Faith compels Christian family to keep on adopting, many with special needs

Published: Monday, March 11 2013 6:35 p.m. MDT

The Dennehy Family. Back row, L-R: Mike, Sharon, Ryan, George, James, Seth Hodges, Erin Hodges, Marissa. Front row, L-R: Hope, Tom, Kali, Caris, Andi, Siobhan.

Mike Dennehy

RICHMOND, Va. — Mike and Sharon Dennehy were living the American dream. They were in love, had three children and a steady income.

All it took was one black-and-white photo to change their lives.

“Boy with no arms in Romania desperately needs a loving home,” read the caption under the photo. One glance from each Dennehy sealed the deal, and they made arrangements to travel to the Eastern European home of their soon-to-be son George.

Adoption wasn’t always the plan for the Dennehy family. Self-described as being “career-minded” in college, Sharon Dennehy thought having three kids was the definition of a big family.

As her relationship with God deeply developed and her desire to help others grew, Sharon recognized adoption as something she and Mike could do to help children who wouldn’t otherwise have a home or a family.

Children with special needs typically have the hardest time finding a home, and the thought of taking on that responsibility on top of their already busy lives scared the Dennehys. However, their faith in God’s plan for them brought them to George.

“We had just heard an amazing sermon from the book of James about being doers of God’s work, not just hearers,” said Mike Dennehy. “The point of the sermon was pretty straight forward: You can just sit and listen and go to church every Sunday, but if you don’t put it into practice. you’re not living the way you want to live. We realized we were just being pew sitters instead of doers.”

Life without limbs

Although George’s biological family loved him, they didn’t have the means to support him and felt it would be best to take him to the orphanage. It's a common superstition at the orphanage and throughout Romania that children born with deformities are cursed. According to Sharon Dennehy, the orphanage questioned why these Americans wanted to adopt the boy.

“They thought maybe we wanted his organs or something,” she said. “After we went to Romania and convinced George’s biological parents that we had the right motives and shared some of our Christian beliefs, George came home with us and became part of our family.”

The Dennehys loved George, but having an armless child came with challenges.

Mike Dennehy wondered how his son was going to go from sitting to crawling to walking without any arms to stabilize his balance.

To ease their worries, the Dennehys hired a physical therapist to help George develop flexibility and dexterity in his toes.

The therapist had never assisted a child without arms before, but George proved to be very capable — something he has taken with him throughout his life.

When learning to stand, George scooted over to the couch and put the back of his head against the cushions as he pushed himself into a standing position.

The adoption process continues

After seeing George’s success and feeling the blessings he brought to their family, the Dennehys decided to adopt James, their son from Bangalore, India.

When Sharon saw James on the Internet, she noticed he didn’t have any arms and thought it would be good for George and James to grow up as brothers, understanding each other’s condition.

“They’re such typical brothers,” Sharon said. “They’re always competing with each other, but I think as they get older they’ll appreciate each other more and more.”

At that point, the Dennehy family was made up of seven, but their story doesn’t end there.

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