On a Plane to Congo

Written by: Jenn Tallon Photos by: Whitney Runyon of The Archibald Project

Written by: Jenn Tallon
Photos by: Whitney Runyon of The Archibald Project

My name is Jen Tallon, and I’m a single 44-year-old Texan in the process of adopting my 8-year-old daughter from the Republic of Congo.

I have desired to be a mom for as long as I can remember. I work for an organization called Bridgeway Foundation, and part of the work we do is in the war areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo. A few years ago a story came across our ears of a very young little girl who had been violently raped. Her picture and story took my heart hostage, and I could not let her go. She was a life. She was a little girl, vulnerable, alone, forever affected by war and now heinous sexual assault.

After grappling with the vivid images of her story for several weeks, finally a light bulb went off, and I thought- ‘if my life can count for something, I can’t think of a better way than to give a little girl the opportunity to be spared from a story of abuse, neglect and vicious crimes against her.’ Now the girl I am adopting is not this same girl from years before, but learning about the travesties that occur around the world through this one girl is what ultimately led me to my daughter.

I am currently on a plane to Congo to meet my daughter for the very first time feeling so excited and very nervous. It is such a surreal moment that I’ve dreamt about for such a long time. I’m very mindful that this is a huge moment for my daughter, Mavie, as well. Our meeting in person is the beginning of a massive life change for both of us! I have doubted all I know about kids, my qualifications to be a mom and whether or not she will even like me!

As I sit here on the plane, and reflect over the past decade or so, the reality of being a mom has always seemed like an impossible dream. For many years, I believed that my life needed to look like everyone else’s with a husband and 2.5 kids. While those are great desires and beautiful blessings, something I discovered was that we need to be better at finding ways to call out strengths and celebrate each person in our lives – no matter where or what their lives look like at the moment. Because I was very fortunate to have this done for me by my closest friends and family, I found myself with the courage I needed to ask the hard questions and dream big for my life, even though it might look very different than the norm. Many special people in my life, like Shannon, called out my hearts desires and said, “you’re a mom, go after that dream! You don’t have to look like x,y or z to make it happen.” When I wanted to give up or make excuses, they held me accountable and cheered me on to keep moving forward.

To anyone out there wondering about older child adoption – remember that sometimes people like to talk more about the bad things that are possible with older child adoption than the beauty within it. Adoption is not a natural thing because no child should be motherless or fatherless. There’s a lot of intentional hard work and healing that needs to take place no matter what aged child you adopt. So many older children who are capable of loving and connecting deeply, like infants and toddlers, are waiting to be brought into a loving and healing forever home.

To my daughter, if you ever read this: I am so honored to be chosen by God to be your mom. I count it the greatest privilege in my life to love you and tell you every day how special you are.  I promise to do my best every day to love you, support you, cheer for you, teach you and show you our heavenly Fathers love, and help you discover all the amazing qualities within you. Our journey ahead will have good times and hard times, but that’s okay because we will walk through everything together, hand in hand, and figure out the way forward. We will try to find joy in the midst of it all and praise God for every blessing and experience we get to have in this life.

We live in a great big world with amazing people in it, and I can’t wait to show you all the incredible things this world has to offer.

God has created such a special gift in you. People already tell me about: your kind and loving spirit, your resiliency and strength, and the light and joy inside you. You are one extraordinary little girl that people are drawn to; your smile lights up your face.  I pray you learn to use your strength and magnetism in mighty ways for others. I pray you advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves, show others the love of God by your kindness and actions and use your gifts and talents to leave our world a better place. I love you so much already and look forward to our life ahead!

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