“Fight for Her”

So many of you have asked so many questions about what has happened and what is currently going on with our adoption. The goal of this letter is to give you a brief summary of the events that have transpired which have brought us to where we are now and what lies ahead.

In December of 2010 my wife Kelly and I began the process of adopting a little girl from the babies home that Journey sponsors in Uganda, Africa.

Our first Ugandan court date was scheduled for November of 2011. It was subsequently cancelled and rescheduled for April 2012. After our court date in April, we were awarded guardianship of Chloe and immediately began the process of immigrating her to the US.

In June of 2012, the US Embassy in Uganda denied our request for a visa saying that our case was “not clearly approvable.” They sent our case to the US Citizenship and Immigrations Services field office in Nairobi, Kenya. It was during this process that we fully anticipated being granted our visa. However, after several months, we were sent a request for more evidence. With the help of an attorney, Kelly traveled back to Uganda to collect the information they required. Nevertheless, in October the USCIS informed us of their intent to finally deny Chloe a visa, giving us 1 more month to change their minds. We hired a new attorney to fight for us during this process and we have been waiting to hear back once again.

On December 31st, 2012 we received word back from the USCIS, and it became clear that they will not be granting us a visa to bring Chloe home.

Our intent through this whole process was to provide a home for a little girl who had no family. Of course, we thought that her home would be here in the US with us. However, that is not currently a possibility. Therefore, if we cannot bring Chloe home, we will bring home to Chloe. On Wednesday of last week, I informed Pastor Jimmy of our intent to pack up our family and move to Africa so that we can be a family together with our little girl. Our plan is to move toward the end of March or beginning of April.

After all, this is what God did for me. He provided a home and a family for me. I was not his, yet he called me his own and adopted me into his family. Throughout this entire process, only one thing has been crystal clear: “Fight for her.” In particularly dark and desperate moment, God spoke those words to me. “That’s the point. You are supposed to fight for her and never give up, because I fought for you and I didn’t stop until I had you as my own. I fight for my church. I fight for my bride. I fight for my children, and I will never stop. You will fight for her, because I fought for you.” He fought for me. He pursued me. And he never stopped until he had me. And when I was unable to come to him, he came to me. Unable to reach God, Jesus came to us. He sacrificed everything and came to live among us, so that those who were far off might be drawn near. If he did this for me, how can I do any less? If my little girl cannot come to me, I will go to her.

We are going as missionaries to Uganda. Pastor Godfrey of Arise Africa (our partnership in Uganda) has been trying to get me to move there for over 10 years anyway. Journey is sending us out as missionaries and is supporting us both practically and financially (though we still need to raise much more support). My dad’s missions organization (Rick Via World Reach Ministries) will be our sending agency.
We will be there for a minimum of 2 years but probably three (and maybe longer since we don’t know what the Lord has planned, and I have given up on trying to predict his plans). After this period, we will be able to apply for a different kind of visa for Chloe.
For the past several months, we have known that this might be a possibility and have been putting plans in place in the event that our move became inevitable. I know that you may have a lot of questions, most of which I do not have the answers to.
Here’s what I do know:
  1. My little girl is no longer an orphan, and I will not stand by, allowing her to live like one. I will not abandon her.
  2. God is still in control, and I believe that he has orchestrated all of these events. I trust him completely.
  3. What God has been doing in Journey Students is bigger than me. This was never my vision, but God’s. His vision for Journey Students will continue to march forward. The students of our city must be reached. Jesus’ name must be made famous. We have strong godly leadership in place, and I have complete confidence in them. We will not fall back. We only go up from here.
In these past 6 years at Journey, I have served in many different capacities: creative planning, first impressions, weekend experience, media & marketing, executive pastor, student pastor. By far, my greatest joy has been being a pastor to your students. These past 6 years have been the best years of my life. Although part of me will mourn our leaving, I am mostly just excited for what God has next. So please do not be sad for us. We count it an honor to get to sacrifice our comfortable lives for the sake of this girl. We are honored that God has counted us worthy to live out a picture of the gospel. And we are excited to see what God has planned for us in Africa. We will simply continue to follow Jesus as he leads.


Smooth Via
Husband, Father, Follower of Jesus

  • http://twitter.com/BrightnBerkley Lori Ring

    AMAZING.. It’s gonna be GOOD!!! I’m pumped for you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tasetliff Tim A. Setliff

    Smooth and Kelly – you have been such a blessing in my life. I love you like you are my family. You have my support and prayers. Now, I will have a place to go on vacation. :)

  • Gbierman52

    Amazing & Courageous!

