The Chalfant Christmas Story
By Jewel Graham
The 700 Club
Like most American families, the Chalfant family always got caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays: Christmas shopping, decorating and last minute baking. That changed in 2005, the year the family of four spent Christmas in Kazakhstan.
“It was very much an adventure for the kids,” said Tonya Chalfant, the mother of the family. “They enjoyed everything. They liked that it was cold outside. It didn’t matter that the conditions were like they were, and it was very unusual to us; the culture was very different. They were having a good time no matter what we were doing.”
“It’s a different pace,” said the father, Matt Chalfant. “I’m used to going 110 mph and have a type-A personality, but God wanted us to slow down that year for Christmas. That was a great blessing because we were in a 10x10 room with four people sleeping on a box spring mattress, and it’s 40 degrees below zero outside. It really allowed us to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas; and that’s the birth of Jesus.”
They only had enough room in their luggage to bring a few small presents. But Conner and Brooklyn, 8 and 9-years-old at the time, didn’t seem to mind. They were expecting the best gift of all. You see, the Chalfants had come to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby girl!
“We got to go upstairs to where all the babies lived, and we realized that there was nothing we really need,” Brooklyn said.
“I came out of it feeling very blessed, that God had given us a lot; and I needed to be more thankful for the things that I had,” Conner said.
The highlight of each day in the small village was visiting the newest member of their family, baby Gazelle.
“We went to the orphanage. We had a chance to go there each and every day. We met Gazelle the first day,” Matt said.
“On the third day, they allowed us to go up to where she resided,” Tonya said. “We were able to pick her up from this area. She saw us and she grinned. Then she started laughing and then she started to kick her feet. So it was exciting for us to see that she was recognizing us after just a couple of days.”
Baby Gazelle warmed up to her new family instantly, and Christmas day held a special treat - their first family photo!
“We had purchased a little red velvet dress for her,” Tonya said. “On Christmas day, we walked down the hall at the orphanage, and they did have a Christmas tree set up, and we had our picture made by the Christmas tree.”
“So here we are at Christmas,” Matt said, “in the 10x10 room, and we think this is about adoption. What we discovered is - this is only a piece of God’s puzzle. The bigger piece was we were to reflect upon the true meaning of what Christmas was; and we wouldn’t have done that if we had stayed in the United States.”
The Chalfants returned home to Kentucky while the paperwork was processed. Four weeks later, Matt and Tonya returned to Kazakhstan to bring baby Gazelle home for good.
“She was clothed when they handed her to us; but they stood and waited for the clothing,” Tonya said. “So we undressed her. We knew to expect that; so we came prepared with clothes and a snowsuit for her, to take her out of the orphanage. It was really sweet because there was nothing, she had nothing to take home; just like they hand you the baby at the hospital after you’ve birthed the baby. They handed her to us and we had a little family picture and took a little video and it was really sweet.”
“Even though you feel led of the Lord to do this, you still wonder what’s that bonding process going to be with an adoptive child that may be different than that of our two biological children,” Matt said. “When they hand you this baby, this little naked 1-year-old, it is the exact experience we had with our two biological children. God just flipped the switch and we were parents of a third child!”
“The interesting thing about adoption is you come into this thinking, ‘we’re going to try to make a difference in this child’s life,’” Matt said. “What you begin to realize is - it’s not about the child. It’s about you and what God wants to do in your heart, and in our heart as a couple and in our family.”
The family of five is doing great. Gazelle, now three, loves going to church and playing with her big sister. She giggles a lot, and is loved by all! Christmas in Kazakhstan changed the lives of the Chalfant family forever, and Gazelle is a constant reminder of the real reason for Christmas.
“Prior to the adoption, slowing down at Christmas had been on my prayer list for a long time,” Tonya said, “how to simplify it and how to make it more peaceful. It was something that I would start praying about way before Christmas season, because I wanted it to be a meaningful circumstance. The adoption experience did give us that opportunity to step back and be still, and it’s something we really did appreciate.”
“Jesus, He was the part that started it all,” Brooklyn said. “When we celebrate Christmas, we should always think about the cross and really why He came. We would have nothing to celebrate at Christmas without Him dying on the cross. God can do amazing things with small, unimportant people; and there can always be miracles no matter what.”
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