S: Adoption Adventures
FC: John Jie | John Jie
2: John, This book is part of the story of how you became our son. This side of heaven we will never know the fuller story. The content is taken from a blog that I wrote so that other people could follow our story and join us in prayer. In the absence of hearing "your side of the story", we long for you to know your story from our perspective. The red thread throughout the pages represents both the Chinese proverb (see opposite page) as well as a deep conviction, based on Biblical truth, that God sovereignly placed you in our home to be our son. It is our hope that you will grow to embrace the abundance of love that is yours. We know that well over 60 people prayed for you BEFORE we ever met you. I don't know how old you will be when you read this book. I trust it will bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart. Love, Mom & Dad
3: "There is an ancient Chinese belief that an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all those who are destined to be together.''"" """"
4: It is hard to know where to start...with Ron and I or with John... Ron and I were married in April of 2007. We were "older singles" who met on E-harmony with him living in Colorado Springs, CO and me living in Orlando, FL. Mostly we owe the "success" of our romance to our wonderful, loving God ...however, Sprint (our shared cell phone plan) and Delta's red-eye flights from Denver to Orlando also contributed. Since neither of us had been married before, we had no children. Being older we talked about adopting children before we ever married. I had always wanted to adopt from China and Ron enthusiastically embraced that vision volunteering his cousin Cindy to help, since she had adopted two girls from China. Applying to adopt from China required us to be married at least two years. So, we started our adoption journey with a small domestic agency out of Denver. We were impressed by this agency's care for birth Moms and we were quickly caught up with their spiritual approach. I still remember their exhortation that they expected Ron and I to pray for the birth Mom of the child we adopted every day for the rest of our lives. The impact of this expectation had a profound effect on us and we began praying every night for our child's birth Mom and for the child we longed to adopt.
5: We waited two years to be chosen by a birth Mom, praying...hoping...waiting. After our 2nd wedding anniversary we felt it was time to pursue China. Finding out that due to our ages we would only be able to apply for a "Waiting Child" (meaning medical special needs) caused us to do some concerted research. In December 2009, we were presented (through e-mail) with a 13 month old boy named Shi Jie Dang. He was born premature with a cleft lip and cleft palate. He was abandoned by his parents when he was 30 days old. Shi Jie (we named him John which I will also post about...) was born on Nov. 22, 2008. Due to our pursuit of a child through a domestic adoption process, we began to pray for the birth Mom of our child in February 2008 - the very month that John's Mom got pregnant. Someday we can literally tell him that we prayed for him every day of his life - including his gestation period.
6: Knowing John’s story is an educated guess – I will admit that. However, there are cultural clues that help us piece together what most likely happened. There are a number of significant differences between the US and China that come into play. 1) China has a “one child policy”. In order to control the population, China enacted a government sanction on the size of a family. Since 1979 every married couple was allowed to have only one child. There are very hefty financial penalties placed on the family with more than one child and limits are set on education, etc. if the policy is not adhered to. Recently, there has been a relaxation of the one child policy and adoptions are even starting to occur within China. 2) In addition, China has no government “social security plan”. Instead for generations, the grown children take on the responsibility for their parents and grandparents. Therefore the pressure to have a child succeed is very great. Literally the family livelihood depends on how successful your one child will be. In the past, the culture assumed that a male heir would be able to provide for the needs of the family better than a female child. Therefore, a plethora of baby girls were “abandoned” and then placed in orphanages. 3) In China, it is illegal for a parent to place their child into an orphanage. The child must be “abandoned”. 4) Most Chinese do not have medical insurance policies. | Why An Orphanage?
7: Therefore birthing a medical special needs child creates a crisis for a typical Chinese couple. Questions must be considered that are not usually part of our western mindset. Most children in China€, boys or girls, â€who have a cleft lip and palate, are abandoned when they are 1 day old. This does not mean that the parents did not love that child, but that they felt that, considering the above facts, they could not trust their future to a child with physical deformities that they did not have a means to correct. However, Johnâ€™'s parents must have struggled with this decision since he was not abandoned for 30 days. He was more than likely their first born child; a beautiful boy yet his physical problems would have caused a challenge. During those 30 days, perhaps they looked into having his cleft fixed; perhaps they even prayed for healing. Very likely, his mother tried to feed him with her breast and he was losing weight as a child with a cleft palate cannot suck. Living with these realities, it would have been logical to think that having John raised in an orphanage that has cared for many other babies with the same medical problem would actually save his very life. So they abandoned their 30 day old son. Heartbreaking - I canâ€™'t even think about it without tearing up. What sorrow and grief they must have felt walking away from their first-born son. And who knows how long John cried out for them before he was found by strangers and placed in the orphanage. Being abandoned by the very people who were meant to meet your needs is a crushing blow to the heart - no matter what circumstances or cultural norms surround it. Heartbreaking...
9: Dang Shi Jie; Born Nov. 22, 2008
10: Lehoe City Orphanage, Henan, China
11: "A Child is One of Life's Most Precious Gifts"
12: Dang Shi Jei at 22 months old. When Ron first saw this photo, he said, "hey, I wonder if he is left-handed?" And sure enough, John is left handed just like his dad.
13: Sept. 18th, 2010 - a letter written to John "John, we received your darling picture today and a brief update on your growth. I cannot explain what it does to my heart to see new pictures of you. I keep asking myself how can I love a boy so much whom I have never actually been with in person? John, I was not given the privilege of having you formed daily in my womb. Your birth mother gave you physical life. However, I can testify that over these 10 months that we have had you in our lives, our love for you has grown. We long to feel your breathing on our neck, we long to see your eyes glisten with happiness, we long to hear your unique voice make sounds. I am convinced that we could not love you more even if you did have our DNA. So, where does this love come from, this love we have for you? It comes from God. 1 John 4:7 says: "â€œBeloved let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows Godâ€." John, we donâ€™'t know what God has planned for you. We know that everyone's€™ life is filled with both joy and sorrow; with dreams gloriously fulfilled and also with devastating disappointments. One thing that we pray you will keep in the core of your being is that YOU ARE LOVED! You don'â€™t have to be a â€œgood boy€ or successful to earn our love. You already have it and we still have not even met. The love that comes from God does not fail even when we fail you, God'â€™s love never fails."
