Category Archives: Adoption

Adoption isn’t ultimate. God is.

The last nine months have been some of the most unsettling months of my life. These months have brought about difficult and trying circumstances and situations that have been outside of my ability to directly influence or make decisions about.

The situation that has been at the top of that list has been adoption. About seven years ago we began doing foster care with our county. As a cop I saw just how often kids needed to be removed from homes in which their well-being was in jeopardy. We also decided to begin pursuing international adoption from Haiti sometime after that.

After several years of waiting to have a placement from Haiti, we wondered if we would ever adopt from that country. However, God saw fit to bring about a situation in which we faced the decision to adopting both locally and internationally at the same time. Both situations came to head in the last 9 months and we’ve been faced with the question as to whether we have the capacity to take on both. (This is a whole other story)

Through prayer and seeking advice we decided to say yes to both. That “yes” has brought about a testing of my faith. Adoption and the adoption process brings with it trials and suffering that only people who have gone through the process can really understand the uniqueness of. Yet, I am told in Hebrews 4:15 that I have a great high priest that can sympathize with my weakness- Jesus Christ. He knows.

As I have gone through this testing of my faith I have meditated on Hebrews 11 which has been an anchor in a stormy sea. I’ve gone back to these verses time and again, and through it I have seen six things that God has been teaching me.

  1. I have seen that what is more important to God than me having a heart that wants to adopt a child, is a heart that wants to trust in the promises of God. Adoption isn’t ultimate. God is.
  2. I have seen that more important than having things work out the way I think they should, is a heart that has in faith in a God who works all things together for my good. He even works out mistakes, regrets, and problems for my good.
  3. The sovereignty of God abounds in the inefficiency of the adoption process. Adoption is unbelievably inefficient, expensive, and slow. I have learned that my joy should not be tethered to circumstances working out the way I want them too. My joy is to be grounded in the fact God reigns supreme over adoption and nothing can thwart his plans.
  4. I have seen that my money is not mine but belongs to God. If we lose money because of problems or inefficiency, my heart ought to still rejoice in God’s plans and purposes. God’s bank account is never depleted.
  5. I have seen a growing awareness of my dependence on God which has caused me to pray more.
  6. I have seen more of the complete brokenness of this world, and the affects of sin on it are more of a reality to me. Red tape, paper work, and inefficient processes exist because this world is fallen. Corruption within adoption has created hoops to jump through which affect the people who rightly care about the orphan. Scripture tells me that in this world I will have trouble. It’s not weird. All the saints who have been obedient to God and have done great things for him have experienced significant, confusing opposition.

Hebrews 11 (and the first 2 verses of chapter 12) has given me the eyes to see these six things. Below, are some of the verses from that chapter that have given me this lens. What is invisible (God) is more powerful that what is visible (my situation). Whatever is ahead for us, may our faith be like that of the men and women in this chapter.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

”For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13

“He (Moses) endured as seeing him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11: 27

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2


Dossier: Done. Now: Wait.

Many have been asking Johanna and I how our adoption process is going. We love that people are thinking and praying for us as we go through this exciting, boring, tedious, convoluted process. We have just completed our dossier which will be on its way down to an unknown desk in Haiti. Now we wait.

We also learned that Haiti changed some of its requirements. Some of the changes increase costs and some of them add hoops to jump through. One significant change was that our adoption agency can no longer decide which orphanages to work with in Haiti. Our agency, All Blessings, has worked with 4 out of the 63. Now Haiti is saying that we have to accept any placement from any of the 63 orphanages. Because of the difference in the quality of the care children receive in these orphanages we have a greater risk of adopting a child with unknown needs or trauma at the outset.

This does not deter us, and I thank God to be married to a wife that is willing to engage in risky love. Jesus’ love that adopted us into the family of God was risky to the point of death. Because of that we can discard prudence and take this risk of love and be obedient to Him. Below is an update that Johanna wrote at her blog ( that gives more detail as to where we are at and where we are going, Lord willing.

June – ready to tackle our dossier!
July, August, September – dossier document collecting. Setbacks, mistakes, delays. 😛
October – sent dossier to our agency.
Currently – redoing a couple documents for the dossier.

