An Inspiring Story
He was my nephew’s playmate, and just like any other little boys, he was full of life and mischief. I got to know his family through church and had spent some fun times together. After we moved to different cities we eventually lost touch with each other. Once in a while I would receive news about him and his family through mutual friends, but it was not until recently we got reconnected through the magic of Facebook.
To my delight I found out that this little boy is now a husband, father and a pastor of young adults. His story tells of a life that has been transformed and used mightily by God. Through the news feed of Facebook I got to hear about all these wonderful things he has been doing with his people. But his recent journey is indeed an inspiring story and his testimony has touched me deeply. To read the plight of this young pastor and his wonderful wife is to see God in action through the love and the courage of this young couple.
I cannot do justice to his story by quoting excerpts of it, you have to read his entire journey as told in his own words. I pray that you will also be inspired and uplifted by his amazing story, just as he said to me: “…the only way to live is to follow God’s leading in your life. And for us, it was that step.”
Thanks Ho-Ming and Katie for showing His faithfulness and goodness!
Journey to Lucy
When our daughter was born, it was the happiest time of our lives. But also the busiest. Time went by very fast. My profile at work had expanded drastically. I was traveling a lot. And our 2 year-old son was growing up fast. Still, we never forgot about the adoption seed that God had planted in our hearts and we did what we could. One of the first things we did was to attend P.R.I.D.E. – a mandatory, four-day government course for all adoptive and foster parents. We also continued our research. I ordered several books, including Adopted for Life by Dr. Russell Moore, to help us think through the issue.
During this time, we came to the conclusion that China was probably the place from which to adopt from. The reasons were straightforward: Since Katie was born in Hong Kong, we qualified for China’s expedited program which was about a year faster than the general stream. We also felt that a Chinese daughter in a Chinese family would have less stress and confusion in her integration to our family. While the idea of a little Russian boy speaking fluent Cantonese was intriguing, we felt it was better to have someone who would go through what we have as a bi-cultural Chinese-Canadians.
The Year of Paperwork
2011 will be remembered as a stressful year, and one full of paperwork. As our daughter had celebrated her first year birthday, we were officially allowed to start our adoption process. We signed up with The Children’s Bridge, one of the largest adoption agencies in Canada and began to fill in forms, obtain financial statements and update our medical files. We also started meeting monthly with our adoption practitioner (and yes, she was surprised to see us back in full force). At this point, I must give full credit to my administratively-gifted wife who compiled every little bit of paperwork required by our adoption agency, our practitioner, and both governments. We finally completed all the requirements and sent in our dossier to China.
Baby and Beyond
2012 came sooner than we thought and by late January, we received a letter from China explaining that they had received our dossier. This is known as a “Log In Date” (LID) and this simply means that you begin the long wait for the referral. Parents often wait for years for the referral. At the time, we were told that the wait was increasing. China was matching only a few days worth of files per month, which meant – by my calculation – we would receive a child in 6-10 years. This was very different than when we first started the process because we were told that it would be a 3-5 year wait. Part of the reason why we started the adoption journey when our children were so young was because we wanted our children to grow up together. Now, I was being told that this would not happen.
The Death of Dreams
We all have dreams. We imagine the way our lives will be. And we work, toil and pray toward this future. But what happens when it’s completely out of your control? We get angry. We feel frustrated. We call it unfair. And those were my initial reactions when they told me the timeline was increasing. My dream had died. Katie and I wrestled with it for a few months:
Should we drop out of the program?
Was this God’s way of telling us that we were doing something that wasn’t right for us?
If we continued, could we become parents again at 40?
So many questions. So little answers.
But that’s when God opened our eyes to other possibilities. This came in the form of the Waiting Children’s Program – China’s adoption program for children with special needs and/or correctable surgeries. The good news was the expected wait time was 2-3 years. In all honesty, however, having a child with one or more issues is not the dream of most parents (Consider reading Expecting Adam by Martha Beck ).
We have two healthy children at home, so why introduce something like this into our lives?
Could I really love someone like this?
Would our friends and family accept this person into their lives?
So many questions. So little answers.
It was strange, but something gave me peace in my heart to move forward with it. I know that peace came from God himself (John 14:27, Philippians 4:6-7). It also the compassion of my wife that stirred something inside of me. Having practiced physiotherapy on many children with severe injuries and disabilities, Katie was not only open to the idea, she embraced it as something that God orchestrated knowing her career choice.
So in June 2012, we went to a workshop about the Waiting Children’s Program in downtown Toronto. We entered the room and met the directors of the program, Cathy and Darlene, and sat in the second row. There were only two other people in the room. The workshop was informative, but another test of faith was about to hit us: We were told that realistically we would be receiving a 3-year-old boy with a cleft lip/palate. We could request other conditions and specify both the gender and age, but the wait would be significantly longer. They also told me that to receive a little girl under the age of two would be unlikely.
I went home with a heavy, confused heart. I felt like I was backed into a corner. Part of me just didn’t know if I could accept a little boy with a cleft lip.
