Today, we pick up part two of my conversation with Jenette McEntire. Last week, she shared her winding journey to becoming the Executive Director of Masterwork Academy – a faith and fine arts academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
If you have not had a chance to listen to that episode, I encourage you to pause this episode and listen to that episode first as it sets the table for today’s conversation.
I am reminded of a passage in Jeremiah where God gives Jeremiah a promise to return the people of Israel to their home, but it won’t take place for seventy years.
It says in Jeremiah 29:10,
“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”
For many believers, we quote Jeremiah 29:11 regarding the plans God has for us. It says,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Many times, we, as believers, stop after this verse and say, “this is what God will do for me,” as if God is vending machine, and we punch our order and pops out what we have asked for.
God continues with an action for His people (and for us) when we bring our desires and petitions before Him.
Jeremiah 29:12-14a says,
“‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord”
Jeremiah was writing at a time when Israel was in captivity. They feared they would never be able to return to their homeland.
God shared this encouragement with Jeremiah that there would be an end to their captivity, but He wanted the people of Israel to come before Him, request it, and seek God with all their hearts.
Truth be told, God promised they would be freed, and it was going to happen regardless of the people of Israel humbled themselves, prayed, and sought the Lord with all their hearts.
God asked this of the people of Israel because it turned their hearts from looking for a human-centric resolution to a God-centric resolution.
The Lord’s encouragement to the people of Israel is the same encouragement for us today.
Jenette’s story doesn’t have to do with captivity, but the dream that she and her husband had for a family could only be achieved through God.
In life, we inherently know that our path from birth to death is rarely a straight line, but we think the path to a family will be straight. For many couples, their heart desires to have a family of their own.
What does family look like?
If we are not careful, our view of the family only has one point of view – kids that come from your DNA; however, Jenette shares a different perspective that leads her halfway around the world for missions and ended with a story only God could write.
Now, here’s part two of my conversation with Jenette McEntire.
Dave Anthold: Let's dive into the core of your mission story, your trips to Romania. And this is where I'm super excited to hear about the really super backstory behind some of your interesting journey. So, if you would share a little bit about that.
Jenette McEntire: As I mentioned, my husband and I were going through infertility and trying to figure out what was wrong. We'd been to several different doctors. No one could find any reason why we weren't able to conceive. And so, we just continued to pray, and our prayer always was, "Lord, show us how you want our family to look." And so, we made the commitment very early on, and this was just where we felt led in our own circumstance, and we decided that we would never do anything beyond basic medicine. We would not pursue in vitro, and so we just left it there and said, "Okay, God, show us." But, in parallel with that, Paul's cousin and her husband were also unable to conceive, and so they started pursuing international adoption connected with Romania. And I was very, very interested in that whole process again, because I had been so interested from childhood in Romania, specifically, but the Eastern Bloc.
So, when they came back with their son and stories about the whole process, so at that time, Romania adoptions were open to internationals, but if a child was visited by any family member to the second degree, so parent grandparent, aunt, uncle, and... I don't know. In some cases, cousins, it just depended, I think, on whoever was operating the orphanage or keeping the records. That child then, his clock or her clock would be reset. They would be taken off the adoptable list and put back into the waiting list. And so what was happening, Paul's cousin got the referral, but then for a couple of cycles, at the 12th hour, the very last day before the six month clock either ran out or reset, someone would visit him for five minutes and reset the clock.
So then he'd be back in the orphanage for six months, and they come up and then someone would visit. And they had a caseworker, fortunately, who was really on top of things. And finally went to the family and said, "Look, if you want this boy to have a chance, either get him out of the orphanage and bring him back into your family, or let him be adopted. We've got a family waiting. You cannot continue to do this to this boy." And so, with that conversation, they didn't visit him. The adoption happened, and they were able to bring him home. But it did delay it for like a year, year and a half.
Dave Anthold: How long did it take for him to be adopted, from start to finish?
