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Yavonka tackles addiction, choosing life over death

There are people living lives that are difficult to imagine. They are too tragic. How can one understand being discarded at the age of nine months? To have the people who are supposed to love and protect, only abuse? Instead of a future of hope and promise that every child deserves, a childhood head injury, abandonment, and sexual violence set Yavonka on a course of addiction. Hers is a story traversing darkness, best understood through the miraculous light of God’s healing.

Forty-five-year-old Yavonka is sober. She started smoking marijuana at age 14, drinking alcohol at 17, and using hard drugs at age 26. Now an ardent AA participant, she marked on March 7 the milestone of sobriety for over a month. It was a goal she needed to reach—to be clean—before attending her first Birth Mother’s Retreat set for the weekend of March 22 in Charlotte.

“I was so nervous meeting the other moms,” Yavonka admits. “But I reminded myself—‘I’m friendly. I can do this’—I put on a big smile, and they took me in with open arms.”

It was Christian Adoption Services’ (CAS) 27th annual retreat. The event is an opportunity to celebrate the courageous moms who chose adoption and placed their child for adoption with CAS. This year, a record number of 42 birth moms gathered. Some like Yavonka were attending for the very first time, while others have attended the three-day event year after year.

“We design the retreat each year to be an exceptional experience for each participant,” CAS Lead Director of Domestic Adoptions Sheryl Naylor says. “This is our opportunity to be a blessing to our birth mothers. It is a remarkable time of emotional and spiritual healing and encouragement—where the moms are loved and affirmed.”

CAS walks alongside and assists women during their pregnancies. The ministry also offers post-placement care that includes counseling, virtual support groups, and the annual birth mother’s retreat. CAS helps women process the grief that can be associated with adoption.

“It is a long-term commitment on our part,” Naylor asserts. “What an honor it is to walk with our birth moms as we help them look toward their futures with hope.”

Saturday’s rain threatened plans for the birth mom’s excursion to Carowinds. Yavonka welcomed the alternative of going to a nearby mall. She was hiding the fact that the shoes she wore hurt her feet and she dreaded walking all day at the theme park. Armed with a donated gift card each birth mom received, she made a beeline for a shoe store, found a comfortable pair of shoes that fit, and quickly discarded her worn pair in the nearest trash bin. This was a blessing she had not anticipated.

Above: Watch Yavonka's video from her first Birth Mothers Retreat

Yavonka is not a complainer, but blessings are not something she is accustomed to. Life as an addict is dangerous. She has overdosed six times; she flat-lined in 2020. But after each incident, she went back on the streets, wandering without purpose. She was homeless, doing whatever she needed to do to get the next fix. It was a life she now chooses to leave behind.

“Being sober is about life over death,” Yavonka says. “I feel my life is finally stable. There are bad things in my neighborhood, but I want nothing to do with them. I’m learning to like how I feel and discovering what I really want. Recovery looks good on me.”

Yavonka has semi-open adoptions with her daughter and son, meaning CAS mediates updates and potential visits. The few days spent with the children after their births are etched in her mind. She recites the birth dates and her daughter’s birth stats: “She weighed 8 pounds 2 ounces and was 20 inches long. You don’t forget.”

Yavonka is thankful for their adoptive families. She receives news and photos regularly and rests in the hope of their bright futures—futures she places in God’s hands.

“God is now first in my life,” she confesses. “Talking with Him is as important to me as breathing. He is essential to my recovery.”

Before the retreat ends, the birth moms gather in a circle one last time. They have shared their stories, feeling a connection that comes from walking similar paths. Seventeen have made decisions to follow Jesus.

“I’m glad my daughter and son know who I am,” Yavonka says. “I’m glad they will know me as someone who chose life for them and for me, a life free of drugs.”

This is God’s transformational power at work. (If you or someone you know is pregnant and considering adoption, call the CAS helpline at 1-800-453-1011 or text 704-619-3531 or email

To learn more about domestic adoptions visit Christian Adoption Services.

By Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor

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