18: 4/13/10 Update from Orphanage Dang Shi Jei Weight: 13.5 lbs. Height: 24 in. He has two teeth!
19: Shi Jei was age 1 year & 4 months when these pictures were taken and the medical assessment was conducted. I have copied it below: Medical/Development: His current health is good He can crawl, stand holding onto handrail. He can not express himself verbally. Personality: They call him Shi Jie. He is active and outgoing. General: His sleeping and diet schedule: 7:00 am breakfast 11:30 am lunch 5:00 pm dinner 8:00 pm go to sleep He eats congee, noodle, milk, apple juice. He likes biscuits and bread. He is cared in LOCR (This is a special room that allows the children to get more attentive care - we read on a web site that only children under age 1 are in the Lilly Orphan Care Room - and John would have been 1 1/2 when this update was written...therefore we are not sure whether he is in this room or not. Our U.S. adoption agency was not able to find this out for us). He received package from the family (This means that he is getting the monthly packages that Ron and I send to him at the orphanage).
23: Sobering Dr.â€™s visit Ron and I had an appointment with a Pediatrician today to ask a few questions about John before our Nov. trip to China and also to get a prescription for skin rashes that children can have from living in an orphanage. After talking with us, the doctor e-mailed us his notes from our appointment. He writes: â€œ"My main concern is his (Johnâ€™'s) poor weight, and we discussed briefly effects of malnutrition and the context of institutionalization with behavior and learning issues€." This is not the first time that we have heard that malnutrition can affect brain functioning. But for some reason today, it sunk in for both of us. We are sad for John. We wish he had been here with us these last 22 months of his life. We wish that his â€œfailure to thrive€ problems would be over when his adoption is completed. As I turned to my journal, I was comforted by a previous devotional time spent on Ps. 27: 14, "â€œWait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!â€" In the book, â€œA Shelter in the Storm€, Paul Tripp writes about these verses with a perspective that I find helpful. â€œ"Self-sovereignty is the dream of every sinner. Itâ€™'s hard for us to trust ourselves to the wisdom, power, and control of another. We want to write our own dreams, we want to be the central character of the story. But the spiritual reality of the universe is that we are not authors of our own story. Our story is a part of a larger story that is written by the Lord. In this story, we are never on center stage. That is a position occupied by the Lord alone.â€" We trust that whatever story John'â€™s life is intended to fulfill, that God is using the orphanage and even his â€œpoor weight€ to be a part of it.
24: Both Hand Project James 1: 27 Our Both Hands project took place on a beautiful, fall Oct. day in CO. The weather was just perfect for working outside with highs in the 60's. At the last minute God blessed us with all the workers we needed â€17 adults and 8 children.
25: Our project manager split everyone up into 3-4 work teams. The teams were efficient in completing their work. By the afternoon, a number of the workers had to go home but we still had enough of us to finish the last project, which was to paint the newly repaired fence. We were able to get all the work done before the weather changed and brought a few sprinkles of a rain shower. | Suzi, our widow, and her boys were incredibly appreciative of all we did. The boys kept saying of the new play area that we built, "â€œI donâ€™'t like it, I LOVE it!â€" At the end of the day, Suzi hugged all of us and said a wonderful prayer of blessing for us. We are working on getting the video edited and hope to have it by the end of the week. My sister and bother-in-law are using a computer program that is new to them to put it together. One thing we experienced is that God provided in unexpected ways, through people that we didnâ€™'t know. And through people we do know. We were grateful for last minute food donations to the project and as stated above people who agreed to come at the last minute. Also our church gave a donation to help pay for the building materials- this was a huge relief!
26: We also want to thank everyone who has so generously donated to our Both Hands Project. The money raised has significantly contributed toward fulfilling the rest of Johnâ€™'s adoption costs and making his homecoming a reality. So far the project has almost generated the amount needed for our $5,000 matching gift. Our goal is to raise another $3,000.
27: Why We Named Our Son John Since Ron and I have been married, we have called our â€œ"hoped-forâ€" children by our middle names - our "hoped- for" daughter, we called Jane and our "hoped-for" son, we called John. We promised each other when we really were adopting our children that we would decide then whether or not to keep these names. During Advent (preparing for Christmas) in 2008, we had been waiting for a match for a domestic adoption for almost a year. | I had recently been reminded by a friend that being older is a huge disadvantage in domestic adoption â€“ birth Momâ€™s are usually very young and they choose who they want to parent their child. At our age, we seemed like their grandparents. Now, for me, age is a sensitive subject since it is not something that can be changed. I was sad and losing hope as I sat down for a time of prayer and reflection. Due to the season, I was drawn to read the birth narrative in the gospel of Luke.
28: Being re-introduced to the parents of John the Baptist, the descriptors that Luke used jumped off the page, "â€œBut they (Zechariah and Elizabeth) had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years" (Luke 1: 7 ). What occurred to me is that several times in scripture, including here, that God gave very special children to older parents. Later in the passage, Zechariah names his special son, John. Fast-forwarding to December 2009, Ron and I received a referral of Shi Jie Dang (now our John). We looked through the information we received about him, sought medical advice, and prayed. Before long, God confirmed in our hearts that this little boy - just over a year old â€was to be our son. Now that we had a real son, we needed to decide on his name. We talked briefly about it and decided to think and pray separately. A few days later, I asked Ron what his thoughts were regarding a name for our son. He had just turned on the TV and seen a scene from the Jesus Film, based on the gospel of Luke. The scene was when Zechariah named his son, John. After sharing our thoughts with our parents, we were reminded that on the Menefee side, our sonâ€™'s great grandfather Menefee was named John. And on the Besonen side, both of our son'â€™s great grandfatherâ€™s were named John.
