SPENCERVILLE — The Boyer family dismissed it as a crazy, random thought at first.
Why adopt a special needs child from Eastern Europe? Especially now, as their newborn daughter with Down syndrome, named Eden, prepared for open-heart surgery?
The more they prayed about it, the less it seemed like a crazy idea and the more it felt like a calling from God.
“We just talked about it more and more, and we just realized that God was calling us to do this — which was kind of crazy because we’re getting ready to have open-heart surgery,” said April Boyer, a stay-at-home mother who home-schools her children at what they call the Boyer Family Farm near Spencerville.
They’ve started the difficult path toward adopting a special needs child, which could take 12 to 15 months and bring with it ups and downs.
“It’s a big commitment for everybody in our family to be able to take on another child,” said Shane Boyer, the patriarch of the family. “But when God speaks, we need to say we just want to follow our hearts and follow Him.”
The Boyers first considered adopting children years ago. Life passed that by, it seemed, as they had five children together.
When Eden was born with Down syndrome, they started reading more online. That’s when they learned about a little boy with Down syndrome in Eastern Europe.
“We learned that in Eastern Europe, most children with special needs are automatically sent to an orphanage,” April said. “When they’re born, their society is not as accepting as ours is. There’s a lot of poverty and lack of resources.”
They were saddened when they read about the minimal care children received there, with some dying of starvation or lack of proper medical care. Once a child hits 5 years old there, they’re likely to be transferred to a long-term institution.
“I’ve looked at my daughter Eden and thought, ‘What if she was over there waiting for me?’” April said. “Then I realize there is a child over there waiting for me.”
The Boyer family is admittedly religious. When they were building their home, they wrote scripture verses on the studs before drywall went up. They speak glowingly of their church, Living Hope on Allentown Road.
“We try to incorporate God’s word as much as we can into our lives, educating our children, during evening devotional time together, so we’re all over the Bible,” April said.
Shane, who works in manufacturing, knows some people won’t necessarily understand his family’s devotion. He said he went to church when he was young but “fell away from it.” In 2001, an Auglaize County judge sentenced him to 11 months in prison for vandalism and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
“I was about as far away from God that you possibly get, and I came back to it,” he said. “That’s kind of an advantage for me to talk to some people. A lot of people think they’re in a bad place, and I’ve been in worse places. God has made a tremendous change in my life, where I’m nowhere near the person that I used to be.”
Given the change he’s felt in his life, he couldn’t ignore hearing God’s voice, spoken through the 27th chapter of the first letter of James: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
When it came to understanding what God was calling them to do, they took it seriously.
“The hard part for anybody is being able to discern, ‘Is that the Lord speaking, or is this just some crazy idea in my head?’” April said. “You know, prayer is No. 1. We’re constantly seeking wisdom and guidance. In the beginning, we thought we were crazy. … God will close the door if that’s not the path that He wanted us to take.”
The Boyers’ youngest daughter was born in 2020, a year already known worldwide for maladies.
Eden was a home birth, born breech and with Down syndrome. She turned blue about an hour after her birth, requiring CPR and an ambulance ride to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
She needed surgery for atresia, a closed or absent body passage, just two days into life. She later required open-heart surgery.
This was all about the time COVID-19 hit. Shane was only allowed in the hospital the first few days, then he wasn’t allowed back because of virus concerns.
“We saw each other talking across the phone,” he said, “but that’s not the same thing as being there.”
April remained at the hospital with her youngest daughter, providing milk, for nearly two months.
The other children stepped up while their mother was away, helping with cooking dinner and upkeep of the house.
“We have amazing kids,” Shane said. “They can be a little rambunctious from time to time, but other than that, they’re pretty amazing.”
Their willingness to help also showed their openness to adopting to help someone who hasn’t been selected yet and who they’ve never met. The children decided against receiving Christmas presents this year to spend that money on the adoption. Church members surprised them with a stunning number of gifts to reward their thoughtfulness.
Now the whole family is pitching in to help raise the money to make the calling a reality. They estimate it will cost $35,000 to bring a special needs child home. They’re in the process of a home study, but they’ve already had their adoption agency application approved, despite some worries about Shane’s past.
They’re accepting donations on their website, boyerfamilyfarm.com, where they document how much they’ve spent and how much has come in to help other families considering the same path. They’re not looking for handouts. They’re working hard to help make the adoption happen eventually.
Sometimes providence steps in to help. A friend’s family wanted to start clearing dead timber out of a nearby woods and asked them to help. Shane started clearing the woods, bringing the wood back to his home to split it. Now another friend offered the use of a log splitter.
“It’s a lot of back-breaking work, but it’s something I was going to do anyhow, I just do a little bit extra,” Shane said. “Now we have some to sell. It helps people out in the wintertime when they need wood, and it helps us with the adoption. It helps on both ends.”
The children and April help too, crocheting hats, cup cozies, scarves and headband warmers to sell on their website. Every time they doubt whether they’re on the right path, more orders pop up.
“I started to let fear and doubt creep in,” April said. “One afternoon, I just said, ‘OK, Lord, we know that you called us to this, and I know that you’re going to provide.’ It was less than 24 hours later, when people started saying, ‘I want a cord of wood,’ and then other people ordered a pair of socks, and the floodgates just opened. It’s been truly touching to see.”
They have imaginative plans to raise money in the future, including an offer to hide Easter eggs for families overnight to add to the magic.
Every time there’s doubt, the family turns back to its faith and finds hope that one day their special needs child will join them.
“I just think of James 1:27, where he talks about helping the widows and orphans,” Shane said. “That’s just always that boost of knowing we’re doing the right thing, even though it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be something that‘s just going to come to us. It’s going to be a lot of work to do, but it’s something that is going to just glorify God because we obey the words that are in His book.”