  • Greg


    We love you and your little family, and this comes as no surprise to us. I don’t know if you heard Andy Stanley’s recent message about going deep.  His statement was; “Do for the one what you would like to do for all.” You commitment and passion has always been an inspiration to me and Renee’ and we will support you in every way we can.  Be assured of our love and prayers in the days ahead, and remember that the One who goes before you will supply all your needs.

    Go Deep My Friend.


  • Peggy T.

    God is Good —-  All The Time.  Chloe is blessed to have parents and siblings who will not give up.  It will be a testimony to see how God works in the lives of the VIA famiily.  The arms of Journey will be open when God brings your united family home to America.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=726534965 Todd Byers

    Thank you for your commitment and love.  I cannot express my appreciation for you both in text.  I do believe God has had this planned along and as much as I personally hate for you to leave I am excited to see what He has in store.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=726534965 Todd Byers

    Sorry, comment below was from me.  

    Thank you for your commitment and love.  I cannot express my appreciation for you both in text.  I do believe God has had this planned along and as much as I personally hate for you to leave I am excited to see what He has in store.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=726534965 Todd Byers

    From me …

  • http://www.facebook.com/jcheatham John Cheatham

    We will definitely be praying for you guys as your family is united in Uganda!

  • Anonymous

    Bless you guys on your move! I’ll miss you on my Feb trip, but I’m sure I’ll see you when I return later in the year (Zeke will probably be working with Godfrey for a couple of months). I think what you’re doing is amazing, and it’ll change not only Chloe’s life, but many others’ as well. Blessings!

    Jennings Wright
    Ten Eighteen Inc.

  • Cindy Cole

    What an amazing new journey and heritage of His love you are taking to your little girl and the people in Africa! Praying for you all and excited to see ALL God has planned.

  • Joanne

    Smooth and Kelly…..I am happily stunned by your news…and so proud of you for moving where you believe that God wants you to be. Such obedience is to be treasured….so humbling as well. I will pray for you as you prepare, and depart….please know you are taking many “souls” with you to Uganda as you head to get Chloe. How I wish that this story had a different ending for you all, but you will get a happy ending after all, just in a different location! God’s plan is perfect, and in that we take comfort, rest, and peace. As I said on FB, Godspeed….much love, and prayers

  • Brenda Hairfield

    Jonathan and Kelly,
    I will pray for you and your family every Thursday, for that is the day I pray for “family”. I like your last comment, _”We will simply continue to follow Jesus as He leads”.  Yep….. He is the great Shepard and His leadership is perfect. No other god can promise such peace and rest.
     My love and prayers to your precious family, 
    -Aunt Brenda

  • Ashley

    Jonathan and Kelly, we love you so much.  Your family is a light in the darkness of this world.  What an amazing turn your journey has taken.  We have prayed and prayed alongside you for a miracle.  As He did so many times in the pages of scripture, God has indeed answered our prayers…only with a different kind of miracle.  The beautiful picture of salvation that you are painting for your kids, especially little Chloe, will transform their hearts.  Rest assured that God is with you every step.  As are we and our prayers for you.  My heart aches a little, knowing the years since I’ve seen my precious friend Kelly will continue to grow.  But that’s OK.  I love you both, support you, and hope hope hope you will keep a blog up somewhere!?!?  At least every now and then? Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory!

  • Mindy Dumont

    What a beautiful story. I don’t know if remember Jon and I and North Greenville, but we definitely remember you and Kelly. We’ll be praying for your family.

  • Houseofjoy2000

    Unreal.  Your commitment to the Holy Spirit and your little girl are so rare.  Way to go!  People said we were crazy for adoping a baby when we had 3 kids under 5 and one on the way, but sometimes God calls His people to do crazy things.  I know for sure He never called us to be comfortable!  I don’t know you, but I can’t wait to meet you on the other side.  Blessings! 

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  • Jessiperez10

    I don’t know you two but God bless you both as you step forward in obedience to Him. What an incredible testimony of God’s unconditional love. May His peace and protection be on you and your precious daughter. We too are in the process of adopting and this brought so many emotions out and tears of joy..thank you for sharing!!!

