Couple honored for adopting internationally

By Michael Davis

John and Tina Lunsford only recently brought their newest child home. But he's already more than a year old.

The Lunsfords recently adopted two children from the poverty-stricken Central American country of Guatemala. Though the two boys were born in different cities, they're brothers in the U.S.

Benajamin, 1, was recently joined by the older Joseph, who the Lunsfords brought home in June.

"We wanted to add more children to our family and adoption was a good way to do that," said Tina Lunsford, whose husband is State Rep. John Lunsford.

The McDonough couple already had four children of their own. The two oldest have already left home, but Joseph and Benjamin, as they are known in the U.S., came home to two older sisters, just waiting and excited about their international brothers.

Joseph, though older than his new brother Benjamin, is like most American children, a little apprehensive around strangers.

But the outgoing Benjamin has no problem with new faces, playfully reaching to take a toy ball form his brother's hands.

"(Joseph) is going to have his hands full when Benjamin grows up," John Lunsford said.

The couple recently received a congressional recognition for their work helping other families adopt children from Guatemala. They received the Congressional Angel in Adoption Award last month from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about the possibilities of adoption.

The Lunsfords first went to Guatemala during the summer of 2003. The family spent five weeks in the country, under the impression that the adoption process for the one child they expected to take home was already well under way.

But before it was all over, the Lunsfords would discover fraud within the Guatemalan adoption agency, John Lunsford would make four more trips to the jungle country, and the family would bring home one more son than they had bargained for.

Tina said she fell in love with the country during their trip.

"It was bittersweet when we left," she recalled. Taking Spanish lessons while they were there, the couple hopes to raise their children to be bi-lingual and in touch with their native culture.

One of the couple's daughters, 15-year-old Brittany, is the clan's most fluent Spanish speaker, Tina Lunsford said.

"After being there so long, it just kind of comes naturally," said Brittany Lunsford.

Though they did not travel to Washington, D.C. last month to receive the Angel in Adoption award, the Lunsfords said they were honored to have been chosen to be one of 165 families to receive it this year.

But Tina Lunsford might not be finished in her quest to build a big family.

"My heart was to bring more than two home," Tina Lunsford said. "My heart would still love to go back to Guatemala and bring two more home."