I threw on my green camp staff T-shirt and khaki’s and headed past cabins 13 and 14. I volunteered each summer at this Laurel Mountain bible-sport camp while my kids sleep in bunks, eat camp food, and sing and chant until they lose their voices.
I saw Jackson on my way into breakfast and gave him a high-five.
He was wearing his Roman red T-shirt, with a number three on the back symbolizing the camp’s motto, “God first, others second, I’m third.” They compete all week against the blue Galatians through various sports and activities, each scoring points for the Romans. They love setting goals and winning and I love watching them learn to praise God whether they win or lose.
On this day, I sorted mail, tracked awards, restocked the camp store shelves and wondered when we would hear from our adoption agency.
Three weeks prior, they told us our next contact would be a match…the name of a boy or girl (or sibling group!) they felt was a good fit for our family.
I was nervous.
The days had passed and I grew restless, but vowed to allow everything to play out in the Lord’s timing. I wasn’t sure what to expect or what emotions I would feel. Tim stayed back home, working long hours during his peak season while we were at camp. Our conversations apart focused on the kids, but always brushed the topic of our awaited email.
I took a break from my desk that day to check my phone and saw an email from our adoption agency! My heart skipped a beat as I opened the short message asking me to call our social worker.
“Can I step in the back room and make a call?” I asked the office staff. “...to our adoption agency. I think this might be the call I’ve been waiting for!” my voice shook a little in my excitement and they were quick to excuse me.
When the social worker answered, she confirmed she had our match….
"A boy! A healthy four-year-old…no siblings….with a name of 'G-o-d-f-r-e-y, Godfrey'.”
I wrote the brief information on a scrap piece of paper with shaky handwriting.
She said she would send a photo and his health records in the next few minutes and asked if I had any questions.
I couldn’t speak.
I only cried…consumed by relief, wonder, and awe of the weight the information written on the scratch paper in front of me held.
I apologized and said, “No questions now….just overwhelmed by this moment.”
She assured me that crying at this point was a good thing and was excited to be the bearer of this wonderful news. She went on to explain that we had a period of time to look over his file and decide if we would accept this match. She said goodbye on the phone and I waited for the email to come through.
This is what we had waited for….a name and a face. After our match with Edmond and Edina fell through, praying forward was tough without a name and a face. I had his name, (an interesting choice for an African first name, I remembered thinking). And his face was coming soon in an email!
In the meantime, the office girls had gathered around me, crying with joy right alongside me and surrounding me for a prayer of thanks.
We said “amen” and a notification dinged on my phone.
The email with a photo was one click away.
I read through initial information and my hands shook as I opened the attachment with his photo.
He was hanging on monkey bars with a goofy grin, bald head, and a red T-shirt.
Tears came again and I laughed out loud.
The joy that overflowed in my heart that moment, I will never be able to explain. It is so different from discovering the pregnancy of a biological child…so completely different, so special, and exhilarating in a unique way.
Then the camp director’s wife leaned over my shoulder and asked, “How did he get a camp T-shirt?”
“What?” I was clearly confused.
“Look!” she was gaining excitement, “His shirt says, ‘I am third’….right?”
I zoomed in on the photo.
It was true. In large, wrinkled letters his shirt shouted, "I am third," with the same motto written in a Spanish subtitle, “Yo soy el tercero.”
Goosebumps covered my arms…
“And he’s Roman Red! It’s red!” she pointed out. “You don’t even have to think about this one, Lana! He belongs with you!”
And he did. His red “camp” shirt was a God wink and an indicator that we could follow through with confidence, knowing this little boy with a name that didn’t yet roll off my tongue, “Godfrey,” belonged with us.
For the rest of the term, as I folded "I am third" T-shirts in the camp store, I beamed.
Monumental moments for a family seem a lot less intimidating when they come with clarity. Confidence in our match grew. Tim and I talked long and hard, bewildered by the "camp T-shirt" (Which we later discovered wasn't related to the camp, but sure did send a strong message with its slogan!) We prayed several days and then called our social worker with confirmation to accept the match.
Godfrey would be Shoaf #5!
We had a face and a name. We began praying for the day we could bring this “Godfrey” to our home as one of us….a Shoaf, a growing child of God, and a red Roman!