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Mom Adopted African Son, Changed Her Life Forever

2018-09-12 15:20
It was December 2000 when Ann Miller and her daughter, Nellie, were Christmas shopping, And Nellie noticed fishbowls around the store collecting money for charity— with nearby pictures of children whose hands had been chopped off. The store owner informed Miller about a mission called Feed My Lambs International, which helped victims of the black market diamond conflict in Sierra Leone. Miller later met the mission’s founder, Lonny Houk, and his wife, Katie. Miller volunteered with the mission. “This voice in my head spoke to me and just said to keep a child from Sierra Leone. I was dumbfounded" "I have four children of my own already … but I felt very excited.” Miller reconnected with Houk, then about to go to Sierra Leone to bring needy kids back on medical visas. Miller chose a boy named Francis and a girl named Emma. Yet, when Houk returned from Sierra Leone, he brought two boys: Francis and Salifu. Emma had vanished, and Salifu wasn’t even on the list. Salifu was living in a Freetown refugee camp with his mother and three siblings when Houk found him. As Houk and his crew were screening patients, 6-year-old Salifu put his hands and chin on a nearby table. Salifu had wounds from a rebel attack four years prior that killed his uncle and split his family apart. Using a machete, the rebels had attempted to sever the boy’s head from his torso. Knowing that Salifu would not get the medical attention he required, Houk took him on the plane. There were some growing pains early on. Salifu had never been out of country, and didn't speak English. But Salifu learned how to communicate fairly quickly. “He was the most cheerful, lively, happy, humming, singing, dancing child from the get-go,” she said. Salifu was meant to come to the United States for medical care and go back when he was healthy. Yet Miller felt a deep connection to Salifu and eventually adopted him. Miller learned how much the cuts on the back of Salifu’s head affected his mental processing. Still, Salifu’s persistence and kindness helped him throughout life. Through his thoughtful words and actions, Salifu fostered a support network which allowed him to exceed everyone’s wildest expectations as he grew. “There were so many reasons why Sal should’ve just never been successful,” “He overcame a language barrier, cultural complete change, climate change, leaving his family, changing his food,” “major surgery. We did everything you could do to a human being pretty much to this kid and he thrived!”