The Story

In January of 2005 a family we know adopted a baby girl from China and sent us a video of their adoption journey. We were excited for them and touched by their story. Our daughter Abigail (now 9 years old) was deeply stirred in her heart, especially after we discussed adoption further and she learned about China’s one child policy, and the resulting high number of the female babies being orphaned there. She was stirred to such a degree that she didn’t stop thinking or talking about it. She eventually decided to start saving all her money in order to be able to adopt from China herself when she grows up. She saved every dollar from her birthdays, Christmas, allowances, etc., and by the time we decided to adopt, she had already saved up three hundred and ninety five dollars! She was our initial inspiration, and is an inspirational person.

Given a Key
In April of 2005 while Todd and I were attending a christian conference, I was taken into an experience with Jesus during a worship time where I was suspended in orbit with the Earth below me. The Lion of Judah was in front of me staring intensely at something on the Earth, and there was nothing that could avert His gaze. He wouldn’t take His eyes off what He was looking at. It had his full attention. He communicated a thought to me that if I wanted to see what He was looking at, I had to get on His back. So I got on and we immediately began shooting down very quickly to the Earth. With clouds rushing by as we made the descent, suddenly we were in what I knew by intuition to be a Chinese detention center. There was a woman on the other side of the room whom the Lion continued to fix His gaze upon. She was being tortured for her faith in Christ with beatings that were hard for her to endure.

The Lion spoke again through thoughts for me to go over and pray for her. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do so just got off His back, walked over, put my hand on her stomach and said, “Strength!”. She immediately opened her eyes and looked right at me with a look of recognition and urgency on her face. It seemed that she had been expecting me, or someone like me. She quickly struggled to pull a little white key out of her heart which had a honeycomb like appearance on the top of it, and quickly put it into my mouth. Once the key went into my mouth, I instantly swallowed it. The Lion nodded at me with a look that said it was time to go, and to get on His back. When I did I found myself suddenly back in worship at the conference. A few days later I thought of this woman again and began to pray for her but God interrupted me and told me not to pray for her. I was confused and asked why. He said, “She is with Me in Glory now.” From that time on I have wondered about the key and what it signified. Was I given a heart for the people of China? Did it mean that I would travel to China one day? All I knew for sure was that she entrusted something to me that was very dear and precious to her.

Called to Adopt
One morning in June of 2007 I was out on a walk and pondering some inspirational words of truth that I had recently listened to someone say about desiring what God desires. I began to ask God to show me His heart, to merge His desires with my desires, and to show me what He loves. Instantly I saw a picture in my heart of a little girl sitting all alone on a dusty savanna with eyes full of sorrow. I knew she was an orphan and that God was showing me something from His heart. My heart was deeply stirred by this experience and I later came to recognize it as another preparation for what God was inviting us to do.

The following week on Abigail’s birthday (6/14/07) we were driving to lunch to celebrate her birthday and I was just thinking and praying about things when I suddenly had a full connection in my heart where I knew that we were supposed to adopt from China! The best I can describe it is that one minute I was driving along business as usual and the next minute I had a complete knowing that it was our destiny to adopt from China.

Without any hesitation I asked the kids in the back what they thought and immediately got a resounding and excited confirmation from the three of them. We all sensed a thick presence of God settle in with us in the car, which we took to be His confirmation of this great idea! Not more than a few seconds later Abigail called out to me excitedly, “Mom, look out the window!”, and we all looked out to see that we were passing a building that said “Adoption Network Center“! (Which is right across the freeway from Hope International University 😉 )

Through our whole lunch at California Pizza Kitchen we were all filled with God’s presence, buzzing with excitement and a deep sense of destiny unfolding. This decision and our moment in the car came as a sudden revelation but at the same time it had a familiar feeling to it, like it had been in the works for a long time. I began to remember times throughout my life where I had been drawn to adoption stories and admired people who had adopted. I began to tie all the pieces together of what God had been showing me over the years and my excitement continued to grow. We shared our experience with Todd that night at dinner, and while he expressed that it was coming from pretty far out in left field for him personally, he knew it was what we and God wanted, and so that was enough for him. So we all agreed to begin pursuing an adoption.

More Confirmations
The next morning on my walk I asked God to confirm our decision (again) with a sign. For a few months I had been taking walks with our dog every morning on the trail by our house and would stop at Starbucks as my half way point to get my favorite Tazo Iced Tea (unsweetened, no water added, extra ice) before heading back. When we got to Starbucks I tied up the dog up to one particular table where I always did, located a little further away from the other tables. It’s a cement table in a less desirable spot to sit right next to a curb. It had only been about ten minutes after I had asked God for a sign when I got to Starbucks to find a Chinese family sitting at this table! I had never noticed anybody sitting at that table before, and had never to my recollection seen anybody of Chinese descent at this Starbucks before. The mom and dad were sitting at ‘my table’ talking in Chinese and had a little girl about two years old who was standing there smiling at me! It only took God ten minutes to answer my request! I stood in the line at Starbucks with tears of joy streaming down my face.

