Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My Buddy Jack

Let me tell you a little bit about Jack.


Because he just might be one of the greatest kids I've ever met!! Some kids you meet in trips like this one are just special.  They have that spark, that presence that allows them to just capture your heart in a way that time and distance don't diminish.  My buddy Jack is one of those kids!!

This boy speaks fluent English.  Seriously- he understands every word I say and will even translate what people say to me in Chinese!  He's crazy smart!!

He's also incredibly funny!!! At one point during Advocacy Camp he was joking with one of the ladies that he was going to pour water into his nose.  Then he looked up at her as she told him it was a bad idea and said, 'I'm just joking! I'm not an elephant!!'  

What makes this joke of his even more incredible is that Jack has cataracts which affect his vision considerably.  He has one spot on his eye where he can see and yet at 6 years old he knows that elephants suck water up into their trunks! :) 

In spite of his low vision, Jack is amazingly independent! We watched him walk around unfamiliar places by himself and even go down stairs on his own.  When he tries to look at something he lifts it up to the spot where he can see.  We are so hopeful for what a family, medical care, & education could do for this amazing boy!!

My buddy Jack is funny and silly and a little bit mischievous, like all little boys I know.  I just adore him and can't wait to see who the lucky family is who decides to say 'yes'.  They are going to be sooooo blessed!!

You can see a new video of Jack here:

Jack is currently listed with Gladney.  You can get more information about him by contacting Mary Chapman at Mary.chapman@gladney.org

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Meet Lawrence!!

Let me tell you about a little boy I met in China.  His name is Lawrence! (Okay his real name is a Chinese name, but due to privacy issues we have given him an American advocacy name to protect his privacy ;)

How cute is this boy????  Our first sighting of him was in the classroom working on his Chinese writing and his numbers.

It turned out that he was participating in the advocacy camp and would be spending the day with us!  This boy is adorable!!  He is diagnosed with development delay, but he seems to be making great progress.  He followed all the music teacher's directions.  He sang songs and did motions and he was the only one out of all the kids there who was willing to stand up and show off for the visitors!! ;)

I noticed that he is quite small for his age.  He honestly seemed a little developmentally delayed, but it didn't strike me personally as anything more than institutional delays which from my experience have been overcome quite quickly. 

  He was such a happy guy!!  Eager to play and blow bubbles and just be a silly kid!!

Our advocates played games with him and even observed him putting together a lego set by himself.

He is just such a special little boy!!!!  His biggest need is a family!!  A family that will love him, support him, make him laugh, and help him reach his full potential. 

Are you that family?  He is currently listed with Gladney.  Additional information can be found at the link below.


UPDATE- Lawrence's file has been returned to the shared list.  Interested families can still contact Gladney for more details!
Thanks for stopping by to learn about these awesome kids!!

Changsha Advocacy Camp Day Two

Oh what an amazing day our final day in Changsha was!! We were told we'd be playing and getting to know the younger kiddos on this day and sure enough we did!!!

Before I even left the states for China I had two mama friends approach me in hopes that I might be able to see and love on their sweeties while I was in Changsha.  Because those children were already matched and did not need advocacy, I didn't expect to meet them but I hoped and prayed for the chance because I've been in their shoes!! I know what a joy it is to know that someone has loved on your baby while you are still waiting to get to them.  One sweet friend's daughter played playdoh with me on our first day in Changsha!! What a joy it was to see her and get to love on her a bit!

So when we walked into the baby room, the very first child I laid my eyes on was my other friend's daughter!!!

What are the odds???  I just couldn't believe it!!

And after her shock and disgust for Americans (we seem very weird looking and scary to her)  wore off a couple hours later, she even let me take a picture with her!!! ;)

And this little guy!!  When I first walked in and they started bringing children that were on our list into the room, Mr. Wu told me that he was sorry but the little guy with thalassemia I was looking forward to meeting was at the hospital getting his transfusion.  But it turned out that information was wrong, and he strolled right into the room a few minutes later.  The director knew I wanted to meet him, so she had him brought over for the day, even though he still had to be monitored for a reaction a day or two longer.  Isn't he adorable??

Look at all these babies!!!  And there were sooooo many we got to play with and get to know!!

And here's what gets me... These babies- all of them- need families.  And I don't just mean the babies we played with on our final day.  I mean all of the children we met and all of the children we didn't meet.  The orphanages in China and India and Columbia and Ukraine and Uganda and in so many countries around the world are filled with babies just like them.  Because whether they are 8 months old or 15 years old, they are all babies.  Babies in need of a mom and dad.

And after a fun morning of play, these particular babies were due for a nap!  So they sent us to lunch so the babies could nap!!

After lunch we were presented with a couple options for the afternoon.  We could play with the babies some more, go meet a few older boys to answer their questions about adoption, or 2 lucky people would have the opportunity to meet the staff and children at Butterfly Children's Home.  Knowing the work that Butterfly does and the precious kids they serve, I jumped at the opportunity to go meet the staff and children there, even though it meant no more play time with these precious little sweeties!!

Butterfly is a children's palliative & hospice care home right on the grounds of the orphanage.  They take in the sickest children, those who are unlikely to make it, and risk it all for those children!  They try to find resources to get these children miracle, life-saving surgeries at leading hospitals like those in Shanghai.  They care for dying children, sitting right by their side in their final days.  Their goal is to love on these children and bring joy to these children everyday, for as long as each child has.  They are truly Jesus hands and feet right here on earth.

