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the Annessa family: my brother’s impact

I am so thrilled to be able to introduce you all to a very special friend. Brooke’s story about her sweet brother is just beautiful. What a joy and a blessing siblings who have special needs are to their brothers and sisters. I read Brooke’s testimony and prayed that my own children would have the same kind of lasting impact that comes from treasuring one who has special needs.


I was seven years old when I met Brad, who was about to celebrate his 18th birthday. Our relationship started off rocky as I was completely unsure about this new person who seemed so different from me. He was big, like an adult, but he acted like a child and he looked “different”. I remember being told that those differences were because he had Down syndrome – which didn’t do much to keep me from being afraid of this new person.

Slowly, I remember being surprised by what we had in common. We liked the same shows on TV and knew the same songs. My dad says he knew that Brad and I were “officially friends” when I patted his bottom as he climbed the stairs in front of me one night. And for my dad, it was critical that Brad and I find some common ground; what I didn’t know at the time is that Brad would soon become my brother.

Between the bottom pat on the stairs and the day my dad adopted Brad were years of memories I could never forget. Watching Brad run around at the petting zoo trying to get away from a less than friendly pig, hours spent teaching him to write his ABC’s, weekly fire drills, trips to Chuck E Cheese, and Friday night pizza. As Brad and I grew up our relationship changed and grew into something I don’t think my family could have ever even hoped for. Though they knew I would love him, I don’t think they ever thought he would be the catalyst behind so many of the major life choices I would later make.

For me, Brad was a source of pride. I was so incredibly proud that he was my brother. This pride that was demonstrated in grade school by bringing him to school for show and tell (Yep! I totally did that!), matured into my desire to not only advocate for my brother, but for all individuals with special needs. As I grew up I learned that those differences I first noticed when I was seven years old were keeping my brother from having access to the same opportunities I had. I chose a career in social work so I could really use my life to work towards obtaining more and better services for individuals with disabilities and their families. I have had the opportunity to speak to crowds of hundreds, to work with legislators, and to educate the general public about the need for better supports.

My family was thrilled that my love for my brother had shaped my career path and gave me the opportunity to advocate on a local, national and even international level. However, they had not yet seen how far this love would reach; from here to the other side of the world!

You see, growing up with my brother not only taught me a lot about the disability community, it also taught me about the impact of adoption.

Today, my husband Michael and I are pursuing an international adopting from a small Christian orphanage in Taiwan. When we look at how we came to choose adoption in growing our family we are reminded of how God is always working in our lives. No one could have known back when I was seven the series of events that would lead me to this place; to choosing to cross the ocean to grow our family through adoption. But God has always known, and we are in awe of all the little ways He has worked our lives together to bring us to this place.

My brother’s impact on my life has shaped and molded nearly every aspect of it. Through my life, I am able to impact the lives of countless others, including our future child.

I suppose the summation of my story is that you can never know how God will use you, and you certainly can’t underestimate how God will use someone else.

Brooke blogs about her family and their adoption right here.  I know they would absolutely love it if you followed along as they journey toward their sweet little Adelyn.  They are currently hosting an awesome fundraiser with some amazing things up for grabs.  Please consider sowing seed into their adoption.  It would mean the world to this special young couple who have chosen to grow their family through the blessing of adoption.  Adelyn will be their first child.