Jenette McEntire: Their process ended up being, I think, about two and a half years. And so, they got the referral and then had those delays with the family visiting. And when they went over, they were instructed by the adoption agency to take a certain amount of cash as bribes, to take cigarettes, to take these things. And so, the system certainly had its degree of corruption, and there's no doubt about that. But then, when Romania entered into the EU, this woman named Baroness Nicholson was assigned to be their proctor or liaison between the EU, and she's a Londoner and Member of Parliament, but so she was assigned to Romania, and she has made it her declared agenda to end adoption, period.
Dave Anthold: Wow. Out of Romania?
Jenette McEntire: Everywhere.
Dave Anthold: Everywhere.
Jenette McEntire: Yes.
Dave Anthold: Oh my goodness.
Jenette McEntire: She got in there, and was really unwise counsel to Romania. And so, the EU was putting pressure on Romania to fix this issue, because at the time, the UNICEF number, if I'm remembering right, which is probably a pretty conservative number, was about 80,000 children had the status of abandonment in Romania, 2002. And that's remained pretty consistent, because they age out. But then they're constantly coming in. So, it stays about there. And again, my husband and I didn't feel ready to pursue international adoption as they were going through, and we just continued to pray and continue to really feel the Holy Spirit say, "Wait." So, then fast forward to 2003, I was hired on as Director of Communications, and out of the blue, this guy that we had attended a Sunday school class and went through the round and introduced.
So I had a name and a face, but beyond that, didn't really know him. And asked us to pray about going to Romania, like, "Sign me up now. I want that slot. Don't give it to anyone else." And really, just was so excited about God finally opening the door to do ministry in Romania. And the ministry that we connected with is the Romanian Evangelistic Medical Mission, and it was founded by a Romanian doctor and his wife in 1989, that communism fell in December that year. And 1990, in March at eight months pregnant, Miss Ana Lucaciu is my idol. Wasn't easy. So their story's incredible and would be a great mission podcast on its own, but they had immigrated through a miraculous set of circumstances to the US before Ceausescu fell. And after the fall, their relatives and friends and neighbors who knew them well were like, "Please come back. Please come back. We need you here. We need medical services."
At that time, Romanians didn't even have access to aspirin. Communism was so destructive in many ways, and access to healthcare was one of those. He and his wife went over to do a scouting trip in March. And then, in August of '90, they took their first mission team, and it was all medical doctors. And so, as they said, they brought medicine in one hand and the Bible in the other. And they had a really robust medical ministry for the first several years, but a couple of years into it, Ana really had a burden for these abandoned children. And so, again, through a series of miracles, was able to start this orphanage. And we came to it in 2005 with the third generation of children there. So when we arrived in August of 2005, the orphanage had 32 children under the age of three.
Dave Anthold: Wow. Oh man.
Jenette McEntire: And, as it turns out, our daughter was one of those. She was three years old at the time. And my husband and I had, we were still praying through adoption or God was calling us to be just the two of us, that we were more mobile and able to travel, and maybe mission was where He was leading us. We still didn't have a clear answer to that, but we just knew God was at work. So, as we came home, and I should say, leaving Tulsa, on the tarmac, I was in my seat for the first leg of our flight to Romania, and I was crying because I didn't want to leave Romania.
Dave Anthold: You hadn't even left the States yet.
Jenette McEntire: And I hadn't even left Tulsa. I was still on the ground in Tulsa. And I just knew. And by the second day in Romania... It was a 10 day trip, by our second day there, everything that I had felt as a kid, all of those connections, it's sort of... When you hit the tuning bar and it resonates and... I felt like the tuning bar, and it's finally been struck. And all of the aspects of it, the little village churches and traveling and all of these things that God had prepared me for, and had I paid better attention in school, Latin is the foreign language that I took. And I'm like, "Lord, You were even trying to teach me Romanian, and I didn't pay enough attention." Because the Romanian language is the only Romance language within that whole Slavic world of Eastern Europe, and it's very close to Latin, because it was established largely by Roman soldiers seeking hot springs. Fun fact.
