Emmie Hood can’t wait to show her new sister her new bedroom.
“When Devine comes she’s going to say what bed she wants to sleep on,” says five-year old Emmie, pointing to a bunk bed in her room. “If she want’s to sleep on the bottom, then I’ll sleep on the top.
She’s talked to Devine on the phone, but she’s never met her.
“I have a picture of Devine in my room,” says Emmie.
Devine lives nearly 6,000 miles away in an orphanage in Nigeria.
“I feel like Devine has always been our daughter, just through different circumstances,” says Joshua Hood, Devine’s would-be adoptive father. “We’re supposed to love her and yah, I feel like it’s God ordained.”
Joshua and his wife, Shayla started considering adoption after Shayla experienced three consecutive miscarriages. They already had two children, J.T. and Emmie, but Shayla wanted more.
“If we could, I would adopt ten more kids,” says Shayla.
Joshua adds, “It was her idea. In the midst of this emotional tsunami, she comes to me and says, ‘I want to be a mommy again,’ and my initial reaction was, are you sure?”
The Hoods turned to Eric Idenhen, one of Joshua’s co-workers. Idehen, a native Nigerian, founded the Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage in Benin City.
“He pulled up the webpage and he pulled up a picture of Devine and we talked about it and a week later I was on a plane,” says Joshua.
That was two years ago. Since then, the Hoods have adopted Zola. She is now eleven months old. They’ve also had their third biological child, Piper, who is four months old.
“There’s no difference between your adopted child and your biological child,” says Shayla. They’re your children and you love them all.”
They’ve also filled out mounds of paperwork, spent tens of thousands of dollars, even risked their lives by traveling to Nigeria several times – all to give Devine a home.
“It’s poor, it’s dirty,” says Joshua referring to Nigeria. “There are grown men who have grown up in Nigeria who won’t even go out at night.”
The area is also known for its child trafficking and prostitution. The few records that exist, indicate Devine was abandoned along the side of a road around the age of two. She is now six or seven years old. But Shayla say, despite her difficult up-bringing, Devine is like any other little girl.
“To me she appears very shy, but she likes to giggle a lot. She likes to have fun.”
This, even though Devine lacks basic necessities.
“To go to your kitchen sink and drink the water – you can’t do that there,” says Joshua.
It’s also difficult to get good medical care, which Devine desperately needs.
“When we were there in June, I noticed that she had a red mass in her eye,” says Shayla.
Another mass has since developed in Devine’s other eye and she might go blind if the condition is left untreated.
“She is a true orphan,” says Joshua. She has no one else that has tried to love her or taker her in as their child. We’re it.”
The Hoods are her last hope. And Emmie hopes it won’t be long before she finally meets her new sister.
“And we’re going to share this room,” Emmie says with a smile.
Joshua has spent the last two months with Devine in Nigeria. We were there as he stepped off the plane in Des Moines. Read part II of Devine’s story for the heart-wrenching outcome.