"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It Starts

Proverbs 16:9
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

Let me start by sharing a bit about our adoption journey, so I guess I should start at the beginning… (warning, this does get a little long, but I promise all of my entries won’t be this long)

Adoption has been something I have had in my head that I wanted to do some day since I was in high school. Well, I married my amazing wonderful husband in August, 1998 and he knew at the time I wanted to adopt some day, he agreed but never really had the passion about it that I did. Well, little did we know the journey God was going to take us on that would lead us to our daughter. We had our first two biological children within the first six years of our marriage and after living in Davenport, IA for four years, moved to Marshalltown, IA for John's job change. I knew this new job in Marshalltown had plants all over the world and I very clearly told my husband at that time in these exact words, “I will never live out of the country.” I wanted him to be aware of this in case a job opportunity ever arose internationally with this new company he was going to work for.

The first project that John had at his new job was going to take him on an eight day trip to China to do a project at the Emerson plant there. Well, China is where I had in my heart wanted to adopt from, so the first thing I thought of when he said he was going to China for a week was “orphans”. I casually mentioned that he should visit an orphanage while he was over there. Little did I know where that comment would get me.

He googled “Christian orphanage in China” and the first orphanage that popped up was “The Philip Hayden Foundation” and it was only twenty minutes from where he was going to be staying in China. John was able to visit this orphanage in Tianjin, China while he was there on this first trip and spend a few days there with the founders, Tim and Pam Baker.

The Philip Hayden Foundation is an orphanage in China for special needs orphans. They take in these orphans who are considered “broken” by their own society, raise the money to get them surgeries and then they help them get adopted into families. Since that first visit, his life has never been the same. It was truly an amazing and life-changing event. John was able to visit PHF on other trips back to China in that next year as well as build a friendship with the Bakers. In February of 2007, we got an e-mail from the Bakers saying they needed to come back to the states for one year and needed someone to come over and help at PHF while they were gone. After much consideration and prayer we decided this was a great opportunity and we would go. To tell you the truth, this opportunity had been a dream of John's ever since his first visit to PHF so it really didn't take much considering as we had already talked about it some in the past. It just felt that with the need that arose at PHF with the Baker's leaving for a short time, it was God telling us we should go. So, Tim emailed us and said “Great, and by the way, I need you here by this May.” Well, we raised support, sold our house, quit our job, and with God's provision we were able to get there by May. You may be asking…how did John convince me to move there, when I said I would never live outside of the country? Well, seeing his passion and love for this ministry and for these orphans changed my heart too and I just had a peace about it and knew this is where God wanted us. Plus, my heart for orphans really confirmed that if we were going to live outside of the country this would probably be the only reason I would do it.

So, the next 9 months of our lives were spent at Shepherd's Field Children's Village in Tianjin, China with our older two children. What an incredible time this was for our family. Even though it came with many challenges, we loved every minute of it. The Philip Hayden Foundation is such an amazing ministry and God is doing such incredible work there through the Bakers and we were so thankful we could be a part of it, even if for a short season of our lives. We fell in love with all the precious children at this orphanage, but one little girl in particular named Cadence whom we were really drawn to. We were hoping and praying we would be able to adopt this sweet little girl who has brachial plexus injury (paralyzed arm). We consulted many doctors about her condition and learned a lot about this type of special need. Well, we were not able to adopt her, but we praise God that she did get adopted into a Christian home and now has her own family. God surprised us with another blessing, and in January 2008 our mission to China was cut short by about three months upon pregnancy complications of our third child. Coming home earlier than we planned was difficult, but we knew God was in control and He had a plan in all this so we continued to trust him as we came back to the states.

Well, in January of 2009 (just weeks after we both turned 30, as you have to be 30 to adopt from China) we began the process to adopt our own child from China. We decided to go the special needs route since after working at PHF we were able to see the huge need for loving families for special needs orphans in China. We listed the special needs to our agency we were willing to consider, and then she refers us a child based on those special needs. Well, filling out a special needs list was not exactly an easy thing to do. We certainly didn't want to play God, but we also wanted to be sure we were taking something on that we were comforable with and felt we could manage with 3 other children in the home. We wanted to stick with relatively minor special needs, as we didn’t feel God leading us to severe special needs children at this point in our life. The needs I originally listed were…cleft lip/palate, club feet, minor heart condition. Well, about ten minutes before I emailed the list to our coordinator I really felt a tug at my heart that we needed to list brachial plexus injury as well. So, I told John, We were willing to adopt Cadence who had that special need, so why wouldn’t we adopt another child who has it and he agreed. About three weeks after filling out that list, on August 6th, 2009 I woke up to an email from our adoption agency coordinator with a file of a child she had “locked” for us. I was shaking as I opened the file. I was completely shocked to get a referral so quickly. There are many pages to this file so it takes some time to read through it. However, we immediately saw that her “special need” is brachial plexus injury of her left arm. Her Chinese name is Xu ChunXin and she was born April 22, 2008, so that makes her only 4 months older than Parker.

After receiving a file, you have 48 hours to look it over and say “yes, I want to move forward with adopting this child” or “No, I do not want to move forward with adopting this child.” If you say no, there are no questions asked and you can be referred another child. Xu ChunXin is completely healthy other than what we consider a very minor special need, which is a paralyzed arm. I must also add that she is so incredibly adorable as you can see from the pictures above. There was no doubt in our minds that she was ours. We emailed our coordinator that same day and said we want her.....we want to be her forever family so she will never be an orphan again. Her new name will be Lilyia Grace Christen.

Isn’t it amazing how God works? My passion to adopt led John to an orphanage in China, where his passion for this incredible orphan ministry later led our family to serve in China, where we met a sweet little orphan girl, who would then lead us to our precious daughter. God is so Good! It just shows how God's ways are so much better than we could ever think or imagine. He orchestrates and plans out our lives just perfectly if we just follow and trust in Him!


  1. Hi there! I love this story!! And yes it is so amazing how God works! And you are defiantly right about her being cute! ;) She is adorable! Thank you for sharing this story, it helped me to get to know you and your family better. I can not wait to read more and follow your amazing journey to bring home a little girl who will never be an orphan again! Blessings to you and your family! I will be praying for you all.

  2. I am so excited to follow your journey to Lilyia via this blog! I read every word of your story and was so amazed at how God has worked to draw your family to this little girl in China. I have had a passion for adoption since junior high or early high school and I still have 10 1/2 years before I can adopt from China (*smile*), but your story gave me such hope that God can use a heart for adoption even at an early age and do amazing things! Thanks so much for posting...your family will be in my prayers.

  3. I knew of your story, but not to that depth! what an amazing story! How God honoring and glorifing!!
    Cant wait to see photos next week of the precious family of SIX!
    shelton crew of six