Bringing New JOY

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With families working hard to bring Amelia, Josiah, and Sean home it is time for the next JOY MIssion Trip.  Who will be the families to advocate?  Who will be children matched to these families?  Who are their future moms, dads, brothers, sisters …?

My trip last Spring left a new and ever lasting impression on me.  It reminded me how much joy a child has within them. It showed me what connection means.  And it reinforced the great communities that are around us.  More importantly, it showed me my own ability to make a difference in the lives of others.

Give yourself the gift of being empowered to make a difference.  The next JOY mission trip departs in just a couple of weeks. The mission will be heading to Guangdong, China.  This providence is in southeastern China (just west of Hong Kong). You will witness the blending traditional and modern Chinese cultures while experiencing life through the eyes of an orphan.

Spots in this program are limited and registration will be ending soon! If you’re interested in learning how you can give back through our JOY Mission trip, contact the hosting team today at shannon@gwca.org! or visit http://orphanhosting.com/joy-mission-trip-register-today/

You and also contact me at stefan@wahe.us

Reach out today!

Sean’s Last Days

Sean takes in the scenery with his hosting Dad.
Sean takes in the scenery with his hosting Dad.

Sean is one of the boys I met while visiting the Dongguan Social Welfare Society in April.  He was interesting to be with during my five days visiting.  The first few days he observed from the sidelines.  He would step in to help out with the other kids.  He would respond if called upon. But with his being deaf, I assumed he just needed time to adjust to hanging out with us crazy Americans.  But as he watched me form a relationship with Josiah and Amelia I started noticing him moving in from the sideline. He started sitting with Josiah and I when we ate meals.  He would hold Amelia’s hand if she needed help.  He started to plays games and laugh with the other kids.  Once he got to know us, there were smiles and a hope in his eye.

Sean having fun with the family dog.
Sean having fun with the family dog.

Over the past both Sean has been part of the hosting program.  He has been staying with a family in upstate New York getting to live the summer life.  He has had a great time going to the beach fishing, bike riding and helping around the house.  He even went with his hosting Dad to go fix a neighbor’s water heater.  During his visit with the neighbor, he made fast friends with their family dog.

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Biking in the woods.

This is Sean’s last week visiting in the States.  He will be heading back to Dongguan at the end of the week.  It may also be Sean’s last chance at finding a forever family.  He ages out of the adopting program next spring.  Please share Sean’s story.

Sean with Amelia and Josiah this past spring.
Sean with Amelia and Josiah this past spring. Amelia and Josiah have been matched with forever families. They should be in the States to begin 2017. 

If you would like to learn more about Sean, please contact Meredith at Great Wall China Adoption by email meredith@gwca.org.

A Letter from Amelia (kind of)

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Today I was asked if I still had contact with Amelia.  Unfortunately, I don’t have that connection.  But this is the type of letter I think I would receive …

Thank you for visiting me at my orphanage.  You provided light into my drab, daily routine. You treated me like the little princess I want to be.  You gave me encouragement when so few others have.  I got to see and do things I never knew existed and that there is a greater world beyond the walls.  You fed me and let me grow.

I hope your wish comes true and a family comes for me soon. I want them to give me a dress to twirl and turn-in. Some sweets to eat and an older sister or brother.  I want parents who will teach me, hold me, and love me.

Someday I hope you are there when I land. To see me smile holding my new mom’s hand. You will be proud to know I want to be the best daughter, grow stronger and smarter.  I just need that miracle of love.

— Love is Beautiful – Amelia

Amelia is a flower waiting to grow.  Please help share her story and let anyone interested know they can contact Great Wall China Adoption China Matching Specialists by emailing mallory@gwca.org or they can email me at stefan@wahe.us.

 

1,000s of Miles 1,000s of Smiles

The dirt under my feet, the dirt under my nails, the sweat from my brown upon the corner of many streets.  It sounds like work. It looks like a lot of angst, but what it has brought me are a thousands upon thousands of smiles of joy.

