Raising Awareness for Adoption with Tim and Amber Kanallakan
Standard of LivingDecember 2014
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Kelli Avila
Some stories have so many threads that it’s impossible to follow one through the whole. This story could begin with a 7-year-old girl telling her mother that one day she wants to adopt. Or does it begin when that same 7-year-old girl meets her future husband, who grew up down the street? Perhaps the story comes more into focus when Amber tells Tim about her dream to adopt, or when Tim studies prosthetics in graduate school. Wherever the story begins, it’s bound together by a theme: Tim and Amber Kanallakan’s conviction and faith that God deeply loves orphans, and that they were called to adopt.
Soon after the Kanallakans’ second child was born, Amber began thinking about a third. She immersed herself in books and blogs about adoption. She saw her passion as a sign that God wanted them to adopt. “So I shared the idea with Tim,” says Amber, but his response was, “Not now.”
Amber asked herself, “If this passion isn’t about our personal adoption, maybe it could be for something else?” She came across an article about a Fresno ministry, City Without Orphans (CWO), that works to bridge the gap between local child welfare services and the church. “I started reading,” she says, “and was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Amber contacted CWO that day and asked the ministry to offer an adoption workshop at her church, and they agreed. Inspired by the workshop, Amber met with her pastors at Radiant Church to start their own ministry. “This kind of thing doesn’t happen in churches,” says Amber, “and yet it’s one of the biggest mandates in scriptures to care for orphans and widows.”
Through the Orphan Ministry at Radiant Church, Amber has hosted workshops and fundraisers. The ministry partnered with Angel Tree to provide gifts for fatherless children during holidays; they also hosted an adoption banquet that in two years raised more than $30,000 to support adopting families.
Starting a ministry with her church was only the beginning. Amber continued to work with CWO, and volunteered as program coordinator to open a branch in Tulare County, “mostly to get my own business card,” she says with a laugh. Amber’s approach was direct and simple. “I called child welfare services in Tulare County and asked, ‘How can the church help you?’ That was the first time there’d ever been a conversation like that.”
As program coordinator, Amber helps Tulare County Welfare Services by contacting churches throughout the county. She has arranged for churches to host foster and adoption workshops and provide volunteers to offer free childcare. Churches have also given financial and emotional support, including donating gifts and writing personalized cards for graduating foster children.
In June 2013, as Amber’s commitments continued to widen, Tim felt the time had come for them to adopt. It was a leap of faith for the Kanallakans, not because the adoption process daunted them – they had already become experts through Amber’s work and ministry – but because of the potential financial strain: an international adoption would cost as much as $30,000. Naturally, the Kanallakans felt doubt. “We can’t do it,” Tim remembers saying to Amber. “This is our bank account, and this is what I make a month, and we just can’t do it.”
Even the $350 application fee – “We didn’t have that,” recalls Tim. They had a garage sale in August of last year, and thanks to donations from friends, they raised nearly $2,000. But, Tim asked with a laugh, “How were we going to do garage sales every weekend?”
The Kanallakans unintentionally found the answer on a slow day at work. Tim, who builds artificial limbs and prosthetics, used equipment at work to make a leather case for his phone. A friend saw the case and asked Tim to make one for him. A second friend wanted one, too. “I’m not a leather worker by any means,” Tim admits, but he began to explore the idea of selling leather goods to help pay their adoption expenses.
Then in October, Tim and Amber were invited to sell Tim’s leatherwork at the local Makers Market. Amber says it was terrifying to make something and ask people to pay for it, but they agreed anyway. “Also,” says Tim, “we are not craft people.” So it surprised the Kanallakans when they sold $800 worth of front-pocket wallets and phone cases in only two hours. They were craft people, after all.
Two weeks later, they launched an Etsy shop, Standard Goods. “I used the sewing machine at work for the first six months,” says Tim, who spent his after-work hours designing new products like camera straps, dog collars, belts, even toy tomahawks. But the biggest Standard Goods seller is a dark leather clutch. “And now I’m selling purses,” he deadpans.
Tim says his leatherwork is “totally an offshoot of prosthetics.” But Standard Goods isn’t the only offshoot from Tim’s work that has affected their adoption. It was through building prosthetics for other children that Tim realized he was specially equipped to care for a child with a limb difference.
“One of the main things that we felt that God was calling us to do was to adopt a child with a limb difference because of Tim’s job,” Amber says. “That’s something we can offer a child that another family can’t.”
The past year has been difficult for the Kanallakans, “and it shouldn’t be easy to adopt a kid from another country,” stresses Amber. After months of working through agency paperwork, applications, “notarizations and certifications and authorizations and all that,” they were finally approved to adopt a child with a limb difference from China. Any day, a social worker will call the Kanallakans to tell them they have a match. They’ll be able, for the first time, to see their future son or daughter, and they hope to bring the child home by March.
Between garage sales, a grant from their church ministry and sales from Standard Goods, the Kanallakans expect to completely pay for their adoption by the end of the month. They will continue to use the proceeds from Standard Goods to pay for future prosthetic needs and surgeries, but they also plan to support other adopting families. “We have had so many people be generous with us, so how fun would it be to write an anonymous check for another family,” says Amber.
And even though their journey is winding down, the Kanallakans expect the experience will only better prepare them to serve others who want to adopt. They might temporarily take a step back, but “it will definitely take everything to another level,” says Tim. Getting their child isn’t the end of the story. It’s the beginning. But for now, all they can do is wait, and decide upon a name
Standard Goods • dadwillbuildyourleg.blogspot.com