Next steps:

  1. Dossier approved, translated into French and submitted to Haitian social services or IBESR.
  2. Wait. Wait some more. Wait covered waiting with wait filling. Our file will sit on a desk, in a file drawer or in a box (I have no idea how they file dossiers when they arrive – just making this part up) for as long as it takes for it to reach the top of the stack. The front of the queue. The interesting thing is there seems to be no rhyme or reason to who’s file is chosen first, second or third. No centralized, standardized system. So we wait and pray and wait. Probably somewhere between 9-20 months.
    Also in this waiting time, we’re going to learn some basic Creole (the language most commonly spoken in Haiti) and work toward meeting Haitians living here in MN and more families with Haitian children.
  3. MATCH! At some undetermined date, our dossier will be reviewed and chosen to be matched. A child will be chosen for us! The much anticipated, long-awaited and most definitely loved child who will become a Puelston. 🙂
  4. Travel to Haiti to meet our child. Once we are matched, we will make a two-week trip to Haiti to meet and get to know our child. We will be able to take any or all of our kids with us to meet their brother or sister – we’ll decide if that’s a good plan or not when the time comes. This will be an exciting and nerve-wracking trip, hopefully full of good opportunities to love and get to know this little person. Then we have to leave them in Haiti and return to the U.S.A. while their adoption processes through the Haitian legal system. Sad/hard/really tough.
  5. More waiting. We wait again, for an undetermined amount of time, for the court system and social services to go through the necessary steps to make the adoption legal. Hopefully, in this time period we’ll be able to send our child lots of reminders of our love, our family and how excited we are for the day we will be together again. There are LOTS of steps in this process, and it can take anywhere from 9-18 months.
  6. Visa appointment! This is the last step in the long process and once our child has been issued a visa from the U.S., we will travel back to Haiti to bring him or her home.
  7. Home. Hallelujah and pass the bonding/attachment phase. Lots of love, family time and learning how our family works with another, amazing person in it.
    So that’s it in a nutshell – we hope and pray that the time frames are shorter, rather than longer, but Haiti is in a time of transition with adoptions and things are slow right now. They could get faster, they could stay slow, they could get slower. We will have ample opportunity to exercise that lesser known beatitude: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.” And ample opportunity to trust a loving Father with His perfect plan and timing.

Thanks for being part of this journey with your love, thoughts and prayers! We are so grateful for the support, financially/emotionally/prayerfully. This is a bumpy, winding road and we’re so thankful for those who are cheering us on!

A Cop and a Dad: My thoughts on Ferguson

The Ferguson news headlines have subsided for now. The Ferguson hashtag has quited down. The conversations on cable news and talk radio have decreased. They will flare back up in a few weeks when the grand jury releases their decision on whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged with homicide or whether the shooting of Michael Brown was justified.

During this lull it seems like a good time for me to write and process my thoughts from this incident. Since this story broke open on August 10th, my 32nd birthday, I felt like my feet have been planted in two worlds with a gap that is widening. I am a cop and I am a husband/ father pursuing a trans-ethnic family. We are adopting a child from Haiti. I thought about writing this post in the ensuing days after the Ferguson riots but I wanted to give it some time to percolate. Was what I was thinking then be the same a month from now?

I read a lot of news articles and blog posts as the events in Ferguson unfolded. This story hit several different angles that are hot button issues in United States law enforcement today. Issues like race, use of deadly force, technology (i.e., body cameras), community policing, and the militarization of police were all found within the strains of this one story.

While many of my thoughts could be fleshed out, I only want to share one that I think is the most important. Before doing that, these articles have been the most helpful (and aggravating)  in helping me think through this issue:

1. The Citizen, the Centurion, and the Sword by Joshua Waulk. The debate over Ferguson has been framed in two ways depending on your camp: an emotional story line and a factual defense of what took place. Both have their place. This blog post provides a helpful, factual summary of the why and how of cops using deadly force. Action is quicker than reaction. The twenty-one foot rule. Graham v. Connor. This is the vocabulary of cops. To clearly understand and evaluate officer involved shootings an understanding of these facts are needed. Waulk is a former cop and a current pastor and has been involved in a gun battle personally. This is a must read.

