by Julia Seeley
ENC grads Andrea and Nathan Sawtelle flew to India last month to bring home their daughter, Madhavi. This wasn’t the first time the couple went overseas to adopt. Five years ago they adopted their first son, Biruk, from Africa.
“After the first adoption, we knew we were going to do it again and knew we wanted to go the adoption route,” Andrea said.
During a mission trip to Honduras, Andrea said it was seeing the pain and anguish blanketed over the children in the orphanage that pushed her to adopt.
“Seeing and knowing that is what they grow up with for 18 years was life-changing,” she said.
Even though the couple was familiar with the adoption process, they said they still had some uncertainty and fear, because they were working with a new adoption agency. Close friend McKenna Kern said the help and support of the ENC community helped the process go more smoothly.
“It ended up being a really quick process, and things moved faster than Andrea and Nate expected,” Kern said. “The people in the community were really responsive and giving them donations. A lot of people were sponsoring and being so supportive.”
Andrea said on the way to pick up their daughter, Madhavi, they were nervous. They were bringing home a toddler instead of a newborn.
“The older they are, the more trauma they’ve experienced, and the more time they’ve been alone,” Andrea explained.
When she and Nathan met Madhavi for the first time, Andrea said the interaction was saddening. Madhavi didn’t want to leave everything she knew and had grown up with.
“She immediately started crying and screaming and she did not want to have anything to do with us,” Andrea said. “I felt very helpless.”
Andrea said she hated to see their daughter be isolated with them. They knew it would be a hard transformation, but they felt defeated.
“The first five days we were with her, she wouldn’t smile at us. We would sleep next to her, we would hold her and feed her, and she just had so much anger and was grieving,” Andrea said. “She would bang on the door and call for her caretaker. Every time we went out, she thought we were bringing her back to where she came from.”
Andrea said she and Nathan kept trying, despite Madhavi’s hesitation. After a couple of weeks, she began to break out of her shell.
“She started to play with Biruk and she didn’t want anything to do with him when she first got here,” Andrea said.
Madhavi continued to transform over the months. Nate said she now takes part in chores around the house and is a helper to her parents.
“The transformation from the first month we were home until now, the third month being home is astounding,” Nate said. “There is a joy in her face when she plays and talks with us, and there is a sweet peacefulness.”
The ENC community helped out during Madhavi’s transformation. Senior and friend Caleb Lynch said he enjoyed watching her become more open and loving than she was initially.
“[In the beginning] she was very closed off, very to herself. She didn’t really interact all that often,” Lynch said. “But now she seems to be very open, very loving. She’s attached at the hip to Nate, she loves her brother, she loves Andrea. It just seems to be a complete 180 turn from who she was, to who she is now with her family.”
“It’s almost as if her whole being has let out a big gigantic sigh, and now knows the feeling of love from a grateful daddy and mommy and a loving brother to share in their powerful story of adoption,” Nate said.
Andrea said there are still tough moments, but she wouldn’t change the experience.
“There are definitely moments where she’s challenging or she pushes you away, but the transformation is unreal. I would do it all over in a heartbeat,” she said. “It’s not in any way, shape, or form, easy, but it’s like the most beautiful thing to watch, and I think you learn a lot about yourself and about God in the process.”
Andrea said she is able to see God through the experience and was able to love even when she was pushed away.
“It’s been like this picture of God’s unconditional love for us,” she said. “When you talk about God loving us despite how we treat him, or despite pushing him away, like this has been that unreal experience.”