  • Lizreeves2

    I don’t know you, but saw your blog post shared on Facebook by a friend.  And now I must follow your blog more regularly so I can be a part of this journey with you!  I am praying for your family!!!

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  • Asklotta

    I believe God has gifted you Chloe. Children always belong to God but he gifts his most valuable. Maybe if more parents realized God has gifted us through our children, they would take better care of them…

  • Sara

    I am a Christian, a wife, an adoptive mama of a little girl from Uganda. I’m also an advocate for ethical adoption. One reason why? I visited the Arise Africa Orphanage in January 2011. My husband and I were staying at the Arise Africa guest house. We were hoping to adopt – on the trip we were hoping to find an orphanage that was trustworthy and ethical. After visiting the Arise Africa orphanage and playing with the kids (including a little girl that I think may have been Chloe, although I am not sure), we went back to Pastor Godfrey’s office. There he told us that we could pick a child if we would make a $5,000 donation. He said we would have to use his lawyer, Peter. We immediately felt sick to our stomachs. We knew it was against Ugandan law to pay or even donate to an orphanage for a child. We also knew that Peter had been involved in other unethical adoptions – situations where vulnerable, poor parents had been coerced into placing their children in orphanages or for adoption.  I know you are lying in this post. I know your “daughter” had and has a biological mother and father, a younger sibling, and an older sibling with special needs. The fact that Chloe’s visa was denied is not red tape. The US government did its job – your adoption was corrupt and unethical. By all appearances, you are a Christian, in leadership in your church and community. Yet in this post you are lying to your community, claiming this child did not have a family – when the truth is she had a family that was desperately poor, struggling to care for her. The Bible is clear that we are called to ”fight” for the least of these – but I wonder if you are fighting for the wrong thing. I wonder if in fighting for her, you need to step back and think about what it truly best for her. I wonder if you need to prayerfully consider fighting for Chloe’s FAMILY – her biological mother and father and siblings - to be together. To fight for them to have a path out of poverty, to fight for justice. I am guessing you began this journey with a sincere desire to help an orphan. But it seems somewhere along the way, when you discovered the truth that Chloe had a family, when the embassy denied your visa, when you rallied the support of thousands of people in your church and community…you ended up in too deep to tell the truth. You’ve been telling everyone all along that Chloe was an orphan, when this has been a lie from day one. I know your church is deeply involved in supporting Arise Africa and I imagine it would be horrible to stand in front of your congregation and say “the orphanage we support is involved in corrupt, unethical adoption, in bribing, coercing and lying to vulnerable families”. But do you know what is worse? Continuing in the darkness. As Christians, we are called to walk in the light. To repent. To humbly admit when we’ve been wrong. We are called to fight for justice – and I believe justice for this little girl is to go back to her biological family and to give them a chance to be reunited, to have a future and hope together. To demonstrate the true Gospel to them.

    • http://smoothvia.com Smooth Via

      Dear Sara,
      I was tempted to delete your comment. I thought it might be best to respond instead. All I can say is that you have your information wrong. Some details are right, but overall you are wrong. It was not my intention to lie to anyone. I am sorry that you feel that way. Chloe was abandoned to the AAI babies home. She was not given in order for her to be adopted. They gave her up at 3 months old because she was on the verge of death. They family has continued to make it clear that they want nothing to do with her to the point that they have been annoyed every time we have had to go back to get more statements, evidence, etc. They don’t want her. You say to let her go back to her biological family. She has no family to return to.

      As for your experience at the babies home, I can not speak to that. I was not there, but I must assume that there was some kind of misunderstanding. I have known pastor Godfrey many years and know him to be a man of upmost integrity. You, however, have met him one time. Please reserve judgement.

      As for Peter Nyombi, when we began this process we were unaware of the accusations surrounding him. Obviously, we are now well aware. I can’t speak for other cases, but I know that ours was above board. Also, Arise Afica, if they continue to do adoptions will no longer use Peter Nyombi.

      Please be careful with your harmful accusations before you have all of the facts.

  • Sunny

    Let’s seek the TRUTH here.  Does parents & two siblings not count as ANY family? What about the other side of this story?  Should a man/family be praised for taking advantage of a poor birth family? 

