Something has happened in my heart recently. I arrived home last weekend and probably for the first time did I really see change. Change in one of our adopted children. Change that has always been there, but that I just did not truly see. Change that takes my breath away.
We adopted Haven in 2008. You can read about it here. Haven was adopted before, but for whatever reasons they had, the family chose not to complete the adoption. She had a family for five days, and was then returned to the orphanage. When we found Haven through our agency, she had just a few days left to find a family. She had waited for three years, and China had decided that her time was up. Haven had been labeled “autistic,” “non-verbal,” “severely delayed,” and “mentally ill.” She came with a long list of special needs.
I so clearly remember the morning of our gotcha day. Anthony and I were sitting and having breakfast. We were due to leave for the civil affairs office in just an hour. We turned to each other and said, “So, I guess our lives are about to be changed forever today.” We had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The child we had been told about was not going to be one of those easy-peasy adoption stories that you read about on blogs and in adoption magazines. The only thing we were sure of was that we were doing what the Lord told us to do–and we would leave every care, ever fear, every doubt, and every fleshly desire that wanted to run out of that building and go back to our little comfortable life to the Almighty Father.
An hour later we met our sweet daughter, our “Haven” as the Lord had named her. The one who would need a “safe and sheltered place.” We walked into that civil affairs office in Nanjing, China, and my heart almost stopped. She was already there, waiting for us, clinging to the nanny who brought her. My first thought was, “She’s severely delayed, her brain is not working properly.” Haven stood there, her eyes half shut, staring off at nothing, her mouth hanging open, she looked like she was just not even there…only in body.
My heart broke. I vacillated between wanting to leg it out of that building and run as far away as I could, and just wanting to go and hold her in my arms, reassuring her that everything was going to be okay. I was t-e-r-r-i-f-i-e-d. We made our way toward the little girl dressed in pink. She was so afraid of white people–they represented abandonment to this sweet angel. We took things very slowly, gaining her trust at her pace.
Haven was nothing anyone said she was! Delayed? Absolutely. Non-verbal? Yes. But we knew that she was not autistic. We knew that the diagnosis was just a bunch of hogwash. We knew that hidden behind the frightened little girl who was to become our daughter was a treasure just waiting to be found. Just a month before her eighth birthday, the angel we were given that day was more like a one year old. She was unable to take her clothes off, brush her teeth, eat with a spoon, or use the potty. We were adopting a virtual toddler.
And so it began. The road to teaching Haven new things. The road toward healing. The little angel was locked away in a room for the last two years of her life, isolated from everyone because orphanage staff were afraid to “catch” what she had if they touched her (autism, becoming non-verbal). Life for Haven was about to change.
It struck me this week–the change in Haven’s life has been nothing short of miraculous. I have looked at my sweet little girl after being away from home for a while, and something has struck me over and over again. Haven has hope! It’s not that I did not know it before, because I did, but this time it’s different.
I see in Haven what every single child waiting deserves. Hope!
The opportunity to learn and grow. The right to belong to a family. The right to have a mom and a dad, no matter what is ‘wrong’ with them. The right to have a God-given name–not just a random orphanage name. Whether they’re babies, toddlers, big kids, children with needs, or teenagers…they all have the right to a family.
I see in Haven the potential that is in every single child, and I’m seeing it with fresh eyes after spending weeks and weeks with children on the other side of the world who are treasures just waiting to be found. Riches stored in secret places.
Nothing. Zero. Zip.
Haven would absolutely have ended up in a mental institution for disabled adults. What kind of hope is that? What kind of life is that for any human being?
Adoption is their ONLY HOPE! And in most countries, foreign adoption is their only hope. There is a less than zero percent chance that either Haven, Hannah-Claire, Hailee or Harper would be adopted by a local family. They have no value in their own country. They have absolutely no worth in their society. They are are defined by their ‘special needs’ in their countries. Their only hope is for a foreign family to come and rescue them. Period.
I recently spent a few weeks at my daughters orphanage in the Ukraine. There was a group of volunteers there at the same time–a Danish high school group. They were working hard–cleaning the yard, loving on babies, playing with the older children. It warmed my heart to watch them serving in that place. I inquired about whether any “church groups” had ever been there. “No” was my answer. Gosh, that saddened me. I wish that there were more of a way to mobilize God’s body to help the 147 million orphans in the world.
I read Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love. I bet many of you have read it too. With tears streaming down my face I agreed with every word he wrote. I too believe that the church is in jeopardy of becoming lukewarm. I too believe that faith without works is useless. I too believe that we have become so wrapped up in other things that really do not matter. I too believe that we have forgotten about the things that really do matter to the Father.
The orphan crisis can no longer be everyone else’s problem. We’re the Christians, we’re the ones who are commanded to care for them. There has to be a way for the church to become more active in finding solutions to the ever-growing problem.
Anthony and I still do not have it all figured out, friends. We are so far from getting it right. And every day I feel like we still have such a far way to go with understanding the heart of the Father in all this. Like most of you, we’re longing to see more children come home, more families commit to adoption, and more churches get involved in orphan ministries. The need is truly overwhelming.
I long, with everything that is within me, to see more Christians go. I long for more people to experience the blessing of adoption. Some days I want to shout it from the rooftops. Other days I just weep. I know there are so many ministries doing amazing things to create an awareness of the orphan crisis, but I so wish the progress didn’t have to be so slow.
The arguments we hear, well, they just get a little tiring after a while.
I’d be rich for every time I heard, “Children should grow up in their own culture.” What? Are you kidding me? A child is better off in a mental asylum than in a family? Give me a break.
“We’re too old.” Really? My hubby is 52 and is adopting a two year old. Rather an old dad than no dad.
“We’re just not called to adopt.” Just go ask God and see what He says. You may be surprised.
“It costs too much.” Yep, we didn’t exactly have over $30,000 lying around either–but God did!
“Life is so busy with our two children.” Yeah, I also thought life was busy when I had two. Now I have almost seven, and the busyness has not changed, but the blessedness certainly has.
“I just could never do that.” Give it a try, I say. Anything we do without the Lord is impossible anyway. I guess that’s why He tells us in His Word that ALL things are possible with Him.
Our hearts are longing to know what it fully means to “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him” (Matt 16:24). We have such a long way to go. I don’t think we have even touched the tip of the iceberg in understanding what it truly means to deny ourselves. It’s hard to deny the flesh. It’s hard to give up things that we hold on to. It’s hard to give up dreams that we thought are so important.
I am so thankful that God sent us to adopt Haven, a child who, in every way, was written off as being “unadoptable.” Through this treasure I am beginning to understand what the word HOPE means to every child. Through my daughter I am learning that every child has potential. Every child needs a family. Every child has a right to a family.
I love a quote that Chan used in his book.
“Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that really don’t matter.”
For me, I pray that I never get wrapped up in the things in this life that truly do not matter.