Almost 14 years ago, on September 29, 1996, a baby boy was born in China in the city of Nanjing. He was just one of almost 55,000 babies born every day in that country, one of 432,000 born every day in the world.
Before he was very old, his parents or a doctor or maybe a government official discovered he was deaf. He became one of the 20,000 children who are born or found to be deaf in China each year.
The discovery doomed this boy to a life of social isolation, poverty and discrimination, in a superstitious culture that sees disability as a sign of bad fortune. And so, he became one of nearly 600,000 orphans in a country that doesn’t know what to do with its disenfranchised.
This heartbreaking story becomes almost unbearable when you realize that each day he gets closer to age 14 means his fate is nearly sealed. By law, when orphaned children in China turn 14, they become ineligible for adoption, international or domestic.
One child in a country of millions; one day looming large. By all accounts, this childhood statistic was about to become an adult statistic for the rest of his life.
But . . .
Around 2004, my college friends Jon and Shelly decided to become foster parents. With Shelly’s compassion and Jon’s vocation as therapist, they determined that they would specifically target children with special needs to invite into their home.
With their exceptional qualifications, a brother and sister were quickly placed in their home. The special need? Their new foster son was deaf. Within days, Jon and Shelly had begun ASL classes and began reorienting their lives to be part of the deaf community. In addition to sign language, they learned about deaf culture and became part of the deaf education program in their community, eventually even leading educational programs for other families with deaf children.
Within a couple of years, their foster son, Tanner, became their legal son, and they all began to learn what it meant be a family of three.
But after a few more years, they began to wonder what it would mean to be a family of four, and once again, they turned to the foster care system to see what God had for them. But God didn’t have another son for them in Texas. Almost 14 years ago, God had created a son for them in China. That one boy out of millions had a place in their family before they even knew they wanted a family.
Jon and Shelly learned of Jian’s story on May 22, 2010, just four months ago. But as soon as they heard about the boy, they also knew what would happen on September 29. If he wasn’t adopted by that day, there would be no adoption.
And so, against all odds — International Chinese adoptions usually take years — they took the first step in expressing their interest. One form led to another form which led to home studies and trips to the Chinese Embassy. Each week brought a new deadline, and new “Go/No Go” point which could have ended the process.
But with each step, the Lord moved mountains. Forms that normally take weeks to approve were hand stamped over night. Documents that require special signatures were speedily signed and sealed. Time and time again, the adoption agency said, “We’ve never seen this happen.”
But . . .
There is a God in heaven who doesn’t work under deadlines or play the odds. He doesn’t accept faxed requests or certified mail; he just listens for the deep cries of our hearts. And when Jon and Shelly cried out on behalf of Jian, God moved more than mountains to bring them together. God moved the government of the People’s Republic of China to care for one little boy among millions.
Jon, Shelly, and Tanner arrived in China yesterday, and in 24 hours from now, they will welcome Jian into their family.
You can follow their three weeks in China navigating the final hurdles of this amazing adoption through their blog, where they plan to post daily.
If God can do that . . .