The family car is an old Chevy van, with enough room to fit 15 people.
Before long, the Segalla family will need nearly every seat in the vehicle.
In the span of three years, the family of five grew to 10. By next spring, they’ll have four new members of the family.
Scott and Mary Segalla, of Spokane Valley, already had their hands full with just three kids of their own five years ago. Then they learned about a little boy in India – an orphaned 5-year-old with a blood disorder, a child so sick he wasn’t expected to live past age 12.
From his orphanage near Calcutta, little Joey tugged at their hearts. He ended up coming to Spokane, where he received the necessary medical treatments to prolong his life. He also became their fourth child.
A year after Joey came Maria – a toddler from India who was legally blind. Before long, more children came – Grace, James and Vivianna, a trio of siblings from the streets of Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa who lost their mother to AIDS.
Now, the Segalla family is preparing for a weeklong mission trip to Haiti, where they will volunteer at an orphanage and adopt four more children – 14-year-olds Julia and Olivia and two baby girls.
Soon, the Segallas will grow to 14: Mom, Dad and 12 kids between the ages of 1 and 16.
“It’s been a blessing to us,” Mary Segalla said on a recent morning as she helped the children get ready for school. “All our children have enriched our lives.”
Adopting a child overseas usually costs at least $15,000 to $20,000 – an expense the Segallas couldn’t afford. But since they learned about Joey five years ago, members of Valley Fourth Memorial Church and others in the community have helped raise money to bring the children home.
The Segallas are not the only ones. With help from church members and others, about a dozen other families at Valley Fourth have adopted children from other countries.
“There are kids out there who will never know the love and security of a family and we have the opportunity to provide that for them,” said Steve Allen, Valley Fourth’s youth pastor and the father of five children – two biological and three adopted from China.
It’s their vocation in life, explained Mary Segalla, who was adopted when she was an infant from the old St. Anne’s Children’s Home in Spokane.
While some people feel compelled to become missionaries in foreign lands, families like the Allens and Segallas believe their mission entails staying home and adopting children who would otherwise suffer or even die of malnutrition or neglect.
“We feel called to live that walk of faith right here,” said Mary Segalla.
For the Segallas and others, adopting so many children is a walk of faith.
With only Scott Segalla’s income as a children’s pastor to support the family, everyone has had to make sacrifices. It means no trips to Disneyland, no new clothes, no presents at Christmas. It also means buying groceries on sale and taking part in free or low-cost activities.
But it’s a small price to pay to be together, they say, especially given the fact that some of their family members grew up begging for food and suffering from hardships, including watching their birth parents die.
“It’s taught us not to be super-selfish,” said Josh Segalla, 16, the oldest of the three biological children, who include 15-year-old Maggie and 12-year-old Jacob. “We can’t afford to do a lot of things, but it’s not a big deal.”
While some people worry about saving money for retirement, college tuition or a new car, the Segallas are focused on the here and now. Their day-to-day concern is to provide for their family and to use their savings to bring the rest of their children home.
Adopting the four girls from Haiti will cost more than $40,000, Scott Segalla estimates. But just like their previous adoptions, people in the community have stepped up to help, he said.
Thanks to the community contributions, the family never had to go into debt to adopt the children, said Mary Segalla. At the same time, they also didn’t let adoption costs deter them.
“If we would’ve waited until we felt like we could financially do it, we would never have had these children,” she said.
They also didn’t listen to the people who warned them against adopting Joey because of his lifelong blood disorder. Bringing Joey into their lives opened the door even wider for everyone else, Mary Segalla said.
And now, after receiving proper medical care and regular blood transfusions, Joey has grown into a healthy and active 10-year-old, who is expected to live well into adulthood.
“We trust God for all of our needs, and he hasn’t failed us yet,” said Scott Segalla, 39. “In our society, we think our needs are much greater than they really are.”
The family says they have everything they could ask for: food, clothing, shelter and each other.
They live in a modest two-story home, where the kids share bedrooms and play on the large trampoline in the front lawn. Their kitchen – which now has two dishwashers, thanks to a friend who had a spare – has become the cooking site for international cuisine including doro wat, a chicken dish from Ethiopia, and spicy delicacies from India.
Every morning at 6:30, they gather in the living room to read the Bible and books about missionaries. As they pray together, the Segallas are surrounded by family portraits, a painting of a boy from Ethiopia and an embroidered wall-hanging with the image of Jesus sitting with a child.
“These adoptions have changed all of us – it has changed the way we spend money and changed the way we view our lives and purpose,” said Mary Segalla. “It’s what God is asking us to do – to do something that’s much too big for us on our own…
“It’s an exciting way to live – there is no safety net. But by stepping out and doing what God calls you to do that’s bigger than yourself, you see him work in ways that you wouldn’t see otherwise.”