Brothers

"We're done."

After two guaranteed adoptions fell through, they figured God had another plan. So Mike and Renee McCune got their money back and put a waterfall in the back yard.

In the spring of 1999, the pastor asked Renee to organize the children's program for his upcoming evangelistic crusade in Zimbabwe. She always dreamed of going to Africa! Would Mike go with her too? Absolutely not!

But they needed someone to run the sound system. Preaching the Word falls flat unless people hear it. How could it reach their ears without amplification, and how would they amplify the sound without someone to run the system? Mike agreed a bit reluctantly, as long as Ryan, their 9-year-old son, came as well.

On opening night of the evangelistic series (and every night for the next three weeks), Zimbabwean kids swarmed around the Americans. They scribbled every sermon text on any bit and scrap of paper they found; they pressed close to get a chance at touching white skin. Ryan delighted them, and they easily separated him from the group. So Renee snagged a boy out of the crowd—he spoke clear English.

"Will you keep my son next to me?"

"Yes," he said.

From that moment, Eddie and Ryan stuck together. Eddie, who never got in trouble, skipped school to be with Ryan. He smuggled in so many snacks and sodas for Ryan that breakfast lost all appeal. At the end of three amazing weeks, all the children gathered to say goodbye.

"Family, we are family," they sang.

"Eddie," said Renee, "if I could put you in my suitcase, I'd take you home with me."

Ryan cried on the whole flight home. He and Eddie wrote letters back and forth, missed each other terribly, and wrote more letters. In the fall of 2001, Eddie wrote to invite Ryan to Zimbabwe for Christmas.

"These kids were half a world apart, and they were brothers," says Renee.

The September 11, 2001, attacks had just happened. Zimbabwe's problems grew worse as well—the exchange rate, the war, the rations, the beatings. Rather than send or take their son to Zimbabwe, Mike and Renee decided to invite Eddie to the U.S. for Christmas.

The Zimbabwean embassy, however, frowned on boys and young men trying to leave the country. Eddie already had a passport, but not the necessary permits and visas. His father drove all night to the embassy in Harari just for the permission interview. To prove their friendship, he presented copies of all the letters Eddie and Ryan had written back and forth.

Eddie's parents told the government to take their house if he stayed in the U.S. Mike and Renee wired his family money and more money to help get the visa. Generally, it takes more than one embassy visit to line up all the paperwork. Eddie, however, got through the permission interview and received his visa all in one trip.

"That shouldn't have happened," says Mike. It was a miracle.

So Eddie boarded the plane. He carried the McCunes' picture with him—if he got to their village and they weren't there to meet him, someone would know them and tell him where to go. The authorities almost turned him around in Switzerland, but he arrived safely.

Partway through the visit, Renee gathered Eddie's clothes to do laundry. She found a note from his father: "If you send him back, he'll die."

Neither Eddie nor any of his family ever asked for money, clothing or opportunity. This time, out of love, Eddie's father asked for his life. Eddie's brother died in the political chaos in their country. Eddie had been caned. During his U.S. visit, the government shut down Eddie's school and forced the boys to join the army. Now, near the end of the three-week visit, Mike and Renee prayed hard, asking God what to do.

"Can you put him on the plane?" asked Mike.

"No," answered Renee. She put away the return ticket.

They looked into a student visa, but you can't get one after you enter the country. Other visas failed. One day, a lawyer called them out of the blue. "Have you thought about adoption?"

They thought they were done with adoption processes. But, Mike says, "We can't ask God what He wants us to do and then ignore it." Nothing else looked reasonable.

Since Eddie's parents were still alive, the adoption required their consent. The McCunes worked with government officials, the adoption agency, and Eddie's parents to arrange an interview. "They don't speak perfect English," they warned.

"If we can't understand them, we won't let it happen," said an official. Later, the official contacted Mike and Renee. "What do you mean they don't speak perfect English?"

Eddie's adoption took three weeks. Because the adoption agency had dealt with Mike and Renee on two prior occasions, they only needed a few last-minute details. Two weeks after Eddie's adoption, the U.S. passed a law making it illegal to adopt children whose parents were still alive from other countries.

"If Eddie's adoption had taken one week longer, it wouldn't have happened," says Mike. "Eddie would not be alive today if he had stayed over there."

Five years have passed since this journey first began. God has been very active throughout, working in the boys' lives as well as in Mike's and Renee's. Ryan is a sophomore at Upper Columbia Academy in Spangle, Washington. He loves school a lot! In 2006, Eddie graduated from UCA and now attends Walla Walla College. He hopes to become a lawyer. Mike and Renee continue to be blessed—it's "very exciting watching God work so vividly in our household!"

August 01, 2007 / Feature