Not long after we made the decision to adopt I began to think a lot again about my experience with the martyr in China and the key she gave me. We began to wonder if this woman could possibly be the mother of our baby, and if perhaps the key could signify the responsibility to parent her child… We emailed a respected christian leader we are acquainted with to get his thoughts about the vision and here is his response:

“The woman whom you prayed for has a destiny that was shortened through martyrdom; the destiny includes the bringing up of a child. You now have that assignment, which explains the burden you have to adopt a child from China. As you know the spirits of children are predestined before they come to earth (Ephesians 1:4) and the particular lady you interceded for had the responsibility to bring up one of these spirits on the earth. It is now yours through the white key that is imparted to your spirit man.”

Do Not Strive
This made sense to us and served to confirm what we had already been thinking. At that time we were spending the weekend celebrating Abigail’s birthday in Palm Springs, and at one point while driving and praying I began speaking out the words, “Shabbat Teled”. We had no idea what it meant but Todd said it sounded Hebrew. There were some other words too that had surfaced in prayer that provided more clues but eventually we came to find that “Shabbat Teled” means (or meant to us at the time), “The absolute ceasing of striving in the bringing forth of children or offspring.”

We knew this was to be our theme for the adoption! I needed this encouragement because I am naturally more of a go-getter type, susceptible to excessive striving to make things happen. So we took it as God making it abundantly clear to us that this adoption was his work and that it would not be accomplished by me striving for it in my own strength, and that He would be taking care of everything.

Given a Clue
A couple weeks later in early July I had another experience with God during a worship time at a church service where I went again to China. There are some interesting details that I won’t go into here, but as we were driving home later that day I shared what happened with the kids. Suddenly we all sensed a strong presence of God settle in the car with us. Then it got quiet and a moment later our son Jonathan suddenly blurted out, “Mom, I just heard the words ‘ching how’ in my head!” Jonathan has a track record of hearing from God in simple and distinct ways like this so we knew to take notice.

He will often just state matter of fact what God shows and tells him. He didn’t know any Chinese and simply spoke out what he heard right after he heard it. There was a deep sense among us that heaven had broken through with something significant. The words sounded Chinese to all of us so we began to research to find spellings, or locations in China by this name, etc. We had some other clues from the experience about where in China to look, but we didn’t find anything conclusive. Our best guesses were that it would turn out to be her Chinese name, or maybe something to do with the region  she was from.

Special Needs
During this time we started our crash course about all that is required to adopt from China. We signed up with an adoption agency and after some time of considering our options declared that we would be open to adopting a special needs child (meaning a child with some kind of physical problem or condition). This started out being more a practical decision because we had learned that the waiting list for physically healthy children is long and backlogged causing adoptions to take years. This didn’t work for us because we sensed spiritually that things were supposed to go much quicker for us and that God had a specific plan in mind. We knew going this route was an important step in the right direction, but our thinking at first was that we would just be looking for a child with a cleft lip, an extra finger, or some other special need like that. We had to send in a specific form to our agency declaring our intent to adopt a child with special needs and happened to notice that we signed and sent this form in on July 7th (7/7/07). By faith we chose to treat it as a seal of God’s signature on our decision.

Divine Connections
Shortly after that we were introduced over the internet to a wonderful woman in Tennessee named Jan who had adopted a baby girl from China in 2006. We quickly became email friends and she shared a lot of helpful insight from her adoption experience with us. One day we got an email from Jan telling us about a blind child in China named Li Hao. She had been up for adoption for a while already and nobody had yet expressed an interest to adopt so her file was about to be sent back to China. She asked if we would be interested but I quickly declined the invitation, primarily because I feared that her special need was too much for me to handle.  I remember feeling sick to my stomach as I wrote that reply. There was something drawing me to this little girl but I wasn’t able to acknowledge it and tried to pass it by.

A couple more weeks after that we got an email from a friend named Kelsey Bohlender from Kansas City (who has an amazing adoption testimony). She said that a couple weeks prior, right after she had read our email about how we had decided to adopt, another email had come in to her inbox from her friend named Pam in Ohio telling her about a little blind girl in China named Li Hao who desperately needed a home. Kelsey said she thought at that time to forward it to us, and that she even felt like we were supposed to adopt Li Hao, but then she got sidetracked because they were leaving town that day. So she forwarded the email to us right when she got back.

This time in the email there was a picture of Li Hao included, and when I opened the email my heart began to pound! I had an immediate sense that this little girl was ‘the one’ but at the same time was still struggling with fear and doubt because her special need seemed like much more than I could handle. Then to my surprise Todd asked me later that day with a very curious tone what I had thought about Kelsey’s email. I didn’t answer him immediately but asked him what he thought. He said that as crazy as it seemed, from the moment he saw the picture he had been feeling connected to her, as if she was the one we were supposed to adopt!