29: In addition, the name John means â€œ"beloved€". And Jie, Johnâ€™'s Chinese middle name, which we are keeping, means â€œ"outstanding person€". It is our deepest hope that John will know he is loved and that through that foundation, he will also be an â€œoutstanding person€.
32: Why Don't Babies Cry in the Orphanage? Helping an adopted child develop his or her identity takes intentionality. In piecing together Johnâ€™'s history, we have been reading reputable sources on the typical experiences of growing up in an orphanage. This excerpt from an article is sobering yet helpful. â€œ"In general, what might a childâ€™'s life have been like in an orphanage? Even the best institutions have the following: uneducated or minimally trained caregivers rotating caregivers on shifts abrupt transfers to different orphanages or sections of an orphanage loss of peers as those children are adopted or transferred limited language interaction with adults regimented daily activities: eating, sleeping, toileting at the same time each day (not based on the childâ€™'s individual needs) lack of spontaneous activities absence of personal possessions limited activities to develop motor skills€ - no use of markers, pencils, equipment exposure to toxins, including lead€" (How Can You Combat the Effects of an Orphanage by Mary Beth Williams, PhD, LCSW, CTS) One of our goals as Johnâ€™'s parents will be to establish a permanency in his heart and mind that as parents we are here to meet his needs â€- that he can depend on us to come to him as he learns to express his needs. In most orphanages, the children do not cry â€even when they have a need that only the hired caregiver can meet. They donâ€™'t cry because they have learned that when they did cry, no one came. Thus they are programmed to not trust. We may be the only parents on the block that will be happy when our child cries!
35: new photos of John Ron received an unexpected call this morning from a representative of our Adoption Agency in Denver. She was recently at Johnâ€™'s orphanage and took the enclosed photos. The first one is John on the lap of a Dr. who came to assess who would be a part of the Chinese program to fix cleft lips. She said that the Dr. commented on John inspecting her stethoscope and said that the Dr. thought he was a bright child. The second picture he is in the same outfit (gray shirt with yellow and blue stripe) at the front and looking up at the person taking the picture. I think he is really going to miss all those kids being in his life. Ron and I are talking about how we can arrange for him to be with kids his own age here in CO. The women who visited the orphanage described our son John by saying: " He is a very active, happy and cute boy and every one at LOCC loves him." She said they sometimes call him "little monkey." (You will see the initials above â€œLOCCâ€ â€“ this stands for the Lilly Orphan Care Center â€“ the room that is sponsored by our Denver agency and set up in China to model how to care for kids in the orphanage. We are so, so grateful that John is there. It is the best place for him for sure).
36: God as John's perfect parent...lessons I am learning from a surprise surgery On Oct. 20th, we received an e-mail from our adoption agency in Denver stating that our son had been chosen as an excellent candidate for a program called â€œ"Tomorrow Program€" run by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in China. The program sends surgeons to orphanages to do selective cleft lip repair. There were 6 children chosen from Johnâ€™'s orphanage. | Initially, Ron and I were not in favor of having Johnâ€™'s cleft lip surgery completed in China. Ron was fearful that the outcome would not be suitable long-term. I just didnâ€™'t want my son to have an operation without me to be there to take care of him afterwards. I pictured John alone in the hospital without anyone advocating for his needs and it made me cry. However, after several clarifying conversations with our adoption agency we realized that Ron and I did not really have a vote in John getting the surgery. Until we can travel to China, Dang Shi Jie (John) officially belongs to the state and they have legal right over his medical care.
37: This was so hard because it will likely be only 4 weeks before we get to travel to bring John home. We have done everything needed to legally be his parents â but we do not officially have that title. Our adoption agency assured us that one of the nanny's from the orphanage would stay with the children as they are in the hospital for a week. It was humbling to realize that although I feel like John'â€™s mother, he does not know me yet. And that it would actually be more comforting for him to have a nanny he knows at his side in the hospital rather than me. I trust this preference will change quickly once he comes home with us. | So what is God teaching me through this? He is teaching me that John is His. Even though I will soon play the part as his mother, John has a heavenly parent that is watching out after him. Realizing this will help squelch my desire to control, to protect John from pain, to decide what does and doesnâ€™'t happen to him. "Thank you, Lord that you know what is best for John. Teach me to trust you to be His perfect parent."
40: update on John's surgery... Dear Friends and Family, We found out from our adoption agency on Friday that the children having the cleft lip surgery at our orphanage are being taken over to the hospital in groups of two. This means that only two kids each week will be in the hospital, so that there are only two nannies at a time away from the orphanage. John wasn't in the first group taken to the hospital. But our adoption agency has asked that John be placed in the next two-person group so that he can fully recover before we pick him up. He may be having surgery as early as tonight (Sunday evening) or tomorrow night our time. Please pray that John's surgery goes well and that God would give wisdom and skill to the medical personnel doing the surgery and treating John.
41: Please also pray that John recovers quickly enough so that his surgery doesn't delay our being able to go pick him up. We have prayed for months that we could travel with our good friends, Keith and Rhonda Johnson (who are adopting a baby boy from the same province), and we are so hoping that John's surgery won't prevent this from happening. Blessings, Ron and Laurie P.S.: Thank you for your prayers for John this past week, as we all thought his surgery happened a week ago last Thursday-Friday. We and our adoption agency were misinformed by the people from his orphanage as to what was happening. We did not find this out until late Friday afternoon â€as you can imagine, we can'â€™t wait to be in charge of his medical care.
