Part 1 - Beginnings
Part 2 - Leap Before You Look
Part 3 - Stepping Into a Void
Part 4 - Can't Go Back
Part 5 - In His Hands
This story is really important to us... because it isn't just about a little girl with a birthmark; it is really the story of how we came to be in China.
Thanks to my trademark
Part 6 - Ask and You Shall Receive
So I asked. Though I'd only recently started working at the new adoption agency, I went ahead and boldly went out on a limb. I called our executive director and told him the whole story... about meeting this little girl; watching my husband fall head over heels for her; feeling some level of burden (even responsibility) to help her find a family... the whole story. He patiently listened to every detail, and then he kindly said:
"It probably won't work. It is like finding a needle in a haystack."
He went on to gently explain the process of special needs adoptions in China. At the time, the CCAA gave agencies a list of files. The agencies would try to place those particular children. But, since the CCAA doesn't allow pre-identified adoptions, they don't look kindly to agencies making special requests. And, since it isn't part of their procedures, they just as often said no as they did yes. After all, they didn't want to encourage these special favors; as it was more work for their overloaded system.
But, he told me we could go ahead and ask. I think he was trying to humor me. Looking back, I'm amazed he allowed us to ask. After all, we were asking for a special favor, and we didn't even have a family who was remotely interested in adopting this little girl. Usually favors were only asked for families who we knew would be strong adoption candidates. After all, what do you tell the CCAA if you ask for a child's file and then can't place them?!
At the time, it didn't strike me as very unusual. I had absolute confidence that it would all go fine, and that eventually we'd get Xiao Ai's file. It's weird. I really mean that I was absolutely confident from that point on that eventually it would all work out... I didn't know how, and I didn't want to think about the details very much. But, even though I was hearing "impossible," in my heart I had full confidence that I would see His faithfulness.
So we asked.
I called Alison right away, and she gently repeated what our director had said. "It isn't very common, but I will try!"
And try she did. When the CCAA told her Xiao Ai's papers weren't there, Alison called the orphanage. She convinced the director that someone would want to adopt Xiao Ai and that her papers should be promptly submitted. The orphanage eventually pulled all the papers together, and Alison again made calls to nudge the papers along each step of the way... from the orphanage, to the provincial level, all the way to the CCAA.
By this time, many months had passed. Alison patiently put up with all of my questions about the status of Xiao Ai's papers. She thought of a hundred different ways to gently tell me we just needed to wait longer. And so we waited. But not knowing how she was doing was hard. I wanted to see if she'd grown. I wanted to know if her hair was longer. I had all sorts of questions and no way to get answers. It seemed that the longer we waited, the more I loved her.
In the middle of all this waiting, a co-worker of mine went to China for some training. While she was there, she had the opportunity to visit an orphanage in central China. When she came back, we were eating dinner together. She couldn't remember the name of the orphanage or the city that she'd visited, but she told us all about this little girl with a birthmark that she fell in love with. As she described the birthmark, my heart somersaulted. She pulled pictures out of her bag. There was Xiao Ai's sweet face staring up at me.
Today I did some research for a project we're doing at the foster home, and I learned that according to UNICEF, it is estimated that China has 17 million orphans. Seventeen million orphans, and we both fell for the same one. How's that for a needle in a haystack.
Over the next few months, my co-worker and I frequently visited about the day when we would get Xiao Ai's papers. I never lost hope. Each time Alison would send us a batch of special needs files, she'd email me and say, "Not this month..." And, I'd patiently wait for the next batch.
I'll never forget the moment. Jacob and I were temporarily living in Minneapolis for his job. I was sitting in our hotel room, looking out the window when my cell phone rang. A couple of weeks prior, I'd received a "Not this month..." email from Alison, so I wasn't anticipating any good news anytime soon. I answered. It was my co-worker. She said three simple words:
It is here.
For some reason, a worker at the CCAA had stuck Xiao Ai's adoption file in a package of Travel Approval letters that they were sending our agency. It didn't come with the regular batch, but it came on the perfect day.
Her papers arrived one year to the day that we met her.