By Melanie Hommes
[Evelyn: In the discussion about immigrants, some types of immigration can sometimes get overlooked. We asked the Hommes family to share their story of how their unique experience with immigration changed their lives. Jim and Melanie Hommes have gone through the difficult process of international adoption twice, and have gained two wonderful children – Mei and Jacob – into their family. We sent some questions and prompts to Melanie, and she wrote the following response.]
We are a diverse multi-ethnic family both in our immediate and extended families, having family members from Japan, China, and Mexico. In fact, our children like to joke that dad was born in Japan (as a missionary kid), they were born in China, but mom was only born in Ohio!
International adoption was the way that God provided for us to have a family. We went through the immigration process to bring Mei and Jacob to the United States. The international adoption process changed the year that we adopted Mei (2004) and was still in effect when we adopted Jacob (2012). There were a lot of forms, official documents, special notarized seals, fingerprinting, and interviews – all before we left United States soil. Once in China there were more forms to fill out, more interviews to undergo, and sworn statements that we would always love and care for our children. Then, the legal adoption took place, and finally we received the official brown envelope which was to be guarded at all costs and delivered intact and unopened to airport immigration officials when our airplane touched down on US soil. If the official brown envelope instructions were followed correctly, it meant that our children became automatic citizens the moment our airplane landed in the United States. After months (for Mei) and years (for Jacob) of paperwork and interviews, citizenship papers arrived in the mail within 45 days of our return home from China.
Mei and Jake were babies when we adopted them, aged 13 and 18 months respectively. As we raise our children, we desire that they will have an appreciation and respect for the three countries – Japan, China, and the US – that make up our lives. We fill our home with books, movies, pictures, and stories of all three places, eat a variety of foods, and celebrate some Asian festivals like Chinese New Year. We talk often of the time we have spent in each country, and have picture albums to look at from our trips. As a family, being multi-ethnic is a natural way of life as my sister and her husband adopted a girl from China, Jim’s younger siblings are adopted from Japan, and his older sister is married to a man who immigrated from Mexico. It is important for us that the time Mei and Jacob spend at school and at church show the richness of diversity and the richness of adoption. We have been blessed by Pittsburgh Urban Christian School (PUCS) and its commitment to diversity and reconciliation as well as the presence of many adopted children who have shared life with us there. At church, it is a blessing that our children can see so many men and women from Asia worshiping and serving God. When Mei and Jacob were young they would sometimes comment excitedly that there were people at church that looked just like them.
While some people have experienced negative repercussions from the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, our immediate family has not felt them. However, we have felt the difficulty as we join in supporting family members and friends who are more directly impacted by immigration practices and policies, and who may face opposition, delay, and fears of deportation.
Even with our immediate family, for the last few years we have begun carrying everyone’s passports when flying within the United States. We started doing this because we don’t all look alike – what if an official didn’t believe that we are a family? In addition, my sister and her family live in Canada, and when they crossed the border to visit us at Easter, in addition to my niece’s passport, they brought her birth certificate and adoption certificate, due to hearing stories of families being separated at borders. This is also something for us to consider when we travel across borders or when we fly domestically. So far, in Pittsburgh, we have not felt any specific negativity toward us as a multi-ethnic family, although we have occasionally experienced some negative reactions as we travel to other places.
Both God and the church have played a big part in our family’s adoption story. God brought us together as a family through adoption just as He adopts each one of us into His family. Though there are relatively few adopted children at City Reformed, the church has embraced our children and welcomed them as the covenant children that they are. As Christians, we should embrace adoption – international or domestic – as a valuable part of building the household of God. In many ways, adoption demonstrates not only God’s generous provision for his children, but it also gives the church a visible reminder that ultimately the strongest and most lasting bonds between us are not of blood, ethnicity, or nation, but of faith in our loving Father who has chosen to adopt us as eternal heirs with Christ.