bobby said.
Brothers arrive Courtney and Bobby flew back to Ethiopia in September and arrived home with the boys on Oct. 1.
“Everything went well, we picked up the boys, and actually we were fortunate to travel to their home village where they were raised,” Bobby said.
“It was wonderful seeing their culture and where they grew up,” Courtney said.
Shortly after the boys arrived in Dickinson, it started to snow. They liked the snow, but not the cold as much. They went sledding in the back yard and tried ice skating.
Family bonding has been a process. They play together, pray together and help out with the housework. Over the winter, they sledded in the back yard and tried ice skating. They’ve visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and are planning a trip to the Glacier National Park.
Nahagi and Detcho played soccer in Ethiopia, and are participating in Dickinson’s new soccer club. They’ll likely learn to play baseball, thanks to Eli’s interest.
Blending of the cultures has transcended into their choice of foods.
“I try to make Ethiopian food once a week,” Courtney said. “They have very good spices.”
However, there are certain Ethiopian foods Courtney can’t see adopting, such as spicy raw ground beef.
While they miss their native foods, Detcho said he likes burgers and spaghetti. Nahagi has eaten his first buffalo burger and thinks it’s great.
The boys learned conversational English while touring with His Little Feet, an international children’s choir.
As members of the children’s choir, it’s only natural they would love to sing and dance. Nahagi also likes playing the bongo drums.
“They were exposed to America, which can be a shell-shocker by itself,” Bobby said. “It put an extra smile on our faces being able to communicate with the children a little bit.”
The Williams’ children are enrolled at Hope Christian Academy. Nahagi and Detcho attend half-days. In the afternoons, they are tutored at home to catch up on reading and math skills.
The boys enjoy speaking about their country and heritage. They said they grew up on a farm and they had a cow.
Detcho said math is his favorite subject in school, but writing is harder.
They both played soccer in Ethiopia, and are participating in Dickinson’s new soccer club.
The boys keep in contact with several of their friends through Skyping. One of their cousins is living in Washington, while another friend moved to Canada.
Bobby and Courtney share their adoption story to encourage other families who may be considering foster care or adoption.
When they first started the process, there were few resources locally.
“We felt a tugging at our hearts to start Embrace Ministries through our church (Evangelical Bible Church),” Courtney said.
The ministry is an opportunity to support families interested in adoption or foster care.
“We can share our mistakes and our journey,” she said. “We hold gatherings for current adoptive families and also those interested. They can ask questions and hear experiences from other people who are fostering or who have adopted children.”
Courtney and Bobby just attended the Christian Alliance for Orphans’ annual summit held at Chicago.
“We came to gain information about the ministry to support our families better,” Courtney said.
Interested families may learn more about Embrace Ministries by sending messages to: firstname.lastname@example.org.