43: We heard from our Adoption agency that John did have surgery to repair his cleft lip in China on Nov. 8th. We received these pictures that reveal he is out of the hospital and still healing. He lip is red and scabbed - poor thing. But it looks like he made it through just fine. REJOICE!!! In case you can't see the photo well enough, John has at least 4 shirts on that I can count - he looks like a football player but is still on the small side for his age. And yes, someone shaved his hair again...we would like to say, "please, leave his hair alone!"
44: We think this is the nanny that stayed with John in the hospital when his cleft lip was repaired. We do not know her name, but God knows her. We have asked Him to bless her for taking care of our John when we were not able to do so.
45: The miracle of John! The more I hear about Chinese adoption, the more of a miracle John becomes. Due to Chinaâ€™'s increase in economic power, like in the US, pregnant women who can afford it are having ultra-sounds on their developing child. If the scan shows birth defects, like cleft lip and palate, it is becoming more common to abort the child. On our adoption agency's€™ conference call, we heard the founder (a native Chinese) speak of his first adoption trip. When he visited orphanages 16 years ago in the Henan province (the one John is from), he found out that 1 out of 3 of the orphans were dying before they were 6 months old! No wonder the nannies name children with strong, affirmative names. Johnâ€™'s Chinese middle name â€œJeiâ€ means "â€œOutstanding Personâ€" and our friendâ€™'s son Nathan'â€™s Chinese name means "â€œBest Boyâ€". These children have survived against so many odds. A Scripture that a friend sent us yesterday comes to mind: â€œ"The Lord Himself is my inheritance, my prize. He is my food and drink, my highest joy! He guards all that is mineâ€" (Ps.16:5 TLB). "Thank you, Lord for giving us John & for guarding His life with Your hands."
46: How old is John? What seems like a very simple question, is actually quite complicated. Truthfully, John is four ages at the same time. Biologically, his 2nd birthday is Nov. 22nd. So, the easiest answer is that he is two. However, since he weighs only 16 lbs., for clothing, medicine dosages, car seat, etc. he is a 6-9 month old infant. Hum ... developmentally, we were told he recently started taking 3-4 steps independently before he needs the hand of a nanny to help him across the room. He doesnâ€™'t talk, although it is our understanding that he does make sounds to communicate his desires. Looking at U.S. age appropriate expectations, John is probably more like a one year old in his development. Now for the tricky part, the reputable International adoption book that we have been reading, suggests that for the parents, a very important â€œage€ to consider is how long the child has been a part of your family. They call this â€œfamily age€. The importance of â€œfamily age€ is that it determines what kind of parenting approach the child needs. According to research, children do not skip stages. Since John has not been with our family at all, his age for us is a new born. We have no fear that John can't€™ â€œcatch up€ developmentally and physically. We have read and heard enough testimonies to know that our attention to his needs and getting him the right help will make a world of difference. And if for some reason, he is not able to â€œcatch up€, we will love him for who he is and for where he is developmentally. So, now you will know why we pause when we are asked€, how old is John?â€
48: International adoption from the child's perspective... We have been reading a very helpful book on International adoption. The author writes: “Join me for a moment of imaginary play. I invite you to picture yourself plucked from your familiar life and dropped in the middle of nowhere. You look around you. You are in a remote place in the middle of what seems like nowhere in particular. You have no maps or signs to tell you where you are. Suddenly you are surrounded by strangers, all of whom are overjoyed to see you. These people smile, laugh, and talk loud and fast, and they act as if you can understand them. They touch your hair, your face, and your shoulders, and they hug you repeatedly. You notice they have a peculiar odor. They dress differently from anyone you have ever met. Their language is unintelligible and sounds like gibberish. You have no clue how or why you are here. You have no idea if you will find your way back to your former life.” The author goes on to say that “many children experience the adoption process like a kidnapping." Worse yet, they have no way of knowing if this traumatic experience will happen again. In light of this reality, children have “reactive coping behaviors” that mask how they really feel. These behaviors take up a lot of emotional energy.like treading water – it is hard work but it doesn't get you anywhere fast. The underlying belief with these behaviors is that the child must survive alone.
49: The key for parents is to empathize with the child – even a very young child. To speak out their grief and to assure them that you are going to take care of them until they are grown up. Knowing that John will miss his nannies and all the other children that sleep in one large room makes us sad. His fellow orphans are like brothers and sisters to him – the people he interacts with everyday. However, we know those pseudo brothers and sisters will not remain in the orphanage either. And John needs medical care that we can afford to get for him. In time, we trust he will come to embrace fully his new life – it will take time and lots of lovin’ and we are ready for that! A dear friend wrote out this prayer for John and us even before I posted this blog - a true sign that the Lord is leading people to pray what is on our heart. ”Lord, I pray for Ron and Laurie as they go to China to pick up the little boy that you have chosen for them. I pray for John's transition of going from familiar surroundings, familiar people, friends, language and culture to a new mom and dad and a new culture. Would you take his tender heart and give him understanding where there is confusion and peace where there is fear. Give Ron and Laurie a trust in You that runs deep as they learn to parent and love John with the love that you provide. Quiet John's heart with the love of his new parents and the love of Jesus! Amen.”