I was stunned because up to that point Todd had been going along with our decision to adopt but hadn’t shown much interest or involvement in the process. His usual response was that he knew God would connect his heart at some point, and here he was telling me that God had just connected it! I told him that I had been feeling the same thing about Li Hao, and then I realized that this was probably the same child that Jan had emailed me about! I remembered that I had felt the same attraction to her then as well, but had never said anything about it. We decided at that point to get more information about her from our agency.

I emailed Jan right away and she confirmed that this was the same little girl she had emailed us about. It turned out that while Jan and Kelsey didn’t know each other, they both had the same friend named Pam from Ohio! We then emailed Pam and she responded that ever since she first laid eyes on the picture of this little girl she had been on her heart and mind. She had been praying for Li Hao every day for many weeks, and even had their church home group praying regularly for her! She said that they had felt all along that there is something special about this girl, and that she believes Li Hao is going to be healed of her blindness. She asked that if we were to choose to adopt her that we needed to stay in touch to let them know when she gets healed! We and Jan also discovered later that Jan actually adopted her baby girl two years ago from the same orphanage in Qianjiang, China where Li Hao is from!

She’s the One!
We waited a couple days for a copy of Li Hao’s file to come in. It took a longer time than usual because they had already returned the file to China and it wasn’t supposed to be available anymore. That wait time was mostly spent wrestling with the decision and asking God for guidance. We found it intriguing that her name was Li Hao, almost but not exactly what Jonathan heard. Even so there had obviously already been enough connection with her that we were about to pursue adopting her anyway.

On August 8th, 2007 (another date that we thought maybe significant number wise, especially the anniversary ‘8/8/08’… We also learned from our guide in China that this is the day of the year that China celebrates Father’s Day) I had become quite wound up internally about this decision and pleaded with God on my morning walk to help me settle the matter once and for all. I desperately wanted to know why her name was almost but not quite what Jonathan heard…

I got home from this walk to find the email had just come in from our agency that we had been waiting for which included Li Hao’s file! Her name was printed right at the top of the document, “Qian Li Hao”. I then remembered having seen the ‘Qian’ part of her name once before in one of the emails, but it hadn’t registered at the time, then I never noticed that part of her name again because she was being referred to only as ‘Li Hao’ in the emails.

On the next line of the document, somebody had handwritten underneath her printed name in parenthesis the pronunciation: “Ching Li How”. Her name was ‘Ching How’, exactly what Jonathan heard! I immediately called Todd at work and when he answered I burst into tears, “Her name is Ching Hao!”. We were completely amazed and overjoyed. It was an unforgettable moment that will forever be a highlight of our lives. We were flooded with the knowledge that God had been orchestrating this whole thing, and that we had just been let in on his divine plan!

We came to believe that God knew we would struggle with the decision because of the degree of her special needs, so he had made these special provisions for us. Now whenever we are tempted to worry or doubt about being able to care for our daughter, we are encouraged by remembering how God showed us clearly that he matched us with little Qian Li Hao, so he must think we can do it!

I got off the phone with Todd and immediately informed our agency that we wanted to adopt her. We also learned from the file that she was found abandoned at the end of a bridge on June 15th, 2006. The report says that the doctor who examined her determined her birth date (by examining her umbilical cord, go figure) to be around October of 2005, so they gave her a birth date of October 1st, 2005. In July of 2008 we had her checked by xray and the test suggested her age to be about six months older than that, so we choose to celebrate Hope’s birthday on May 5th, her registered adoption date.

We also learned from the report that the orphanage named her ‘Qian’ after the city where she was found (Qianjiang), and they said that ‘Li Hao’ is “a pretty girls name”. So Todd did some research, and ‘Qian’ means ‘hidden’, or ‘humble’, and ‘Li Hao’ in essence means ‘beauty’, so Todd likes to say that her name means ‘Hidden Beauty’, or ‘Humble Beauty’.

That night I emailed Pam from Ohio and told her the news. I got an email back from her the next day telling me how earlier that very morning before she had read my email, she prayed for Li Hao during her morning prayers as she always did, but that morning God told her specifically that she didn’t have to pray anymore because she now had a family! (Psalm 68:6) Then she went and read my email telling her about our discovery and decision to adopt Qian Hao!

Chasing Papers
Later that day our agency told us that because no one had expressed interest, Qian Hao’s file had already been sent back to China. (There is a whole other interesting story we learned later about how she was ever put up for adoption in the first place… The orphanage had no plans to put her up for adoption, declaring her un-adoptable, but an American lady we met online had visited the orphanage to install a water purifier and persuaded them!) The agency told us that sometimes the files can’t be retrieved after this happens. They requested it back from China but had to inform us of the possibility that it might get denied. God spoke to my heart clearly not to worry and just focus on getting the paperwork done quickly.

