1st Chapter of Great Expectations
Chapter 1:Why go to all this trouble?
“Hurry up and wait!” is an expression with which most of us are familiar. The adoption process is fraught with ebbs and flows of hurrying and waiting. Mountains of paperwork must be completed. The arduous adoption process requires adoption agency appointments, meetings with social workers and the completion of home study reports, the filing of police reports, fingerprinting, the writing of one’s personal history, and signing of so many documents that one can become frustrated and weary. For many international adoptions, documents expire and must be resubmitted, re-verified and re-authenticated if the child has not yet arrived in the U.S within the 6 months of initial signing. Adoptive parents may, like Sisyphus, feel that they are rolling a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down. Yet, as the procedural progression unfolds, we come to realize how important is the little person for whom we yearn. We are not merely filling out forms, rather the forms represent to us a child without a home for whom we are fighting. It is the hope of uniting with this future family member that gives us the drive to endure the often humiliating proceedings required by the system.
Hebrews 11 reads:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Today’s New International Version Hebrews 11:1)
The author of Hebrews was referring here to our faith in Christ, yet this passage can also encourage the adoptive parent who longs to see and hold his or her little one. As adoptive parents, we pray that God would fill us with a certainty that our labors will bring the reward of that long awaited union with our child.
Whether we are first- time parents, or already have children, the interim before the adoptive child physically joins the family can be very painful. During the onerous wait, we may ask ourselves why having a child is so important to us. What motivates our need to nurture a child? Could it be that God plants the desires in our hearts to take an adoptive child into our home? Psalm 37:4-5 states:
Take delight in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
Yet, as we read further in Psalm 37, David writes:
Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;
When we trust in God, he directs our path and places His desires on our heart; however, God does not promise that the fulfillment of these desires will be instantaneous. How hard it is in our impatience to lean on Him and be still!
What led us to adopt? 12 years after the adoption of our daughter, I question why I had earlier been so obsessed in my desire to have a daughter. I have discussed this topic in length with other moms who had similar longings, and the consensus is that God placed the desire to adopt in our hearts for His purpose - to give an orphan a forever home.
In my journal entry from Sept. 29, 1998, I wrote: "I always dreamt of having a daughter to share my thoughts and dreams with. And God in His omniscience knew that we were some day to be united. With the birth of each son, whom I so dearly love and cherish, there was this ache for you, yet unknown to me – a true gift from God to be bestowed upon us in His special timing.”
As I share my personal, harrowing adoption story, it is my hope that you, the reader, will not walk away discouraged and question or reconsider your decision to adopt. I aspire rather to give you courage as you take this bold step. Had I been told the many difficulties that I might encounter during the adoption process, I still believe that I would have adopted; yet I may have approached the problems with more reserve and caution and trusted that God's will would bring the best outcome. I hope to provide insight that will give you strength, patience and endurance during your journey. In addition, I want to encourage you to seek support from friends, family, other adoptive parents and, most importantly, from the Scriptures.
My adopted daughter, Rachel, is now 13. She was almost one year old when I returned with her from Vietnam to meet her brothers and father in Colorado. Both the one year wait for a referral and the year of waiting for her homecoming were full of anxiety. Our adoption process was slow and painful. We began filling out paperwork in August of 1997 and it wasn’t until August of 1999 that my husband and I got to hold Rachel in our arms.
After the birth of our fourth son, my husband, Garth, felt the burden of supporting me and our sons, and would, therefore, brush off any of my musings about adoption. I started to cut out newspaper and magazine articles that dealt with adoption and even asked adoption agencies to send me pamphlets. On several occasions, I showed Garth pictures of adorable children who needed a home. The little Asian girls most often pulled at my heartstrings. Yet my husband seemed unmoved by my prodding.
