A Legacy of Love
What does it mean to belong? For many adults it can mean being around others who think, believe, or even look like they do—people who accept and appreciate their lifestyle and choices. For a child, it can simply mean having a family who loves them and cares for their needs. Unfortunately, this is not always a reality. According to the website www.fosterclub.com, there are over 400,000 children in the United States in foster care, and thousands of these children will age out of foster care instead of either being reunited with their parents or being adopted. Without a family to tether and ground them, many of these children will grow up to be adults who are homeless, unemployed and uneducated. Beyond our borders, there are thousands of children internationally who are awaiting adoption as well. One family in Montgomery has given their hearts and home to rescuing as many of these children as they are able, loving them and giving them a family to call their own.
Cole and Joy Portis married in October 1999. Cole’s first wife had passed away five years before, leaving him with a beautiful daughter, Sarah Kathryn. The couple had two more children after they were married and thought their family was complete. Joy shared, “A few years later, Cole started suggesting we have another child. We agreed to pray about it for a month, and during that time, we were met with adoption everywhere we turned. It was undeniable and clear that our hearts were being moved toward adoption, and there was no question that this was the will of God and that the time was now!” They were then faced with countless questions: Domestic or foreign? Boy or girl? What age? What agency? They also had to decide if they would accept a child with special needs or accept twins or sibling groups. “We knew God had already chosen our child, and we were open to whatever that meant,” said Joy.
The Portises decided to adopt a child from China and then began the “paper chase” phase. Two months later, the special needs coordinator of their adoption agency sent them a referral. Joy said, “I was not prepared for the sad eyes that would be staring back at me on my computer screen. I knew nothing about him, but I already loved him.” He was severely malnourished with a cleft lip and palate, and, as they found out later, had a congenital heart disease after repeated bouts of pneumonia. Joy and Cole, after much prayer and consideration, accepted the referral. Within six months, they traveled to China to unite with their son. “He had no idea of the time, money, tears, prayers and paperwork that we had poured out to make him our son. It was such a beautiful picture of how our God wants us to be His sons and daughters through Christ. He takes the initiative to do everything, paid our ransom, and allows us to be called his children,” said Joy. The following year, they felt called to adopt again, this time from Ethiopia. They brought home their daughters, Zoe and Emme, and began life as a family of eight.
Over the years, the Portis family expanded even more by adding their sons, Eli, from a domestic adoption, Traye, from a foster care adoption, and Jim, who was adopted from China. They have also hosted over 20 foster children, some staying one night and others up to two years. Joy said, “If you would have told me I would ever be the mom of nine children, I would have laughed and said you were crazy. I never wanted a large family, and this was never our plan. It’s been a journey of faith—trusting His plan for our family and trying to listen to His voice as we desire to walk in obedience. While I’m confident that every child in our home is supposed to be here, that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Between special needs, effects of prenatal drug exposure, previous abuse and neglect, educational and language delays, and just meeting everyday needs...we are exhausted, but at the same time filled with a joy that can only come from our great God!”
To learn more about the Portis family and their adoption and foster care journey, visit their website at www.portis.org. To learn more about adoption, visit www.adoptuskids.org, which has a state-by-state listing of children free for adoption throughout the United States. Heart Gallery Alabama is an organization that advocates for children currently free for adoption throughout the state of Alabama. Visit www.heartgalleryalabama.com to view photos and video interviews of the children.