When Shawn and Sheralyn Acheson of Home Church Stettler adopted their youngest two in December 2016, it wasn’t the start of a series of seismic changes for them.
They had done this before, but this time they wanted siblings.
“We wanted a sibling group because we had heard its harder to find homes for them,” Shawn said. “We didn’t like that statistics, so we set out to do our part to change it.”
Re-inventing the wheel, embracing what needs to be done and leading from the front is what Achesons are all about.
Even before they got married, they had started discussing the idea of adoption.
“The fact that children were out there that didn’t have a mum and dad was heartbreaking to us, we hadn’t even crossed the bridge of biological barriers – our motive was not from a want of children, but from a heart for them,” Sheralyn said.
After a few years of marriage, they took an international adoption course that led them to reach out through an agency in Louisiana, who helped them connect with an adoption agency.
“We submitted a dossier of our lives, and within a few gruelling long months we were matched with our now 13-year-old daughter,” Shawn recalled. “Contrasting skin tones were of no matter to us, even though we encountered some people to whom it did matter then, and still from time to time we encounter similar people now. Our families easily accepted us and we entered the world of parenthood with joy and sleepless gladness.”
A few years later they decided to change gears and move to India.
Sheralyn’s family had been involved in mission work there for decades and the Achesons had made a few trips themselves that had redefined their sense of purpose and destiny.
“The culture shock was enormous for us, but our daughter was a natural and she just fit right in from the outset,” Sheralyn said.
After a year and few months of living there, Sheralyn and Shawn met a family that needed a home for their infant baby boy.
“We of course said yes, and took our son home with some basic legal protocols in place, but it took another 18 months to complete the formal process which, exposed us to the antiquated and cumbersome systems that hold the developing world together,” Shawn said. “It was frustrating, and literally pounds of paperwork later, we were finally a family of four.”
Being in a part of the world where needs are not often met, the Achesons did whatever they could to help out the people there, through faith and by being there for them.
“A few years down the line, we encountered another need – a young Nepali girl had just survived a major surgery of a cancerous kidney removal, which had saved her life, but her single father had no means to care for her or tend to her, and he asked us if we could take her into our family and be her parents,” Sheralyn added.
The Achesons agreed promptly and entered into another life-altering journey, which taught their kids some life lessons.
“Our boy learned to be a big brother and relinquish his youngest child privileges, while our daughter realized a sister was not a doll, but a person with a will and attitude that riveted her own,” Shawn said. “However, our journey through cancer treatments, hopeful reports and eventual regression took a toll on us all.”
Sheralyn and Shawn recalled that there were helpless bedside vigil in the final weeks, which was some of the most indescribable difficulty that they had gone through.
“Our comfort was found in the 10 months of family, laughter and love we were able to give her, at least she belonged in this life, if even for only a little while,” Sheralyn added.
When the Achesons – now again a family of four – returned to Canada and settled back into their lives, some of their friends began to encourage them to adopt again.
“Their family of 10 was an inspiration to us and we began exploring the opportunities right here at home,” Shawn stated. “Families are always supposed to grow in number, and the return to four took a long time to adjust to. It just feels right for us to keep growing as a family, and though we have no plans to chase anything down, I doubt we would ever say no to any child that needs a home.”
Both Sheralyn and Shawn think that one of the biggest impacts adoption has had on them and their family is the gratitude they have for the caregivers who chose a better life for their kids, however that choice was made.
“We are the benefactors, our family comes from this reality, and it is humbling,” Sheralyn said. “Our lives have changed in the same ways most parents’ lives change when they give birth – an overwhelming sense of feeling ill-equipped for life’s challenges, yet somehow as parents we learn to progress.”