— This note was originally written and posted on August 2, 2011 —
I believe in prayer. I’ve seen it work in others’ lives as well as my own. If you’ve followed Amy’s blog, or if you’ve heard our recent adoption developments from me, then you know we are in the midst of stepping out on faith again and could certainly use your prayers if you are so inclined. But first, a little background information (actually a lot) on our story and why I believe only prayer can be the answer.
In 2003, I had just returned from Iraq and relinquished command. I turned away from a potential assignment in Italy and requested to come back to Fort Bragg instead because mom had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We thought it best to get as close as possible to family so she would get plenty of exposure to her grandsons in her remaining good years. As fate would have it though, mom had a series of multiple strokes right after we moved back to Fayetteville. She was never really fully lucid again for her last 7 years. This had a profound effect on me and though family had always been important, I began to see it in a different light than I previously had the decade before while bouncing around the country from assignment to assignment. I read a few things about adoption and intrigued by it, discussed it with Amy. We both thought we had been very fortunate in our lives and felt some additional responsibility to share that in some tangible, unique way. We agreed to keep an open mind on the subject and to explore the idea more in the future. As often happens in the Army though, no good deed goes unpunished. I was moved into a key position within a soon to be deploying brigade that consumed more of my time and effort than I certainly had been planning on. The adoption idea was shelved out of necessity for the next few bumpy, yet rewarding years.
Fast forward to 2006. Now stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, my job there, though requiring a lot of in-country travel, was not nearly as demanding, and the chances of redeploying again soon were slim. I looked forward to a relaxing, enjoyable tour for a few years. Almost immediately though, Amy brought up the adoption subject again. I was surprised, having nearly pushed it out of mind, thinking we had missed our window of opportunity. She wanted to explore it again though. I acquiesced, since this was really the first time we really had the opportunity, and agreed to start the process with the caveat that we could back out at any point if either of us got cold feet. Were we too old for this? Could we afford it? How would this affect the relationship we have with our boys? How would we adapt to this major lifestyle change? All very valid questions with no way to know the answers until we’d committed. So we elected to just step out on faith.
Nearly a year later, when working on my laptop in a remote spot in Montana, I opened an email forwarded from Amy by our adoption agency telling us we had been matched with a child and they wanted to know if we accepted her. When I opened the small picture of Xing Fu Wa, I knew she was our child. The rest of the process did not unfold nearly as soon as we wanted, but before we knew it, the whole family was flying into Nanchang to meet Raeya. In a meeting room with an agency official in Beijing, I remember him telling me “We’ll see you back here in a few years, when you’re here to pick up your next one” and me nervously laughing and saying “I don’t think so; this is it!” In hind sight, I suppose the seed had already been planted.
After a few months back with Raeya, we found ourselves on our way to Colorado Springs for what I thought would be a quick payback tour of a year to the Army for moving us and then retirement. We were enjoying the beautiful new location, working on our fixer-upper retirement home, and getting to know and love our new daughter. Everything seemed in order and then, I’m not sure who brought it up first, but adoption became a topic often discussed again. We agreed to look into it again and though the same old questions still applied, this time we came to a decision to move forward very rapidly. I decided I would put off retirement until we could complete the process. There are always obstacles and distracters to pull you away from your path however. I was soon offered another command but despite it being a career-long goal, I declined as that would have required yet another move and would have negated our long-term plans. As a kind of peace offering to the Army for turning them down, I volunteered for a tour to Afghanistan. Amy agreed to work the adoption paperwork while I was deployed. Because we had trusted in faith before and our experience with Raeya had been so overwhelmingly positive, this time we decided to step out a little farther on faith and adopt a child who had a medical special need that gave her very little chance. We knew that my military benefits allowed us to take on a much more serious special need than most folks could, so we put in our request and waited to see what our agency came back with. We were matched with Jiang Yujun on the day I deployed. Again, we knew immediately this was our child. Thankfully, the process was expedited, we think because they were anxious to turn Chloe over to us because they knew she had limited time. By the time I redeployed, we were making travel arrangements to go get her. The trip was wonderful, just like Raeya’s and we brought Chloe home and began our adjustments as a new family. There have been trials for sure; several weeks in the hospital over Christmas and we nearly lost her during her recent corrective surgery, but we could not be more blessed. She has had a miraculous recovery that has astounded her doctors and has blossomed into so much more than we ever expected. So again, I know prayer works.
Chloe, because we got her at nearly 5 years old, unlike Raeya, has vivid memories before joining us. She remembers her caretakers, her stints in Chinese hospitals, and most of all, her friends from the orphanage. She speaks of them often and asks if she can have them come visit. When I was in Afghanistan, Amy would forward me pictures that Chloe’s orphanage would send periodically, and almost always pictured with her were one or two of her friends, nicknamed Noah and Rhys by the orphanage. Every time the pictures would arrive, I enjoyed seeing these two boys nearly as much as Chloe. Half way around the world, Amy was developing the same affection for these boys that I was, but left it unsaid, just as I did. When I redeployed, as we prepared to travel to pick up Chloe we discussed these two boys and how difficult it must be for the children left behind in the orphanages as time and time again they see their friends leave with their new families. Again we decided to step out on faith and see what we could do for them and if there was a possibility of bringing them home as well.
When we inquired with the orphanage director about this possibility, we found out that these boys are actually trafficked children. They were kidnapped as toddlers and were to be sold, but the Chinese police broke up the trafficking ring, and when the parents could not be found, they were turned over to an orphanage to be cared for. The Chinese government has deemed them un-adoptable (both locally and internationally) in hopes that they can eventually be returned to their parents. While this is certainly a good intention, it is almost an impossibility. The remoteness of the province the boys are from, poor communications, and inability of the parents to find them, likely sentences them to remaining in the orphanage’s care. The harsh reality: at the age of 13, many Chinese children age out of the orphanage system and are farmed out to various work programs or elsewhere to fend for themselves. This is a tragedy we can hardly bear to imagine.
This is where we ask for your prayers. Our ultimate goal is to bring these boys home as a part our family. We have exhausted a number of avenues to help Noah and Rhys and have been unsuccessful thus far. We know that we are up against seemingly insurmountable odds. But Amy and I are not ones to take “No” for an answer and know that if this is to be, it will be. We’ve drafted a letter to the province adoption director, who we know from our last trip, pleading our case and requesting special consideration in this matter. We pray, as we hope others do, that it turns the heart and allows for an exception to policy or opens another door. If adoption is not possible, we’ve agreed to foster these children at no expense to the Chinese government. An adoption certificate is not necessary; we’d just like the chance to offer them a better life. The world is not fair and we know there are no promises. We also know that this prayer will be answered; maybe not how we want it to be, but hopefully in these boys’ best interest. God’s Will will be done, whether we understand it or not.
On the bullet train to visit the orphanage in Fujian and Noah and Rhys
Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully I’ve feebly inspired you to join with us in prayer in this worthy quest.