Adoption has been on my mind a great deal lately, because May 14th will mark the fifth anniversary of adopting our daughter from China!
Our adopted daughter in 2007, just a few weeks
after she became a member of the Molewyk family.
after she became a member of the Molewyk family.
Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter, by Jennifer Grant
In this memoir, author, mother of four, and journalist Jennifer Grant chronicles the adoption of her youngest daughter, Mia, from Guatemala. Grant shares how and why she and her husband decided to adopt, as well as what the lengthy adoption process looked like. Finally, she shares about the first several years post-adoption. Throughout this book, Grant comes across as a very likeable mom—she writes in a candid, conversational manner, with moments of parenting humor that the recovering perfectionist in me greatly enjoyed.
Grant also does a nice job delving into some of the complex emotions surrounding adoption. This includes the incredible frustration when you're waiting seemingly forever to bring your child home, the buildup of anticipation and nervous anxiety when you're about to meet your child for the first time, and the moments when you feel sad for your adopted child's birth mother and wonder how she felt when she gave up her child.
The one aspect of Grant's experience that I couldn't relate to was Mia's initial transition into her new family, which sounded like it went fairly smoothly, for the most part. Not all adoptions (including ours) go quite as smoothly, from either a physical or emotional standpoint. But this just goes to show you that adoption experiences—like any other aspect of parenting—vary from family to family.
In addition to the overall story of adopting Mia, this book does an excellent job educating readers about various adoption-related issues, which Grant skillfully weaves into the overall narrative. For example, she examines:
- The complicated and varied motivations for adopting an orphan.
- Reasons why some people are militantly anti-adoption.
- Factors that contribute to the number of orphans in this world, including poverty, war, inadequate access to medical help, and sexual violence against women.
Something I found particularly interesting was Grant's perspective on race relations, which changed when she noticed the way others treated her adopted daughter. As a racial minority myself, I greatly appreciated her observations on this topic. For example:
"Oh here you are, darling," she says. "Did you have fun today?" She straightens herself up and turns to find Mia standing in front of her. The smile disappears from her face.
"Excuse me," she says in a voice so cold that others stop and look.
"Hi sweetie," I almost shout. "Over here!"
The woman sees that Mia is my daughter and attempts to smile. "Oh... she..." she mumbles.
For now, Mia seems blissfully unaware that when some people see her, they can't get past the color of her skin. Or maybe it's not about color, but about perceived class. When I hear people make patronizing comments about the Hispanic men who mow their lawn or imitate the Spanish accent of the person clearing tables at a restaurant, I think, is that what you see when you see my beautiful daughter?" (p. 150)
I highly recommend Love You More for anyone contemplating adoption, first because it's an interesting read, and second, because you will walk away with an expanded perspective on the many facets of adoption. To buy this book at Amazon, click here.
The Waiting Child: How the Faith and Love of One Orphan Saved Another, by Cindy Champnella
We had a very good experience adopting through Great Wall China Adoption (GWCA). When I first contacted GWCA about adoption, they sent us a DVD that included interviews with various couples who had adopted through them. One of these couples was Rick and Cindy Champnella, who shared the unforgettable story of their adopted four-year-old daughter, Jaclyn. After adopting her, they discovered that she had been responsible for looking after two younger orphans in the orphanage, and she considered one of them, Xiao Xiao, her own little baby. In an interview with beliefnet.com, adoptive mother Cindy explained:
"She told us all these anecdotes about Xiao Xiao and another little one she took care of. She described in quite a bit of detail getting them up in the morning and dressing and feeding them. But I think even then she was most proud of the emotional support she provided—she comforted them when they cried. She held that little boy's hand in the dark when he was sad. That's what floored me—here she was herself without a mother, but she knew how to give selfless mother love to another child."
Every day, Jaclyn worried about this little boy, and she relentlessly lobbied the Champnellas to bring him home. For various reasons, this was a request that was statistically almost impossible. But Cindy says Jaclyn never gave up:
"One night after she'd been here about three months, to my surprise she began to pray. Her first prayer to God was for Xiao Xiao, and she continued to pray for him every single night. She never asked God for anything for herself, but she'd ask God to bring him pajamas so he wouldn't be cold at night. Or to help him not to be afraid of the dark. And she always, always begged God to help her bring him a mama. Listening to her prayers... it literally just ripped a hole in our hearts, I couldn't even imagine how God could stand to listen to those prayers. And that's what started this whole story."
The story Champnella refers to is her book—an incredibly compelling and tragic story that will bring tears to your eyes. But happily (spoiler alert), it has a beautiful and inspiring ending that will leave you believing that God still moves heaven and earth today! You can purchase a copy at Amazon, by clicking here.
Now, I'd like to introduce you to three not-for-profit organizations that do wonderful work to improve the lives of orphans.
Harmony Outreach is a Christian ministry that cares for orphans in China, Ethiopia, and Cambodia. Many have medically correctable special needs, such as heart problems or cleft lips. To improve their chances of being adopted, Harmony raises funds for surgeries, then arranges for the surgeries. Thus far, over 1,000 children in their care have been adopted!
Ways you can get involved: sponsor a child in China, Ethiopia, or Cambodia, contribute toward surgeries for special needs orphans, go on one of their ministry trips to China or Cambodia, or sign up to receive their newsletters, which share the stories of specific children they're helping. Whenever the latest newsletter arrives, my kids actually fight over who gets to read it first! We recently had the privilege of meeting John Bentley, the founder of this ministry, along with the real life fruit of this ministry—several Chicago-area families whose adopted children were cared for by Harmony Outreach in China. This ministry is truly doing wonderful things for orphans!
Love Without Boundaries (LWB) is a not-for-profit organization that runs foster care, education, medical, nutrition, and other programs that minister to orphans in China.
Ways you can get involved: sponsor a child, contribute financially toward specific needs, such as cribs, winter jackets, foster care and surgeries for orphans. LWB is run by approximately 150 volunteers, and their website contains information on volunteer job opportunities. How we heard about this organization: when John and my in-laws flew to China to bring home our daughter (long, complicated story why I couldn't go), one of the families in their travel group had been fostered through LWB. John reported that this child was very smiley and had clearly been well cared for!
Show Hope was started by Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth, who have adopted three children from China. Their website contains comprehensive information about how to adopt, as well as their grant program, which helps families pay for their adoption expenses.
Ways you can get involved: sponsor a child, sign up to receive monthly e-mails containing prayer needs for specific orphans; go on a short term mission/vision trip through Show Hope to clarify how God may be calling you to help orphans; volunteer for Show Hope; or download a comprehensive guide that explains how to start an adoption grant fund at your church. In addition, Show Hope has also launched various initiatives designed to raise awareness of orphan needs among teens, and motivate them to get involved in helping orphans.
On a final note, I've added an "Adoption Resources" section to the lefthand side of this blog. It contains links to all of the resources I've mentioned in this (super lengthy) blog posting. I hope you found this helpful!