Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orphan Sunday

For the very first time our church acknowledged Orphan Sunday.  Pastor Nick asked if I would share our story.  Here is what I shared...

When I first started preparing for this presentation I did not know where to begin or what to say. I pray that what I share today will motivate all of us to do MORE for orphans. That we will be so excited that neither fear or finances will get in the way!

I have always enjoyed working with kids and even as a very young child,6-7 years of age, I would always be found were the babies were. As a young teen I read a book called The Family Nobody Wanted. A true story of a couple who adopted or fostered many children that everyone else rejected. This story had a profound impact on me and it was through this story that I first began to develop a passion for orphans. It was then that I began to dream of someday adopting a child.

While Martin and I were dating, Martin saw my passion for kids and became concerned saying “ we’re not having a bunch of kids! Are we?” To which I adamantly replied “no!” Even though I loved kids I had absolutely no desire to parent lots of kids! In fact, after we had our boys, I was rather proud of the fact that we were not like my siblings and many other Mennonite couples who were rapidly increasing their broods! But God will accomplish what He wants to accomplish.

Back in 1998 my sister brought a little girl, by the name of Kayla, to our attention. She was my brother-in-laws, nephews child, and she had been placed for adoption here in Saskatoon. We pursued this adoption for over a year, spending most Sundays playing with her and getting to know her. Eventually we were told the foster family would be granted parental rights. We were devastated! Martin vowed his life would never be invaded and scrutinized again!

By 2001 we had 2 handsome boys, Alex and Morgun. And our life was PERFECT! However, deep inside of me there was still the desire to adopt. Martin was not on board at all! His life had been invaded once and he was not about to get hurt again. And he was afraid…afraid of all the uncertainty…could he love an adopted child as much as his biological children? What about all the baggage an orphan was bound to come with? What about finances? All things relating to fear.

I prayed…and prayed…asking, begging God to show us His will. Either through His word, a dream, a vision or through one of his children. And guess what ??? He did !!!!

In December of 2005, Martin had a dream. In his dream he saw a deep, wide ravine with 2 paths on it. Two young chubby boys, looking very dirty and wearing tattered clothes were traveling the easier path. Martin knew without a shadow of a doubt that the other path, the one not completely visible, was the right path. In his dream he urged the boys to take the right path.

A door then appeared and an old man walked out. He had the most incredible look in His eyes. The look was one of deepest compassion and an indescribable love. Martin realized it was the face of God! And yet, he was in a state of disbelief. The man slowly faded away. Martin asked God to show his face again, and he did! Martin then knew that it was indeed God looking at him with eyes full of love and compassion, such as he had never seen before!

That night Martin and I had the most amazing, peaceful sleep ever!

It was around this time that I also had a vision. I saw Martin carrying a little girl with an olive complexion, squinty eyes, and straight, black hair pulled back into 2 pig tails.

About a month later we were watching a documentary on an organization called Help Us Help The Children. It’s an organization that provides food, clothing, etc to orphanages in the Ukraine. As usual I felt a strong pull to adopt. Later that night, Martin shared that while watching the program he had seen a vision. He saw Jesus descending from heaven on stairs surrounded by clouds. He remarked that God and I would just have to keep working on him!

Remember the fear I talked about earlier? I believe God was telling us not fear, that He would be with us every step of the way!

I LOVE it when God talks!

In May of 2006 my Dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. Two weeks later he passed away. This hit us hard! Dad was only 69 and for the most part appeared healthy. It made us realize how short life really is and that if we wanted to make a difference in this world we needed to do so now!

By October 18, 2006 our home study to adopt from China was complete. We requested a healthy girl under 2 years of age. We expected the process to take up to 3 years. By the summer of 2008, we realized the Regular Program offering healthy babies, had come to a stand still. It was at this time that Pat and Gary Wiebe

Life continued while we waited…and waited. I often wondered why God was allowing the process to take soooo long. We soon found out why. In January of 2007 my Mom was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery on a massive cancerous growth. She managed to recover, but by Sept cancer had once again invaded her body. Even though very few people knew of our plans to adopt, we felt we should tell Mom. She was excited for us! On Dec. 5, 2007, we lost Mom. We grieved and slowly began to heal. (God knew we needed this time to heal)

The adoption process is a roller coaster of emotions. Excitement followed by fear, questions of “ What ARE we getting ourselves into?” and all the “what ifs” What if we don’t bond? What if she hates us? Do we have what it takes to meet this child’s’ needs? What if she comes with major baggage such as abuse?….and the list goes on…

On January 5th, 2009, we finally had a proposal for Ma Yongjun aged 3 years. We fell in love instantly!

It was at this point that my fears came to the forefront. One of the most difficult aspects of adoption, at least for me, is knowing who my child is and not being there to comfort her, hold her, love her, and protect her! There are many horror stories of what children in orphanages often endure. I fervently prayed that God would protect our little one!

We planned to travel to China in May, but 2 days before our departure, we had to postpone due to the H1N1outbreak. Adoptions from all provinces in China were still proceeding with adoptions, except Beijing…where Malia is from. We were finally able to travel in July.