2. America in Black and White: Why do so many of respond to Ferguson so differently? by Justin Taylor. This article is helpful for two reasons. First, Taylor boils down the debate over the death of Michael Brown to four positions. To gain any traction in a debate a person needs to fully understand the other side of the argument. There has been far too little of that with Ferguson and Taylor’s blog is a reminder for us to think hard, not think lightly. He also quotes an excerpt from John Piper’s book Bloodlines that is critical for all Christians to understand when as we think about race.

3. Power, Police, and Another Shooting by John Piper. Next to Jesus and the writers of Scripture, John Piper has been the most influential person on my life that I have never met. I am deeply grateful for Christian Hedonism which radically changed the way I viewed what it means to be a Christian. Having said that, this blog post made me want to pull non-existent hair out of my bald head. In the post he links a video that shows an officer involved shooting in St. Louis and concludes, “This video constitutes a powerful call for serious reassessments of how our police are trained and empowered to use their guns.” After reading Joshua Waulk’s blog post, this statement can be easily dismantled as a naive assessment at best. Still, I’m thankful for the tone in which Piper wrote the article which was a humble approach and an acknowledged thankfulness for restraint cops show.

4. Coming (Back) to America: My One Fear by Thabiti Anyabwile. This was another frustrating, but necessary blog post for me to read. It was frustrating because the way in which he writes this imply several things about law enforcement that I don’t know if Anyabwile believes or not. Where this was helpful for me, was the way in which it caused me to try and begin to understand the different perspective and life experiences that a gospel-centered Christian brings to this issue.

5. The Gospel in Black and White: A Missiological Perspective on Ferguson by Bob Bixby. “The black culture values the black community. They value the black collective. It was through community that blacks prevailed through the Civil Rights Movement Era. They feel much more dependent on community than we whites do…Whites on the other hand, simply do not see themselves as a collective.”

Bixby spends several paragraphs explaining this more and it is important for people like me to think and feel this reality more deeply. As a white person, and a majority race, I can’t identify with a black person who feels the weight and emotion of what happened in Ferguson even when he personally is not connected with it. No factual explanation of the incident will erase that emotion.

There is another dynamic here that I see as a cop. There is a divide between whites and blacks when situations like this occur. There is even a greater divide when it comes to the law enforcement community because while I don’t think of myself as a collective regarding my race, I do think of myself as a collective when it comes to my vocation as a peace officer.

Just as black people feel a strong sense of community given their history and minority status, law enforcement officers feel a strong sense of community; especially as the animosity towards us has increased recently. When a cop is killed anywhere in this nation I get an email from the Officer Down Memorial Page.  When a cop is killed in the line of duty in my home state, thousands of officers who never knew him will come to the funeral. We wear mourning bands until his body is placed in the ground. We share in the experiences of tragic circumstances that the public doesn’t see. There is a feeling of shared community that develops around the badge.

When these two communities collide, problems erupt. I see a problem with cops having no desire to understand the sense of community blacks have with each other and vice versa. Cops need to understand the painful history of the black community and the black community needs to understand law enforcement tactics and methodology.

Paul talks in I Corinthians 13 about what love, an attribute more important than faith and hope, looks like. “It is patient and kind. It doesn’t envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” We need more of this, but this will not happen apart from hearts being changed by the gospel. There may not be common ground we will find on this issue, in this life, but there can be a common love that navigates these troubled waters with kindness.

We have an example set before us. Jesus did not see us in our sin and leave us as we were. He didnt stay on the perimeter. He stepped off his throne in heaven and stepped into the messiness of sinful human beings and into our story. He took on flesh, became international, and felt our pain. He took our pain. He made himself as nothing and took the form of a servant and became obedient to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). This is the humble example we as Christians are called to follow and it is the only way we can ever hope to truly understand the life stories we each bring to the table. Let us count others more significant than ourselves. Let us not look to our own interests but to the interests of others. This is where find full joy. This is the example Jesus left for us.


Adoption and Money

Deciding to embark on the adoption road brings a seemingly unending stream of questions. There is an entire learning curve of simply wrapping the mind around what the process of adoption is and learning what terms mean (home study, dossiere, and Hague or non-Hague). Also, we have been reading, thinking and praying about what it means for our family to be multi-ethnic. The answers are not easy and the pitfalls seem to always loom.

The question we have currently wrestled with is how should we think about how much money we should personally contribute to our adoption fund and how much should we seek to come in from the outside. Through discussions with Johanna, prayer and talking with my pastor about it, these are the three things that will govern how we answer that question.