Though unsettled about what to do next, I had to buckle down and get prepared to go to Kenya, so Katie and I agreed to pray about it while we were separated for three weeks. In the meanwhile, she would call up several parents that had already adopted from the program and get their perspective. Kenya was an incredible experience and part of the reason was I was able to visit several orphanages there. I think that was God’s way of putting things into perspective. I met little girls and boys without parents and listened to their stories. I met with locals who had adopted children, and churches and hospitals involved in adoption work.
And what I realized was that adoption wasn’t about me or my needs. It wasn’t even about helping someone because you felt for them. It was about bringing a family together. Adoption is about bringing God’s redemptive love to bear in our broken world. It’s really a foretaste of what God will eventually do: Renew and restore the world so that there will no longer be orphaned or vulnerable children.
I came back from the trip on August 20th, and the following week, we decided to switch to the Waiting Children’s Program the next week. Cathy, the director of the program, told us to call her. And so we did.
The Phone Call
That phone call changed our lives. Cathy congratulated us for making the switch, and immediately told us that there is a potential match: There was a little girl that met our criteria. She couldn’t give us any details, but there was a good chance we would be matched. The only thing we were told was that she had congenital heart disease. We were both stunned. We had told ourselves that we would likely receive a child in 2-3 years and expected to move on with life in waiting. Cathy told us that this was a file they received in July and so far, there were no matches. Until us.
So what was next? To officially switch into the program, we had more paper work, meet our social worker to update our file and pay administrative fees. We worked quickly through as much as we could, and even met with our social worker between a wedding I was officiating and the reception. What made matters more complicated was that our family was scheduled to fly to Vancouver for ten days during this time. Suffice-to-say, our iPhones were worth the money as we used them to e-mail our agency at the top of Whistler mountain.
The referral day is a huge day in the world of adoption. This is a day when your family is matched with a specific child. That’s when the agency sends you a photo of your child, a medical file and other birth information. Our referral day was September 14, 2012 – the day after we arrived back home from Vancouver. I was at work – when I received the e-mail saying that Cathy would be calling us to share the referral with us because the government approved our switch into the Waiting Children’s Program. I called Katie immediately and we agreed to be home at 1:30 pm to see it together.
Driving home, many thoughts crossed my mind: What would she look like? How old was she? Would she need surgery? Where is she living right now?
1:30 pm came, and we received an e-mail: It didn’t have much in it. Only her name. Her birthdate. Her birthplace. And two photos.
We fell in love with her instantly. Even though, we technically had 72 hours to decide, we knew she was our daughter. After all, how could you say no to those eyes? We signed the paperwork and sent it back to China. They approved the match on September 28, 2012.
Once, China approves the match, so begins the wait for what is known as the Letter Seeking Confirmation (LSC). In Canada, it comes within 3-4 months. By this estimation, we were expected to travel in mid-March 2013. During this time, families often send care packages to their child, work on immigration documents, contact their pediatrician and get the baby room ready. We also obtained a few more photos of our daughter through other parents visiting her orphanage.
The wait isn’t easy. When you have a child by birth, there’s a peace knowing your child is in the womb for 9 months, but with an adoptive child, you already know she’s living somewhere else and you can’t wait to hold her in your arms.
I can’t explain it, but there was this feeling that we might get the LSC earlier. I even turned down several speaking engagements from January to March just in case. Most people I talked to about this said it was rare and we would, in fact, be going in March. But I prayed and asked our friends and children to pray for it anyway. It was my prayer that we would bring her home before her first birthday, and that God would keep her healthy.
As we waited, Katie began a second job as a school physiotherapist and I got back into the full swing of things on my end. Life was busy as usual.
I was sitting on my coach responding to several e-mails when I heard the phone ring. It was a long-distance call from our adoption agency. I picked up the line and heard Cathy’s voice: “I wanted to let you know your LSC arrived today. And you’ll be traveling in early January.”
It was surreal. I was stunned. I sat on my bed and took a few moments to process what was going on. Despite my many doubts and frustrations, God had answered all my prayers. He showed me that He is faithful and good when we surrender our lives to Him and for His purposes (Eph. 2:12-13).
Unable to concentrate on my work, I spent the rest of afternoon doing more research on the adoption journey, and searching for flights to Beijing. I also contacted another adoptive mother who was very helpful in terms of the practical realities of the next two months. She told me to start working hard because it was about to get “CRAZY.”
So here we are. We are about to embark on a 13-hour trip to Beijing. After exchanging money and running errands, we will fly to Jiangsu Province, where we will meet our daughter for the first time on January 14th. We’ll sign papers, visit tourist spots and fly back to Beijing where her adoption will be finalized. On January 22nd, my prayer will come true as we will celebrate her first birthday together. After several more days, we will receive her passport and fly home where she will meet the rest of our family, including her big brother and big sister.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your prayers and love. We are so excited to bring our little girl home, and know this was only possibly the sustaining grace and abundant love of God.
In His Indestructible Joy,
Ho-Ming and Katie