FEATURE: Local Adoption

a local church is organizing an orphanage and facilitating adoption in Ethiopia

Claudia Lozano, photos by Jen Schultz |

It’s been less than a year since Ezra and his little brother Jackson left the warm lands of Ethiopia, came to Eau Claire, and became part of Nikki and Matt Ness’ family. Ezra, an energetic 11 year-old, said he knew one day he and his little brother would get adopted.

“I felt so happy for having a new family and I do like Eau Claire” he said.

For the past two years Ezra and Jackson, a 6 year-old, were among the children living at one of the two orphanages founded by Kingdom Vision International.

Known as KVI, this Christian organization – focused on helping disadvantaged children and their families – works under Eau Claire Valleybrook Church’s non-profit organization.  

Three years ago, Nikki Ness, US program director and co-founder of KVI, said she and her husband Matt decided to adopt again. Already having a girl, Ana, from Guatemala, they decided they would adopt a boy from Ethiopia.

When Nikki went to pick him up, she said she felt a single adoption was of little help to the country.

“Taking one kid out was not going to help Ethiopia, I felt we had to help more,” Nikki said. “I came back home, spoke with Matt, and we thought an orphanage was what we were supposed to start with.”

KVI not only has two orphanages – one in the capital Addis Ababa and one in Nazareth – the program also offers child sponsorship and a family empowerment program that helps children and families stay together.

“We do everything we can before we bring children into the orphanage,” Nikki said. “It’s not all about adoption; that’s the last step.”

Each orphanage hosts about 50 children. But because of government regulations, children can only be in the orphanage until they turn 12. Today, the kids from KVI have yet to pass that age. Thinking about the future, KVI is planning on creating a new program to take care of older kids for when that day comes.

Now that KVI is in its second year, Nikki said they, “dream of making a foster home so the older kids can have a family too. KVI is their family.”

    Although Ezra said he misses his friends, soon one of his best friends will be living a few blocks away from him and will become Tanya Berg and Andy Pope’s first child.

    When Tanya and Andy started the adoption process last March, they hoped to adopt a little girl, but they didn’t expect to meet Alazar.

Last June Tanya went to Ethiopia, not only to deliver a care package to the soon-to-be-adopted Ezra and Jackson, but also with the idea of helping in both orphanages.

“I meet this 10 year-old boy named Alazar,” Berg said. “We wanted to adopt a little girl, but when I meet Alazar I felt a blaze in my heart for him, so I e-mailed my husband about him.”

Tanya and Andy were told they couldn’t adopt a child over four, as they were going to be first-time parents.

“We asked our social worker if we could adopt him,” Tanya said. “The social worker said in that case we would only be approved for one child. I couldn’t ignore the thoughts of adopting Alazar.”

Tanya said Alazar told them he didn’t think he was going to be adopted, but he was very excited when he found out he was going to be their son. Currently Tanya and Andy just got back from Ethiopia with Alazar in tow.

“Two years ago I would’ve never thought I would be doing this, but we are not adopting out of pity,” Tanya said. “This just feels right and god brought us this beautiful blessing. Alazar is a perfect fit in our family.”

Mary Clark already had a family with two biological kids before she and husband Gary decided to adopt Molly, 5, and Nahom, 7.

“I was always interested in adopting, since I was a teenager,” Mary said. “After we had our two kids we decided we were done having children.”

Mary said she never pursued adopting because the whole process seemed overwhelming. But Mary is a friend of Matt and Nikki, and she saw them go through the process of adopting. Mary said she thought Matt and Nikki would be able to help them throughout.

“Seeing them adopt twice – it brought back those feelings of wanting to adopt,” Mary said. “I had a clear picture in my heart of adopting two old children, a boy and a girl – not babies – and my husband had the same feeling.”

Before Molly arrived last April and biological brother Nahom arrived in July, Mary said they did prepare and talk with their biological children about how things would change.

    “Hanna is six and Noah is 10,” Mary said. “They are so young they don’t know how to prepare their hearts for this change. They were excited to have a new brother and sister, but life as these four kids knew it was going to be over.”

Mary said sometimes her biological children would tell her they felt as if she loved them less, or that she wasn’t spending much time with them.

“Dealing with these feelings was the part we were the least prepared for, but this is the family that god intended for us to have,” Mary said, adding that older kids are overlooked for a number of reasons – the perception that they can’t adjust as well, or concern that they won’t feel as integrated within the family.