1. Don’t rob God’s people from the chance of helping. God’s Word commands all Christians to care for the widow and orphan. Asking other Christians to contribute to this is an invitation to obey God, invest in eternal rewards and receive more of God’s grace through sacrificial obedience. While it would be nice to have $30,000 sitting in an account just waiting to be used for an adoption, raising these funds slowly over time gives God more glory and us more joy in him as we see God’s people come alongside us with help.

2. We should feel the financial hurt personally and use it as an opportunity to evaluate our spending. The first reason does not absolve us from our personal contribution to this. If God has called us to this (which he most certainly has) we should be putting more money and feel more financial pain than anyone we are asking for money, and that is what we are doing. Savings are being delayed, extra mortgage payments are being put on hold and extra money is being put towards this adoption. None of it feels like a sacrifice because each dollar brings us closer towards having a son or daughter in our home that is right now in pain and needing a family.

3. Have a sense of urgency. We will do whatever we can to keep this train chugging down the adoption tracks and if it means we have to do some radical things to keep it going, we should be prepared to do that. I’m not entirely sure what that means right now, but our prayer is to remain sensitive to God’s leading and not have a lackadaisical approach to this.

I wanted to write this down for our sake and for those who have and will support us to know what our thinking is on the financial side of adoption. Also, maybe others will be helped as they consider adoption and begin wrestling with the same questions we are.

Which Is Better?

There are two books that have been quite helpful in shaping my thinking about trans-ethnic adoption. The first one has little to do with adoption and everything to do with racial reconciliation through the cross. That book is Bloodlines by John Piper. The second one has everything to do with adoption and that is Adopted For Life by Russell Moore.

Recently Dr. Moore participated in a debate in the New York Times which posed the question,  “Does transracial adoption harm children or communities? Is it ideal for children to be raised by parents who look like them?” The question stirs up strong opinions on both sides of the issue. I love what Dr. Moore says at the conclusion of his piece. It is simple and logical.

Right now there are untold numbers of children tied up in the foster care system, or languishing in orphanages and group homes all over the world. There is no place for racist bigotry or identity politics in solving this crisis. What matters is the welfare of children who need a Mom and a Dad.

Can any of us honestly suggest that it would be better for a child to remain in this bureaucratic limbo than to be a son or daughter to loving parents whose skin is paler or darker than his or her own?

I know enough to know that I don’t know enough in this area and there will be land mines to navigate. I’m thankful for a God who knows everything though. I’m thankful for the cross which has one bloodline that is greater than any ethnic gap. I’m thankful for a church that is supportive of our efforts. And I’m thankful for a wife that is willing to take this risky step in obedience to God.

We hope to host a silent auction sometime in April and we would love to have you join us for it. Details will be coming out in the near future. It is a humbling position to be in as we ask for people to help financially contribute to our adoption. Although, I believe it is a position that brings glory to God. Rather than us being able to plop down $30,000 God has allowed other people to come alongside us, support us, pray for us, give money to us and receive an greater, imperishable reward one day.

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Fuel For The Journey

This is the last day of 2013 and I’m thinking about where we may be 365 days from now in our adoption journey. The road has already been slow and windy leading us to where we are and I have seen the hand of God in it. Our heart was for Haiti yet regulations prevented us from pursuing that route initially. Through sovereign delays God opened up that path again.

The fundraising aspect of adoption seems to loom large at times. Yet the generosity of people so far has been the initial kindling of a fire to keep at it. The video below has also been fuel for the journey. Hopefully, Lord willing, in the near future Johanna and I will be on a plane to get the child that God has for us, just as Amos’ parents did.

Adoption Update

As our adoption story unfolds it has become quite certain that it will not be a straight line from A to B. There have been twists and unexpected turns. If you would like to read the whole story you can read my wife’s blog by clicking here. She sums up things well.

The bottom line is that we are now able to adopt from Haiti. Prior to six months ago we were precluded from it because we had not been married ten years. We are grateful for God’s providential delays which allowed for us to walk in to this opportunity. I went to Haiti shorty after the 2010 earthquake and took the picture you see below. This was what caused Johanna and I to start thinking about adoption from the beautifully tragic place.