At first, the Sterlings didn't believe the email that reached their Missouri home: Five Peruvian siblings were orphans and needed a mommy and daddy.
It might’ve been scam. But the five hopeful children whose pictures were in the email weren’t asking for money, just making a plaintive plea that worked its way into the hearts of Scott and Lauren Sterling. When the couple checked into it, they learned the children's parents indeed had both died of tuberculosis.
And although they were already busy with two kids -- Scott's 17-year-old daughter from a previous marriage and their 15-month-old girl -- one night. Lauren couldn’t fight the nagging feelings anymore.
“Somebody’s got to do it, and why can’t it be us?” Lauren, 30, said to her husband.
It was pretty much decided then that they were going to adopt the kids, who had struggled to stay together after their parents died some seven years ago. Now they desperately needed some grownup help.The kids had learned of the adoption ministry at the Sterlings' church from a congregant who had met them in South America.
Just last month, the Peruvian branch of the Sterling family arrived in the United States - and their new home in Blue Springs, Mo. The kids are now at four different schools because of their ages, and transitioning to school in America has been a struggle. But their English is improving by the day, Lauren Sterling said, and the boys are looking forward to playing soccer for their schools next fall.
Even though the children only arrived recently, they've been part of the family for more than a year. The Sterlings first laid eyes on the five kids, whose ages range from 9 to 17, over Skype. They learned everything they could about them -- their favorite colors, foods and hobbies and each child’s personality. And they began thinking of them as part of their family. That bond was crucial as the family began navigating the long, expensive and at times emotionally draining process of international adoption.
“We got told 'no' a lot of times, and by then we were already crazy about these kids, so it was a rough part of the story," Lauren Sterling recalled. "And you had to keep trusting that we were fighting for something that you knew was yours to fight for.”
Now, less than a year later, the three brothers and two sisters from Peru have their new mommy and daddy.
“The sound of life is different – it’s a lot more loud and crazy, and half of it’s in Spanish, half of it’s in English, and half of it’s in Spanglish. But it’s really good. There’s a strange peace amidst the chaos,” Lauren says with a laugh.
Scott Sterling, 43, runs a lawn care business, while Lauren, who was a recruiter, now has her hands full at home. She admits money is tight, but it doesn't phase her.
“So we eat spaghetti a lot if we have to," she said. "So I don’t buy expensive jeans. Those are dumb reasons to not take these kids in.”
While the Sterlings were in Peru picking up the newest additions to their family, neighbors and friends, many from Gateway Church, where Scott is an associate pastor, went to work at their home by sprucing up the bedroom 12-year-old Betsi and 9-year-old Siblia would be coming home to.
“People painted beds, people framed pictures -- I mean, people made the girls’ room look like they had lived here for years. It was awesome to come home to that,” Lauren told FoxNews.com.
The community rallied around the family to make their homecoming special. The pantry was stuffed with groceries, the freezer was filled with food and the garage was packed with plastic bags and containers for school lunches.
Another surprise the family came home to was snow. It was the first time their new children had ever seen snow, much less play in it. Lauren says they loved it and are loving their new lives, even going to school.
“These kids are fabulous. They have great attitudes,” says the proud mother of seven. “Nobody fought me on going back to school the second day. Everybody was up and ready, showers going on their own. So their attitudes are making the transition a bazillion times easier.”
Now the family is getting ready to move into a larger home nearby so they can all more comfortably fit in. But the kids did have a couple of concerns about the move.
“Their biggest thing is, do we get to take the carpet? It’s amazing the things they’ve been drawn to that are different for them – it’s carpet and TVs. Do we get to take the TVs and the carpet?” Lauren says with a laugh.
While it’s been a whirlwind of a year, filled with too many changes to list, Lauren says this experience has taught them so much and allowed others to see what can be possible when you believe.
“It’s about people seeing that it’s possible -- that, one, adopting older kids isn’t as scary as everybody thinks it is, and two, that doing what God asks even when it seems crazy is worth it.”