This weekend I got to see the conclusion of a chapter.  It was not a chapter of an individual, but that of the story of a family who has believed in themselves to reach beyond the routine.  They had room in their hearts, room in their home, to say yes to a 13-year-old who needed a new hope. His prayers were answered.

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Luke meet his new family some three weeks ago.  Since then he was anxious to leave his China for his new home.  After a journey of thousands of mile, I drove them away from O’Hare towards Wisconsin. Luke’s eyes closed and his breaths grew long with sleep.  About halfway to his new home he awoke to exclaim, “drive faster, get home now!”  The thing is, he did not know what his new home was like.  Luke just knew he wanted his journey to end soon.  His new parents and I smiled as his head rested back against his mini-van seat and his eyelids closed again in rest.

These children – our children – have experienced a journey that only they can attempt to comprehend.  But it is their smiles, our smiles, the smiles of their new brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, that result in the ultimate reflection our our shared human experience, millions and millions of smiles.  Smiles that are shared.  Smiles that are remembered.  Smiles that make rivers run wide and deep as we share our love.

Tonight there was a bit of a raucous in my home as my boys shouted, argued, and whined about some injustice that was done.  They were being what they are:  brothers and of course, my sons.  Arguing over the mundane.  At the end of the day, as we said good-bye to their  friends, we decided to take the above picture which reflects what the five of us are:   a family who looks forward to the years that lay ahead and a family that shares each other’s smiles.

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We all have our own stories. How can you expand yours?  Look towards the stories we share of Josiah and Amelia and share.  There are  millions of smiles out there for you and for them.

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1,000 Reasons to Yes

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We are lucky to be part of a community that supports our advocacy efforts.  Our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers have given generously in many ways.  Their generosity has resulted in a $1,000 grant that will be awarded to the family that has an open heart and open home to give Josiah what he desires most, a forever family.

If you have interest in learning more about Josiah and the adoption process please contact Great Wall China Adoption China Matching Specialists by emailing mallory@gwca.org.

I was lucky enough to have spent a week getting to know more about Josiah by clicking here …

How to Help

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I have gotten a lot of questions about how to help Josiah.  The question is usually prefaced with comments like “What a great kid he is,” and “… it was amazing he could translate between you and Amelia,” and, “he just needs to find a family.”

Easy right?  Well no-one advocating says adoption is easy (neither is childbirth).  But sharing the message is.  I respond the question of how to help with the answer of amplify the message.  But what does that mean?

We all have different circles we run between.  We have our social media networks, we have our work networks, we have our neighborhood networks, we have our church networks, and we have our other research networks.  Your voice can carry a long, long way if you look at all the concentric circles you go between. But what do you say?

Tell your friends, colleagues, co-volunteers Josiah’s story.  It is something to talk about.  People like talking about kids. Tell them he is looking for a family.  Point them to this blog.  Point them to me.  And point them to Great Wall China Adoption if they are interested in learning more.  Share the information:

Blog Link: http://wahe.us/AdoptionJOY/

My Email: stefan@wahe.us

The Adoption Process: http://www.gwca.org/china-adoption/the-process/

Michelle, Josiah and I thank you and those who are interested in help Josiah find his forever family.

Josiah, and dumplings!

It is not about the destination, it is about the journey.  This past weekend I wanted to make something different for breakfast. My sons did not want french toast.  But once I made them part of the process, they dove right in and we got more out of making breakfast than eating it (they still don’t like french toast, but they tried).