I met their amazing director Naomi and she shared all about Butterfly, showed us around, and shared the babies' stories.  I still don't have words for everything she shared with us that day.  With brokenness all around, these special nurses and volunteers choose hope.  And they choose it everyday.

I'm attaching their blog for two reasons.  One- because you guys should be praying for their staff and children.  And two- because they need financial supporters to continue to do the work they are doing!!  Their staff dreams of growing and taking this level of care to other orphanages.  No child should have to die alone, but that is the sad reality without centers like Butterfly.  Please prayerfully consider supporting their work, whether in prayer or financially.  They are making miracles happen!!

After visiting Butterfly, I walked back to our hotel and began to get ready for the flight back to Shanghai the next day.  This trip was a dream come true.  An opportunity to truly make a difference, bringing you all the stories of so many children who are waiting for their forever families to come.  It also became an opportunity to begin a new level of advocacy for the many, many children who wait with thalassemia and I will share more about that in coming days.

Our time with the kids had come to a close, but my work had only just begun.  Stay tuned!!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Changsha Advocacy Camp Day One!!

After a day of travel (where I lost my cell phone on the plane :( ) and a little exploration we got up bright and early to visit the children in Changsha.  Our hotel was very close to the orphanage, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy journey!  They are building out the subway more and some of that construction has taken up the sidewalk that used to be there.  We walked in the bike/moped lane, carefully dodging bikes, mopeds, & a few wayward cars.  China never gets old and always keeps me on my toes!!  In fact, I may have had a run-in with a moped on the way back to the hotel!  We decided to term it a “gentle caress”. J

We got to the orphanage and were introduced to the new international adoption director and the director of the orphanage.  The director is pretty new and is making a lot of improvements she was eager to show us.  She took us over to the rehabilitation center and gave us a tour of the facility, explaining some of the rooms they have and what they are used for.  She talked about the importance of getting her staff trained to use some of the high tech equipment they have recently received and explained some staff will travel to Shanghai to be trained soon.  Gladney’s representative talked to her about the potential of sending over a few to the states for more training or to send a training team to them.  This is the beauty of agency partnerships with orphanages.  It allows the agency to truly partner with the orphanage to help better serve the children in their care.  I know some people have gotten frustrated over orphanage partnerships and how difficult it can make adopting a specific child, so it was great to see the other side and see how these partnerships are making a difference for children in the orphanages.  I know as an adoptive parent who has had to switch agencies because Laila was a partnership orphanage child, it softened me a little to the sometimes hard line adoptive families are given by agencies.  We met some beautiful children and learned about the strides they have made since beginning rehabilitation.


We also got to see a new initiative Changsha has started to meet the needs of not just orphans with autism, but also children in the community with autism.  They have a facility where the children are taught and cared for.  This is huge because it gives a family who is afraid they can’t care for their child an avenue for helping their child while keeping their child in the family, reducing their likelihood of abandonment.

Next we headed over to play with the kids!  This group was older kids, age 4-10.  It started off with a few boys and their music teacher.  They sang songs and taught us the motions.  Then it was time for some one on one play!  First a few kids came in, then a few more, then some more and before we knew it we had a room full of chaos and fun!


This boy is just plain awesome!!  His name is Lawrence and I think he will be on Gladney’s list very soon.  He’s a little small for his age, but so funny and smart! 
We had a blast with him!!  And he is available for adoption with Gladney right now!

And sweet Lance started off painfully shy, but I made it my goal to bring him out of his shell!  Judging by that cute smile with the bubbles, I’d say mission accomplished!


The boy on the left is Luke.  I think everyone on the advocacy team loved him!! He was so much fun!!  He also played a song by ear after one of our advocates played it a few times for him.  Such an awesome kid!!

After lunch we played with a smaller group that included some of the boys from the morning out on the playground.  It was nice to move into a different environment to see how they were outside vs inside with a ton of kids to compete with for attention.  The afternoon brought a few new faces as well!

And that silly little cutie in the blue shirt?? He's so much fun!!  He will be available for adoption with Gladney very soon!

This little cutie girl had me working overtime!  Zoe was VERY attached to her ayis and not at all interested in being my friend at first.  Candy helped break down the wall, but when she started talking to me in Chinese and realized I couldn’t understand her- she gave up on me! Haha!!  She went over to an older couple sitting at a picnic table and chatted with them instead while they gave her chips! ;)  Isn't she beautiful???


What an awesome day!!  This trip has been busy, busy, busy.  We go from a full day of play to dinner (which in Hunan province means spicy and sooooo delicious) to a team meeting to share about the kids personalities with the superkids team who will try to find them families.  There’s been a few that our advocates have fallen for as well!  Can’t wait to see these kids get families.
As this day came to a close, I couldn’t believe that the trip was already rapidly coming to a close.  We only had one day left and then we would be heading home.  I pray that as we learn about these precious children we can break down some of the walls people have toward older child adoption, including myself honestly.  These are just regular kids.  Sure, they come from a different background and they’ve experienced trauma but that is not what defines them.  After spending this time with these older kids, I can see more than ever that they are just regular kids in need of a family.  In China, a child ages out of adoption eligibility on their 14th birthday.  At that point they will never be adopted, never have the support of a family, never get the opportunity to be an aunt or an uncle, and unfortunately they will walk out into life completely unprepared for what awaits.  The fate of children who age out is sad and scary and I just can’t imagine one of these awesome boys having to fight that fight all alone.  I will readily admit that while I loved the idea of older child adoption, I also found it downright scary but now I see how amazing it is too.  These kids are great kids.  They are great kids who need someone to tell them "Yes, I will be your mom and love you forever."