Help outfit Michael, Sarah, and John

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My talk

My Talk on Humility*

Good morning. My name is Jill Pierce. I would like to introduce myself to you. I was born in Oklahoma. I come from a large family, of which I am the oldest child. I was born in the church. I graduated with a degree in liberal arts from Oklahoma State University, which is where I met my husband, Tyler. After graduation, Tyler joined the Air Force and we have been stationed at Wright Patterson in OH and now here, at PAFB. We have 3 children, Anna (9 yrs old), Keith & Iryna (both 6 years old). We adopted Keith & Iryna from Ukraine in 2008. They both have special needs. Keith was born with failure to thrive and hypotonic cerebral palsy. Iryna has fetal alcohol syndrome and ADHD. We are currently in another international adoption process. We are hoping to adopt 2 more special needs children from Russia. We leave in 3 weeks for the 1st trip of that adventure.

Some people wonder why we have adopted and are now choosing to adopt children with special needs. The story began during my pregnancy with Anna, who is our miracle baby. The first ultrasound that I had when I was pregnant with Anna showed some problems with how she was developing. I was heartbroken and scared to understand what problems my baby would have. Another ultrasound was scheduled for a week later at a better facility. During that week, I met with sister in my ward that had a baby with hydrocephalus. I watched her strength as she told me about the struggles and also her incredible love that she has for her son. I prayed to Heavenly Father and told Him that if He wanted me to be a parent of a child with special needs, that I would do my best to be a good mother and that I was humbled to receive such a sweet spirit into my home.
The time came for the next ultrasound, and everything was 100% normal with Anna. We rejoiced at the news and then life went on, as it always does. Due to secondary infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and obesity, I have not been able to have more children naturally. In 2008, we started thinking about adoption, specifically international adoption. When the idea of adopting a child with special needs came up, I remembered my promise to Heavenly Father. How could I not look for a sweet child or children with special needs in Ukraine?

Jesus Christ is our greatest example of humility. During His mortal ministry, He always acknowledged that His strength came because of His dependence on His Father. In John chapter 5 verse 30, He said: "I can of mine own self do nothing. . . . I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me".  (quote found here)

In John chapter 8 verses 28–29 & 50, Jesus testified: “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things … for I do always those things that please him. … And I seek not mine own glory”.

In Matthew chapter 18 verses 1 & 4, When the disciples of Jesus asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a little child to come to Him and said to his disciples: “Whosoever … shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven”. Clearly, humility is part of our path to return to Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As Tyler & I humbled ourselves through the adoption process, God helped us to know what decisions we should make on various occasions. Soon after we arrived in Ukraine, we went to look at the files of children available for adoption. We went into this meeting after having fasted for 24 hours. We wanted to have the Holy Ghost with us when making such an important decision. We had pre-selected Keith, but were also looking for an un-related girl to adopt. We were shown 3 files of children. One was a set of 2 sisters, and the other two were for single girls. We were only allowed to adopt 2 children, and we were dedicated to adopting Keith, so we could not adopt the sisters. One of the single girls was a girl named Daisy. We knew a couple who was in the process of adopting Daisy, so we wouldn’t pull her out from under them. The last girl was named Iryna Kuhta. The picture showed a malnourished, pale girl with her head shaven and a cut on her forehead. The picture looked like a child straight out of the Holocaust. Our facilitator told us that this 4 year-old girl was a psychopath and that other families had met her and rejected her. Our facilitator encouraged us to adopt Daisy instead, but we didn’t want to do that.

We left that meeting feeling highly discouraged. We had fasted. We had flown across the ocean. We had taken out loans to get this far. And we were only given 3 files to choose from, and none of them felt right. We went back to our apartment. I fell apart, crying. I prayed to understand what we should do, but I felt no answer come to my mind. Instead of praying for an answer, I decided to humble myself and ask Heavenly Father to please inspire Tyler with the answer. Tyler spent some time meditating and praying. He said that when he thought about Iryna, the spirit came over him and said that there was a place in the atonement for such children. The next morning, Tyler said that he wanted to meet Iryna. I put my faith in God and in Tyler and we set off to meet her. We had to fly across Ukraine from Kiev to Donets’k and then take a taxi to a city called Mariupol. Upon driving up to the orphanage, Tyler said that the Holy Ghost told him that this was right and that Iryna was our child. Upon my meeting Iryna, I had the same confirmation that she was our daughter. I know that because Tyler and I humbled ourselves, that we were blessed to receive an answer and to find our sweet, hyper baby girl.

God not only allowed us to find our children in Ukraine, but to meet other faithful members of the branch in Mariupol, Ukraine. Iryna and Keith were in two different orphanages, 3 hours apart. That made it difficult for us, in traveling back and forth to see them during our 5 ½ weeks in country. I wondered why God had not allowed for Keith & Iryna to be in the same orphanage, surely He could have done that and made things easier for us? The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was not yet established in the small town of Artemovsk, where Keith was living. However, there was a branch in Mariupol, where Iryna’s orhphanage was located. We were able to attend church with these faithful members. We were able to go with missionaries to teach new members and to share the gospel with them. I was able to sing at church and also at a recital at the University in Mariupol. I was able to stay with Anya Bigun in her humble apartment for 10 days and experience life as a true Ukrainian. All of these things would not have been possible, were it not for our humbling ourselves and allowing Heavenly Father to guide us in a path that was very unfamiliar to us. And our lives will forever be changed for the good from our adoption trip to Ukraine. I imagine we will have a similar experience in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, next month.

Raising children is not an easy accomplishment. And as you can imagine, having children with special needs can make parenting even more difficult. However, The Lord strengthens us as we humble ourselves before Him. In James chapter 4 verse 6 & 10, James taught: "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. . . . Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up". (quote found here) I know that on several occasions, I have been lifted up during difficult moments with my children.

"To be humble is to recognize our dependence on the Lord—to understand that we have constant need for His support. Humility is an acknowledgment that our talents and abilities are gifts from God. It is not a sign of weakness, timidity, or fear; it is an indication that we know where our true strength lies. We can be both humble and fearless. We can be both humble and courageous." (Click here for quote location)

I know that our adoption was an opportunity for me to become more humble, like my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that this is true. I know that we can receive inspiration through our prayers, and that as we humble ourselves, we can be placed on those paths that will lead us to happiness and back to our Heavenly Father. I am grateful for those revelations that only come when we submit our will to Heavenly Father. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love my husband. I love my children. And I love my children who are waiting for me in Russia. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to be on this earth at this time. I love my Heavenly Father. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Zactly said...

I enjoyed your speech Jill. Very good job. Thank you for sharing it here on your blog.

Sarah C said...

Wow! That was wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your talk on your blog. You are a great example to me. I appreciate you sharing your stories and your testimony. You are truly an obedient and humble daughter of God.

Rebecca said...

Hey! My brother in law served his mission in that area 10 years ago! And my hubby was in Rostov for his even longer ago. I love that you are adopting from there, although my husband agrees that alcoholism and fetal alcohol syndrome are rampant and its going to be a tough job. I hope you get the same confirmation this time and I pray all goes smoothly for you. Oh, and I loved your talk. I always pay more attention and get more out of it when talks are personalized like yours is.