We got ready and met Rosary downstairs at 9:30. We headed back to the civil affairs builting to sign final papers after our 24hr period together indicating our desire to still adopt Jim. We signed and stamped our fingerprints and then he was officially our son! We were all smiles as they announced this! We had a short oath ceremony, grabbed our certificate and then we loaded up and headed out for the 3 hour drive to the LouNing Orphanage in LouYang.
We laughed and laughed at this photo catching the fly that landed on Zoe’s nose!
It was a ride filled with great contrast and we asked many question about the culture, government, economic state, etc. Zoe started our car conversation off by announcing she had a question and then asked “ Does the government recognize gay marriages?” … not exactly the first question I was expecting, but none the less we learned that they are not recognized. That girl keeps us on our toes. There are HUGE buildings everywhere, but most are empty. Its crazy. On the entire 3 hour drive there would be beautiful fields and then so out of place, in the middle of nowhere, would be a huge clump of high rise buildings. The government pretty much owns all the land. When you purchase it you have residential property for 70 years and commercial for 50 and then it returns to the government and you must repurchase. It’s insane. Nay of these buildings and even towns are called ghost towns because so many are sitting empty. No one ca afford to live in them. As we got close to the area Jim is from it became more and more rural but again, a high rise would appear out nowhere. There were also many “cave” homes dug out of the side of the hillside. The can not afford land/ homes so they dig into the hillside and carve out a home. Many open right onto the interstate as development has plowed through their communities and farming land. The tiering of the farming land was so beautiful! It was a sweet ride just soaking in as much as possible. When we arrived in LuoNing the homes looked very rural but this large road system plowed right through the middle. Rosary said many have lost their lives refusing to leave since they had no where else to go. We drove a short distance and turned onto a small side turn road that ran alongside a wall that led to the orphanage. There was an older man and little boy in the street and the driver honked as we passed and turned into the gates. Some of the children were looking out the window and many I recognized from hosting. We quickly went inside, put our bags down, met the director who was showering us with snacks and water and then they led us to a lunch the staff had prepared for our family, guide and driver. It was delicious. Shockingly all of my children, even their pickiest of eaters, enjoyed the meal! When we were finishing up lunch I asked if Jim’s grandparents were going to be able to make it since they lived an hour away and Rosary said yes that they were already here. Jim then said that it had been his grandfather and nephew who we had honked at on the drive in. We were all shocked and ready to go spend time with them!
As we were walking from the dining hall back into the building we passed a man and woman who looked confused. We were surprised when they spoke very clear English and asked what was going on. They had no idea Jim was leaving today. They run the organization CEO Foundation, and I recognized their voices as those helping translate the times we had been able to Skype with Jim. We made quick introductions and then they invited us to come visit them on the 4th floor before we left; however, as we continued to walk and talk they ended up joining us for the entire time we were there, translating, comforting all involved, and getting a better understanding themselves of our deep love and inviting the extended family back to communicate through Skype with us. It was really a whirlwind! Rosary said we would only be there an hour, I needed to put my gifts together, hand out those I had brought to children whose parents are anxious to bring them home, take lots of photos and when I look up I realize all of Jims family is sitting on the couch. I went and sad beside Jim’s grandmother and we shared a sweet embrace sharing our mutual love of the same child but also knowing the loss and pain but also love and gain about to take place. It was really too much to process and we were trying to take photos, my camera was not cooperating and I was trying to hold off the ugly cry until at least after the photo. Christina Chua and her brother, Joesph Chua,the founders of the CEO Foundation were invaluable in comforting us all, assuring Jim and his extended family that this was not an end but an increase in love and a growing of a family, not the cutting off. Praying we all have a joyous reunion in Heaven one day, if not before!
The Director wanted a group photo with all that were at the orphanage. Many children here have living relatives and at different breaks/ holidays they leave to spend time with them as they are able. Thankfully many of Jim’s friends were there! We had brought some gifts for Bill, the other precious one we hosted last summer but we were told he had been returned to his grandparents after they refused to release him for adoption. I have no idea what that means for him and I pray he is provided for and able to get an education. Most of China does not allow the adoption of social orphans, thus why most orphans are abandoned. This area is one of just a few, due to extreme poverty, that does allow it. I had hoped he could remain where he could be fed and educated but if his grandparents are able to care for him then that by far is the best option. While I’m clearly an adoption advocate, I also believe it should be a last resort. If there is a way to love, educate, provide for and raise up leaders in their birth countries then that is always the best option! That is why I am so passionate about what Lifesong for orphans does in all the countries they work in, the way WIPHAN serves in Zambia, and so many others. After talking with the CEO Foundation I feel like that is their desire and I felt really good about their work there and their future plans. They opened in 2011, they want to minister to whole family units, they are spearheading the “ Family Anew Foster Care Program” , they are working on a library, have a dance and art room, school room, teach music,etc. Again, its’ not a family but for those stuck in-between, it’s a good environment. The 4th floor rooms are all named after fruits of the spirit and the directors were not shy in making their faith clear to us. Their goal is stated “ We aim to demonstrate ‘Love in Action’ towards the underprivileged, the hurt and the poor”. So thankful for the love and care this organization and Jim’s grandparents have poured into him. He has been well loved and that will continue!
We toured all the rooms, took photos, sang “ Head shoulders, knees and toes” with sweet Esther about 20 times, listened to Jim play the piano, and then rode the elevator down for what was a quick sweep into the van for our final goodbye. I had to grab my bags and by the time I came out they were all in the car, Jim was crying and upset along with most everyone in the van, his grandmother was crying and of course I was too! We embraced again and then closed the van door and drove away. The sound of crying slowly drifted to silence as we made the somber ride back to the hotel. Watching the scenery pass by and processing all that we had just experienced left me exhausted and about ready to kill a few kid who don’t understand that you don’t have to use such a loud voice when we are all crammed in a van together in close proximity. Jim, Samuel and Elizabeth bonded on the back row over Temple Run and snacks and before long we made it to the hotel. We went upstairs for a few snacks, got some video of the kids being silly and then decided to check out the restaurant downstairs for a safe dining experience. Sadly there was no menu for ordering, it was all a buffet, a HUGE buffet, but since it wasn’t cheap and we were not really that hungry we passed. We tried the bar menu but it was not appetizing. We ended up ordering pizza and soup from room service but by the time it arrived Cole was too tired to eat so the rest of us ate and then we all crawled into bed physically and emotionally drained.