If you’ve ever tuned in to 1310AM The Ticket between noon and 3 in the Dallas area, you’ve probably heard the deep, booming voice of Bob Sturm talking sports and playing the straight man to his co-host Dan McDowell’s jokes.
And if you’re a dedicated listener of his show, you know he was absent from it for nearly six weeks while his family was in Honduras adopting a child. But you may not know the whole story…
The seed is planted
Bob Sturm’s interest in Central America began four year ago with his first mission trip to Guatemala with a group of men he knew from Valley Ranch Baptist Church in Coppell, Texas. There, he visited several orphanages and spent time loving on children who needed it. It became a yearly trip.
In 2008, the men took their wives with them to Guatemala. About a month after coming home, Sally Sturm asked her husband what he thought about adopting. Bob said he’d think about it. As the weeks passed, they had many conversations about adoption. They prayed that if it wasn’t right for their family, God would show them.
“It’s funny when I look back over the past few years or months and see how God had prepared us individually and together as a couple,” Sally said. “There are numerous stories little and big that kept pointing us down this path. This path for our family was no accident.”
Guatemala closed its doors to international adoptions, but the Sturms decided to start their adoption process and choose a country later. They were excited when Honduras opened; they wanted to adopt from Latin America because of Sally’s Mexican-American roots and Bob’s love of learning Spanish.
They finalized their home study in June 2009, submitted their dossier to Buckner in February 2010, and did a lot of waiting. As the first family to adopt from Honduras through Buckner, each step had its learning curve.
“Adoption is a great thing, but it’s like running a marathon,” Bob said. “It’s a great thing to say you ran a marathon, but it’s not fun when you’re doing it at the time. It’s very difficult. There’s a great reward at the end—that you add to your family, and that’s all well and good—but it’s a pretty tedious process.”
They received their referral for a 4 and a half year old boy named Justin in mid-February of this year and took their first trip to Honduras in April to meet him. Four months later, they were back on a plane from Dallas to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to take custody of their new son and finalize his adoption.
Between August 29 and October 7, they experienced the ups and downs of adjusting to a new family dynamic within the confines of their little hotel apartment while making the rounds to various government offices, consulates and embassies, ticking off each piece of paperwork involved in adding a new family member and killing time in between.
It’s been a hard journey in many ways, and Bob and Sally both know it’s just beginning.
Madeline Sturm, or Maddie, is a bubbly 9-year-old who never runs out of things to talk about. She’ll tell you she’s not a girly-girl and that most of her friends are boys, but she says it while wearing a pink, sequined tank top, and then starts debating whether or not to take dance lessons.
Brett, 6, is happiest with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil in his hand. He’s quiet and low-key and tends to keep himself entertained. “He’s not that type of personality where he’s running all day,” Bob said.
Justin is a firecracker – big energy in a small package. “I just think back on some of the athletes who tell their story as kids and they always say, ‘My mom had to put me in sports to burn off some of my energy,’” Bob said. “I never really knew what that meant, and then we met Justin.”
With three very different personalities sharing a small space for several weeks while trying to figure out their new relationship, there have been growing pains.
“When you read books about adoption … they make you a little paranoid that something in your new child’s past is causing a certain behavior,” Bob said. “You have to counterbalance that with knowing your own kids and saying: ‘Well, sometimes kids just fight. And there’s no sort of incident that happened three years ago that’s making them fight over this ball right now, they’re just kids.’”
“As a parent of a new dynamic, one of the biggest things for me, of course, is to not overreact and not to feel like it’s a real major incident as all the kids are trying to get used to each other. It’s a process, and it’s not always comfortable,” he said. “I think that has to happen organically, and I think it is [happening], but I don’t think it’s linear at all. I think there are great days, and there are days where they’re still trying to get along. And that’s OK.”
For safety reasons, the Sturm family was confined to their hotel apartment for most of each day during their stay in Honduras. Left alone in the hotel, they had to make their own fun and get through the day without going stir-crazy. They compared it with living the movie “Groundhog Day,” but in the end, they were grateful for the time together.
“The one thing that all the books have in common, and that a lot of adoptive families have suggested is that you really need to guard your time with your new family,” Sally said. “In that respect, it’s been great being here, because we have four to six weeks set aside where we have to be here, we don’t have a choice and we can’t leave.”
But being gone from work for 40 days wasn’t easy for Bob.
“I tell people all the time I work in the toy department of life,” he said. “I go to games for a living, so I miss it.”
He kept in touch with his listeners through Twitter and his blog, updating it every few days with the latest on where they were in the adoption process.
“I was very private about it until we knew we were going to be gone, and then I just thought this is a great opportunity to be public about what I’m doing and to get the word out,” he said. “If the number of 140 million orphans worldwide is anywhere close to true, obviously we need to get the word out more. And if my public approach to this is influencing one family, then great. I feel wonderful about that.”
As they waited out each day, Sally said they tried to keep one goal in mind.
“The number one thing to do on our list everyday was to be happy and live as a family with Justin and our biological kids, and also to blend that family. And also to maybe sign some papers,” Sally said, laughing. “That’s always a good thing.”
The Sturms are back in Lewisville now, living out the next part of their adoption journey.
“This process has taught me that certain things in life are great, and they matter, but they don’t matter, you know?” Bob said. “I love my job, I really really do, and I love what goes into it, but when you compare it to changing a child’s life and changing the dynamic of your family permanently, you know, it helps you get your priorities squared away.”
To learn more about adoption with Buckner, visit www.beafamily.org.