James and Jennifer Grover, the subjects of a viral internet video, had never really considered adoption.
The couple met as resident assistants at Brigham Young University in August 1993. By April they were married and would eventually have three biological children, Emily, Brianna, and Joshua. In 2001, the Lord intervened and everything changed.
Their stake issued a challenge to attend the temple five times in a single month. With their young children (ages 4, 2, and 9 months at the time), the Grovers found it to be a bit of a challenge. As the end of the month approached, Jennifer still needed to attend three times. For two days she attended the earliest and latest sessions available. In the very last session she went to, revelation hit.
“The Lord very clearly instructed me that we had a daughter that was waiting on the other side of the world that we were supposed to find. I returned home crying and told my husband what had happened. He asked if he could go to the temple the following morning to pray and ask for himself. The next morning, he returned home from the temple with a smile and said, ‘How do we start?’”
Nine months later, their daughter Lauren was home with them from Kazakhstan. It was only the beginning of their adoption journey.
“Jeffrey was born to us two years after Lauren came home,” Jennifer said. “Before and after his birth, we suffered a total of five miscarriages at various stages of pregnancy. Complications from those miscarriages would prevent us from having any more biological children. We had always wanted a large family and seeing how beautifully Lauren had blessed our family, we knew that the Lord intended us to further put our family together through adoption.”
They adopted Jacob and Michael next. Jacob helped the Grovers find Michael. Michael was Jacob’s best friend and always took care of Jacob in the orphanage. They immediately started the paperwork for Michael once Jacob was home. In the midst of adopting Michael, they received a prompting that two more sons were waiting for them in Africa. Little did they know, the story of their two sons Joseph and Bronson coming home would become an internet sensation.
The road was a long one. Joseph and Bronson were living in an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). While the Grovers were waiting on the final paperwork to bring Joseph and Bronson to America in 2013, the DRC put a suspension on exit letters, preventing all adopted children from leaving the country. Legally, the Grovers were Joseph and Bronson’s parents, but they couldn’t bring them home.
“Even though the orphanage was supported financially by the adoptive parents, the children had little food, no running water and electricity was sporadic at best,” Jennifer said. “Joseph suffered from malaria multiple times. Since coming home, we have learned that they would lay awake at night killing the bed bugs that would crawl on them. We were able to visit our sons in January of 2015. It was devastating to have to leave them there after our visit. We spoke to our sons as often as possible and would send letters and care packages whenever another adoptive parent was traveling to visit the orphanage. For two years, we worked with our government officials and the Department of State to engage their support in trying to get our children home.”
In the midst of these painful years, another tragedy struck. Just two months after the DRC put the suspension in place, Jacob passed away, leaving the Grovers devastated.
Hope came in February 2016 when U.S. senators traveled to the DRC to try and address the crisis. Within 20 days, the Grovers received an email stating that 159 children were coming home and their sons were on the list. Even with this exciting news, the struggles weren’t over.
“We had dear friends who already had their Letter of Invitation to the DRC and their travel visas because they were leaving on February 22 (just three days later) to visit the little boy they are adopting. We gave our friends Power of Attorney so that they could escort our sons home. Even though our sons were on the list of children approved for exit letters, our friends had a tremendously difficult time getting those letters signed and we were only given our miracle of signed exit letters minutes before they had to rush to the airport. They were the last ones to get on the plane.”
Anxiously, the Grovers waited in the Salt Lake Terminal. A friend recorded the moment for them.
The video went viral, catching the attention of major news organizations and magazines. The original video has been shared almost 15,000 times. For the Grovers, the experience has been a little bit uncomfortable.
“I would be lying if I said that I was comfortable with it, but I have received thousands of messages from people who tell me how they have been touched by our video. Many have told me very personal and moving stories about how their lives were blessed by seeing the love that we have for our children. Even more have told us that because of our video, they will now be starting their own adoption journey. If even one child can find their forever family because of our video, the discomfort from having our reunion shared so publicly is worth it.”
If there is anything the Grovers have learned from this experience, it is to trust in the Lord.
“Families are forever. I know that with my whole soul. Adoption is a gift and a tool that Heavenly Father uses to place all his children into forever families. When the Lord tells you to do something, YOU DO IT! Our family is so very different than we ever thought it would be and it is perfect,” Jennifer said.
“The Lord put our family together and His plan is always better than our own plan. I’ve truly learned that when the Lord asks you to do something, He provides a way for you to accomplish it. That doesn’t mean that it will be easy. In fact, it usually isn’t. It can often be more difficult than you ever thought possible. However, the Lord gives you the miracles needed along the way to accomplish what He has asked of you and that is where you find true eternal happiness.”