As long as I live I will NEVER forget the day we met Malia Yongjun Faith! I was incredibly nervous, but all my fears dissolved when I saw this beautiful, but VERY sad little girl who was about to have her world turned upside down. The English language does not contain words capable of describing what we felt…pure joy, excitement, fulfillment, peace, and contentment partly describe the moment…perhaps the work “God” describes it best!

We arrived home on July 31, 2009...which would have been my Mom’s 69th birthday! Special! Isn’t it!! It was at this time that my favorite saying became“ my cup runneth over!”

Malia adjusted amazingly well! We had prepared for, as best as we could, a worst case scenario, but truly ended up with a best case scenario! God is so good!

Two weeks after arriving home from China, Martin and I looked at each other and said “lets do this again!” Crazy I know, but true!

Don’t get me wrong, life was not all warm and fuzzy. The first 2-3 months were very difficult! Alex and Morgun wanted life to be “just the 4 of us”. We had many sleepless nights and I struggled with knowing how to handle Malia’s adjustment. We were trying to figure out Malia’s needs and wants with a major language barrier while deciphering which behavior was typical of a 3 year old and what was related to grief. We faced 3 hour episodes dealing with inappropriate behavior…EXHAUSTING! Martin and I would look at each other and say “what have we gotten ourselves into??? “We must have been crazy!”

Six months after arriving home life began to feel normal again. Martin or I were with Malia 24/7. For an entire year we did not go on a date!! Trust me, we sure could have used one!! Instead, we became a little more creative and had mini dates at home after the kids were in bed.

One of the most important things I learned was that even though I do not consider myself to be cut out for this role…parenting…God can and does still use me! I also learned that some of the things I hated most about myself were things I needed most!

In November of 2009 I once again began to feel an urgency to adopt, but Martin wasn’t quite ready. However, by March of 2010 we were once again registered for international adoption. We requested a girl with a minor disability ranging in age from 0-3 ½ years. However, I kept telling Martin that I had a feeling our daughter would be little. There were days where I could feel her in my arms and she was not 3 ½ years old! In August we finally got our proposal for Chen Liuji, aged 9 months! With a birth date of November 24th, 2009...around the same time that I had felt an urgency to adopt again!! Don’t ya just love how God works??!!!

Once again the mama in me could not handle my child living so far away without my love and protection. And once again God proved faithful. In church one Sunday, Pastor Nick posted this picture during the worship service. It was then that God told me very clearly “Stop worrying! I am taking care of your child! She is safe with me!” I was immediately filled with an incredible peace.

At the beginning of Raina’s adoption process I had prayed that this process would not be long. I clearly remember telling God that I could handle 9 months but that was all! Dec. 6 2010 ( less than 9 months from our first home study) we met Raina Liuji Marie! What an emotion filled day it was! God had indeed cared for Raina! She lived in the same foster home from the age of 3 days. It tore our hearts in two to watch her foster mom weep, knowing she would never see Raina again, but also knowing she would finally have a forever family!

The first night was brutal! Raina called for her “mama” all night long. Heart wrenching! Each night after that was a little better with one exception. Our guide offered to hold Raina while we ate lunch. It seemed like a great offer, but it left Raina confused and once again she had a rough night.

Before long Raina was all smiles and had wound her way into everyone’s hearts. Our boys were phenomenal! They welcomed Raina with open arms and continue to adore her. Malia, however, really struggled. She was no longer the center of attention and her behavior soon led to more exhausting episodes…up to 5 hours!! We eventually learned how to handle the episodes and how to pick our battles. We also made every effort to ensure Malia she was still special! As the months passed we saw huge improvements and learned a little more about Malia. We now believe there were times where she was indeed mistreated. We do still deal with “issues” on a regular basis, but that is to be expected.

One of the most difficult aspects of adoption is dealing with people that stare. Not the innocent, I’m curious and interested stare, but rather the rude stares. We met many people in China that gave one of our daughters looks of disgust because of her looks. There were times I was literally ready to hurt someone! However, some of the looks her in Canada are more hurtful…like the old lady that literally turned around…completely to stare at our girls. Martin finally had enough and turned around and winked at her! She immediately looked away! Humor is essential!!

I can honestly say that, most days, I love being a mom and feel extremely privileged to be hand picked by God to be Alex, Morgun, Malia, and Raina’s Mama!

This journey has been and continues to be both amazing and challenging. God has proven he listens to us, he answers our prayer and he fulfills his promises.

I never fully understood Psalm 127:3...“children are a reward from the Lord”

Really??? Late nights, early mornings, teething, vomit, temper tantrums, last minute assignments…all had me questioning this verse. However, when I began to consciously see my kids as a reward, I began to see sweet smiles, hilarious comments, adorable kisses, warm hugs, and possibly most importantly a personal growth that is not possible with out the presence of children!


Kathy said...

Thank-you for sharing.

Paige said...

I love this. What a great story and a great verse to go along with it.

I can relate to everything you said, but they are our rewards and we are so blessed!