50: E-mail sent November 15, 2010 Dear Family and Friends, We just received news from our adoption agency that our trip to China is set in stone! We are now leaving Nov. 22nd (John’s 2nd Birthday)! However, we will not get to have him until Nov. 29th with the adoption being finalized on Nov. 30th. We will be leaving Hong Kong on Dec. 11th to fly home. As soon as the plane lands on U.S. soil, John becomes a U.S. citizen. YEA!!! We are out of our minds with excitement and the reality of what needs to be accomplished before we leave. WOW! Your prayers as we frantically get “everything” in order are appreciated. We have a “family blog” that we will use for communication while we are in China. We will post pictures and prayer requests, etc. If you would like to follow our journey, please see http://besonen.blogspot.com/ In addition – due to my being with a mission agency, my visa is for only 30 days. Therefore, I couldn’t get it until we had the exact travel dates in order. Our contact in Chicago is going to apply for my visa (she already has Ron’s) tomorrow (Tues.) and hopefully it will be sent here by Friday. It would be great if this really happened. The rush could not be helped – but is a bit anxiety producing.
51: Oh, also many of you know that our dear friends and co-workers with Campus Crusade, Keith and Rhonda Johnson, are going to China to pick up their son, who has cleft lip and palate, at the very same time. We have prayed for months that our boys could start their U.S. lives together. Their son is named Nathan, he is about 16 months old. He is not from the same orphanage as John but is from the same province. So, if you follow our blog, you will get the treat of being introduced to another “chosen son” from China. We are choked up with our eyes full of tears as we write this. God has showered His goodness on us in profound ways. Your prayers, gifts and support mean more to us than we can say. Thank you for being a part of this miracle. Please continue to pray us all the way back home and beyond : ) Sincerely, Laurie and Ron
53: November 25th, 2010 We made it to China thanks to all of you praying us here. Very early on Monday morning, we spent 1 1/2 hours on the tarmac in Colorado Springs before the pilot was cleared for takeoff. The delay was anxiety producing yet we felt confident that we were in Good Hands! Stepping off the plane in Beijing we had two thoughts – where is the forest fire? (the air quality is so bad in Beijing due to their use of coal, etc. and getting a good, clean breath of air was not possible) and wow! Look at this airport! The new airport built in time for the Olympic games is magnificent.
54: We were happy to find ALL our luggage, | to exchange our dollars for RMB, | and find the driver who was hired to pick us up | Happy Thanksgiving ALL – we are on our way to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. More about our visit to cousins' Cindy and Phil soon!
55: Tianjin; November 25th, 2010 Ron and I came early to China in order to see his cousin Cindy and her family. Cindy and her husband Phil have lived in China for 20 years and are also adoptive parents of two Chinese girls. Biking to the local market and cultural streets were highlights for us in Tianjin. Not only do we share a love for Chinese children but we have a deep bond of shared faith that united our time.
56: In China it is expected that you will barter for the price of goods that are bought in a market setting. Cindy is the master. Ever since we saw a photo of a mural of a Panda bear on the wall of the orphanage that John is in, we have been drawn to Pandas. While shopping at the “Cultural Center”, we noticed a traditional Chinese painting on white silk of a mother Panda with a baby Panda. Knowing we wanted to buy the painting Cindy started bargaining in Mandarin for a good price. By the end of the session, the shop owner teased her/us that we had gotten such a good deal on the painting that she wouldn’t have any lunch money for the day! Although humor does not always translate well between cultures, through Phil and Cindy, it was clear she was joking and we all found such pleasure in sharing that moment together.
58: Yesterday in Beijing, our adoption group of 16 families met for a tour. In Ancient Chinese times, eight small homes were built around a common well. In Beijing this area, called the Hutong homes, has been preserved. The streets are very narrow and tourists are plentiful, therefore the common mode of transportation is the rickshaw. | We also visited Tiananmen Square, the birth place of “modern China,” the People’s Republic of China and the Forbidden City.
59: As we spend time with the adoption group, we are putting together bits and pieces of the stories of the other 16 families in the group. Three are coming for their second Chinese child and one couple is adopting their third Chinese son. Many have biological children at home – including one couple that also has 6 grandchildren! Collectively, we seem to all be filled with hopeful anticipation as well as a bit of unease knowing that our futures are about to change drastically. We leave for Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province in less than 24 hours. And Monday – 15 hours ahead of U.S. time zones, we get to meet our son!!! Please pray for all these dear children whose lives are also drastically going to change in the next few days. Their stress is often manifested physically in either getting sick or not being able to sleep. So grateful for your friendship and support!
60: The night before... Tomorrow is the fulfillment as well as the beginning of a dream come true. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a mother. Truth be told, I never really did like babysitting. But I do like kids a LOT! The desire to be a mom in my younger years was probably due to the fact that I had such a good one. My Mom, (like my mother-in-law), is accomplished at all the things that people equate with being a Mom – she cooks well, sewed our clothes, baked fresh bread, was the girl scout leader, taught Sunday School, etc. I have had a rewarding life so far – including adventurous travel, a graduate education, challenging leadership roles, etc. But always, just below the surface has been the ache to be a Mom. I want to be the one a child turns to when he is hurting or afraid. I want to be the one to nurture and to help create an environment for growth, to make the birthday cakes and go to the teacher/parent conferences. And now I get to do this with my dear Ron!!! My heart is bursting with gratitude.
61: Monday, November 29, 2010: A Day of First's !!! Wow! We can hardly believe that this day has finally arrived! At 10:30 a.m. our son was delivered by an “officer” of the Luhoe City orphanage. (see photo) There were 16 children being delivered to the same room yet when John arrived, we knew him instantly.
62: He was cautious at first – we pulled out his back pack with a photo of him and us (see photo) and several toys including a stuffed bear that he proceeded to throw numerous times. He is very small for his age, as we expected. The six month clothes that we brought fit him perfectly. | Two highlights that we prayed about are that he allows us to hug and kiss him. He didn't want to be put in his crib for a nap. So he fell asleep being held and rocked between the two of us. Another glorious answer to prayer is that he does not prefer either one of us. We were told that some children will only go to the new Mom or the new Dad but John seems to respond to us equally as well.
