Something has happened in my heart recently. I arrived home last weekend and probably for the first time did I really see change. Change in one of our adopted children. Change that has always been there, but that I just did not truly see. Change that takes my breath away.
We adopted Haven in 2008. You can read about it here. Haven was adopted before, but for whatever reasons they had, the family chose not to complete the adoption. She had a family for five days, and was then returned to the orphanage. When we found Haven through our agency, she had just a few days left to find a family. She had waited for three years, and China had decided that her time was up. Haven had been labeled “autistic,” “non-verbal,” “severely delayed,” and “mentally ill.” She came with a long list of special needs.
I so clearly remember the morning of our gotcha day. Anthony and I were sitting and having breakfast. We were due to leave for the civil affairs office in just an hour. We turned to each other and said, “So, I guess our lives are about to be changed forever today.” We had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The child we had been told about was not going to be one of those easy-peasy adoption stories that you read about on blogs and in adoption magazines. The only thing we were sure of was that we were doing what the Lord told us to do–and we would leave every care, ever fear, every doubt, and every fleshly desire that wanted to run out of that building and go back to our little comfortable life to the Almighty Father.
An hour later we met our sweet daughter, our “Haven” as the Lord had named her. The one who would need a “safe and sheltered place.” We walked into that civil affairs office in Nanjing, China, and my heart almost stopped. She was already there, waiting for us, clinging to the nanny who brought her. My first thought was, “She’s severely delayed, her brain is not working properly.” Haven stood there, her eyes half shut, staring off at nothing, her mouth hanging open, she looked like she was just not even there…only in body.
My heart broke. I vacillated between wanting to leg it out of that building and run as far away as I could, and just wanting to go and hold her in my arms, reassuring her that everything was going to be okay. I was t-e-r-r-i-f-i-e-d. We made our way toward the little girl dressed in pink. She was so afraid of white people–they represented abandonment to this sweet angel. We took things very slowly, gaining her trust at her pace.
Haven was nothing anyone said she was! Delayed? Absolutely. Non-verbal? Yes. But we knew that she was not autistic. We knew that the diagnosis was just a bunch of hogwash. We knew that hidden behind the frightened little girl who was to become our daughter was a treasure just waiting to be found. Just a month before her eighth birthday, the angel we were given that day was more like a one year old. She was unable to take her clothes off, brush her teeth, eat with a spoon, or use the potty. We were adopting a virtual toddler.
And so it began. The road to teaching Haven new things. The road toward healing. The little angel was locked away in a room for the last two years of her life, isolated from everyone because orphanage staff were afraid to “catch” what she had if they touched her (autism, becoming non-verbal). Life for Haven was about to change.
It struck me this week–the change in Haven’s life has been nothing short of miraculous. I have looked at my sweet little girl after being away from home for a while, and something has struck me over and over again. Haven has hope! It’s not that I did not know it before, because I did, but this time it’s different.
I see in Haven what every single child waiting deserves. Hope!
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