“God does family in a lot of ways and this is the way we’ve been blessed with and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Brett:We are Brett and Shannon Hilliard and we are originally from the United States. We’ve been in Hong Kong almost twelve years.
Shannon: Yeah, crazy!
B: We came here to pastor Island ECC. We have been married for almost 24 years. We’ve got four kids ages 18, 16, 13 and 11, so life is busy but good.
S: When I got married, my friends accused me of getting married just to have children. Because I was a pediatric nurse and I love children, I wanted to have about seven. Soon after we got married, we started trying to have children. Six years into it, it became apparent that we weren’t going to be able to have any biological children.Yet because we had lived in China and taught there and knew about the plight of Chinese girls over there, it had always been in our plan to adopt.We just didn’t know that we would never have any biological ones.
B: In hindsight, I am glad we don’t have biological children. There’s no regret for me at all. I love my four kids so much and I would never want for there to ever be any of them to think I love one more than the other and this levels it all out so that they see themselves as God’s perfect gifts – not a plan B or a worse case or a fallback plan but just God’s wanting the very best for us was to bring the six of us together and create this family. So it has been great!
God’s Perfect Timing
S: I do want to back up though because I think we’re painting infertility as if it’s not a painful thing that doesn’t cause conflict in your marriage or even conflict with the Lord. There were times when we were really begging for children, thinking, “Why?”I mean, it seems like it’s not a selfish thing to want to be able to have children. So there were certain days that were definitely long and we grieved so much. We read a book several years ago by Philip Yancy called ‘Disappointment with God’ because there certainly was a deep sadness – at least for myself at the time – that I couldn’t have children. It’s definitely a painful road for anyone else going through it. My real desire was to be a mother,so however God wanted to provide for that, I wanted it to happen immediately.When we first started trying, we were in Guangzhou, China and there were no fertility doctors.We rode our bikes to talk to someone about adoption and we were only 27 at the timeand they laughed at us because you need to be at least 35 before you could adopt in China.So all these doors were shutting in my face. We asked God questions like, “Why can’t we adopt? Why can’t we have biological children?” Those were hard years.
B: There’s a proverb that says, “hope deferred makes the heart sick” and that was something that was really meaningful to us at the time because we wanted to be parents THEN and God was telling us,“not now, maybe not EVER but definitely not at the moment.”And I think there’s a sickness, a sadness that comes with that. Asking God, “okayGod, where are You going? I trust You but I don’t know.” But then in hindsight, you could look to see more clearly and we saw God nurturing our hearts, disciplining us along the way and teaching us to cling to God. When certain circumstances don’t feel good, God still is good. And deepening our faith through the whole thing, which is a great redemptive side of that. That’s what He does in any disappointment, whether it’s waiting for marriage, waiting for kids, the breakup of a marriage or any of those disappointments, God wants to deepen our faith. So that was one of the silver linings. That doesn’t mean there’s no pain, there’s still plenty of that but God kind of puts a balm on it to make it all a little better.
S:So when Brett pastors young couples, he often says to them that there’s a part in your heart that your husband can never fill. God leaves room in your heart for girlfriends and yourself. [As I was coping with the waiting for children,] I found a girlfriend who was heartbroken over a broken engagement. And she became my walking prayer buddy. We prayed together for about two years and the redemptive beautiful thing that happened in our lives was the day she got married was the day Abby, our eldest, was born.That was the day I found out I would be a mom. So all in one day, I was able to see her get married and run through the airport in my velvet long dress to go meet my baby. That’s the handprint of God.
B: The enemy loves to divide marriages – to cause husbands and wives to be pitted against eachother, blaming or resenting, emotional energy to be spent on this. You have to really guard your marriage. To make sure that you don’t get so fixated on fixing the problem that you forget to nurture the gift that comes with just having the marriage. I remember thinking, “okay, if our lives were just us, that’s okay! That’s still a beautiful thing.”
B:Each of our kids is a walking trophy of God’s faithfulness and God has shown Himself through us in the different circumstances for the adoption of our kids.
I was in grad school at the time when we were looking into adopting our first child and I remember going to the adoption seminar and learning that the average cost at that time was $20,000 and a two-year wait if you wanted a healthy infant. I was in seminary and I think I had $20. And I just remembered thinking,“There was no way. How are we going to ever afford to adopt?” And God provided through a private adoption. A mother wanted to put her child in a Christian home. 18 months later, we got another phone call that asked, “Would you be interested in adopting again?”They wanted to have a couple whowere not first-time parents. We prayed and said yes.
S: The crazy thing about the phone call is…now that we’re very happy with our four children, we joke that there’s a specific date that we should not answer the phone. Because if the phone rings on that day and we pick up, we would have to adopt the baby.
