Next Stop, Nigeria
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27, NIV Bible.
There are two principles to be found above in the Biblical record of James – first, to visit orphans and widows in difficult times, and to keep ourselves pure from wickedness in the world. Many would say that the writer of the book, James, highlights these two principles as the ultimate fulfillment of one’s religious conviction, whereas others would argue these are considered motives of every person who considers themselves religious, while not religion itself.
Depending on which camp you find yourself in, you may have more in common with Markus and Sarah Yager than you think.
There’s hardly anywhere to sit in the Caribou Coffee shop in Monticello, which is buzzing with evening traffic. There’s a businessman studying reports in the corner, while a pair of teenagers work tirelessly on homework. A book club is just sitting down, a mixture of professionals, to discuss a book; an array of coffee joining them. The kitchen bustles with the clamor of work, staff calling to and fro to one another.
A young couple walks in, glancing around the shop. They seem to be looking for someone, and you wonder if it’s you, since they match the description of the couple you’re meeting up to interview. They share a quiet comment with one another, and step up to the counter to order.
Drinks in hand, they shuffle off to the side, still looking around. You’re about to introduce yourself, when they step over to you, and ask carefully if you’re who they are looking for.
Shaking their hand, you offer them a seat, introduce yourself, and make small talk. Once the metaphorical ice has been broken, and things get underway – you make your first statement on the record, and ask them about the big news they’re ready to share: the international adoption of their first child.
Markus and Sarah are Wright County locals, residing in Monticello. The area isn’t new to Markus, however, as he grew up in Maple Lake. Sarah is from Alexandria, and the two met at Northwestern College, which would result their marriage in June 2013. Markus now is a residental appraiser for Maple Grove, and Sarah teaches fourth grade.
The idea of children was “always on the table,” as Sarah commented, but the two were not stone set on when they would decide to start their family. They wanted to be settled into a home and successful, supporting jobs before deciding to take the leap into parenthood, and the decision to start their family came a little over a year ago.
Adoption, even at an international scale, is not new to the Yagers – Sarah has cousins that were adopted from Korea, and Markus, too, has a cousin that was adopted through the foster care system.
Again, the idea of integrating children into their families was not a new avenue, but, it was one they were immediately comfortable with and willing to pursue.
“There are so many people in the world looking for families,” Sarah shared. “We just really knew right away this was a big part of our hearts, and that it would be the ultimate fulfillment of our faith, which states that we’re to care after the orphans and widows.”
“It’s really a matter of speaking out for those who are without a voice and who are marginalized because of circumstances and situations,” Markus said.
In December of 2017, Markus wrote on the couple’s online diary of their adoption process, “Yagers for Life”: “We always knew adoption was something we were interested in. We have several friends and family that have adopted or been adopted, and in this we have seen how God uses adoption to expand and bless families. Adoption here on earth, even through difficulties, is a beautiful and powerful picture of how we are adopted into the family of God through Christ. We knew this and believed this, but initially thought that the possibility of adoption was something we would look into sometime in the future.”
The decision to adopt stemmed from their own experiences in life, which deepened their passion for other people, along with fueling a desire to see others pursue the call of adoption. Their faith as Christians further places a good burden on their hearts to care for the underprivileged, and that is where they give credit for the opportunity to adopt – without God, their road may have been very different, as Sarah shared.
The pursuit of adoption is no easy task in the U.S., and factoring in international challenges only makes things all the more difficult. However, the Yagers have not been hindered – they began their journey last April, and are standing strong in what they believe is the calling put upon their life.
It all began for them at an information session in the Twin Cities, where the Yagers heard all about different forms of adoption, both nationally and internationally, as well as locally. While they were open to any sort of adoption, they especially felt a pull to adopt a child from another country, though they had no preference as to where.
Markus and Sarah pursued an organization in Missouri, called Nightlight Christian Adoption, which has been specializing in adoption since 1959. In 1997, Nightlight pioneered the first embryo adoption program, Snowflakes Embryo Adoption, which offers a unique opportunity to families – an embryo donation family can choose who they give their embryos to, and the adopting family can give birth to their adopted child. Knowing the agency had a heart for God only cemented the couple’s confidence further.
The agency had two programs for the Yagers to follow to adopt a child out of the county, they could adopt from India, or Nigeria.
“At first, we were confident we would start pursuing adoption from India,” Sarah stated. “But, as we began to pray about it and started interviewing with orphanages in both places, we felt so amazingly at peace about Nigeria, and we decided to pursue that route.”
Sarah had been to Africa on a sixth grade missions trip, so she had been introduced to African culture before. Having already been to the continent, a lot of stereotypes and barriers had already been cleared for Sarah, and she had an understanding of the people to begin with, which only made the couple more confident.
From there, they had to receive a letter of referral once agreeing to use the agency. However, throughout the experience, there’s hoops to jump through – the U.S. performs a home study, and the organization in Africa completes its own interviewing process to establish a profile for families, which will then allow them to pair children up with families who wish to adopt.
As they waited for a referral to continue, the Yagers began preparing their home and researching Nigerian culture, which Markus said dissuade many stereotypes or misconceptions about the people.
“Lagos is a modern city,” Markus commented, “it’s the biggest city in Africa, and has a metro the size of New York City. That was the biggest surprise to me, really, because many people think of Nigeria as a small place in the middle of the desert, like in films. It’s completely modern, and it’s actually quite expensive to live there.”
For the Yagers, this was new information – both of them were raised outside of the city, so the idea of city-living was “a wake-up call.” Their understanding of Nigerian culture broadened almost immediately, and many of their stereotypes were broken as they began to look up information about the city, and the people. Both of them were relieved to learn the primary language there is English, and while some tribal tongues are still spoken, their child would be able to understand English.
As they explored Nigeria, they waited.
Next stop, Nigeria
After weeks of waiting, rounds of paperwork, and continuous fundraising efforts, the news came – the Yagers accepted a referral to adopt a little girl from Nigeria.
They released the news on their blog in February, where they excitedly posted, “We are thrilled to be able to post that we have accepted a referral of a little girl from Nigeria!”
While, legally, they cannot reveal any photos of their little girl, they stated that she is a toddler, and that they have chosen to name her Olivia, which “carries with it the meaning of peace.” Even though that is the extent of the information they can released at the moment, the Yagers are now preparing to depart to Nigeria, where they will spend roughly 10 weeks with Olivia before bringing her home.
“I am thankful for a longer trip,” Markus said. “We’re excited to get to know her and bond with her in her country and become even more familiar with her personality and culture.”
The couple stated they have complete support from friends, family, and employers regarding the trip.
“Without support from our friends, family, and employers, this wouldn’t be happening,” Sarah shared.
The call to go, really, can come at any time. International communication can be difficult, and the process has been longer than originally predicted. However, Sarah and Markus are expecting to begin their journey to Nigeria in April, and bring their daughter home.
In all of this, however, the Yagers want to be clear: this isn’t about the spotlight. For them, this is about starting their family, and upholding a foundational part of their faith that they feel has been put on their hearts.
“While it has been difficult, it is such a blessing to even know we’ll be meeting her. We are so thrilled and so excited to meet her; it can’t come fast enough,” Markus commented.
Sarah said, “A lot of people think adoption takes courage and bravery. It isn’t really that at all. It is knowing that people experience trauma and grief, and being willing to offer yourself to help heal that brokenness. It’s making yourself a vessel; that is what this is.”
The Yagers post regular updates on their blog about their adoptive journey. To read more, and follow their progress, visit: https://yagersforlife.com/.