63: A few funny observations – he throws everything but food. He likes to eat but he doesn’t like anything on his hands, like crumbs. And he is patient with his new parents as they learn to take care of him.
66: first real smile...
67: December 1, 2010 Red Folder Day
68: Today we received the cherished “red folder”, which makes us John’s legal parents. Our group of parents let out a loud cheer at this declaration and the kids, not realizing the importance of the moment, just sat watching quietly. Rhonda Johnson (long-time friend from Campus Crusade) and I were talking about our boys and the speech therapy that is ahead of them. We both teared-up as she mentioned that if they had stayed in China without the medical care they need on their cleft palates that they may never have learned to speak effectively. This acknowledgment reminds me of the significance of this day for all of us. At the same time, I am reminded in a fresh way, why adoption is sometimes called “a triangle of grief”. One of the parents from Indiana is a speech therapist and works with early intervention programs. She and her husband had previously adopted a Chinese daughter with cleft palate and this time they are adopting a boy with cleft palate. She mentioned to me that when we arrive in CO, we ought to check out the early intervention programs for our son – and specifically due to his size, she thought he would qualify for nutritional help.
69: There are three children from John’s orphanage – all significantly under-weight. However, John is the oldest and the smallest of the bunch. I can’t explain all of why it hurts me so that he has not received the necessary food his body needs. Perhaps it is because it is so preventable; perhaps because feeding a child a “balanced diet” is linked with nurturing...although I am not sure all the reasons, I have experienced grief that we have not had John since birth. And at the same time, I am so glad we have him now!!
70: Thursday, December 2, 2010 Good days...Hard nights... | John is a wonderful boy yet still full of mystery for us. I need to retract my earlier statement, that he throws toys but not food. He clearly likes to throw both. | Our observations so far are that he is intense and playful. When he wants something, he will furrow his brow (see photo); this is especially true when we are feeding him. He seems to be communicating “you're not the boss of me”. When we arrive home we will be intently working on developing “family skills” for eating vs. survival skills. He is very interactive in his play...bringing Ron or I his cars or stacking cups. He has a “self-soothing“ habit where he takes his finger and points it at his head. We have mirrored him doing this several times and he instantly begins a form of “Simon Says”. His giggle is delightful though not as plentiful as we would like it to be. Although he does not speak any Chinese, he is a good communicator using sounds, facial expressions and pointing.
71: Yesterday when Ron visited John's orphanage (more on this in a later post), John and I walked in a large park. There were a number of older Chinese men and women walking who were so curious about John. Since the Chinese love children, I tried to teach John to wave to them. It turned out to be great fun for all as he would grin with delight when the people waved back. However, we think the trauma of his change is creeping up at night. For two nights in a row he has woken up for several hours crying hard. We have checked all the possible physical reasons for these inconsolable tears with no helpful result. The first night he cried, we tried rocking him back to sleep with little success. Last night, I got up and played with him for a long time before putting him back to bed. Playing seemed to work better, although it was putting me to sleep. Please pray a few things for us: 1) that we would have insight in helping John sleep through the night – for his sake and ours 2) I was stomach sick last night and Ron didn't feel right either 3) we fly out today to Guangzhou for our last stop before flying out of China. Due to John's cleft, he has fluid in his ears. Please pray that he would make the trip well.
72: John's orphanage Ron’s Blog December 1st, I went to John’s orphanage in Luhoe City, about 100 miles north of Zengszhou. Its population is 500,000 and its developmental stage is somewhere between second and third world status. Luhoe City’s claim to fame is that it has the largest ham/pork sausage factory in China. The city has a large disparity in economic development. There are still many people that ride old bicycles, but now they are also simultaneously talking on cell phones. They don’t have any "don’t drive/don’t talk" laws in China yet. There were numerous office/apartment skyscrapers being built but I couldn’t see how anyone in the city could afford the rent. The orphanage was at the end of a narrow road. It is a 3-story facility that houses 150 children, 80 of whom are medical special needs. The Lilly Orphan Care Room (LOCR, which is funded by charitable donations to our adoption agency, CCAI) is on the 3rd floor of one wing of the building. The orphanage director met our group and spent two hours with us. He brought us to the LOCR where we met the LOCR director.
73: The LOCR is actually 3 rooms. The first room houses 20 children, 0-3 month-old babies, placed 2 to a crib. The next room houses 20 more children, 6-12 month-old babies, placed 2 to a crib. The last room houses 8 children, 1 to a crib. They are 1-3 years old. This was the final room John was in. In John’s room, 2 nannies take care of the 8 kids during the day and 1 nanny takes care of the kids at night. This is a high level of care for a Chinese orphanage. I asked specifically about John and they checked their notes. They told me that he didn’t come up to the LOCR until 16 months of age. Before that he was in the general orphan population on the 2nd floor. This helps explain John’s small size. I don’t think he was able to get enough nourishment on the second floor since the orphanage can barely afford to provide enough funding for food, let alone medical care. This also helps explain why he gained only 2 pounds over 10 months. We heard in the notes that someone in the States started to financially support John at age 16 months so he could be able to afford the higher level of care in the LOCR. (We didn’t know this program existed until just before we went to China.). John started to develop much more quickly in the LOCR. When he arrived at 16 months, he couldn’t sit up. Within a couple days, he could sit up unassisted. Within several weeks he was crawling. And within a few months, he was walking.
74: We also found out that John had a reputation for throwing toys in the LOCR, so his experience with us is nothing new. We are so thankful for the generous financial supporter that provided the financial means to get John into the LOCR, and allow him to develop more quickly. We only wish we could have got those previous lost months back. We are also grateful for the nannies who seemed to genuinely care for the kids.
