It was 2004. As a carpenter left his workshop in Ecuador, he spotted a trash bag by a city dump, and it started to move. Curious, the carpenter approached the bag and opened it up. What he found inside is so troubling, though, that it might make you lose faith in humanity. And yet, fortunately, the discovery set the wheels in motion for a story that will undoubtedly restore that faith ten times over.
First, however, comes the horrifying part. Because, as the carpenter carefully opened the bag, what he found inside was a tiny baby staring back at him. Needless to say, this shocking discovery would later impact many lives in an incredibly profound way.
And it goes without saying that had the carpenter not spotted the bag and been drawn in by its movement, the baby’s fate could have been very different. It would only have been a matter of time, after all, before the garbage was collected from the street.
Of course, the carpenter immediately alerted the proper authorities. Then, after the police showed up, it was discovered that the boy had Down syndrome, and he was taken to a nearby orphanage for special needs children.
The baby, it’s fair to say, hadn’t had the best start in life; it’s thought that the child had been abandoned by his mom because of his special needs. Now, however, the boy was named Edison – or Eddie – after the police officer who took him to the care home.
And Eddie’s luck changed again just a few short months later. That’s because North Carolina-based husband and wife Jim and Rachel Van Eerden were on a mission tour of Ecuador with their two eldest children.
It was on the final night of their trip that the family would visit the orphanage at which Eddie had been placed. “While we were on the tour, my eyes met this little baby,” recounted Rachel in a short documentary entitled A Mother’s Love.
And, for Rachel, “it was just love at first sight.” Indeed, the couple claimed that they felt a stronger force at play. Moreover, this became more pronounced when they found out that Eddie had been discovered near the same dump in Ecuador’s capital – Quito – that the family had volunteered at earlier on in their mission.
What’s more, Rachel had studied special education in college, works part-time as a caregiver and has a brother with Down syndrome. As she cradled the five-month-old Eddie, then, she knew he could – and should – be part of their family.
Other people, however, thought the family were crazy. After all, Rachel and Jim already had ten biological children. Surely their hands were full enough without taking on a child with special needs who would require them to cut through foreign red tape?
For the Van Eerdens, though, it was an easy decision. “He felt like our child,” Rachel told the News & Record. The couple did, however, face a monumental struggle to bring Eddie to where they felt he belonged.
It was a sizable financial burden for the family to bear, too, and it involved several trips to the Ecuadorian courts. After an emotional five-year battle, though, the Van Eerdens were permitted to bring Eddie home to Stokesdale, North Carolina, in 2009.
In A Mother’s Love, Jim said, “There are some who think people with disabilities are a negative force in the world that keep ‘normal’ people from experiencing life the way they could or they should.” This is something, naturally, with which he strongly disagrees.
“Of course there are sacrifices,” Rachel conceded. For instance, the family remodeled their house, knocking down walls and creating two dorm rooms – one for the girls, one for the boys – in order to accommodate their growing family.
“But what Eddie pours into each of us far outweighs any sacrifice,” said Rachel with tears of joy. In the video, Eddie – now aged ten – is depicted as a character of pure joy and unconditional love to all around him.
Jim gave one poignant example of Eddie’s loving nature. “We were at church and in a crowd of people he made a beeline to somebody just so that he could hug this person,” recounted Jim. “At the end of that hug, the person started weeping.”
The boy seemed to have spotted something in that person that no one else had seen. Jim said, “This person’s heart was broken. Eddie discerned it. And in that moment we realized that was one of the gifts we had been given.”
Indeed, Eddie seems to possess an infectious energy and seemingly boundless happiness that people respond to wherever he goes. It’s for this reason that the family have nicknamed him their very own “ambassador of love.”
Later, the couple were honored with an Angels in Adoption award for their adoption of Eddie. Plus, they plan to continue their mission trips with their children, and they have undertaken several such journeys since Eddie’s arrival. What’s more, they wouldn’t rule out adopting again.
And, in the future, the Van Eerdens would like Eddie to visit his native Ecuador. Still, in the meantime, they’re just thrilled to have this very special boy in their lives. “He’s truly blessed our lives,” Rachel told News & Record. “He’s taught us more of what our lives are about — reaching out and loving people.”