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A Rose Looks Gray at Midnight

Our hearts ached for this little orphan. She had been a candidate for adoption, but her papers had been returned to Beijing. She might spend the rest of her gray existence in the orphanage, and finally, on the street. It would be a short life.

She needed a home, a family, and surgery for a ventricular septal defect. She was 2 years old, and the operation should have been performed in infancy to prevent lung damage.

Already in our mid-50s, my wife and I weren’t getting any younger ourselves.

Jan and I knew it was unconventional to target a specific Chinese orphan, probably even a foolish fantasy, yet we had to try. Because China was reorganizing the adoption process at the time, all adoptions from China had ceased. Our adoption agency was honest with us. The director even said, “Don’t count on it.”

When China finally approved her adoption we knew that we were witnessing a miracle. But when it came time for us to travel, we were told that now we couldn’t have her after all. There was a glitch on the other side of the world—a technicality that made her adoption by anyone unlikely.

In all, it took 16 months of waiting, praying, the dedication of Holt International Children’s Services—and a miracle from an unexpected source. Finally we made that long trek to the far side of the world to rendezvous with our new daughter. In new suits and fresh haircuts, the little girl and her traveling companions resembled astronauts stepping out into another world.

With a new name, our Helene was 3 years old by the time she came home. The next day we visited the cardiologist. He suggested we delay the operation for a few months, until Helene could adjust to her new life.

Jan always tucked our two girls into bed, but on the evening before surgery, Helene lay her head on my shoulder and fell asleep. She knew something momentous was about to happen. I sensed her telling me, “Daddy, I’m afraid, but I’m going to trust you because I know you love me.”

We arrived at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas early in the morning on April Fool’s Day. Dr. Nikaido sutured one hole, put a Dacron patch over another, and carved away the muscle build-up that had actually constricted the blood flow in what turned out to be another miracle: Helene would not need a lung transplant.

The words from a popular country song came to mind. “A rose looks gray at midnight, but the flame is just asleep,” sang Johnny Cash. When the doctor wheeled our child out of the operating room she no longer appeared dull and pale. She was pink as a rose in the morning sun. Our foolish dream had come true.

As Helene’s English improved she commented about her surgery: “I used to have a hole in my heart,” she said, “but now I have a whole heart.” Later, I overheard her singing, “With my whole heart, Lord, let me love you with my whole heart.”

A whole heart and a trusting, thankful heart.

(Holt International Children’s Services first published this story as “Whole Heart” in their magazine in 2007).

 

Posted in Adoption


Who’s the Richest Child in the World?

The three-year-old orphan came to us with nothing but the clothes on her back and a pair of red sneakers, new but smelling strongly of mothballs. She couldn’t run away, and finally decided to trust us, reluctantly.

We gave her riches beyond her wildest imagination. We gave her a rubber ball, and the next morning we presented her with a hand mirror. The third day’s gift was a rubber ducky. Each time she scampered off to the far corner of the hotel room with her treasures where nobody would snatch them away from her. For the first time in her life, she had all the marbles.

When we gave her a picture book, she wanted to look only at pictures of the ball, the hand mirror and the ducky—the extent of her strange, new, expanding world.

Arriving home in the United States, our newly adopted daughter, now named Helene, began to awaken to the beauty all around her. Meeting her two sisters with long lush hair, she stroked her own fresh burr haircut and expressed her desire for beautiful long tresses. Her artistry began to emerge as she hung ribbons and beads from her head, her neck, her ears. Her newfound riches amazed her. At the table, she left no scrap uneaten. Watermelon—after she ate the red part, she just kept on eating right through the green part.

But it was the dresses that overwhelmed her. One morning Helene stood in front of her closet for an hour. She was staring at the row of hand-me-down dresses. All beautiful. Not knowing which one to put on, she finally emerged from the bedroom wearing five dresses—one on top of the other. She must have thought she was the richest child in the world!

And she is. Think about it. She now lives in a home with her own family, with assurance that we won’t (and can’t) un-adopt her. She receives unconditional love, and enjoys the freedom to run, and play, and be a little girl. She has a new name, and a document hanging on the wall declares that she possesses citizenship in her new country. All this, and Heaven, too! She has discovered the Bible’s promises of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

If my kids are rich, what does that make me? Sometimes when I kiss them goodnight, I remind my two adopted daughters that some people think they’re rich because they have lots of money. “But I’m the richest man in the world, because I have you.”

(Holt International Children’s Services first published this story as “The Wealth of Family” in their magazine in 2007).

Posted in Adoption


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