The video here shows the same experience I had with Josiah in China.  He was not sure what to think of listening to the history of dumpling making.  He shifted in his seat wondering where this was leading.  The Chef started to call some of us “students” to help stir the rice flour into the “dough” as his assist with making the sausage stuffing.  Like any large meal gathering, he was looking for help in the community.  Josiah was asked to help at one point and politely passed, uncertain in being the center of attention.  When it came time to rub the flour on hands to stuff the dough with the filling Josiah was still waiting.  He needed encouragement.  I covered my hands in flour, I then took his hand and did the same.  He followed the directions and caught quickly and mastered the art form.  I stepped away to give  room for the other kids.  What I observed is that he quickly filled with confidence and self-esteem.  He began chatting with the other kids, the Chef and assistant and even the SWI Director.  We made dumplings for an hour.  He worked hard to make about 35 of the 200 dumplings we cooked.  It was like watching the preparations for any meal at home.  The teamwork that goes into Thanksgiving dinner or the Memorial Day cookout.

At the end of the dumpling experience there were about 20 dumplings, cooked but untouched.  We all ate our fill.  It was Josiah who asked the Chef if he could take the dumplings.  The Chef got a to-go contained and filled it.  I asked him if he was going to eat them when we got back, he said no.  His plan was to share them with his friends at the SWI who could not join us on the experience.

We are still amplifying Josiah’s story to find him his forever family.  Please help us by sharing this post and his other story.  So like Josiah sharing his dumplings to feed his friends, share this story to fill your friends souls.

The Empty Cup

What are Josiah and Amelia doing now?  As I write this from the end of a Sunny, spring, Wisconsin day, they are experiencing another Monday morning of their years of routine behind their walls. A routine I am hoping to free them from, in order to establish new routines with families, who  will help them grow stronger.

I came back from China knowing  the JOY Program would be different from last summer’s hosting program, when we hosted Jacob.  I When I reflect on Josiah and Amelia, and their future, I am not handling the unknown for them well.    Conversely, I know  that Jacob and Wen have met their new families and will be landing in Wisconsin next week.  Jacob and Wen are both finding families who, 12-months ago, were not even entertaining the thought of expanding their families.    But there they are, in China, awaiting to bring home two tween boys.  They know there will be many challenges.  Their families are not doing this because it is easy, but because they had room their cups that needed to be filled for these two boys.

There are people who want to help, have some room left in their cup, to help Josiah and Amelia.  It might not be to commit to adopt, but will share the stories to connect two hands.  They will give words of support and strength. To enlighten others on the greatest gift that can be given: a forever family.

A lot of friends have asked me what I hoped to gain out of my trip to China.  They asked if I had fun.  Seeing Josiah smile as he was making dumplings.   And  seeing Amelia grow with pride as she mastered writing another Chinese symbol or master walking down stairs:  that filled some of my cup.  But that is not what I was hoping to gain from my trip.  I am, and was, hoping to connect these two souls to their forever families.    Families who still have room in their cups.   Families who will enter into the unknown, but who have the knowledge that I will pass on, about how awesome each of these kids are.   The knowledge that these children WANT most line their lives, a forever family.    They love.   They cried.   They wanted.   Are you their Forever?

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The Tie That Binds

At the end of each day, I spend some extra time alone, working my mind through calisthenics that stretch between my conscious and subconscious.  The dog is out back doing what dogs do before the day is through.  Michelle and the kids are in their beds.  I look up at the stars that hang so far and out of reach, thinking about all that space between me and that ancient glimmer of light.  Over the last few weeks these calisthenics include narrating the day in the life of Josiah, the 10-year-old I met in China. I know I can’t give him what he desires, a family of his own.

I have been trying to identify the song that best describes Josiah’s plea.  Most of my song repertoire is stuck from the end of the Beatles era to the mid-90’s grunge scene.  There is so much of Josiah that probably matches the current trends in music, but I really have no clue.  And maybe that is a good thing.  I was always a sucker of the lyrics that told a story.  The guitar solo or the drum beat was there only for me to be able to consider the tone or the artist’s lyrics and anticipate the climactic conclusion of inspiration.