Dave Anthold: There we go, folks, you learned a fun fact today.
Jenette McEntire: That's right. Romania has more hot springs, than all the rest of Europe combined.
Dave Anthold: Wow. Okay. If you're looking for some hot springs, you only have to go to Romania.
Jenette McEntire: That's right. As we came back from that trip, my husband... You know how you debrief with someone who's been on the trip with you, and so, as we continued to talk, this little girl's name kept bubbling up, and looking through my husband's photos, kept seeing her-
Dave Anthold: And what was her name?
Jenette McEntire: And her name is Sanda. And so, we decided to pray about her. We found out that she did not have a waiting family, and knew that adoptions were closed, but knew that Romania was trying to come up with a better process for adoptions and root out some of the corruption that they were aware of. And so, we prayed about it for a year. The next August, we went back to Romania with the same mission teams. Some of the members had changed, but same trip to serve with REMM, and everywhere we went... Of course, now she's four years old, and so the whole group were toddlers, so they have to hold our hands whenever we would walk through the village. And she would seek me out and grab my hand and walk with me. And so I'm like, "Okay, Lord, that's my sign."
We came home from that trip and prayed about it a couple more months. And then our anniversary is in October, so on our anniversary that year in 2006, we called Ana and Peter and asked if we could have the formal referral for Sanda, knowing we were in for a wait, but that we wanted to be her family. And there were lots of tears. Ana cried. I cried. And so, she's been our daughter ever since. But, she was stuck in Romania for 12 years after that. The mission journey we had, from that moment, we were, again, blessed to be able to freelance and to be able to take work with us wherever we were, as long as that also included a wifi signal available. And so, we started establishing a pattern of going there three months, serving and supporting the summer mission teams that would come in and out, and helping the ministry in that way, in addition to doing all of their communications work.
So, created the logo, did the website, did the newsletters and had all of Paul's beautiful work to support those efforts. And then, we'd come home, get as much freelance as we could, work for three months and then go back in the winter time and take Christmas gifts and stay. And it's very fun for us. In our family, I'm a June birthday, but Paul and Sanda are both January birthdays. So when we go for Christmas, we could stay for New Year's and then celebrate both birthdays as well. And come back again. And so we did that back and forth, from about... We had that established by 2009. So from 2009 to about 2015, that was our regular pattern. And again, we were self-supported missionaries, so none of the work we did for REMM was compensated by that ministry, and so, helping them do their fundraising and trying to do a little fundraising for ourselves, and then really doing primarily inaudible making ministry, was supported by our design and photography work.
Dave Anthold: Oh my goodness. Okay. So we're up to 2015, in case people forgot, we're in 2021. So, not exactly the two and a half year timeframe that your friends had gotten there.
Jenette McEntire: Not exactly. No. In 2016, we got wind of the possibility of bringing our girls out. And by this time, about 2008, 2007, it become cost-prohibitive to have 32 children in an orphanage, because as labor costs were inflated and food costs were inflated, and so it wasn't the same situation as they'd had before. So, there were eight little girls who had families waiting for them, Sanda and seven others. And so, those girls were kept at the orphanage and the other children were put into Christian foster care placed by the ministry. So, Sanda and the seven others stayed there in the hopes that adoptions would reopen and that would get them ready to go, because Romania declared that foster care was a permanent solution. So, if a child was in foster care, it would really complicate things. So, try to keeping them as free and safe as possible, they were there together.
