- Family Takes Mission Trip to Ecuador and Meet a Child That Changes Their Life

People take mission trips all the time with the intention of making an impact on other people’s lives. However, for Jim and Rachel Van Eerden, the complete opposite happened in 2004 when they went on a mission trip to Ecuador with their two oldest children. It was their lives that were changed forever.


On their last night in Quito, Ecuador, the Van Eerden family took a tour of a local orphanage for special needs children. During their tour, something happened that they were completely unprepared for: they met a very special baby boy with secrets of his own. By the time the Van Eerden family got back home, their lives were forever changed.
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Meet the Van Eerdens

The Van Eerdens are a large family who is deeply rooted in their faith. Together, Jim and Rachel Van Eerden have 10 biological children and live in Stokesdale, North Carolina. 


Jim is a socio-entrepreneur and Rachel works as a caregiver for a couple of nights a week. The Van Eerden family has always been very active in their church, Christ Covenant, in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Jim and Rachel raised all of their children to have a strong sense of faith. 
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Family of 12

Out of their 10 children, Jim and Rachel have five who are under the age of 18 and live at home. Not to mention, their 19-year-old son commutes to college from their home and their 23-year-old daughter moved back into their house after college to become an elementary school teacher at a nearby school. 


The Van Eerden family continues to be very active in Christ Covenant and it is that, as well as their faith, that led them to take a mission trip in 2004.
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A Mission Abroad

The mission trip the Van Eerdens took in 2004 was to Quito, Ecuador where they could let their faith lead them to make a big difference in a community that needed it.


On that trip, Jim and Rachel decided to take their two oldest kids with them so they could participate and have a meaningful experience. Even though they had taken mission trips before, the one to Quito was about to become their most important, even if they didn’t know it yet.
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An Orphanage Changed Their Plans

On their last night in Quito, the four Van Eerdens wanted to do one last special activity that would make an impact on the lives of some of the locals. They decided to take a tour of a local orphanage.


The orphanage was built just for special needs kids with various disabilities. While on their tour, the Van Eerdens wanted to spend some quality time with the children who lived there. It was then that they met a very special little fellow.
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A Special Baby Boy

During their tour of the orphanage for special needs children, Rachel came across a five-month-old baby boy that melted her heart and immediately drew her to him. So, she asked to hold him.


From the moment that Rachel took that baby in her arms and she met his gaze, she was in love. He had beautiful, big eyes that looked up at her and convinced her of love at first sight. Rachel felt like that baby boy was meant to be a part of her family.
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Falling in Love

Rachel held that special baby boy in her arms for the rest of their tour of the orphanage. From the time she picked up that baby, she gave him all of her attention and love, almost forgetting that there were other children there.

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She felt like that special baby boy was her own child from the first moment she saw him and then it became love at first sight for the entire Van Eerden family. That special baby boy was Eddie.
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Love at First Sight

From the very first moment that Rachel held him in her arms, Eddie had stolen her heart. She knew from that very second that he needed to become an official, legal part of the Van Eerden family. By the end of the tour, he had stolen the hearts of Jim and the rest of the family, as well.

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Jim and Rachel knew that they couldn’t leave Eddie in that orphanage in Quito, Ecuador forever, but it was going to take a lot of time, money, and hard work to bring him back to Stokesdale, North Carolina in order to give him a permanent home.
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Facing Obstacles

Not only were there financial and legal hurdles that the Van Eerdens had to face in order to adopt Eddie when they lived in an entirely different country, but there were also a ton of considerations surrounding Eddie’s special needs. Especially since they already had 10 children of their own.

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Eddie had a few health concerns, including the fact that he had Down Syndrome and was cross-eyed. But none of that mattered to Rachel and Jim. They knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy process, but they knew from the beginning that Eddie would be worth it and they were prepared to give him all the love and attention he needed.
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Special Needs Require Special Attention

The fact that Eddie had Down syndrome did not scare the Van Eerdens away in the slightest. In fact, Rachel grew up with a brother who had Down Syndrome and he is the person who inspired her to major in special education in college. 


Rachel was more than prepared to handle Eddie’s special needs. However, his different abilities did become an obstacle to the adoption process. In order to adopt Eddie, the court system in Ecuador had to determine that Jim and Rachel would be suitable parents and provide Eddie with everything he needed.
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So Many Considerations

Even with Rachel’s experience with special needs patients, the courts wanted to make sure they were financially and mentally prepared to take on a special needs son, especially considering they had 10 other children to provide for. Adopting Eddie was a decision the whole family had to be on board with.

