By Kim West
Greg Mann is a well-spoken teacher, but even he struggled to find an adequate way to explain why he and his wife, Patty, felt compelled to adopt two children from China, despite already having three biological children.
The Manns, who are both special-needs teachers in Alexander City, adopted Caleb, 7, in 2008, and Bella, 3, in 2011. They also have three biological daughters, twins Haley and Sierra, 13, and Chloe, 7.
“There’s just something intrinsic within both my wife and I. We both loved kids even when we were dating in high school, and we always wanted children. We struggled to have biological children until we were 29, 30 years old, and my wife had seven miscarriages,” said Greg. “It was a miracle, really, when we had the twins and then Chloe. Since we wanted more children, we decided we wanted to take in a child from another country that needed a mom and dad … my pastor, who supports us, said adopting is like getting in a whirlpool in that once you start, you can’t stop.”
The Manns earn enough to support their family on their public school teacher salaries but adoption is a pricey process embedded with legal fees, filing costs and travel expenses.
Greg Mann estimated adopting two children internationally cost approximately $35,000. The family, which is in the process of adopting another child, learned of the Bridge of Hope Adoption Ministry through a mutual friend of Athens pharmacist and pastor Phillip Pressley, a fellow adoptive father. The Athens-based ministry awarded the family a $1,500 grant to adopt Bella.
Bridge of Hope was formed in July 2008, and has assisted 31 families from Alabama and six other states as they adopted children from eight countries, including the U.S., Peru, South Korea and Ethiopia.
“(Adoption has) changed our lives, and changed our (biological) children’s lives forever because they see the sacrifice and money we put into adopting, and they’ve learned to love (Bella and Caleb) unconditionally,” said Greg Mann.
In addition to financial grants, the ministry acts as a resource for families undergoing the lengthy adoption process and provides a support network.
“We provide grants to married couples who are seeking to grow their family through adoption, and we believe God has called us to help … there are many Christian families wanting to share their love, and we were brought together to form a bridge between those children and those families,” said Becky Smith, an adoptive mother who serves as secretary for the ministry.
Smith said the group is completely funded through donations, including more than $20,000 in 2012 and $13,500 this year from the Athens Chick-fil-A owned by Matthew Kyle, also an adoptive parent.
“The No. 1 thing we ask people to do is to pray for our organization and our people. We would like to get more churches involved, mission-minded and adoption-minded churches, and grow this ministry,” she said.
For more information, visit http://www.bohadoptionministry.com.