B:Basically, both the phone calls for our first two children came on June 13. God doesn’t always work like that and we have to be careful about reading too much into signs but C.S. Lewis said, “For Christians, there are no circumstances outside of God’s control. There are no coincidences.” For us, it was enough to nudge us to think, “okay, God wanted us to adopt” and it was just a way for Him to build our faith and to say, “Okay, this is in God’s design.”
For our third child, Mary Grace, someone anonymously wrote us a Christmas card a couple years later and said,“We heard you were interested in adopting overseas and we would love to pay for it.” We already had two babies and we were like, “Wait, hold on a minute! This is now too fast!”
So we wrote back and said, “Can we wait a year?” and they said yes. A year later, we went through with the procedure for adopting Mary Grace and our anonymous donor paid for everything and to this day, we still don’t know who they are.
With Zane, we were already here in Hong Kong with three kids and having three kids in Hong Kong is like having eight kids in America.
S: And by then I had already gone back to work full-time.So we had been at a beach party and I was with Abby and Mary Grace when they started saying, “We should get another child! Our home is so fun and cool; we need to adopt another orphan!” And Mary Grace said, “I want another sibling from China! I don’t want to be the only Chinese in my family” and I said “Honey, why don’t you just pray about it,” not even thinking anything and it wasn’t until two days later when a phone call came [about the adoption for Zane]. And it didn’t even come through to us. It went to our home. Our girls got the phone call. So they were already jumping up and down, talking about how God answered their prayers.
B: So while we were out on a date, Mother’s Choice orphanage called us.
S: And they don’t do this, they don’t normally call people.
B: And we had no paperwork filed, no application pending. But Mother’s Choice called and asked, “Would you be interested in adoption? We have this boy that needs a home.” We were blown away by that and looked at the calendar: it was June 13 when we got the call.
God loves orphans and he settles the child with the right family. We would have been okay to move on with three kids but God nudged us to go beyond what we were comfortable with and we didn’t realize this but we also needed Zane. So that was what led us to adopting Zane. And now we’re done.
S: Yeah, don’t call us on June 13 anymore![laughs]
B: Part of the reason why our eldest is named Abby and our youngest is Zane is that we got A-Z. That’s kind of my way of saying “we’re done.”
A New Definition for Family
B: I grew up in a family of three boys. My brothers and I look similar, act similar and play the same sports and our family places a big emphasis on bloodlines and how Hilliards are this way and Hilliards are that way. So, when you bring in children outside of that, naturally, the family had questions.
S: And thinking we’re crazy, right?
B:It’s crazy because it’s a risk. But life is a risk, having a child is a risk. And there are those who choose to have a sanitary, safe life. If so, then good luck with that but God doesn’t promise a safe life, He promises a life with Him and it’s an adventure. So we wanted our lives to be counter-cultural and a statement and a beacon of light. We want our lives to say something and to be remarkable in a way for you to go “Whoa.” We walk around with a redhead and two Chinese – not your typical-looking family.
Our kids have always known they were adopted. They’ve always known that’s how God created their lives. We explain,“Mommy and daddy are not blood-related but we choose to marry and love each other and you and I are not blood-related but we’re family.”God does family in a lot of ways and this is the way we’ve been blessed with and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Biblically, adoption is sprinkled throughout scripture. Jesus was adopted by Joseph. Moses was adopted. These are great biblical examples. There’s also this great metaphor that we were adopted by God. So there’s no shame in saying that our children were adopted. I think it’s an incredible path to walk in, to do it with Shannon and to parent these wildly different children.
For a long marriage to thrive, there’s got to be more than chemistry and attraction because there’s going to be a whole lot of unexpected things and you want to be able to look and see character and depth and the heart that is focused on the same things you are focused on.
We would have never been able to see where our marriage would take us, from adopting our children to moving to Hong Kong but through it all, it has been such an adventure. The character that we saw in each other has been the foundation, the cement that has kept us grounded. We know what God feels about us and says about us and each other. Some days, we feel it and some days we don’t. But it’s a choice. That choice is something we make every day – to stay in the marriage andto say,“We’re in it for the long haul. And God will provide for us.”
Brett: 我們是Brett 和 Shannon Hilliard 。我們來自美國，但是我們已在香港住了12年了。
B: 我們來香港是為了在 Island ECC 當牧師。我們已經結婚差不多24年了。我們有四個孩子，
S: 所以當Brett 牧養年輕情侶時，他常常跟他們說：「你們心內會有一個地方你的丈
B: 敵人很喜歡把婚姻拆散 – 令到丈夫和妻子之間有傷痕、互相指責與怨恨，把感情的能量都訴諸
從 A 到 Z ……
至於我們的第三個孩子 Mary Grace，是兩年後有位匿名者給我們發了一張聖誕卡說：「
B: 我們把最年長的孩子改名為 Abby 和我們最小的孩子改名為 Zane 是因為我們從A到Z都有了。我也想透過這樣去說：「
Featured image credit: flickr.com/28798135@N07