Friday, July 15, 2016

                                                           Orphanage Revisited -

Our eldest daughter, Caitlin, courageously left China 3.5 years ago with little understanding of where she was going.  She left behind her friends, her nanny, her country and the only home she had ever known.  Today ........... today she came back!

As the bus rumbled down the street it splashed through the fresh puddles and we could see the excitement on Caity's face growing.  Her smile grew wider as her feet bounced up and down in anticipation.  She looked to her parents and back out the window.  She stood up, sat down and then slapped my shoulder multiple times.  "Daddy, daddy, we getting close now."  We rounded one more corner and passed through the gates.  Caity was home.........

We exited the bus just as dirty little faces peaked around the corner.  One by one they appeared, timidly approaching the newcomers.  Then the nannies appeared and Caitlin was reunited with the kind hearts that taught her grace in the midst of the poverty and hunger of her childhood.

In a country where touch and hugging is rare, the warmth of the embraces were remarkable to witness.  The nannies proudly led us to the new common eating area.  Previously the children all ate in their tiny rooms but now they had a special place for food.  It was a minor improvement but an improvement nonetheless.

We visited with all the children as they ate their meals and were surprised to see that they had food in excess.  Caitlin tells of how hungry she was every day of her life.  She tells of how she would scrounge for food in trash cans in the hopes for some tiny scraps.  We pray that this was a permanent improvement and not just for show.

Much to our delight we watched the smile on Caity's face as she shared all of the snacks we brought with us.  She left years ago with nothing and now she comes back to share her blessings with all those left behind.

We watched our two youngest children transition from shock at the living conditions to comfort as they interacted with the many smiling faces, following the lead of their eldest brother.

The tour continued and Caitlin showed her siblings her former room.  Very small by western standards for one person - here it was shared by eight individuals - 2 children per single bed.

The odors of the distressed living conditions wafted past as the tour progressed.  Outside was a little child using a bucket for a toilet and waved as we went by.  The rusty old sink sat silently for the moment.  A place where Caitlin spent many hours scrubbing all the children's clothes by hand.  In summer, in winter and all year round.  The shadows of memories echoed behind her eyes as she absorbed all the realities of her past.  Was this really where she had lived for so long?

Then it was off to lunch.  Caitlin was permitted to bring whomever she wished and she chose no fewer than seven people.  (Good thing we brought a bus.)

To be present at this meal was an honor and a joy.  There was no shortage of conversation and laughter was the main dish served.  We exchanged stories of the past and present, America and China and delighted in every tale.

We had the great honor of being invited back to one of the nanny's homes.  An opportunity to see how the locals live and experience the hospitality of the woman who taught Caity to be the incredible young lady she is today.  We squeezed through a gap in the fence and proceeded up the graffiti-ridden stairway.  This nanny had very little but shared with us all that she had.  She was kind and generous in every way and gifted us with an experience we will treasure forever.

Before the two hour journey back to our hotel one thing remained.  Just as Luke and Rachel got to view their files in Korea, so, too, will Caity see her file in China.  She will not learn anything of her biological parents since she was abandoned but she will learn one unique piece of her history. She will learn her "finding place".  The place where her mother left her on the steps 16 years ago.

We travelled there together as a family.  One would think that a place of such great significance would be ordained with some type of memorial or a plaque but the sad reality is that it is only significant to us.  Caitlin was found very unceremoniously on the steps of a bus station and all we could do to celebrate her "finding place" was to take a few photos as the rain fell around us.  It was strange to think that her "biological mother" could have been in one of the surrounding apartments; perhaps even walking past us as the station bustled with activity.  We will all need time to process the sad reality of this experience in the coming days but one thing is for certain; through the actions of this "biological mother" our family has been deeply blessed.

As we travel back on the bus together I listen to the chatter around me.  SongAe and the translator - the children are laughing - but mostly I listen to Caitlin.  Caitlin and her good friend from the orphanage who is accompanying us back to the hotel for the night.  There hasn't been a moment of silence between them since our departure.  I hope they talk all night long..............


  1. Thank you for sharing your touching journey. Your family never ceases to amaze us! A family made in heaven for sure! XO

  2. Such a wonderful journey you are having. I fell in love with this young girl when we went to visit 3 years ago. I would have brought her home in a heartbeat. She followed us around and smiled the entire time. She and Tony's daughter sat next to our Rachel for a picture, which I treasure. So happy she was able to spend the night with you. I just hope it wasn't too hard for her to return back to the orphanage.