IMG_1221Josiah has so much heart.  He needs a family.  He has so much hope.  Every time he reached out to hold my hand was a surprise to me.  His desire to connect. My boys do the same thing; to reassure themselves that I am there; from them to reassure me of the same.  They do it to bond. To tie together.  As they grow older – older than Josiah – they will no longer want to hold my hand.  Our moment of connection will transition from holding hands, to a slug on the shoulder and eventually, when I am old and grey, their hand on my shoulder to reassure me that they are there for me. No matter what, my subconscious will always be true.

Josiah’s eyes were wide open.  He watched me all the time.  How I interacted with him.  What I gave Amelia. He observed the attention I gave to the other kids we were advocating for as well as all the other kids I got to meet.  Regardless he kept true.  For whatever reason he knew.  He knew I would do what I could to help him and his heart be true.

So by now you most likely know the song that I consider to be Josiah’s anthem.  It is hard to think of the Man in Black representing Josiah’s spirit of hope in walking the line. But then again, Johnny wore his black for the poor and beaten down and for the sick and lonely.

What Josiah needs is for that family who wears a rainbow every day to close that distance between him and that light.  Can you take Josiah’s ties and help them bind to fill his and your heart with joy?

A Beautiful Mother’s Day

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We celebrate our veterans.  We celebrate our founding fathers.  We celebrate our workers. But  today we celebrate our Mothers.  My three sons wanted to celebrate their Mom by serving her breakfast in bed.  They cut and arranged fresh flowers in a vase.  They made coffee and an egg sandwich.  And they gleefully sat with her as she enjoyed their gift as the morning breeze ushered the sounds of spring through the bedroom window.

There was something else in the air.  There is shimmer of reflection shining upon the bedroom walls.  Something no one is paying attention to besides me, and the cat.  The reflection was not from the Sunrays sneaking through the transom and bouncing against Michelle’s iced water.  The shine was from the boy’s other mothers, the women who gave birth to them, the women  who took care of them while they waited for Michelle and me to come along.  They will always be there.  An unknown part of all of our lives.

I have read many books and accounts of birthmothers who have made the most difficult choice in their life. One book, “I Wish for you a Beautiful Life” is a collage of letters that Korean women wrote to their unborn child as they made the painful and sometimes numbing decision to give their child a different path in life, a path of adoption. These letters range in themes from the stigma of single motherhood, to the adoption decision, to the Christian faith.  Among these many heartfelt letters includes this excerpt:

I hope that you have met good parents and that you will have a good life.  I wish for you a beautiful life, with a beautiful face and a beautiful heart.  Think of your life as precious, because you are a beautiful flower born out of pain.  I cannot give you any help, but I will always pray for you.  I chose your name by myself.  You will remain in my heart forever with this name.  How much you must have grown.  I wish you a life with God always.  – Your loving mother

I have also read many different accounts of mothers and fathers in China who  had to take the risk of getting caught breaking the law in abandoning their son or daughter.  As a father of and an advocate for Chinese Special needs children, I have developed my own imagery based on these various accounts.  A child is born.  An infant who is different.  He may have trouble breathing, she may be missing a limb, he may have a cleft pallet, she may have a weak heart.  They do not have much money and little access to the health care needed to help this young soul.  They try to manage the condition themselves until it becomes unbearable.  The couple is pressured by their own parents and siblings that the baby is unlucky.  They have to do something.  They make one of two choices.  The first choice in unmentionable. The second choice is to leave them in a place to be found.  They have heard of others leaving their child-in-need in a public space, in-front of a hospital or police station or in a market.  They hope the child will be found.  As they wait in the shadows they witness their baby being discovered.  Open arms of a stranger engulfs their child which is then carried away.  This mother sits upon a curb, her shoulders raising and lowering as tears race down her cheek.  The father places a caring hand upon her.  They wish their son, their daughter to get the care they need.  That their child is bonded with a family who can give him a beautiful life.

On this Day for Mothers, I pay homage to all mothers:   birth-mothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, aunts, sisters, and mother figures for our children.   They all have the same hope for our children:  to give them a beautiful life.   And that is how I choose to recognize this Mother’s Day for it is what my own mother wants for me.