Swanson family changes lives of Namibian children


Photo submitted by Henry Swanson

Esther and Godlieb Swanson enjoy a meal out with their family.

By Jameson Stahl, Stillwater Area High School

From the outside, the Swanson family home looks just like any of the others lined up the block. Not many people know of the great gift that God has given them that lies inside. Two children from Namibia, Godlieb and Esther Swanson, now live here together in this new country.

Godlieb is 17 years old and Esther is at the tender age of five. They both lived in the same village of Otjiwarongo. The village where they would meet and form a lasting bond with their new family.

Davis Swanson is one of their new siblings. His family was sent to Namibia on a two-year service trip from their church. During this time, they became good friends with the mother of Esther and Godlieb’s family.

The adoption process for each of them was very different. Davis explained, “we were living in the country at the time that we had to adopt her. We were there when she was born and she went home with us straight from the hospital. It was it was like she was just born in our family.”

Life was rough in Namibia. The village was ridden with crime and the police were brutal at times and very unregulated. Every day they could hear the ringing of gunshots going off. There were even stories of the police taking kids away into “the bush”, presumably beaten.

Conditions in the village were not that great. Godlieb explained, “we burn the tire, the car tire.” Leah Swanson, their mother, added, “That’s how they keep warm and it gets really cold in the winter.”

The adoption process required the Swansons to fill out piles of paperwork. The hardest part of the process though was getting Esther a visa so that she could return to Minnesota with her new family. She was eventually granted the visa and allowed to leave, but this added 6 months to their term in Namibia.

The process to adopt Godlieb was more difficult. Davis said, “we were here (in the USA) when that was going on so we had to kind of have people we knew that were still living there, do a lot of the paperwork and like submit a lot of the paperwork because it was hard for us to do it from here and that process took a lot longer. That was like three years in the making of getting him here.”

Currently, the U.S. is not allowing children to be adopted from Namibia anymore so the Swansons were very lucky. The Namibian government did not have a solid adoption system so the U.S. put in place a new set of laws.

In Namibian culture, adoption is taboo to them. Leah said, “they don’t do adoptions so everything that we were doing was like the first time they ever did it pretty much so that made it very difficult because it’s not part of their culture to do adoption so we really feel that God did it. It was miraculous that he was able to be adopted and that all the paperwork went through.”

Adopting children and moving them to a new continent is a major undertaking. Family dynamics change and the children have to adapt to their new surroundings. Esther has been in America since she was born so there was not much to adjust to.

Godlieb is having a harder time adjusting. His whole life changed. There is no way to compare anything between his two different lives. Every aspect of life is different here. He is now learning how all these new things and concepts work.

Davis described, “He hasn’t really grown up with parents or anybody that’s really telling him what to do. So he’s kind of always done whatever he wants to do.”

This is still the early stages of Godlieb’s transition. He has been in the U.S. for 8 months now and this year will most likely be the hardest. As time goes by, he will adjust more and more to his new life and family. The Swanson family has forever changed the lives of their new family members.

This story was originally published on The Pony Express on October 27, 2018.