In December I had the joy and privilege of having lunch with Michael and Sharon Dennehy. This couple is an inspiration. They really understand God’s heart for orphans. I want to share them with you today through the video clip below (you will be blessed!)
I also want you to “meet” Sharon and hear some of what God has been teaching her on this journey. So “listen in” on my interview with her!
Welcome to the site, Sharon! Thank you for spending a few moments with us.
Please share with us how God first started opening your heart to the idea of adoption.
God worked on my heart very gradually. This may be hard to believe coming from a woman with 12 children, but when I was college –aged and not yet a believer, I didn’t want to EVER have kids and didn’t even know if I wanted to ever be married. My mind was focused on having a successful career. But, once God graciously grabbed my heart, He began changing my priorities, and started giving me the desire to put others before myself.
Once our three biological children (Mike calls them homemade cookies) were school age, I started to become aware of the number of orphans there were in the world and God really gave me a strong desire to adopt. But God was even patient with me at this point. Mike and I told our social worker that we would adopt an orphan, but “no special needs, please” because we already had three children to care for, and that was all we thought we could handle!
Well, during the home study process, we saw, in a Bethany Christian Services newsletter, a small, black and white, blurred photo of a little boy in Romania born without arms. God made it clear to us that he wanted that little boy, (now our 19-yr-old son George), to be our son, and the adventure began.
Tell us the names and ages of all your children (3 you birthed and 9 that were adopted) and one thing you’d want us to know about them:
Our oldest daughter, Erin, an interior designer by trade, is now 26. She’s married and lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband Seth. They are expecting their first child, (our first grandson!) in May. Our daughter Marissa, 24, recently returned from a year teaching at Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village in China and is now working in Charlotte. Ryan, our son, is 22, and is studying for his doctorate in physical therapy at The Medical College of Virginia.
I need to say here, that some people are reluctant to adopt because they feel it will take attention and resources away from their biological children. Our three are examples of just the opposite. I believe they are better people for having special needs siblings in their lives. Erin and her husband have a heart for foster care and adoption, Marissa worked with orphans in China and Ryan wants to make his career helping people with physical needs.
George, 19, of the black and white blurred photo, and born with no arms, has been gifted by God with amazing musical abilities. He started playing cello with his feet at age 8, and went on to teach himself guitar, electric bass and piano. A video of him playing and singing at a local event went viral on YouTube this summer and George has been able to use this new fame to share his testimony all over the world.
James, 17, was born in India with no arms. He is a good student who can figure out how to do almost any task with his feet, including texting on his cell phone and driving a car—but not at the same time!!!
Tamer, 13, came to us at the age of 11 from Ethiopia. She is a talented soccer player and a good student. We almost missed out on the chance to have Tamer as part of our family. We adopted her two younger sisters, Kali, now 10, and Andi, now 8, when they were 6 and 4. Once Kali and Andi started speaking English, they told us about their older sister who was left back in Ethiopia because it was believed most Americans would not want to adopt 3 siblings or an older child. Needless to say, we couldn’t have that! We tracked Tamer down and she joined our family two years later in 2010.
Tom, 12, and Siobhan, 10, are biological half-siblings. They each came to us as a newborn through the CT State foster care system. We adopted them soon after they arrived. Although they both had a rough start in life because they were born drug-exposed, they are both now thriving and embracing life to the fullest.
Our newest edition is Hope, 8, from Thailand. Hope was born without limbs, but with a feisty personality. She has one small appendage that comes from her hip which she uses like a hand. She is one determined girl and can use her “hand” to work a computer mouse, write and draw.
Why do you look for children with special needs and from areas all over the world?
God has blessed us beyond measure. We don’t believe God blesses his people just so they can hoard those blessings. They are meant to be shared with others. With that in mind, we feel we can serve best by looking for the children who are harder to place or less desirable for adoption. God’s heart is for the weak and lowly, and He has taught us to have that same heart.
What has been your greatest challenge in this journey and how long has it been since you brought the first adopted baby home?
It has been nearly 18 years since we began these adoption journeys. The sheer numbers can be the biggest challenge at times. We have two parents caring for nine still at home. If one or both of us gets hit with something unexpected like illness or a bad back, the family machine gets disrupted. Thankfully, the older kids are good about helping with the younger ones. And we have more drivers now that George and James are foot drivers! We have a very supportive church family. One of our friends created a Facebook page called “Dennehy Response Team” where we can share needs with others in the church!
What would you like to share with women who are fearful of adopting?
The very nature of faith is that we are called to trust and obey. God doesn’t give us guarantees of outcomes when he asks us to serve Him, but He does promise He is with us and will never leave or forsake us. It is easy to see all the reasons not to take a chance on another human being. Raising a child, especially one with special needs, is messy; it can be exhausting, puzzling, labor- and resource-intensive and the list goes on. But it can also be the most rewarding and joy-filled thing you will ever do. I think of Jesus’ words, “He who tries to save his life (think comfort, self-protection) will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake (radical obedience) will find it (“it” being meaning, purpose and joy).”
What have you learned about the Fatherhood heart of God through this process?
By going through the process of adoption, you get a first-hand lesson in how God relates to all of His children. He initiates the relationship, chooses us to be part of His family even though we have done nothing to earn that place, He pays the high price and justifies it all legally (through Jesus on the cross), and then loves us unconditionally even if we don’t always appreciate what He has done for us. Living this out in an earthly sense sure gives you a greater appreciation for the extravagant love that the Father has lavished on us so that we could be called sons of God.
And with that, I think Sharon has summed up so well the beauty of adoption. Thank you for sharing your heart with us today, Sharon!