Track coach leans on family, faith as he awaits the arrival of his adopted daughter.
by Lexi Friesen
“Athulya and Tina are my adopted daughters. Isaiah and Josiah are my biological sons. But they’re all my children,” Andrew Rock said as he crossed his legs and shrugged his shoulders.
Rock is the head track coach at Bethel University and a former Olympian. He competed on the 4X400 meter relay team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece and came home with a gold medal. His wife, Missy Rock, is the assistant cross country coach. She, too, competed in cross country and track at the collegiate level, where she won 14 Division III championships for Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Later, she ran professionally with a Reebok sponsorship. The couple is in the process of adopting their second daughter. The second time around, however, the process has not been easy.
Andrew and Missy both said that adoption was always going to be in the picture for their family. Missy grew up in a family with 14 children, 11 of whom were adopted.
“Missy’s always had a big heart,” Andrew explained. “Adoption has always been a part of her life, and since I’ve met her it’s become a part of my life as well. I guess it was something we knew we wanted to do.”
Athulya, 7, became the Rock’s oldest child when she was adopted from Kanjirappally, the southern part of India. At the time of Athulya’s adoption, both Andrew and Missy were running professionally. They began by deciding how they wanted to adopt and felt that God was leading them to international adoption. Through their agency, Children’s Home Society, they found Athulya. She was on a child’s waiting list for older children and was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. The adoption process took approximately a year, a relatively short time period for international adoption.
After adopting Athulya, Andrew and Missy had two children of their own, Isaiah, 4, and Josiah, nearly 2. According to Andrew, growing up with aunts and uncles who have been adopted has been helpful to teach Isaiah, Josiah and Athulya about the meaning of family.
This will also be good for their second daughter, Tina, who is still in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The adoption process for Tina is through the agency Life Adoption Services. Andrew and Missy are the legally recognized as the parents of six-year-old Tina in both the DRC and America, but due to the DRC’s refusal to grant exit letters to children, Tina is not allowed to leave the country. Exit letters are the last piece of paper needed in the adoption process when bringing a child home. There is no known reason for the DRC’s refusal to grant children’s exit letters, except for the country’s claims that children may become disrupted upon leaving or fear the children may be rehomed to homosexual couples, which is against DRC laws.
In Tina’s orphanage, there are 40 children, almost all of whom are adopted without exit letters, forcing them all to stay. This has been going on for the Rock family for almost three years. The conditions for Tina in DRC are much worse than what Athulya had in India. Mud floors line the orphanage and most residents don’t have beds. Orphanages are usually limited to one meal a day, and many children don’t get to eat at all throughout the day. For the Rock’s, the driving force for a second adoption is knowing how much their new daughter will gain, as well as what they will gain as parents and as a family.
Running still continues to play a big role in the lives of the Rocks. Last year, Missy ran the Twins Cities Marathon to raise money for Tina’s orphanage. The Rock’s also helped organize a t-shirt sale and their church donated money to the orphanage as well.
“It’s our faith that is getting us through right now,” Andrew said. “We can’t focus on understanding, because we might not ever understand, but we have to focus on what we can do, which is raise awareness and money [for the orphanage]. We want to do whatever we can to help the next family not have to go through what we are going through.”
“Adoption is one of the greatest pictures of God’s love because he adopted each of us when we became Christians,” Missy added. “We have a tough story now, but Andrew and I know that we wouldn’t change the fact of adopting her. Tina is our daughter and we love her as much as the three that our here right now. It’s not always the easiest, but it’s a blessing and beautiful story when it all comes together.”