Living in Constant Providence: How God led the Mussers to special-needs adoption
Michael Miller · Feb 01, 2016
Joe and Susanna Musser and their family live in a Pennsylvania town called New Providence. For them, it might as well be Constant Providence.
God is always working through them. That has been no more evident than in the development of their family.
The news in 2010 that the Mussers’ 10th child had Down syndrome sparked a passion that has led to multiple children with various special needs being blessed.
It started with Susanna’s blog, “The Blessing of Verity,” which chronicles Verity’s development as well as other family events.
“This was our first introduction to the world of special needs, something we were ignorant about,” Susanna says.
Blogging about Verity led to questions from readers about adoption of special-needs children, with Susanna researching answers. One day that research turned up a video clip of an NBC report on a mental institution in Serbia that warehoused special-needs children and young adults in nightmarish conditions.
“That was really a pivotal thing for Joe and me to see,” Susanna says. “Our hearts were broken for children who are being institutionalized all across Europe simply because they had been born with special needs,” Susanna says. “Here we had our precious, little baby girl (Verity) with Down syndrome, this little sunshine, and just the thought of her having to endure these conditions was horrifying to us. That’s what God used to open our hearts to adoption.”
That open heart became a clear mandate.
“When we look back, we can see so clearly that He was compelling us forward,” Susanna says. “He opened all the doors, removed all the obstacles—and there were a considerable number of obstacles in front of our family: the adoption costs themselves, the lack of typical health insurance, the small house, the big family, the moderate income. He just removed every obstacle. He gave us a very clear leading.”
The Mussers adopted two children from the Pleven orphanage in Bulgaria. That nation’s requirements fit the Mussers’ situation better.
First to be adopted was Katerina (Katie), who needs total care. The Mussers named her for one of the children briefly filmed for the NBC report they had seen. At age 9, Katie, who has Down syndrome, weighed 10½ pounds and had spent her life suffering severe neglect in a crib on the top floor of her orphanage in a wing titled “Malformations.” She came home with the Mussers at a birth to 3-month-old level, unable to hold her head upright for longer than a few seconds. She was suffering from multiple maladies that were the direct result of long-term neglect and malnutrition.
They later adopted Tommy, a boy who had also spent his 16 years severely neglected in a crib on the same top floor of the Pleven baby house, and “had much more significant special needs.” He died in a bathtub accident in July 2014.
Katie, now 13, is healthy, happy, and thriving. Four years after coming home, she’s wearing a size 7, is learning to feed herself and communicate using a few word approximations and signs, is close to being able to walk independently, and can pull herself up onto objects and get down from them.
But God wasn’t done working through the Mussers. He used Susanna’s blogging to “tear down the doors” of that orphanage. As Susanna wrote about Katie, awareness about orphans in Eastern Europe was raised. Almost 70 children with special needs from the Pleven, Bulgaria, institution “are either home or almost home in families now,” Susanna says. Hundreds of other children with special needs have been adopted from all around the world because of how God used Verity and Katie’s stories.
“That has been an amazing side of the story that we never would have guessed,” she says. “We only knew our God was a big God, and prayed that He would use us in some way to bring other children into families.”
The Mussers continue to help special-needs children. Josie, a cheerful and very determined girl who has cerebral palsy and turned 13 on January 30, joined the Musser family on December 23. The Mussers became her legal guardians on November 1 and set about adding to their 1,300-square-foot home so they could accommodate her walker and wheelchair.