Missionary Kids, Adoption, and Trauma: How God Uses Our Pain

A missionary family’s journey to trusting God with their heartache.

“God, I can’t do this for one more moment!”

With a marriage in shambles, a decrepit home, broken furniture, and unhappy children, I just wanted to run away from it all.

I experienced all of these feelings while on the mission field raising four children.

Our survey trip to Chile in 2004 was amazing. Once completely supported, we moved to Chile with our two biological children. We wanted to adopt and began praying that God would add twins to our family once we arrived in Chile. In 2010, we officially began our pursuit of adoption, and after many evaluations and meetings, it was determined that we could indeed adopt two children. Identical twin Chilean girls awaited the completion of our paperwork. On October 25, we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of our girls’ “gotcha day.”

As this momentous anniversary approaches, I think back on all of the trauma God allowed our children to experience. As missionary kids (MKs) and Third Culture Kids (TCKs), my children have endured the challenges of transition, not just from living overseas but also when our twins were brought into our home at 22 months old. Through the years, we have experienced almost daily trauma tantrums, some lasting up to five hours. Only after thoroughly researching and scouring books and scholarly articles about trauma did we begin to grasp the realities of adoption and abuse-related trauma.

God knew our family’s breaking point was imminent if we remained in Chile, so in 2015, he saw fit to bring us back to the US to assist at the international headquarters of ABWE. For the past five years, We have been learning, healing, and growing. We have been through hundreds of hours of counseling, learned how to advocate for our amazing little girls, and adjusted medications—all to assist them in dealing with the trauma and its lifelong effects. Our older kids have suffered. Our marriage has been strained. Our walk with God had to deepen in order to survive.

Now, in 2020, I can say our marriage isn’t perfect, but it is stronger. Our older kids have processed the hurt and grown closer to God. The twins themselves are improving, and we have a plan to help launch them into adulthood when the time comes.

The trauma and healing God ordained in my life inspired me to support and guide other families in crisis due to adoption. It is my joy and honor to walk alongside families who need someone who understands the hardships of adoption— someone to listen, cry on, and pray with. I am privileged to work with ABWE’s Member Care ministry and, more specifically, the MK Ministries team.

About two years ago, knowing how our lives and the lives or our biological MKs had been affected, God led me to attend a regional conference in Asia to connect with a family who had just adopted a five-year-old boy. Some of their biological kids were struggling with adding a new sibling to the family. The mother and I have stayed in touch. After a recent video call with the whole family, she shared that the “big” brother had finally understood why they had adopted. “It was to grow us closer to God,” he shared.

More recently, I was able to attend another missions training conference. As I sat alone in the large auditorium with the lights dimmed waiting for the session to begin, I had a conversation with God. I was enjoying the conference, but I prayed, “Lord, I could have gotten all of this information somewhere else. If there is someone in whom I am supposed to invest directly because of being physically here, please bring them to me.”

Just before lunch, I got a text about a couple returning to the US due to their adopted child’s behavior. I was able to provide resources to the pastoral care couple, and now I am also connected with the missionary couple that is coming back in December.

Being available and wholly surrendering to God to use our experience to encourage another adoptive parent is an immense blessing. I hold to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (ESV).

God orchestrates various experiences in our lives so that we might grow closer to him, bring him glory, and become transparent enough to help others.

In 2020, the Lord has been doing such sanctifying work in many of our lives—possibly yours too. How have you encouraged someone with the comfort you’ve received from God?

Heather Amundson

Heather Amundson is the mother of four missionary kids. She has her master’s in education and serves missionary families as a part of the MK Ministries (MKM) team with Member Care at ABWE. MKM seeks to encourage, equip, and engage MKs and their parents in their relationship with Jesus Christ. To hear more of Heather and her family’s adoption story, please visit her blog.