75: top three rows are orphanage photos; bottom row of Luhoe City, Henan China
76: Sunday, December 5, 2010 We arrived in Guangzhou on Friday, Dec. 3rd at 10:30 pm. Our 2 1/2 hour flight went well (thanks for your prayers)! John’s ears did fine, however, flying with a toddler for us was a whole new experience. I was on my hands and knees 5 times during the flight looking for dropped toys and socks. John’s digestive system was off so we learned quickly that a change of clothes even on a short flight are new essentials to pack in the carry-on luggage. I was thinking today that if John wrote a blog about us, he might say that he was sure hoping to go to parents who were already trained! John is physically very strong. His legs are as thin as a bean pole but “cut”. He impressed our travel group of adoptive parents in the airport by pushing a metal structure that is used to determine the size of acceptable carry-on luggage. He pushed it so far that he got us both in trouble with the patrol people. Due to this feat, he earned the new nick-name “The little man”. He also enjoyed riding in the luggage cart (see photo).
78: Going to breakfast in the White Swan hotel on Sat. morning was an emotional experience for me. The hotel has for years catered to adoptive families and at any time there are approx. 400 American families staying in the hotel as they finalize their adoption at the U.S. Consulate. This means there are 400 darling Chinese children to look at during breakfast! One couple walked past us with 9 month old twin girls who they had been waiting for for 5 years.
79: These 400 families cram into a very small medical clinic and visit three different stations for required brief medical exams.
81: John is what the Chinese shop worker called a “busy boy”. He is so curious and interested in what is happening around him. When one of us is feeding him, he will get distracted if the other one of us is making noise of any kind. The cabinets don’t have locks and he knows which one contains his food so guess where he goes in his spare time??? (see photo opposite page) | He is not only a “busy boy” but he is also proud of his work with toilet paper!
82: We rejoice that we are seeing more of John's beautiful smile as he gets to know us. He really eats up affection; he will lean into getting kissed and even come back for more. Please continue to pray for our health and protection – the smog has been hard on our lungs the entire trip and it is really affecting Ron presently. I managed to twist my ankle and burn my hair the first day we were here ...well, you get the picture. Friday, December 10, 2010 Thank you for your prayers for John's sleeping. For two days in a row this week, he slept more than the hours reported from his orphanage. We think this is a positive sign as he is very, very active when he is awake. It makes me wonder, if due to his size, he might need the amount of sleep that a 9 month old needs rather than a 2 year old. Then for the last couple of days, his sleeping through the night has been off and on.
83: On Dec. 6th, Ron celebrated his birthday. We celebrated by going out to dinner with a couple of adoptive families here and having Birthday cake.
84: We caught a bit of his delight on the enclosed short video. (Editor's note: still hoping to post the video). We continue to enjoy getting to know this wonderful son of ours. The other day, he saw that Ron was putting on his socks, so without any prompting, he brought Ron one of his shoes. Ron praised him and then asked John to bring him his other shoe, which he did without hesitation. As new parents we eagerly watch for signs of initial bonding. A few times today (Dec. 9th) I noticed that John held me as I held him. This is very natural for children who are attached to their parents and a desirable sign for us that John trusts us more. Another small sign is that when he walks away, he looks back to see if we are following after him. | Going to a near-by park with John also made Ron's Birthday memorable. | Although not the reckless type, John demonstrated little fear trying out the play-ground equipment.
85: Dec. 7th - First McDonald’s Happy Meal | One thing I have loved is how quickly the Chinese shop owners/workers pick up on clues of the personality traits of kids. Several have commented about John they say, “he is a busy boy, boys are busy”; and “he is very quick” (meaning the speed at which he reaches for something); and “his large forehead means he is a clever boy”. Actually all these observations are true so far. Last night we had dinner with a couple from Taiwan who is in China for business. They are in their late 60’s or early 70’s. Krista, the older woman was cooing at John from across the table. In response, he put he put his hands over his eyes for a make-shift “peek-a –boo”. Later in the evening, Krista came to our room to share some cold medicine. Upon seeing her again, John repeated his make-shift “peek-a–boo” routine. Great delight was had by all. | Our guide took us shopping in a main area in Guangzhou. Since there was a McDonald’s many of us took the opportunity to take our kids for their first “Happy Meal”. We captured this photo of Nathan Johnson and John sharing the moment.
86: John loves to dig in the trash in our hotel room. Yesterday, after the room had been cleaned, he was disappointed to find nothing in his favorite trash can in the bathroom. In order to fix the problem, he put his stuffed bear into it, looked up and smiled at us! John was full of energy last night at what we thought would be his bed time. So, we took him down to the lobby for some room to walk in order to wear him out. It was clear that he wanted to walk up and down the stairs. Something that we guess he has not done very often. After holding my hand going down, he seemed to want to try going up on his own. He quickly changed to crawling mode in order to get up the stairs. Then he grabbed my hand and tried the typical both feet one step kind of walking appropriate for small legs. This satisfied him until he stopped and intently watched several grown-ups walk the steps. After which he took our hands and tried to mimic the walking behavior he had observed – one giant step with only one foot on a stair. Fortunately, he wore out before we did. As you are probably picking up, we think he is a ton of FUN!!!
87: Friday, December 10, 2010 Dec. 8th - the U.S. oath and Ice Cream... Today Ron and I took an oath on John’s behalf at the U.S. Consulate. This experience was anti-climatic at best...picture 33 families with children they have known for 1 1/2 weeks waiting for 1 1/2 hours in a lobby that reminds me very much of every DMV office in every state that I have lived in. (Sorry maybe I am getting tired and grumpy). After taking the 30 second oath, each family exchanged official paperwork with a clerk and we were back on the bus to the hotel. | Earlier in the day, our adoption agency set up their famous “red couch” photo session where all the children being adopted in our travel group wear traditional Chinese outfits and take a picture together. We got a cute one of John and his fellow orphanage friends .