  • Melissa

    I love seeing that you have such a supportive community
    around you, but what I would love to see is your Christian brothers &
    sisters supporting you to do the right thing, walk away. Your “daughter” is
    someone else’s daughter. Help her find her way home, to her family in Uganda.
    Fight for her in that way. May your community see that this is where she needs
    to be. The US Government has denied her visa for good reason, because what you have
    attempted to do is child trafficking. 


  • Gmg4jr

    God Bless you guys.  We think you guys are awesome for doing this.  We will keep you all in our prayers.  It is amazing how God is in control of all things.

    Love in Christ,

    John and Gloria Garnand

  • Cindi

    Someone on Facebook passed this on to me. We were in the Uganda adoption process from 2005-2007 and know how difficult it can be. When we were there, we met another family who was going through a very similar situation and they moved to Uganda to fight for their little boy as well! I am going to send them a link to your site but if you would like to contact them, send me an email.

  • Tara

    Can you post information on here on how to give financially?

    • http://smoothvia.com Smooth Via

      Tara, thank you for your interest. More information will be forthcoming in the near future as we figure out our moving budget and monthly budget, and also as we get things in order with our sending agency.

  • Cristy

    Just came across this post while planning my Sunday school lesson for this week. We are studying Isaiah 43: 1-7. I will be sharing your story and quoting part of your blog. Your words about how important it is to fight for your daughter like God fights for us, speak perfectly to the text. According to the message translation, God says, “I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
    trade the creation just for you.” I can’t think of a more poignant way to bring this point home to my class… thank you for your commitment to live as Christ. 

  • http://www.liliesinthefield.wordpress.com/ Askmeaquestionaboutfaith

    Wonderfu!! I’d like to reblog and follow on WordPress but can’t see button..

  • Smyles Ovie

    this is an amazing show of love and commitment with all the sacrifices that go with them. you sure have God’s commendation for this.

  • JulieMatthews8

    Hi, my name is Julie and I just happened to click on a facebook link that a friend posted that brought me to your page. And how amazing! I am currently serving as a nurse in Jinja, Uganda at an orphanage. Having seen adoptions from our orphanage, I am so encouraged by your heart to serve Christ and love this little girl! I would love to know where your family will be moving to in Uganda! Please feel free to email me if you have the time! JulieMatthews8@yahoo.com 

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  • Emily Fox

    Thank you for sharing this story. I work with Kelly Cooper and she recommended I read this blog. I was very encouraged/inspired, so I wrote about it today. Thank you for being obedient to God’s call and encouraging others to do the same.

    In case you’re interested, here’s the blog: http://csublogs.com/caps/2013/01/14/adopted/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=606507172 Deidrah McAulay

    Hi.  I received a link to your blog from a friend on Facebook. I am a missionary here in Jinja, Uganda and have been for many years.  I applaud your dedication to your daughter.  When God gives us biological children, we fight for them, so what’s the difference with an adopted one?  Your love proves, there isn’t one.  Just Father God.  I run a children’s home and know so many other homes as well.  I have become disillusioned by some “drive thru” parents who just give up when things don”t go their way or become a bit difficult. If God says the child is yours then nothing can change that.  Thank you for your faith, your commitment, and your love. God is just using this situation to get you where He wants you to be :-)  Enjoy the journey.  It won’t be easy all the time but the eternal rewards are out of this world :-)

  • Chrisisoutandabout

    You came across these difficulties because things are changing in Uganda. International adoption was seen from outside of the country as a realistic way to help orphaned or abandoned children. Unfortunately the situation was largely abused and created a ‘market’ for children. This meant that corrupt lawyers and officials made huge sums from well meaning adoptive parents coming mainly from Europe and US. It also resulted in many children effectively being ‘sold’, most of whom had extended family or even parents to care for them. African culture naturally cares for its children within a village situation, not just a family unit the way we see it in the West. Large sums of money have distorted the traditional way of things and made children vulnerable. Resettlement within communities or adoption within Uganda are increasingly becoming the preferred method over international adoption. It can still take place where it can be shown that there is a particular need, The law has not changed, but it is finally being enforced for the protection of children (and their families) and you must be in Uganda for 3 years before you are eligible to adopt a Ugandan child.
    God clearly has a plan for you and has been calling you to follow him to Uganda for years. Now he has your attention!
    You are a man of principle and commitment
    Come and enjoy this wonderful country and its amazing people, you will be blessed.
    Listen to God but also listen to the people of Uganda and you will learn a lot.
    Leave your agendas and opinions behind because this is a very different place from your home land!

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