So in 2016, we got wind of an opportunity to get these eight girls out on educational basis. And so, we pursued that and... It had always been, any conversation with our government was like, "Oh yes, we want those children back. We want you to have them. We'll do whatever it takes." It's just, it's Romania. I mean, Romania won't do it. And Romania was saying, "Well, we would love these children to have a permanent home, of course, where we care about the kids. But the United States won't give us visa waiver." So, both parties were blaming the other and neither was doing anything. We got permission from Romania to get the girls out, which was this incredible miracle that that happened. And so, the first two are a set of sisters who had some special needs for education. And so they were selected to be the first ones through the process. So we got them to the US embassy, had their interviews, and the woman said, "No, I'm not going to let you go. Here's a sucker." And then gave them a dumb, dumb lollipop. Not even a good lollipop.
Dave Anthold: I mean, if that were like a giant lollipop. I mean, let's give them a Tootsie Roll lollipop.
Jenette McEntire: I know. "Sorry. You can't come to America." That was just such a gut punch to everyone, because we'd been praying about it, obviously, and we're sure that the door was opening, and then it just got slammed in our faces. To say we were crestfallen is an understatement. Then, about eight months later, out of the blue, the woman who had said no said, "I think I might've made a mistake." She called the waiting family and said, "I think I might've made a mistake." And the waiting mom goes, "Ya think?" She's very plucky. She goes, "Well, I'd like to interview them again." So they went back to Bucharest, went through the interview again, and were granted visas. Amazing, amazing. So they ended up coming home in December, and they're here in Tulsa too. Four of the eight girls live in Tulsa. They came in December of 2016, and then once that process through, then Sanda was next.
So, Sanda, Jetta and Natalia all went to the embassy, got their visas. And it's so amazing. God's timing is, again, nothing in His economy is wasted or it has no meaning. It was Maundy Thursday, and with the eight hour time difference, they were at the US embassy at 3:00 AM, Tulsa time. And number three has always bubbled up for our family. We think it's perfect that we are a family of three. It was 3:00 AM. And we got the call. They got the visas. And so, that was the happiest Maundy Thursday service. I know you're supposed to be really somber, because it's the service of shadows, when Jesus is in Gethsemane, weeping. And, I was smiling ear to ear. I could not help it. Through Easter that week, but it was just an incredible joy. We started making plans. We went to pick her up in July. And so, her first gotcha day is July 8th, 2017. That's when her feet hit the ground in Denver, Colorado.
Dave Anthold: Nice.
Jenette McEntire: In fact, I told some friends of mine I was going to throw myself a baby shower. They're like, "No, you're not. We're going to do it for you." So, they threw me a baby shower. Like, "We're having a baby. It's a girl. 12 years of labor." So if you have a bad labor story, ladies, talk to me. I win. Then we enrolled. There's a great Christian school. Victory Christian Church is a really dynamic church that's been here for many years, and they have a school with the capability of taking long-term visas. So, she just graduated from Victory Christian School, has her high school diploma now, and is looking at going to UCO in Edmond, which is University of Central Oklahoma, where my husband and I graduated from. So, even that's cool. I've got a daughter to my Alma mater. It's just amazing.
Dave Anthold: Oh my goodness, that is a... Oh man, you have to tell the mastermind group, that whole story. That's like, I mean... Well, now they're going to hear it, so they can just listen to the podcast.
Jenette McEntire: No, but it's just really incredible. And not quite the end, but maybe addendum to the close to the end. This coming Friday, June 11th at 2:00 PM, we will be before the judge for her adult adoption.
Dave Anthold: I am so excited about that. We're praying for that.
Jenette McEntire: Yeah. Thank you so much. Thanks. We're super, super excited.
Dave Anthold: Oh my goodness. So the story is coming full circle, and it only took 17 years, it seems like for you to get your baby girl and now for full adoption. crosstalk
Jenette McEntire: Yes. So, we're still... That doesn't impact her immigration status, and so we're also pursuing her immigration, concurrently with that, and hope to be before judge soon in that regard as well. And that's convoluted and complex.
