Orphan…older child …severe congenital heart disease. All of these were words I heard on the other end of the phone almost four years ago when our adoption agency called with a referral. As I clicked to open the email they were sending with more information and a photo, I wondered how we could even think about adopting a child with these labels. Once I opened that email with her sad little eyes staring into my face I heard these words echo in my ears….”My child, I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you(John 14:18).” At that moment, I knew Jiang Li Fei was our daughter and we were the parents God had planned for her.
When God began speaking to our hearts about adoption we knew we would follow the special needs pathway, but imagined the need would be minor, one that was easily repairable. However, when He calls and we say, “Wherever You lead, I’ll go,” we may be called to go down a path we never planned. We have learned that His ways are far greater than ours and we wouldn’t change a thing to go down an easier path. The path He has led us down has been full of bumps, bruises and more love than we could have ever hoped.
When a woman complains of a long nine-month pregnancy, she has no idea how it feels to look at her daughter’s picture for a full year, knowing that baby girl is growing up without the love of a mother to hold her and in need of medical care her parents long to provide. From May 2009 until May 2010 we clung to hope and every little update we could gather from such wonderful organizations as Ladybugs n Love.
During the wait to hold our daughter in our arms we contacted doctors, decorated her room, sent care packages and prayed for her health. It was during this wait that God began truly growing our faith for the days ahead. Days that He knew we would need a stronger faith to get us through some very scary moments.
Finally, on May 31, 2010 we prepared for the moment we would meet our daughter. As we walked up the steps into the civil affairs office in China I saw her standing there with such a sad little face. I bent down to look into her eyes, and almost felt as though I was looking into the eyes of Jesus and time stood still as she became an orphan no more. It was a moment I will never forget; a moment when my own fear of wondering if I could love a 4 yr old child who spoke another language vanished and the language of love was all we needed.
The days that followed were filled with tears, solitude, laughs and a new love that filled a spot in our hearts we had never known was empty until that moment.
After arriving home we quickly began seeing doctors and making plans for her second open heart surgery, the Fontan. Thankfully her birth family, who could not provide her medical needs, cared enough to abandon her in a hospital. It was a few months later, at 18 months old, she underwent her first open heart surgery, called the Glenn procedure for Tricuspid Atresia in China. She was now beyond ready for the Fontan, the third step in this process for her heart defect. During the two months between arriving home and her surgery we needed to fatten her up and she wasn’t too impressed with her new choices of food, so as any good parents would do, we fed her lots of ice cream! After all, isn’t that the best medicine?
The long hours and days following her surgery caused our heart to grow more in love with our newest daughter. We thank God for knowing what we needed so much better than we could have ever dreamed.
Now, two years later, we are raising a 7 year old little girl with a single ventricle heart, who tries her best to keep up with every other first grader. She lives life to the fullest each day and shares the love she has stored in her heart with everyone she meets.
She inspires us daily.
She prays for mommies and daddies for other little boys and girls who need heart surgery.
And she treasures her gift of family, just as we treasure the gift God has given us.