He stood in my kitchen, chopping vegetables and preparing ingredients for a stir-fry. I rummaged through my refrigerator, finding more vegetables wrinkled and withered from too long in the bottom shelf. He rejected a few and accepted a lot and purposefully went about the business of cutting the red pepper into thin even strips. For a 15-year-old boy, he knew exactly what he wanted to create.
I watched in amazement. Because the last time I spent time with this young man we were at his orphanage in China.
It was only our second time to visit China – before we decided to move there – and we were serving at Sammy’s orphanage for a week. We were there for his 9th birthday, and we bought him his only birthday gift… a small package of M&Ms. I certainly could have bought him more, but that was the only gift I could think to give him that wouldn’t immediately become community property. If I remember correctly, he still chose to share them with all the other children.
He bonded with Jacob. In most of the pictures I have from that trip, he was nestled as close to Jacob as a boy could get. And at the end of the week when he was crying at the airport as we said goodbye, a reporter told him that if he stopped crying and did good in school, we would come back to adopt him. Sammy straightened his shoulders, wiped his tears, and bravely nodded.
And I wept. I wept harder than perhaps I’ve ever wept because it simply wasn’t true. We were 24 and 26 years old. There were several adoption requirements we didn’t meet, and at a bare minimum, we were 6 years away from meeting the age requirement. And all I could think of was the fact that this sweet boy would spend the rest of his days in an institution thinking that he just wasn’t doing good enough in school to deserve a family. And there was nothing I could do to tell him otherwise.
A year passed, but we hadn’t forgotten him. And one day I opened an email on a lark and read a brief – and completely vague -- description of a boy that was available for adoption that might be him. And it was. Back in 2009 I shared what happened next, and to be honest it remains one of the greatest miracles I’ve witnessed in my life. (Seriously, go read the story...)
And this week Sammy’s family brought him to visit. And he stood in my kitchen and made a stir-fry. And he shared bits and pieces of his story – hard memories from the orphanage and what it is like to have a family. “I never, ever dreamed I would ever get a family,” he said, shaking his head with the thankful disbelief that clearly still lingers. You know the verse that talks about how the Father loves to do more than we could ever ask or imagine? For Sammy, that was getting a family… something I know I still take as a given, despite what I’ve witnessed in life. This week I’ve been pondering how sometimes WE get to be the thing that someone else could never ask or imagine when we say YES to God, even when it is terrifying.
My heart is heavy tonight. Heavy for kids like those listed on this page who maybe don’t have the benefit of an advocate who can share insight into their personality and heart. Heavy for kids like Esty and Branch. Heavy for the friends of Sammy who still remain in the orphanage and are now too old to be adopted. It’s a lot of heaviness. But I also have so much HOPE because I know the One who makes burdens light, and I know the One who in His goodness and mercy never ever forgets a single lost sheep.
Because He brought Sammy to my kitchen this week.