Dave Anthold: This is an incredible story. I mean, I think for all the families, parents who can't have kids, want to have kids, your story is an encouragement to all of those families that there's another way out there. But yours was rooted way back in your childhood, which is really interesting, your love for Romania, the Eastern Bloc countries. I also have a love for the Eastern Bloc countries. For some reason, fell in love with the little Moldovan country right next door. And so, I've stood on the shores of Moldova and looked across and seen Romania, beautiful country. That's about as far as I've gotten to Romania.
Jenette McEntire: Yeah, amazing. And I remember one of the missionaries who came was actually the campus minister at Mizzou, University of Missouri. And he went behind the Iron Curtain, and then came back and then had a dream that he went and broke bread with the group that he'd been with. And they had this incredible time of fellowship. And he said, he woke up from the dream feeling like it was so tangible and he really missed it. So two years later he went, and they said, "No, you were here." And they remembered his dream. And he didn't tell them the dream. So, I just felt like that in the way the Lord worked, the missionaries that we serve and I'll be sure you get their URL. They didn't have any mission teams last summer, but they are taking teams again.
And it's just an incredible opportunity, because you get so many aspects of what Romania is. Peter is the founder of the ministry. Dr. Peter Lucaciu is very connected with government officials and people high up in Parliament there, and senators and things and mayors of lots of the villages. But then we also go to the gypsy villages that are like the village within the village that no one talks about or people avoid. You get the whole scope of Romanian culture and what people are dealing with at every level, which is really amazing to see.
Dave Anthold: I think it's really interesting. Each of our mission stories is kind of connected yet, not similar in some ways. And I think the encouragement for people is that, even at a young age, you can lean into some of those things that God's putting on your heart, that you have no idea where it's going to end up and where those dots are going to connect. I think it's really interesting. I mean, I've got similar connection stories as well about meeting people and being in places and then reconnecting on this side of the world. And it's like, okay, well, interesting. God's been preparing me and it's like, when you can take a step back and see God moving, you start to see all those things that He had already put into place that we saw as very, "Oh, well, that's great. When am I ever going to be Latin in life?" That kind of thing, or Nadia Comăneci exciting. Okay. Didn't know this was going to come back in 20 years or something like that, right? It's those little things.
Jenette McEntire: And even to the point like, I collected stamps as a kid, because I loved the design. The color fascinated me, the topography of it. And again, like not knowing even what graphic design was, drawn to those kinds of elements and things. And I discovered my little stamp notebook a few years back, and I was looking through, and probably, at least 60%, of my stamps are Romanian or Eastern Bloc, but the large majority of them are, are Romanian stamps. And then, oh, fun fact, that really only matters to me, I suppose, but... So, we did the genealogy thing from ancestry, and my map came back and Romania was included in it, like 3% Baltic States.
Dave Anthold: Oh my goodness. God has a very good sense of humor sometimes.
Jenette McEntire: Yes. Yes. And over there, I was often mistaken for being Romanian. Romanian or German were my two most often. And then I would try and speak Romanian, they were like, "Yeah, you're German."
Dave Anthold: Oh, that Latin's not working out for me. I don't know what happened.
Jenette McEntire: No. So sad. And I have lots of funny stories about earnestly trying to speak the language and completely blowing it.
Dave Anthold: The only Romanian word that I know is foreign language and crosstalk
Jenette McEntire: Oh, that's a good one.
Dave Anthold: Yeah. So, we learned that in one of the Russian churches we went to in Moldova. They were actually had a lot of Romanian, I guess, Romanian, Russians, that kind of thing, that come over. So they always greeted each other with foreign language, peace be with you, that kind of thing. So it was like, "Okay, so I've got one." I've got a lot of one word foreign language things, that I'm like, "When am I ever going to use this stuff?"
Jenette McEntire: Yeah. I say, I speak Tarzan Romanian.
Dave Anthold: Nice.
Jenette McEntire: Yeah. It's present tense, first person, no verbs.
Dave Anthold: It's much like my Spanish.
Jenette McEntire: Present tense, no verbs.