88: There are 16 kids in our travel group . | John and “best boy” Nathan Johnson
91: The Johnson’s leave early tomorrow morning so we enjoyed a last dinner with them and then ice cream for dessert. We were told that kids from Chinese orphanages typically don’t like cold food items when they first taste them since they probably have not ever tasted cold food. So we wanted to test whether John was going to like ice cream. I bought chocolate and gave him a taste of it. He at first looked puzzled but indicated he wanted more. By the third spoonful, he got hooked - so much for the proposed notion of one bite for him and one for me. John grabbed my arm when its motion was clearly not intended for his mouth and I knew exactly what he wanted – no communication gap when it comes to ice cream.
92: Dec. 9th Reflection... This week I have been reading a devotional book on being a Mom. God has used especially one of the short messages to support and encourage me as Ron and I begin our new life with John. The thought expressed in the book relates to the impossible task of being the “perfect mom”. The author suggests dropping the perfection standard and instead focusing on the fact God chose you to be the mother of your child. This thought ministers to me in a number of ways: first of all, no matter how adequate or inadequate I feel to be the mother of a Chinese boy, I know God has called me to this role. Likewise, since God has called me to this role, He will equip me to do the job. Being reminded of this fills me with a deep sense of freedom and peace. It reminds me of the first time I understood 2 Peter 3-5, | "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." Understanding from this verse that God had already given me what I need to live in a way that is pleasing to Him took some pressure off. It freed me to enjoy walking with God. And I think it applies to the devotional that I read earlier in the week. I do still have fears. I don’t know what will be the long-term consequences of John’s abandonment. How will the 15 months of neglect on the 2nd floor of the orphanage affect him? What are the outcomes of his long-term malnutrition? However, what I do know is that I love this little boy. And I am grateful that God saw fit to put him in our lives.
94: Dec. 10th - last day in China... Since both Ron and I were sick our last day in China, we decided to stick close to the hotel in preparation for the trip ahead. We ventured out to the local shops where I finally discovered the Starbucks that I had heard rumors about. Personally, I think John felt very comfortable there, much to his father’s dismay. | John seemed to know that something was up as we packed up our things. He wanted a little more reassurance than usual.
95: Saying good-bye to our CCAI (our adoption agency) representatives was bitter sweet. I would have loved more time with them to talk about their personal life, beliefs, etc. | In the photo, you will see Grace on the left and Maggie on the right. Grace especially has that rare combination of being very good with details and very good with people. She is in a perfect job fit and blessed us a ton by being organized and approachable.
96: As we rode in a van to Hong Kong, we had brought John's backpack filled with small toys we had gotten for him in the U.S. It occurred to me that these were the first “possessions” he had ever owned – not that they were in themselves very special. He came to us with three layers of clothes on – most of which didn't fit him right and three disposable cameras we had sent over to the orphanage in the last several months in hopes they would provide some pictures to help with his history. "Oh John if you only could comprehend what you now “own” as a result of your adoption. You not only have a forever Mom and Dad but a whole family! You have grandparents who already love you – Aunts and Uncles who have faithfully prayed for you - cousins who want to hold you and talk with you. And you have your mother and father's dear friends who want to be your “adopted Aunts and Uncles”. You are a very, very rich boy with only a backpack full of toys. May you feel secure in the love we have for you since it is from Jesus, it will never change. We love you, dear son!"
98: Dec. 11th Leaving Hong Kong for the U.S... We spent the night in Hong Kong in preparation for our flight out the next day. Being able to drink the water, shower without goggles and brush our teeth without boiling the water first was a treat. Ron was able to connect with a dear friend from MBA School who has lived in Hong Kong for 20 years. He took some great photos of downtown Hong Kong and promised to write a blog entry about his experience. You may be surprised to hear that there were a lot of Christmas decorations up all over China. Decorated trees, outdoor lights, piped in Christmas music and pictures of Santa Claus were plentiful. On the one hand, it felt like a taste of home and on the other hand it felt empty without a single visible nativity. While in the Hong Kong airport, we saw several wonderful Christmas displays. There was also a beautiful rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus playing over the speakers and I was suddenly, utterly homesick. John was amazing on the flight home. He is a patient boy even though he is a bit stubborn. He was a real hit as he and I walked up and down the aisle to stretch. He doesn’t have any personal space issues and would walk right up to a person in order to grab their reading material. Of course I tried to prevent these incidents but was not always successful.
99: A Chinese man who sat right behind us took an interest in John. As we talked, he mentioned that he had traveled all over the Henan province where John is from. He said that the farmers in that province are very poor. He mentioned that John was clever and quick. When I asked what caused him to say this, he mentioned that he had been watching John in the airport. He saw how fascinated John was with the walking sidewalk, etc. Hearing this from one of his countryman seemed like he was blessing John and it touched me. In general the Chinese people were very taken by John. They seemed to understand him instantly and to receive who he is and who they expect him to become all at once. I am guessing they grieve a bit when they see their children adopted out of their country. And it is sad. Ron insightfully mentioned when we arrived in San Francisco and were enjoying being back in our U.S. culture that John was now the uncomfortable one. He is used to seeing almost only Chinese faces, smelling garlic and rice cooking, etc. Now he is a U.S. citizen! We trust that in time he will thrive in his new environment. And we are committed to doing all we can to ensure that this will happen. "Welcome to your new home, John! We’ve been waiting for you for so long! Welcome home!!!"