Adopted from Zhuzhou, China in 2016 at 9 years old
Bethany at 12 years old (2019)
In the summer of 2015, Here I Am Orphan Ministries worked with an adoption agency to bring children from China to the United States for a host program with the goal of finding them a forever family that would proceed to adopt them. Some of the host families were adoption minded families and others were advocates would helped to find the right family for the child. Our family didn’t originally plan to host a child, but as the window was closing and still seeing so many children waiting, we decided to host.
I had always been drawn to two precious little girls in the program who both had a super rare Tessier facial cleft that went through their eyes. Maybe raising Sarah, who also had cleft lip and palate, made me realize what all can be done to help children with this type of birth defect. The girls were about a year apart in age. The older of the two girls was quickly chosen to be hosted by a family and the younger ones still remained, so we chose her.
We will never forget that precious day when their plane landed and she came walking through those bright red doors at the airport. I was busy trying to match other children to their host families and she spotted us before we even realized it. She came running and jumped into our arms and hugged our necks! We knew instantly that she was ours and we were about to be starting the adoption process once again!
From that moment forward, we proceeded to complete the process as quickly as possible to bring her home permanently and make her our own. She stayed with us on the host program for five amazing weeks. She fit into our family so perfectly! Looking back it was as if there was this missing piece of a puzzle that had finally been found.
Bethany loved all the same things our kids at home enjoyed. She rode horses, played in the sprinkler, colored pictures, played with dolls, and carried her cat “Ping” everywhere! We even taught her how to ride a bicycle while she was here on the host program.
Then came that dreaded day when she had to return to China. We made her a beautiful photo album of her stay with our family, packed up what she could fit into a carry-on bag and a backpack, bought her a new jacket to wear home, and made plans to leave for the airport. I felt as if it was the longest drive to Houston ever. There was a part of me that just wanted to head to the border and avoid taking the risk of losing her!
In international adoption, there’s never any guarantees. Things can change in an instant….war can break out, laws and requirements can change, adoption can close completely, financial hardship can make it impossible to pay the fees (I prefer to look at it as a ransom!) to get our little girl back. It takes a great amount of faith and trust in the Lord that He will see us through to what He placed in our hearts.
The following months were filled with the paper chase as we worked diligently to gather everything needed to complete our dossier and get it off to China. As a waiting mother, these are the labor pains and they seem to drag on for many months.
In July of 2016, we boarded a plane headed for China to bring Bethany and a second child, Jayson, home. While working on our dossier, we decided that if we had an opportunity to adopt a second child on the same dossier that we would do it and give two children a forever home.
We thought it would be a good experience for Rachel to travel with us to China and see the country where she was born. The first stop on our trip was Beijing, which is not far from Tianjin where Rachel was from. In Beijing we saw many historical sites and visited the Great Wall of China. A couple of days later we left for Changsha where we would meet the children and complete the adoption process. Then we would finish up the immigration process at the US Embassy in Guangzhou before we headed to Hong Kong and then flew home.
We were literally counting down the hours until we would see Bethany and Jayson. When Bethany entered the room, she was filled with excitement. It seemed like it was never going to happen and now she was finally in our arms….and with a little brother too!
A couple of days later we went to Zhuzhou, where we would visit the orphanage where Jayson lived and where Bethany spent a lot of her time when she was not with her foster grandparents. Touring the orphanage was so hard because we saw so many special needs children who would never know the love of a family. So many of them laid on little bamboo mats and stared aimlessly at a bare ceiling. I wished there was some way to paint the walls and ceiling to give the children something to stimulate their brains. Most of the children we saw had Cerebral Palsy and we were told that there were more than 200 children there with CP.
Bethany took us to the room where she took piano lessons from a very special lady who did music therapy with a small group of children. After visiting the orphanage, we were invited to lunch with the orphanage director and some staff members at a beautiful restaurant nearby. We also invited Jett and Nora Grace, two of Bethany’s best friends and member of the “Fabulous Four” as we call them. Rhythm was the only missing child of this amazing group of piano players, and he wasn’t there because he got to travel home and join his new family just a couple of weeks before. The really amazing thing about that is that Rhythm only lives about 20 minutes from us! Jett and Nora Grace had families coming to adopt them too, but they were still waiting for the paperwork to be completed so their families could travel to get them.
After lunch, we headed to meet some of the children’s foster parents and we had the opportunity to meet Bethany’s precious foster grandmother. The impact she made on Bethany’s life is truly remarkable and we will forever be grateful for the role she played in helping raise her to the beautiful young lady she is today. Bethany has told us many stories about her foster grandparents and I have no doubt they were amazing people who loved her very much. They had her for many years, as far back as Bethany can even remember. They had been through many surgeries with her too and always took excellent care of her. When we left their home that day, her foster grandma and I both cried. Even though we didn’t share the same language, I felt as if we could read each other’s hearts and we both loved Bethany deeply.
I have given a lot of thought to the role a foster parent plays in a child’s life and the lasting impact they can leave. In most cases, foster families are far better than life in the orphanage, but few foster families love deeply the way that Bethany’s foster family did. Our world could use far more people with the heart and compassion that this couple has.
From Zhuzhou, we flew to Guangzhou to complete the immigration portion of the process. There we visited the Embassy doctors and completed the final paperwork. While we waited a few days for our paperwork to be processed, we toured the city a little and even went on a day excursion to Chimelong Park Zoo. It was by far the most beautiful zoo we had ever visited. Bethany was very excited about watching all the animal shows, but we realized then just how delayed and overwhelmed our sweet little Jayson was. I am completely convinced that he never even saw an animal until that day.
When the children’s visas were completed, we were free to leave and start our long trip home. We took a train to Hong Kong. Then we flew from Hong Kong to San Francisco, then to Dallas, and finally to Houston. It is the best feeling to land at home and walk through those doors and into the loving arms of your family! It is also a sad reminder that so many orphaned children in our world never get to experience the love of a forever family. Walking through those doors is both an ending and a new beginning. Our hope is that we will be the best parents we can be to each of our children, but the reality is we will make many mistakes along the way. Our prayer is that Bethany’s future will be filled with many happy memories, lots of love, and goodness. We are blessed to be traveling this journey with her.
2019 Update - Bethany continues take piano lessons and is quite talented. Each year she competes in Piano Guild at the national level and scores very high. She has an amazing gift and we hope she will continue to develop her piano skills. She also enjoys riding horses in barrel racing, pole bending, sorting, goat typing, penning, and now even roping! She is an excellent rider and sometimes rides four horses a day just to work out kinks with some that can be a little more stubborn or still learning new skills.
Bethany had a lot of surgery since she came home and this year was no exception. She is doing great and the clarity of her speech is really coming along too. She even sings in Children's Choir at church.