Finding God’s goodness between Guatemala and Guernseys

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James and Elliot Meyer, siblings adopted by Arlaina and Damon Meyer, Rice Lake, pose with their show Guernsey heifer, Asteroid. James was born in Guatemala and arrived in the United States when he was 1 year old. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff
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Writer’s note: This is the first of a two-part article on one couple’s experience of adoption as an answer to their prayers, and their experience watching their son become an answer to prayers of families needing homes in his native country of Guatemala.

Adoption might seem a last resort when a couple’s desires to have children go unfulfilled. For one local family, hindsight showed them adoption is what their hearts and home were made for from the start.

God’s providence

“Our original prayers were for me to have the opportunity to give birth to our children,” Arlaina Meyer of Rice Lake shared.

Nineteen months after she and husband Damon married, a surgery to correct endometriosis gave them hope those prayers would be answered. Sixteen months later, on April 15, 2006, Meyer wrote the following in her journal:

“Dear Lord, please help me! Help me keep my focus on you. Every day I spend time thinking about my problems with infertility. I need to realize that worrying is not going to help the situation. I need to turn things over to the Lord.”

As she struggled that day to trust in “God’s goodness and timing,” a five-day-old baby in Guatemala was being placed in foster care, the first step of a journey that would end with his adoption by the Meyers.

His adoptive mother is convinced “prayers were being offered up that a family would make the decision to welcome him into their loving home.”

Meyer affirms, “Looking back, I honestly would not change things for the world. I believe with all my heart that things have worked out for God’s greater glory, and his timing has been absolutely perfect.”

When baby Ronaldo was 1 month old, unaware of their future son’s existence, the Rice Lake couple had “an important talk filled with lots of tears, hopes for the future and a search for peace,” Meyer said.

“We knew in our hearts that God had called us to make a difference in the lives of children,” she said, adding that she and Damon knew God had a purpose for them as parents, and this realization led to immense peace.

“Instead of focusing on and worrying about when God would answer our prayer, we were able to start focusing on how we could be an answered prayer,” Meyer noted.

They asked if there was a little one somewhere in the world who needed a home, and acted on their belief that God would lead them to that child.

A newspaper ad led the couple to a meeting about international adoption, which led to the day Ronaldo was brought home to Wisconsin and given the name James Ronaldo Meyer.

“The weekend after we brought James home, Damon had to be out of town. I was alone with James and needed to take him to my adoration hour early Sunday morning,” Meyer recounted.

“For years, I had lit a candle during my adoration hours, praying for a little one. This time, I lit a candle in thanksgiving, and my little one slept in my arms while I spent that hour with Jesus.”

The grateful mother shares how much James loved a certain bedtime story; one he asked to hear over and over again. It was the story of how, “Once upon a time, there was a little boy named James Ronaldo Meyer. His mommy and daddy loved him so much that they traveled far, far away to another country to bring him home. He is their gift from God, and his life will bring God glory.”

While James grew, he prayed for another baby for their family. The Meyers started the process for a domestic adoption – one they say took longer than James’ international process – through Catholic Charities in Eau Claire.

James persevered in prayer for years. His mother said, “His faith gave us patience and hope during times of emotional highs and lows.”

She remembers hearing him say, one time while they were driving, “Jesus will take care of my little sister. Then she will come and live with us and she will be so happy!”

The answer to a big brother’s prayer was a baby girl born in Red Wing, Minnesota, in August 2012.

Waiting for news of the birth, the second-time adoptive mother planned to spend time in Eucharistic adoration at St. Joseph’s Church in Rice Lake. She said she wanted to spend time with Jesus, as “Jesus would be there” with Elliot and her birth mother.

“I didn’t even make it past the monkey bars at the playground when the call came in that Elliot had been born,” she said. “Our little girl, so filled with energy, has been making us take breaks at those monkey bars ever since.”

The Meyers are grateful for the gift of open adoption, and their daughter visits her birthmother a few times each year.

“Elliot is so blessed to have many who love her,” Meyer said.

“Whatever joys and struggles the future holds … (we pray) that Elliot will keep seeking Jesus, especially when she doesn’t know what to do or where to go. He can definitely use her unbelievable determination for good and change the world!”

Elliot has her big brother to thank for setting an example of “changing the world.”

Giving back

When James was 5 years old, a conversation with his mom about valuing the gift of clean water led the Meyer family to get involved with Food for the Poor and their mission to provide food, housing, clean water, education, emergency relief and more to help fight poverty in 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.

At his next birthday party, James wanted coins instead of presents, so he could purchase a water pump through Food for the Poor for a family in need in his home country.

Meyer shared that, for years, James and his family and friends (many of whom are classmates at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Rice Lake) have joyfully continued the tradition. Their combined donations have provided chicks, goats and piglets for Guatemalan families.

In 2016, for James’ 10th birthday, the Meyers travelled to Guatemala on a mission trip with Food for the Poor.

“Those we met touched our hearts in a very special way, and we wondered what we could do to share our love with them, too,” Meyer said. “With the faith of a child, James decided that he wanted two new homes built for families who so desperately needed adequate shelter.”

James had $6 to give towards the total cost of $15,000 to build the homes, and an ambitious goal to raise the funds by the end of the year, which was just over one month away.

Food for the Poor helped the Meyer family establish a “Champions for the Poor” site, www.foodforthepoor.org/jamesronaldo, to assist others in contributing towards James’ goal through online giving.

The naturally shy youth shared his passion with others, even one time through a providentially timed radio interview. By New Year’s Eve, he was only $250 shy of the total funds needed.
Gathered with friends from their home parish cluster’s Anchored in Christ group, they praised “the extravagance of God’s love,” when just before midnight, the last donation was made.
As of May 2019, five homes have been built thanks to James’ efforts.

With just shy of $40,000 raised, “James has been given amazing opportunities to face his fears and share his story with over a dozen groups, including school assembly programs,” his mother added.

Of special note, the fifth home built was in memory of James and Elliot’s Grandma Meyer, who died in 2018. It was her wish that funeral memorials be given to Food for the Poor in support of her grandson’s project.

By the end of 2019, James hopes to have the funds for a sixth home to be built.

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