Wadmalaw Island (WCSC) – When George and Diana Thornley got married, they had no intention to have more children. But now they sit at a breakfast table set for 16 and they’ll add four more chairs this year.
“A big family is just a huge blessing to me,” George Thornley said. “I don’t come from a big family and I sure got one now.”
The children range from one-year-old, to 19, all from five different countries and five different states.
Bella was adopted from Ethiopia when she was 14 months old in 2009. She said she always looks forward to adding more built-in best friends to the family.
“Once my mom said that we wanted to adopt more children, our family grew,” Bella Thornley, now 12, said. “I was always just prepared for another person to be welcomed into our house.”
The Thornleys say they have felt pulled to adopt both younger and older children ever since.
“I saw the great need and George and I discussed it,” Diana Thornley said. “We prayed about it and we decided to pursue older-children adoption.”
Like Heaven, who they adopted from China when she was 13-years-old. She said the hardest part of her adoption was learning English and the culture, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“I didn’t have a family that cared about me and I went into an orphanage at 10,” Heaven Thornley, now 17, said. “Being with a large family I’m really grateful. All the siblings are there for you and loving you.”
This year, Diana and George will bring home four more children from Bulgaria, aged nine through 14, making a grand total of 18 children in the house.
The couple brought their daughter, Li-Li, to meet her new siblings earlier this month.
“The shock hits me more when they’re there in front of me,” Li-Li Thornley said. “Since I got to visit them, they’re more people to me that they were before.”
For now, the family waits. They make up beds and clear space, for the day they get to bring more Thornleys home.
“At the end of the trip they were asking the translator when we will be back to pick them up,” Diana Thornley said. “It was an amazing trip, we are very excited.”