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There were many things to consider before even beginning the process officially, including whether or not the rest of their children would accept an adopted sibling and support them through the process. Thankfully, the rest of the Van Eerdens back home in North Carolina were quickly won over by Eddie.
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A Time Consuming Process

Even after all of the Van Eerden family was on board with adopting Eddie, they knew that it was going to be a hard, time-consuming process. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy and they were going to have to go through lots of trips to Equador, tons of questions, and plenty of paperwork before they could bring Eddie home. 

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In fact, the Van Eerdens were looking at a five-year long process that was going to be full of complications and dead ends.
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Eddie’s Past

One of the larger obstacles the Van Eerden family faced was Eddie himself. There were a lot of things that they didn’t know about Eddie’s health or even his past. Would these things become an issue years down the road? Would they need more information in order to properly care for Eddie?

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Unfortunately, all of their love and fondness for Eddie wasn’t going to be enough to bring him home. The Van Eerdens had to start digging deeper in order to find the answers they needed.
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Sad Beginnings

Soon, the Van Eerdens came to learn everything about Eddie’s sad past. They already knew that Eddie had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome and crossed eyes, but they didn’t know how he came to live at the orphanage until now.

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Eddie had been found in a dump by a carpenter who had a workshop nearby. More specifically, he was found inside of a trash bag in that dump when the carpenter noticed it was moving. Even though he had been abandoned in a trash bag in a dump, little Eddie was peaceful and didn’t even cry.
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Coincidence or Fate?

As fate would have it, the Van Eerdens had volunteered at that very dump through a ministry that helped locals earlier in the same mission trip where they met Eddie. Rachel said she knew God was watching over him. 


When the carpenter realized there was a living baby in that trash bag, he immediately got on the phone with the police. A police officer soon arrived and took Eddie to the orphanage where the Van Eerdens met him. Eddie was named after the officer who brought him to the orphanage.
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Just the Beginning

Soon after the Van Eerdens left Ecuador, they decided to go ahead and try to start the adoption process to bring into their family once and for all. Even though they were prepared for a challenge, they didn’t know just how hard they would have to fight to adopt Eddie.


They had to travel back and forth to Equador for court hearings and had to meet all the requirements of the legal system. At times, the Van Eerdens felt discouraged and emotional.
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Questioning Minds

The process of adopting Eddie was so difficult, that the Van Eerdens’ close family and friends even noticed. They began to question the Van Eerdens’ decision and asked them if this adoption was even worth it. Some even thought they should save their time and money and give up. After all, why did they need to adopt a special needs child if they already have 10 kids of their own?


Their friends and family meant well, but it was still hard for the Van Eerdens to hear. At times, it seemed that all they had was their faith to get them through this very difficult process and they never gave up.
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Relying on Their Faith

The Van Eerdens already had a strong faith, but during this adoption process, their faith was key. It was one of the only things that got them through that difficult, emotional time. 

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They relied on their faith and religion, especially because their faith played such a big role in their decision to adopt Eddie and gave them the will to continue trying even when they hit a dead end. After all, their faith is what led them to Equador in the first place.
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Keeping the Faith

In fact, their church helped them out in huge ways. Christ Covenant in Greensboro gave them financial and emotional support throughout the entire process, making it possible for them to keep trying to adopt Eddie. 

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Despite some of the negative words the Van Eerdens had heard from their friends and family, Jim and Rachel never gave up on bringing Eddie home. They just knew Eddie was meant to be a part of their family, even if they already had a large one.
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Growing a Large Family

Rachel said that at times, she felt like they didn’t deserve to adopt Eddie. After all, they already had 10 biological children and she knew there were families out there that couldn’t have any of their own. She felt like those families deserved to adopt Eddie more than them.


Even though she and Jim certainly had their hands full with 10 biological children, Eddie was just too special to leave in that orphanage in Quito and they were prepared to make sacrifices. They didn’t let that deter them from bringing that special baby boy home.
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Advocating for Adoption

The Van Eerdens have even become adoption advocators and have gone beyond adopting Eddie and giving him a loving home and family. They have become a voice for children in orphanages and have worked to advance the cause of adoption through many avenues. 


