This article originally ran in issue 78:10 of the Moody Standard, on April 17, 2013.
Jarod and Jennifer Ebenhack didn’t expect to spend their first three years of married life living in a men’s dorm. They also never expected their international adoption of two Haitian boys to last eight years, or that they would eventually leave Haiti with five children instead of two.
The couple met at Moody when Jarod was the RA of Jennifer’s brother floor; they were married a year after his graduation. Jarod accepted Moody’s job offer to become an RS, and they spent the next three years living in an apartment on Dryer 1. As an applied linguistics major, Jarod felt he had a clear calling to a life of international ministry — specifically in Papua New Guinea — and Jennifer was prepared to go with him. But that plan began to change when, a year into their marriage, Jarod expressed an interest in pursuing adoption. Jennifer said, “I was quick to agree that while having our own biological children would be a welcome blessing, we as believers had an incredible opportunity to reach children for Christ through the ministry of adoption.” With both of their degrees completed, the Ebenhacks began the process of submitting paperwork, having home studies done and making plans for a trip to Haiti for August 2002.
The plan was to take one to two years to complete the adoption before heading to the mission field. The couple chose Haiti specifically because the length, expenses and age restrictions of the adoption process were easier than in other countries. However, when the pros of adoption in Haiti turned into empty promises, it was clear that God had used them to bring the couple to a place they otherwise would not have gone.
Finally accepting the long road between them and finalized adoption paperwork, Jennifer and Jarod made their home with their two boys, Justin and Jaden, in Haiti, waiting for the birth of their first daughter, Dora. During the ensuing eight years, the couple found a way to live out their love for international missions. Seeing a need in the adoption organization for in-country administration, they began to understand that God was turning their focus and “call” from Papua New Guinea to Haiti. “We realized that the best hope for the future of Haiti’s church was in the next generation,” Jennifer said. Over the next six years, they were led to serve with Kids Alive International, which specializes in childrens’ homes and ministry to at-risk kids across the world, and to partner with a Canadian family to establish three childrens’ homes and a school in Cap Haitien. Those years also saw the birth of their son, Brendan, and the adoption of their daughter, Daphne.
Their time in Haiti culminated in the Port-au-Prince earthquake of 2012. Sure that this was the end of any chance of completing the adoptions, the Ebenhacks were surprised when the U.S. said otherwise — orphans already chosen for adoption would be welcomed in, regardless of paperwork status. “I had only a 24-hour window of time to travel with my kids to Port-au-Prince, take the flight to Miami and claim the humanitarian parole visas the U.S. had granted,” Jennifer said. “While Jarod helped instigate critical relief efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, I had the privilege of seeing God answer nine years of prayer — our Haitian children were able to enter the U.S. for the first time.”
Jarod, Jennifer, Jaden, Justin, Daphne and Dora now live in Pompano Beach, Florida, where God led them when they learned returning to Haiti could jeopardize their adoptions. The family now ministers among the Haitian population of South Florida, while Jarod teaches fifth grade at Highlands Christian Academy and Jennifer blogs at jenniferebenhack.com.