Friday, April 12, 2013


The vehicle shuttered as it splashed through another pothole and sprayed slush into the air.  The old dirt road was probably never in great shape but had long since passed its prime.  The car rattled again as it passed an old factory and then was bracketed on either side by the snow-covered mounds of a Chinese burial sight.  Then it pulled through the archway of the oldest and poorest orphanage in the province of Anhui.  Children of all ages came running as the vehicle approached, waiting to see their dear friend one last time.

From within the vehicle, stepped Caitlin Guangzheng Armstrong.  An orphan herself until a day earlier.  Clean for perhaps the very first time and dressed in clothing from her dreams.  Around her neck sparkled the heart of a necklace - A promise from her new parents to love her forever.  Her twelve year old hands were weathered well beyond her years by the bitter cold.  There is no heat in this facility anywhere and the water is barely above freezing.  Her nearly anorexic form, steeled by years of hardship, held strongly against the onslaught of children.  Tears rolled down her cheeks as she greeted her friends one last time and the pain of her life reflected powerfully in her eyes.

The crowd swelled around her and followed as she showed her parents where she lived, slept and perhaps more accurately, survived since she was two days old.  Her parents tried unsuccessfully to hold back the pain of what they saw, recognizing that this was beyond even their worst nightmares.

Then one incredible women entered the room.  The one women that taught Caitlin how to love and be loved in return.  This women had been there through all the pain of life and had walked with her every step of the way.  Tears, sadness, heartbreak and joy - a rush of emotions to strong to comprehend.

Caitlin walked the group back to the vehicle and picked up the many gift bags she and mommy had prepared.  This was her job and she would carry every one of them herself.  The group flocked around as she passed out her gifts, each desperately wanting a precious nick-nack.  Caitlin knew exactly were each bag would go and no one would dare try to dissuade her from her chosen course.

After the children received their gifts, the group headed to a bigger room for a piece of cake.  A special favor she had asked of her parents two weeks earlier.  The party was a great success; then it was back to the vehicle for a final farewell.  Words were spoken, thoughts were exchanged and with one final wave of her hand - she was gone. She was queen for a day but the memories will last forever!

So this was part of today's adventure.  An experience which SongAe and I have both agreed will change us forever.  Seeing how our daughter lived; the conditions; the smells; the lack of food; the bitter, icy cold - it will not be something we will ever forget!

The strength of our daughter is unimaginable.  As we drove away from the orphanage not one more tear was shed.  She was full of smiles as we arrived at the police station to apply for her passport and equally as joyous as we waited an hour plus in line.  She grinned at the compliments two Chinese women threw her way as they told her she was beautiful. The two had figured out what was going on with the adoption and asked Caitlin if she spoke English.  Our daughter giggled and said no as she beamed at the compliment.

What's absolutely remarkable is Caitlin's condition today compared with yesterday.  This morning I was awakened to the steady banging of pillows on my head as SongAe and Caitlin decided to wake me up in typical Armstrong fashion.  I, of course, struck back and we had a great bit of family fun!

This evening she decided she was going to communicate with us, one way or the other, and is becoming quite the chatter box.  She is evening correcting our Mandarin pronunciation.

Our evening concluded with a Skype call from Grammie and Grampa and her two brothers.  She was soooo excited to see them all and waved emphatically.  She was also extremely excited to visit with her grandparents for the very first time.  After a while, she looked at us and said "mei mei"?  Where is my younger sister?  She was still asleep so we arranged another call 30 minutes later so the two girls could visit.  Both girls, across the sea, got their barbies out and used the dolls to wave to one another.  Our daughters had their first playtime together!  Words cannot describe!

So how do we explain the difference between today and yesterday?  There really is only one answer possible.  God is amazing.  His loving hand has been upon this union from the start.  The prayers of friends halfway around the world have been heard ........ And He has answered!

Make no mistake, the road we have ahead of us is filled with potholes ......... But maybe .......... Just maybe ....... You too may find His blessings underneath an old, broken down archway on the other side.  Don't be afraid to travel where He leads you! - You'll miss out on the best part of life!

Oh, and by the way.  Today it became official - Caitlin Guangzheng Armstrong is forever our daughter!  Glory be to God!

By His grace,

Jeff & SongAe

No comments:

Post a Comment