“And it’s true,” Mary said. “It is a challenge because they already have a built character, but they are wonderful people that deserve to be loved and cherished in a family. I love all four of my children and as hard as it’s been, if we ever adopt again we would also adopt an older child.”

When Matt and Nikki adopted Ana, Nikki said it was a smooth transition for their biological son Carter.

“He didn’t have to compete for attention or anything,” Nikki said. “He didn’t fight with Ana, he looked after her as the older brother.”

But when they added 2 year-old Durant, things got a little bit difficult and even more so when they added Ezra and Jackson.

“Ezra became the older brother and that disrupted the birth order Carter knew,” Nikki said, adding things were hard at first since they had to go through a bigger transition, but things have gotten a lot better in the past six months.

“Now they are good friends and brothers who fight like brothers,” Nikki said.

    Ezra echoed these thoughts and said when he grows up he would “totally adopt.”

Nikki said she likes it when people go to Ethiopia and help, but she feels torn when it comes to getting physical and financial help.

A trip to help KVI in Ethiopia costs around $3,000. Sponsoring a child costs $20 a month. Nikki said with the amount of money one person spends in one trip, that child can go to school for 150 months, which is equivalent to 12-and-a-half years of that child’s life.

“It can also help both orphanages pay for rent and other supplies.” Nikki said, adding the best way people can help is by donation. “I want people to experience it and feel it,” Nikki said. “But in comparison, money can go further.”

Ezra said in the future he wants to help open orphanages.

“When I grow up I will give money to those orphanages with a bad economy and help orphans from Asia, South America, and some places in Africa,” he said.

While in KVI, Ezra said he lived a good life and they took good care of them.

“KVI is not less than an American orphanage,” Ezra said. “Children go to school, they have enough things and materials for school. I want people to know that KVI is a really good orphanage and they take good care of all the children.”

Nikki said adoption has been something that has been in her heart since she was a little girl.

“I knew it was one of the things that I was created to do,” she said. “Of course (it) doesn’t mean there weren’t hard days in the process.”

Tanya said she and her husband didn’t think about adoption until after Andy visited Ethiopia for the first time last February.

“We were fortunate to have friends that adopted before us,” Tanya said. “They educated us about the process, including some of the potential frustrations and cultural norms of Ethiopia.”

Mary said she didn’t expect for the process to be so much about them.

“The biggest surprise for us was what happened in us,” Mary said. “We learned a lot about ourselves during the process.”

She said there were many times when she felt her heart couldn’t take it anymore, and she remembers thinking, “why is this so hard?”

“We walked into the process with such excitement and really feeling like we were right in the middle of god’s plan for our family,” Mary said. “When the process was overwhelming or the wait seemed too long, I had thoughts like, ‘are we doing the right thing? Is it really supposed to be this tough?’ ”

But Mary said it was her faith and trust in god that helped them throughout and “knowing that (god) cares for us and hears our cries and feels our pain. Knowing that he loved Nahom and Molly even more then we did,” Mary said. “They are his children before they are our children, and we had to keep reminding ourselves that his timing is perfect timing.”

Nikki said when they adopted Ezra and Jackson, the process was easier since they knew how to navigate all the paperwork and they knew what to expect.

Tanya said right now they are having an amazing time in Ethiopia.

“We are so glad that we are able to spend three weeks here,” she said. “It has allowed us to truly embrace Ethiopia and educate us on our son’s native country.”

She said at this time god is not prompting them to adopt.

“If he does, we are certain that he will provide the details, including the location of our child,” she said.

For now Nikki said they are open to adopting from another country, “if we felt like that was what we were supposed to do.”

As for Mary, she said before KVI she and her husband had looked at several adopting programs mostly in Central and South America and parts of Africa. She said if they decide to adopt again it would be from Ethiopia.

“Our hearts are mostly definitely in Ethiopia,” Mary said. “Although, who knows what god has planned for us?”

Mary, Nikki, and Tanya all said it was god that led them into having the families they cherish today. They agreed going through an adoption process is not an easy thing to do.

“I want people to know (adopting) is a hard process,” Nikki said. “But it is also a wonderful thing to do and it is worth pursuing.”



  Lutheran Social Services
  839-9107 or 838-9856
  1320 W Clairemont Ave, Eau Claire

  Catholic Charities
  448 North Dewey St, Eau Claire

  Crossroads Adoption Services
  386-5550 or (952) 831-5707
  911 4th St., Hudson

  Bethany Christian Services
  (763) 553-0344
  3025 Harbor Lane, Plymouth, MN