In less than a month, we traveled over 15,000 miles, met incredible people from all over the world, and became a family of four. Our lives have forever changed. Words don't seem to do justice. It's an incredible story, one we are still processing. I have tried to think of a compact list of things we learned or top experiences to share in a blog post, but that's not an easy task. Our lives will never be the same. The things we saw, the culture we experienced, the people we met, and the precious life that was entrusted to us have altered our journey.
Spending time in a different culture has a way of changing you. It always broadens and challenges my perspective. I realize that my American, comfortable way of living is not the ultimate. There is so much I take for granted, and much of it just really isn't that important. I love America and I am incredibly grateful for our freedom, our history, and our culture. But learning first hand about the history and culture of China grew in me a deep love for Chinese people and traditions and culture of China.
When you walk into a single orphanage that houses over 600 children, only 10% of whom will ever know the love of a family, there's no way you can walk out the same. Cribs were lined up, side by side filling rooms, often more than one baby per crib. The facility was beautiful, not what we typically think of when we hear of a foreign orphanage. But the hopeless reality remains. We saw many sick and disabled children who will only know the inside of a welfare institute. At age 14, these children will be transferred from this orphanage to a social welfare institute where they will live the remainder of their years. These images and this statistic are a harsh reminder that adoption isn't about us getting another child or building our family. No, adoption is about giving Hope to the hopeless. Adoption is our responsibility, our call. This world we live in is desperately broken. Christian brother and sister, how are we caring for, loving, and praying for these orphans?
When you are handed a child who is essentially a stranger to you, who doesn't want anything to do with you, who has no idea what this moment means, your world turns upside down. As we were led to Kai's foster home, we learned that he has been with the same, dear foster mom for 20 months and that he is terrified of strangers. We were walking into something no one could have prepared us for. Sweet little Sun Jia Xu was sitting in his home, watching TV and eating a snack, unsure of why these strange people were there. As the staff told him that we were his mom and dad, he burst into tears. He didn't want to go. He was inconsolable. The precious woman that watched this sick baby grow and develop wasn't ready to let him go. I cannot blame either of them.
We learned that his parents who abandoned him at the baby hatch left precious jewelry with him. On his tiny wrists were two bracelets that symbolized his parents' wish for him. These bracelets were his parents' hope that whoever would find him would be able to give him a better life than they could. My judgmental heart at times was quick to wonder how anyone could abandon their baby. As I held these tiny family symbols, sympathy and love grew in my heart for his birth parents. My heart broke for his birth mother. My heart broke for his foster mother. I grieved for them. I grieved with them.
Why is God calling me to be this sweet baby's third mother in less than 3 years? We don't know how God is working in our sorrow and loss and in this precious baby, his mother and foster mother's lives. It doesn't make sense. On this side of Heaven, things are not as they are meant to be. But as I hold my grieving son, I grieve with him, I pray for my heart, for his heart, and for his precious birth mother and foster mother.
Our little one was carried away from the orphanage he has known as home for most of his life. He only had the clothes he was wearing and a few small items to call his own. He doesn't understand all that he's losing or all that he will gain.
A month ago, we had expectations of our travel, experience, and adoption process. Our expectations were nothing like our experience. We were blessed by encountering many families with hearts longing to redeem brokenness. We experienced an incredible culture. Our lives and hearts were changed as we interacted with others. Our understanding grew, our empathy increased as we realized how little we actually knew, and our love multiplied for these people-- many of whom we may never see again. Perhaps our greatest growth through this entire experience is our growth in our understanding of our need for and dependence on God. Pursuing the hopeless in this broken world requires more patience, more love and more compassion than I could ever muster. Brokenness, loss, darkness and sorrow fill our days at times, but we have a greater Hope than we could ever dare dream. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.