Dave Anthold: Go to Mexico building, and I was foreign language. All of a sudden you start speaking two words and then all of a sudden they rattle, and I'm like "Oh man, I do not understand the words coming out of your mouth right now."
Jenette McEntire: Yeah. Yeah. That's the other thing. You can get enough of a phrase together, and it comes out pretty much right. And then like, "Oh, you understand me?" inaudible Wait wait wait.
Dave Anthold: Wait. Can you go back to the before inaudible? Yes. I totally get that. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast, for sharing your story. It's always good to connect with you, Jenette.
Jenette McEntire: Thanks. It's the same, Dave.
Dave Anthold: We get to see each other weekly via Zoom, or... In fact, Jenette and I have never met in person. We meet each other over Zoom like we're doing today, and hopefully in another couple of months, in September, so we'll be able to connect in real life.
Jenette McEntire: Yay. Yes.
Dave Anthold: So, very excited about that. But, can you just close this out with a word of prayer for our missionaries, for those that might be seeking international adoption, or adoption in general, and just kind of a prayer of blessing for our Rocking Chair Devotions family?
Jenette McEntire: I'd love to. Thank you.
Heavenly Father, thank You for this podcast. Thank You for Dave's heart to speak truth into daily life in a way that's easy and simple and beautiful, Lord, because You are those things. Your burden is light, and Lord, when we submit to Your yoke, the way though it's often filled with challenges, has Your peace that's ever present and beyond our understanding. So Father, we thank You for that. And I pray that peace would be on the listeners who are pursuing adoption or who are in the pain and confusion of infertility.
Lord, I know that You can speak to that, because You've spoken to me, and I know that the plans You have for those who are called by Your name are good, and that our plans to give them a beautiful future and good welfare and good stories to tell of Your faithfulness and Your providence and Your loving kindness. Lord, I pray for the missionaries who are in the field, Father, that You would give them strength and encouragement, Lord, that You would enable them to speak Your truth and spread the Gospel with joy and love and hope, Father, for the people who are receiving it, that they would receive it with joy and with understanding, Father, that it might take root and grow deeply in them.
Lord, again, thank You for my friendship with Dave. Thank You for the way your Spirit works, that You can knit us together and make us dear friends, even though we've never met, Father, that is the way of Your kingdom. And I thank You for the brothers and sisters of mine who are listening to this, who I have never met and may never meet this side of eternity, but Lord, we are all part of Your kingdom, and I pray that You would grant us today, the grace to speak Your name in truth and love, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Dave Anthold: Amen.
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Update on Jenette’s adoption story
On June 11, Jenette, Paul, and Sanda went before a judge in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to permanently make Sanda part of their family. In a manner of minutes, the judge granted the adult adoption of Sanda to Jenette and Paul. Their story is now complete (at least this part), and they are forever a family of 3.
A story that was being written long before Jenette and Paul became a couple; God was putting a plan to save a young girl and answer Jenette and Paul’s request for a family.
God sees the whole timeline, and sometimes our requests take longer to be fulfilled, but when you rest in God’s perfect plan for your life, the story He writes is always a best seller.
If you are listening to this, and you find yourself in a similar situation, do not lose heart – God is at work in your life. Ask God to show you what He wants your family to look like. God knows your deepest desires, and He is crafting your best seller.
I hope Jenette’s story blessed you, but more importantly, you saw the steadfastness of God in bringing Jenette and Paul’s dream of a family to completion.
Dispatches From the Field
I have been fortunate to travel the globe with many different organizations as a short-term missionary. Over the years, I have collected photographs and stories from my trips.
Each day this month, I am releasing a photograph and story from a trip. The pictorial journey is titled Dispatches From The Field, and you can get these dispatches exclusively from the Rocking Chair Devotions website by signing up for a free account at https://rockingchairdevotions.com/signup.
I have posted two pictures and stories to give you a taste of the dispatches. I hope you will check out the dispatches and see how God can use you to make a difference in missions across the street or worldwide.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links contained on this website are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”