LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.
But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.
Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.
They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.
And two of them are adopted.
About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.
They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.
“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”
After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.
When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.
Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.
Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.
“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”
After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.
Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.
“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”
The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:
It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."
Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.
“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”