Friday, January 6, 2012

A Biological Child's Perspective on Adoption: Cristi

What a joy it is for us to introduce you to Susan and Brian Hillis' oldest child, Cristi. Cristi Hillis Slate is the sister to 9 siblings (8 of whom were adopted from Russia), the wife of Andrew Slate, and the soon to be mother of a little girl who is due in April, 2012.  She works as the Project Coordinator for the CoMission for Children at Risk, an organization that works with orphans and street children in Russia and Eastern Europe. In addition, she is the Director of Projects and Development for Doorways to Hope, where she manages fundraising initiatives and brings over five years of experience in writing and managing grants.  Cristi graduated with a degree in Russian Studies from Davidson College and is fluent in Russian. She is currently pursuing a Master's of Public Administration with a Non-profit Management concentration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post for months because, aside from being crazy busy and traveling around the world, I honestly just wasn’t sure what to say.
My family has ten children, eight of them adopted from Russia (I’m sure many of you have read all of mom’s great posts on this blog).  Adopting was originally my idea—from the very start, I was 110% on board.  I’d always wanted more siblings, and in particular, was really excited about the idea of finally being able to have a sister.
The first years after adopting, we had the regular struggles—language acquisition, bonding, school issues, etc.  But overall, to many we were the model family.  We even had a big, glowing front-page newspaper article written about our family!

All of that has changed since the kids in our family hit their teenage years.  I’m pretty sure teenage years are tough for just about everyone, but I think that identity question of “who am I” is much sharper and often more painful for adopted kids.  Most of my siblings are doing really well, and have come through their teenage years with a clearer grasp on who they are, who God is, and who they are as part of our family.  I’m so thankful for them, and can’t imagine our family without them.
There are a few however, who have put us through hell and back.  I can’t explain going to bed at night, for weeks on end, not knowing where your sister is or if she’s even alive.  Or spending your Christmas visiting a sibling in jail.  It’s heartbreaking.
For a long time I wasn’t just heartbroken, I was angry.  Deeply angry at some of my adopted siblings.  I thought “my parents have given everything.  They’re the best parents I know.  How can you spit in their face and turn your back on them?  How can you put them through this?  How can you not care at all?”
Cristi with her sister, Lana Grace.
A year and a half ago, God started working on my anger.  He ended up giving me two weeks of day in, day out, one-on-one time with the sister I was most bitter against.  Those few weeks, my anger shifted. It shifted to sorrow, seeing how broken she was.  It made me so sad to see all the deep childhood wounds in her that still, after years of being loved and poured into, were somehow not yet healed.  My anger also shifted into hope, seeing glimmers of treasure under her layers of grime and very very rough edges. Seeing glimmers of who someday, she has the
potential to become.                                                                                
A few months ago I was praying for this sister and felt like God spoke to me that He’s not done with her yet.  That was such a special word for me.  When I look at her life, I see the years of self-destruction and bad decisions.  But I’m holding onto God’s promise that He’s not done with her yet.
A few years ago, I was at an adoption conference and a woman shared her testimony.  She had lived on the streets of (I think Korea) as a child, before being adopted by an American family.  She spent her teenage years and early 20’s in rebellion against God and her parents, making many of the same decisions I see some of my siblings making today.  But eventually, God turned her life around, and today she’s a speaker at adoption conferences.  Seeing her gave me hope, hope that someday one of my sisters could be standing on a stage like that, testifying that when she thought she’d reached the end, God still wasn’t done with her yet.   And not just for my sister—I think for all of us, for myself included, we so need to hear that no matter where we are, God isn’t done with us yet. 


  1. Thanks so much for this post. I have 15 siblings, 13 of whom are adopted. Adolescence and unhealed wounds have hit and are hitting many of them brutally, much like you describe. I resemble the anger and the sorrow that you talked about. God has also been really firm with me about being a judge. He showed me very clearly that I cannot be a sister who loves with His love and a judge at the same time. That's really hard for me. I'm also thankful because I hold tightly to that message of hope. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it...and it's obvious He's not finished with my sibs or with me. Thanks for the reminder this morning. :)