Then on August 23rd, 1997, our pastor gave a sermon entitled “Plucking up and Planting”. Pastor read from Ecclesiastes 3: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal;…a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;….a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” (King James Version Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) He drew a connection between the passage from Ecclesiastes and the time in which we found ourselves: "As we face the end of the twentieth century, we would do well to consider what God expects of us in these days, and exactly what time it is in God’s providence. Perhaps the Lord has given us a wake-up call, if you will.” Pastor Rich then referred to Jeremiah who was, "lacking a bit in courage and bravado when he was called.” He read in Jeremiah 1:4-5: The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying, ’before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you: I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Rich then summarized: "Before Jeremiah was formed in his mother’s womb, the Lord knew him personally and knew his destiny. And even before he was born, the Lord consecrated and ordained him to be a prophet to his people and to all the nations of the world, both then and now. I believe that the Lord knows and consecrates all of us in a similar fashion, to serve him with courage and conviction.”1 In the conclusion of the sermon that morning, our Pastor asked us to consider what we needed to prune and pluck up in our own lives. Would we take risks for the Lord? Was He calling us to bear fruit for His kingdom?
I enjoyed the sermon, but little did I know that God had used our pastor that morning to guide us and give us courage. Later that evening, Garth told me that God had been opening his heart to the idea of adoption, and that our pastor's sermon had convicted him of the need to take a risk for the Lord. In my mind, adoption had been a dream, yet God had chosen a “time” and a “season” for this very gift with which He blessed us: our daughter, Rachel. That time was upon us.
Both Garth and I felt led to adopt from China. In the 1990s, reports had been circulating about the need for adoptive parents of Chinese baby girls. Due to China’s one child policy and because of their patriarchal traditions, boys were preferred in Chinese families over girls. Daughters were often viewed to be a burden to the family, whereas boys had the ability to carry on the family name and support elderly parents more easily in the Chinese culture. The stories of abandoned baby girls broke my heart. We were also concerned about the lack of religious freedom allowed in China and desired to enable a child who may not have been taught about Christ this opportunity; and so our first adoption agency visit was with Chinese Children International in Denver. How disappointed I was during this meeting to hear that we had little chance of being placed with a Chinese baby girl due to the size of our family! The Chinese officials at that time favored the referral of a child to a childless family in an effort to support their one child mandate in China.
As the weeks passed, I felt more and more drawn to Vietnam. Similar to Communist China, Christians in Vietnam were persecuted. Unmarried, pregnant Vietnamese women were held in disdain, and their children, without the name of a father, were shunned.
All of a sudden, small puzzle pieces began to form a picture in my mind. Incidents that I had experienced connected me to Vietnam. During my sophomore year in college, I had roomed with a young Vietnamese girl named Thanh. Thanh became separated from her parents during a visit with family in Hong Kong when the Vietnam War ended. Thanh shared heart wrenching stories with me about her father’s difficult experiences as a high official in the South Vietnamese army. During our year together, Thanh’s father escaped Vietnam with her younger brother; young boys over age 15 were forced to serve in the military, and Thanh’s parents had feared for their son’s life, and so Thanh's father left Thanh's mother and siblings and fled to freedom.
Thanh included me in celebrations with her Vietnamese friends. One of these friends, Anh, was older than most students at Wartburg College. I remarked to Thanh that Anh seemed to be always so happy. Thanh then shared that this was a façade; Anh had lost both his wife and child while escaping communist Vietnam to the U.S. in a small boat. These and other stories told by Thanh filled me with a fascination for the Vietnamese culture.
I also recalled a friendship I had formed in California. A young Vietnamese woman lived with her boyfriend and their child in his parents' home a few blocks from our house. She walked with me as I strolled my baby boys around the neighborhood. Several times, the Vietnamese woman came to my home, and I had the chance to share my faith with her. For years, I was haunted by and regretted a missed opportunity to help this woman when she one day came to my home. The young woman stated that she was in fear of her boyfriend who often beat her, and she asked me to assist her with lodging. During this time, I had two smalls sons and was teaching part-time at a community college. In an effort to protect my family's privacy and out of selfishness for my own time, I offered to take her to a shelter but did not offer her my home. I have often wondered what happened to this woman and pray that she and her child are safe.
It now seemed that God would use these Vietnamese associations, both positive and negative, to change the desires of our hearts and to steer our thoughts in another direction. God had plucked and pruned our aspiration to adopt from China and supplanted it with a heart for a different country. We would adopt from Vietnam. The process would materialize by small steps, but we were now one step closer to our goal; to bring a baby daughter into our family.