From stillbirth to adoption: When God turned a couple’s heartbreak to happiness

Jonathan and Christina Henson // June 19, 2019, 5:55 pm

Christina and Jonathan Henson 1

Jonathan and Christina Henson, the founders of adoption advocacy group ROHEI Foundation, felt led to adopt a child of their own after Christina suffered a stillbirth. All photos courtesy of Jonathan and Christina Henson.

In 2015 we were living in Singapore and life was going really well for us.

Both of us were working for a great company, flourishing in our careers.

By then, we had been married for several years, so for a while we had harboured thoughts of having a baby.

Towards the end of the year we were overjoyed to find out we were expecting.

We moved back to Manila, as we thought it would be nice for our child to grow up around family.

Then, about five to six months into the pregnancy, we were devastated to discover that we had lost the heartbeat of the baby due to an umbilical cord accident.

After the stillbirth, the couple turned to the Word for comfort. One of the themes that stood out was what the Bible said about orphans and adoption (Psalm 68:5; James 1:27; Matthew 18:5).

We were completely heartbroken, left in shambles. It was a season of deep grief and sorrow over the loss of our daughter, Celine Gabrielle.

But God is truly close to brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

What happened during that period would never have happened had our hearts not been broken so badly. Amidst the grief, we encountered God in a very special way.

Grieving the loss

Around the time we were mourning, we were also hearing a lot of stories of children being trafficked across Southeast Asia and the Philippines – about infant prostitutes, baby rental facilities, mothers abandoning their babies on the streets and child traffickers getting a hold of those children and using them for unthinkable things.

God allowed our hearts to break not only for the biological child we lost, but for the orphaned, abandoned and trafficked.

There was also news about the growing trend of online child sexual exploitation and the multi-billion dollar industry it had become.

Later, we discovered these things were happening right here in metro Manila. Our hearts were breaking all over again.

God was allowing our hearts to break not only for the biological child we lost, but for many who are orphaned, abandoned and trafficked.

We realised that while we were grieving the loss of one life every day God mourns the lost of lives of many babies.

This reality jolted us out of our own personal grief. As we were hearing a lot of the stories it almost as if we felt like we were suddenly too comfortable where we were, and the comfort was getting uncomfortable.

We also started reading the Bible in a new light, feeling the need to take some Scripture quite literally.

One of the themes was what the Word had to say about orphans and adoption (Psalm 68:5; James 1:27; Matthew 18:5), and it transformed us.

Advocating for adoption

After having lost a child, we felt like parents but without a child to hold in our arms.

One day it hit us that orphanages and children’s homes are full of babies longing to be held, but without mothers to hold them.

We began to visit some of these orphanages and tried to observe and study what the situation is like for the orphans of our nation.

ROHEI Foundation advocates for adoption, guides people in their adoption journey and explores ways to streamline the adoption process.

Eventually it became clear to us that there was a lot of room for improvement for our system here in the Philippines – both the adoption process and the cultural stigmas about adoption.

As time went by, we felt like God was giving insight into how things could be, and how things should be, within a children’s home, and how life in an orphanage is never the best for an orphaned child.

God’s heart is to build families and reunite orphans with parents (Malachi 4:6).

This belief jumpstarted our next step of life. We started a nonprofit called the ROHEI Foundation. It advocates for adoption, guides people in their adoption journey and explores ways to streamline the adoption process.

Faith to step out

While the registration of the foundation was in motion, we began sharing our passion for this topic with close friends at church.

In October 2017, someone sent us a text message telling us there was a pregnant woman who did not want to keep her child because she would be unable to raise another one. She desperately wanted someone to take the baby from her.

Since the foundation was in the midst of being set up, we immediately agreed to help.

At that time we did not know whether we would adopt the baby, or if the baby would be the first in our children’s home, but we decided to respond and got a lawyer involved to begin talking to the pregnant woman.

A day or two later, our lawyer came back to us and said he spoke to the birth mother but we should know that she was also talking to another family who was interested in the child.

We did not want to fight over a baby, so we prayed: “Lord, You’re really going to have to help us discern what Your plan is for this child.”

The more we prayed and committed this baby to the Lord, we felt a deep love for this child growing in our hearts.

It hit us that we were meant to adopt this child.

In late 2017, the Hensons adopted a baby they called Chloe Mirelle. She had almost been sold to traffickers but the adoption saved her in the nick of time.

God spoke to us and said: “Your ministry was never meant to lead your family; your family must lead your ministry, so your family should go first.”

We called our lawyer to contact the pregnant woman and reassured her that the baby would not go into an orphanage, but that we were willing to do whatever it took to adopt this baby.

The reality of our own adoption as children of God has never been more real.

Three weeks later we brought home our child, a beautiful baby girl named Chloe Mirelle.

She is an absolute joy and the most precious thing we have ever laid eyes on.

As we held her in our arms, our lawyer told us a secret: He found out the other “family” interested in taking the baby was likely to be child traffickers.

Due to poverty, the birth family had entertained several opportunities to sell the baby.

The revelation continues to humble us today. If we had not obeyed God and said yes, where would Chloe be today? How great the significance and impact of our obedience to God.

Yes, we were afraid; yes, and we had a lot of questions; yes, we were uncertain about many things. But we are grateful for the faith to step out and obey Him.

In return, God allowed us to experience adoption here on earth – and it is a daily reminder of our own adoption as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father (Ephesians 1:5). The reality of our own adoption as children of God has never been more real.

Loving an adopted child

People always wonder whether they will be able to love a child they adopt as much as a biological child.

When we look at her, we don’t see her as an adopted child. She is simply our child.

We may not have held a living biological child in our arms, but we can tell you that we could not love Chloe more than we already do.

When we look at her, we don’t see her as an adopted child. She is simply our child.

And that is how powerful the spirit of adoption is.

Adoption is costly, hard and requires great sacrifice. But it’s worth it, just as it was modelled by Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 8:15).

The couple say that adoption is hard and costly, but the sacrifice is worth it, and models what Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 8:15) did for humans.

Our prayer is that we will begin to see more families in our church consider adopting the orphans in our nation, and ultimately, we would see a world with more families and fewer orphans.

Generations will be transformed when children are adopted into Christian families. It is not merely charity but a discipleship process, and an opportunity to model what our heavenly Father has done for us.

About the author

Jonathan and Christina Henson

Christina Cuna-Henson previously worked in Singapore with ROHEI Learning & Consulting as a senior consultant and executive producer for Cozeh Productions. Jonathan was also part of ROHEI Learning & Consulting in the field of branding, marketing and digital strategy. The couple are now based in Manila overseeing the work of ROHEI Foundation. They are parents to one-year-old Chloe, with a baby boy on the way.