(This article was originally published in The Anna News on January 15, 2010)
December 13, 2009 will be a day that will always be etched in the minds of Aaron and Whitney Pratt. But it was a decision almost exactly a year earlier that brought them to one of the greatest days of their lives.
In Ethiopia, the Pratt family was introduced to the third member of their family, Mekele, on that fateful Sunday. That day marks the beginning of an exciting journey for the Pratt family, but the journey to that day was just as stirring.
Whitney, who was a teacher for McKinney ISD until leaving to take care of Mekele, graduated from Marcus High School in Flower Mound. Aaron graduated from McKinney High School in 2000 and has worked for McKinney ISD since 2004.
He currently teaches World Geography and Humanities at McKinney High School, his alma mater, and coaches for FC Dallas academy teams.
The two have been married and have resided in Anna for almost five years.
Whitney worked for McKinney ISD from 2003 until this last year. She was first hired as an Elementary Special Education teacher. It was at the school that she met and fell in love with Aaron. Two years later, she accepted one of MISD’s Preschool Supervisor positions, and the two talked of kids filling their home.
“We were ready to start a family after two years of marriage, and when that didn’t happen, we knew God had other big plans for our family,” Whitney said. “After prayer, God opened our hearts to the needs in Ethiopia, Africa where five million orphans are living.”
On December 22, 2008 the family decided to adopt internationally and a week later found All God’s Children International and submitted a pre-application. After the beginning of the year they submitted their official application and were approved on January 12.
Adoption has always been near to Whitney’s heart. Her big sister was adopted domestically as an infant and they have good friends who have adopted through the foster care system.
“Learning that there are 147 million orphans in the world changed our hearts, and we knew God was calling us to build our family through adoption,” Whitney said. “Our passion for loving orphans began a desire in us to provide a loving home and be a child’s forever family.”
By the end of February, there had been three home studies and the process seemed to be moving along. As March concluded, the fourth home study was complete. April brought an adoption seminar and the completion of all of the required education courses.
In June the two were informed that they were on the waiting list, as number 11 for a boy and 38 for a girl. Just six weeks later, the Pratts found out they were number five on the waiting list.
On September 10 they received the phone call that changed their lives and the next day the two were in a complete daze all day with the knowledge that they had a son. In November the Pratts were approved by the Ethiopian courts and were able to start making plans to go meet and bring home their son.
Close family friends generously offered frequent flyer miles to the Pratts to travel to pick up their son. The miles took care of travel to London and the return trip home to Dallas. They also traveled from London to Addis Ababa, with a layover in Istanbul, Turkey.
“On September 10 we received the call from our agency, with news of our son, born with the birth name of Aaron, just like his Daddy,” Whitney recalls. “We knew he was meant for our family, and by December 13, he was in our arms in Ethiopia! We are now blessed to be first-time parents, and to get to spend each day of our lives with our sweet boy.”
The day that families are officially introduced to their adoptive child is called “Gotcha Day” and Whitney said that on the night before their big day the two didn’t sleep much.
“We woke up at 10 a.m. to a perfect day – beautiful, sunny and peaceful,” Whitney recalled. “I pushed open the window of our third floor hotel room and caught my first glimpses of Ethiopia in daylight.”
Whitney explains that their first few minutes together were like a dream.
“He was sitting on the lap of one of his orphanage nannies, taking a bottle,” she said. “Only he was too mesmerized by the families walking in to meet their children to take his bottle. It was his turn to meet his mommy and daddy.
“The orphanage director introduced us, and those big, beautiful curious eyes looked up at us. We reached down to hold his soft, squishy body, and praised God that we were together as a family. We spent the rest of the week getting to know each other and experiencing his beautiful culture- the foods, the music, the people,” Whitney added.
They got home on Saturday, December 19 and had family and church friends waiting at DFW airport to greet the family. The day after they got home, Mekele turned 7 months old.
The family attends Pin Oaks Christian Fellowship in Anna, a church that has been actively involved in helping children locally and out of the country by supporting missions like Clothe a Child and orphans in Honduras.