Howard Coble, a U.S. Representative, even nominated the Van Eerdens to represent North Carolina’s 6th district in Washington D.C. where they were given the Congressional Angels in Adoption Award in October of 2014.That award recognizes people who have made big contributions to the world of adoption advocation. While Rachel said they felt less deserving than other families that were up for the award, they used it as a chance to be intentional with their actions and make it easier for children to get adopted.
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Lots of Travel

Eddie’s entire adoption process lasted five years. In that time, the Van Eerdens had to fly to Equador three different times for court hearings and other legal processions. Throughout that time, they had no clear answers and always left not knowing if they would ever be able to Eddie back home with them.

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While they may have been stressed, confused, and emotional for the whole process, they remained hopeful that Eddie would soon be an official part of their family.
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Determination

The Van Eerdens continued to face every challenge they met head-on and never faltered. They made the trips, paid the fees, and filled out all the paperwork perfectly so everyone knew they were dedicated. 

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They were dead set on proving that they were completely ready to adopt Eddie and give him a loving home back in North Carolina, no matter what. The Van Eerdens knew that Eddie belonged with them. It was just a matter of time before the courts knew it, too.
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Finally a Complete Family

After five long years, the court was convinced that Rachel and Jim would be good parents to Eddie and allowed them to legally adopt him. The Van Eerdens were finally able to bring their son home to Stokesdale, North Carolina in 2009.

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Those five years had been full of struggles and emotions. But when Jim and Rachel were finally able to introduce Eddie to the rest of the family, they knew it was all worth it and that Eddie was exactly where he belonged.
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No Adjustment Period

The Van Eerdens did not have to worry about how Eddie would adjust to his new home. As soon as he got there, he fit right in. It was like he had been a part of the family all along, and he loved getting to know his 10 new brothers and sisters. Out of their 10 children, Jim and Rachel had seven children still living at home.

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Five were under the age of 18 and the other two commuted to college and had just become an elementary school teacher. To make sure everyone had enough room, Jim and Rachel tore down some walls in their home to create two large bedrooms for the kids: one for the boys and one for the girls. Eddie shared a room with four of his new brothers.
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Eddie is Thriving

Ever since Jim and Rachel brought Eddie home in 2009, they have reported that he has flourished in every way possible. He has even happily stated that he loves everything about his new, large family. Eddie is completely thriving in his new environment.

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At first, Eddie started off attended public school. But now, Rachel home schools Eddie so he can get plenty of hands-on instruction time. Eddie also has additional speech and occupational therapy sessions that he goes to regularly.
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A Loving Boy

Rachel said that Eddie gives everything he does 150 percent. He is always ready to try something new and has the best attitude about it. She said he is also never short on the important things in life like love, hugs, and smiles. Whenever someone is sick, Rachel said Eddie is the first to be there for them. He’ll even have pillows, blankets, or an ice pack in tow (whether they need it or not).

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That’s how he earned the affectionate nickname "The Ambassador of Love". Rachel also said that Eddie gives so much love to them, that it makes all their sacrifices and hard work worth it. Eddie even points her to Christ and inspires her to be a better mother. Jim and Rachel said that they see Eddie as a gift they have been given.
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A Connector of People

The Van Eerdens say that Eddie has a special gift. They say he is a “connector of people” and easily makes friends everywhere he goes. In fact, they said his smile is nothing short of infections and his loving nature draws all kinds of people in.

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Jim said there was one instance at church where Eddie made a beeline to someone as soon as he saw them just to give them a hug. When the hug was over, that person started weeping. No one knew it until then, but that person was suffering from a broken heart. Even if he didn’t know why Eddie knew that he needed to spread a little love to them that day.
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Future Mission Trips

As Eddie grows older, Rachel and Jim hope to take him back to Ecuador on a mission trip much like the one they were on when they met him. They want to take Eddie back to Equador so he can learn more about his native country and his heritage.


Since Eddie’s adoption, several of Jim and Rachel’s other children have taken mission trips and they hope to continue to take more of their children on mission trips in the future. Their faith and religion still remain a huge part of their lives.
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Open to Future Adoptions

As for their already large family, Jim and Rachel said that they don’t have any plans to adopt more children in the near future. They remain huge advocates for adoption and are even open to the idea of adopting through the domestic foster care system, even if they don’t currently plan on it.


Jim and Rachel said that they never know what will happen and are always open to anything because they know God has a plan for them and He also has plenty of surprises. So, whatever happens, it is meant to be. After all, when they went to Ecuador in 2004, they didn’t intend on adopting a child until they met Eddie.

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