The Aguilera family got an early Easter surprise when three children arrived at their home. The three boys traveled all the way from Kogi, Nigeria to join the Aguilera family.

About two years ago, Plano residents Dan Aguilera and his 9-year-old son Dylan, along with their church group, participated in a medical mission trip to the Ministry of Mercy orphanage in the Otutulu village. There they helped provide free medical care to 900 patients. Aguilera said after he and his son left the orphanage, he couldn’t stop thinking about the children there.

“When we went on the medical mission trip, my wife and I never had any intentions of adopting,” Aguilera said. “But on the last day at the orphanage Gideon [one of the children at the orphanage] asked if he could come home with us.”

Aguilera and his wife Miesa began the adoption process in October 2008. After they drafted letters to the orphanage director, they then had to contact the Nigerian government and the office of women’s affairs to approve the adoption. The next step was to petition the U.S. government office of immigration to grant a visa to the adopted child. During the process, the Aguileras had a home study done by a local social worker and were approved for four children.

The Aguileras adopted three boys: 12-year-old Gideon, 10-year-old Gaberial and 5-year-old Iyaji. The boys arrived at their new home on Good Friday and were greeted by their new siblings, the Aguilera’s biological children: Dylan, 6-year-old Isabella and 13-month-old Donavan.

“It’s nice to have more brothers,” Dylan said.

The family traveled in two cars to visit Aguilera’s parents in Austin on Easter Sunday. He said the children had a blast. They played soccer together, jumped on the trampoline and hunted for Easter eggs.

“It was like [Gideon, Gaberial and Iyaji] have been part of the family since day one,” Aguilera said. “This has been a great experience for them and us.”

Miesa said the children seem to have adjusted well to the new additions.

“Isabella loves Iyaji,” Miesa said.

Aguilera said Gideon loves to read and is always on the piano. Iyaji loves to draw and run around, and Gaberial loves soccer. Donavan has accepted his new siblings as part of the family, freely crawling into Gideon’s arms.

On a recent occasion, Gideon played on the family’s keyboard while Gaberial and Dylan spent time in the kitchen together. Meanwhile, Isabella chased Iyaji, who screamed in delight. All the while Donavan crawled around, trying to catch one of his siblings.

“A week ago this would have freaked us out,” Aguilera said. “But now it’s like birds singing. This is a love that has just bloomed and will continue to grow.”

Adjusting to new surroundings

Gideon, Gaberial and Iyaji, who are not biological brothers, all lived at the Ministry of Mercy orphanage since birth. All three speak their native language, Igala n the language of the Yoruboid branch of the Volta-Niger language family. However, both Gideon and Gaberial understand most English and can speak a little of it.

“We knew there would be a language barrier,” Miesa said. “That’s one of the reasons we thought to adopt more children.”

Gideon, Gaberial and Iyaji lived with about 200 other children at the orphanage. It is a Christian orphanage that puts an emphasis on Jesus. The children staying there receive a small plastic storage bag with gifts in it for Christmas. They sleep on a cold concrete floor and live with only four hours of electricity a day. Some of the children at the orphanage are ones who were abandoned. Some were found in bushes, some have disabilities that their parents couldn’t handle and there are some children whose mothers died during childbirth. The orphanage receives little government support.

One area the boys glided into was being around a big number of American children.

“When we dropped Dylan off at school today, the boys’ [Gideon, Gaberial and Iyaji] faces lit up because there were so many kids around,” Miesa said.

The Aguileras have decided to enroll the boys into public schools because they feel those schools can offer better ESL classes. The Aguileras said they will meet with their local principal and the boys will probably be tested to determine which grade they should be in. But Miesa said most likely they will attend summer school to get caught up in their grade level.

“I think they’re ready to attend school,” Miesa said. “It will be a good thing to get them going.”

Throughout the process, the Aguileras said the support from the community has been great. Friends and neighbors of the Aguileras have sent the boys clothes and food to help during their transition.

“People have sent more clothes than I could need,” Miesa said. “The community and our church have been very supportive during this whole process.”

The Aguileras said they are trying to adopt a fourth child from the same orphanage and would like a girl for Isabella to play with.

For information about Zoya Ministries, visit www.zoyaministries.org.

Contact Heather Smith at HSmith@acnpapers.com

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