So that’s what we began to do, and that’s when the mega paper chase really began. We had no idea how much paperwork would need to be done (a ton), but we just plugged away as fast as we could, jumping through all the hoops, trusting that it would all work out with her file. With all that had transpired there simply was no room for any doubt that we would be getting her file back. It took over two weeks but our agency of course got her file back and we were ‘officially’ able to begin the process of adopting our Hidden Beauty.

It was uplifting news to find that we now had her file, and spurred us on as we increased our fund raising efforts and continued taking all the steps required to get our dossier together. We worked nonstop for months to get the paperwork done and were told at many points in the process that we got things done in record time. This was a miracle in itself because there are so many details involved, and we are definitely not detail oriented people! We also had a lot of favor during our home study, which involved a series of meetings and interviews with a social worker, etc. Things went remarkably well during the interviews and with all the details involved there.

God Provides
The adoption journey was a vigorous faith exercise for our family in the financial department. We started out with a mere fifty dollars that we could put toward the adoption, knowing that we needed more like thirty thousand! Even that first fifty dollars was significant though, because it was exactly the amount we need to pay the initial fee to the adoption agency. It was a pattern that repeated itself every step of the way for us, where we would always come up with the amount of money we needed just in the nick of time, right when it was needed to be able to take the next step in the process.

I had a dream one night right before we learned about Qian Hao. In the dream there was a multiple choice test in front of me but I couldn’t read what it said because the answers were too blurry. I was squinting and trying hard to read it when suddenly a cheerful voice said, “It’s really easy! Once you figure out the answer, all the money will come pouring in! It’s really very simple!” When I woke up all I could do was ponder what ‘the answer’ could be.

Up to that point we had been trying hard to raise money but nothing significant was coming in. We had sold some things on Ebay, but with one sale after another, we were finding out that with the Ebay fees, Paypal fees, and shipping fees, (not to mention all the time spent coordinating all of this) there were no significant profits to speak of. We battled with frustration and intimidation because it felt like there was nothing we could do to get our adoption fund growing!

‘The Answer’ remained a mystery for weeks until we had the revelation from Qian Hao’s file and agreed to adopt her. At that point we began to get the news out to friends and the money started to roll in. Hope was the Answer! The next day after agreeing to adopt Qian Hao, a family we are close friends with donated a thousand dollars! The day after that we received an insurance settlement in the mail for nine hundred dollars! (A minor fender bender that happened in 2006). The day after that another family we are really close with donated a thousand!

During that time we also had two huge garage sales for two weekends in a row that did pretty well. We sold personal and donated items and raised over a thousand dollars! Not long after that another close friend donated some money. He had actually promised Abigail years prior that he would match whatever funds she raised for her adoption! He decided to match funds with her early joking that he was paying up before he couldn’t afford it anymore! He donated four hundred dollars. He had also heard about how Abigail wouldn’t spend her money on herself so he gave Abigail another eighty dollars on the condition that she had to spend it on herself!

We were running with any idea we could think of in order to raise funds. We hosted summertime “World Changers” kid camps at our house and sold handmade “Adoption Bracelets” and “Hope Blankies“. We also brought in some money by selling Entertainment Books, and our local homeschooling group also rallied to the cause and we raised hundreds of dollars selling candy bars. So within a matter of a few weeks we had the initial five thousand needed to start the first stages of the adoption! It was just like the dream, and the money came in right on time!

Hurry Up and Wait
Time flew by and we continued to tackle the final pieces of the paperwork so that our formal dossier could go to China. On October 8th, 2007 we got notice from our agency that we were pre-approved by China, which meant things were going well, and also that we were able to start posting pictures of Hope! The paperwork process was arduous but God was with us and giving us favor every step of the way. Whenever we we got discouraged something would happen to encourage us. At one point we found ourselves discouraged by some difficult hurdles in the paperwork mess, and then Jonathan had a dream where we were together as a family climbing over rocks and hiking up a mountain, and it had a lot of twists and turns but we eventually got to the top and were united with Hope, and we were all hugging and kissing!

We sent our dossier to China in late October and our log in date, the date China logs our dossier into their system was 11/7/07. (Another instance of a date where we felt an encouraging significance because there was a double with the number seven…) We didn’t know when we would get our Letter of Approval, but we learned that China had recently gone computerized, which in many cases has been shortening the processing times for many adopting families. The average is a 60 day wait from log in date, and we wouldn’t have been surprised to get it on 11/11, but we think the holidays slowed things down for us because our wait time ended up being 117 days! 120 days is usually the longest it takes. It was a long wait but we felt that even the number 117 suggested that things were happening according to plan.

God’s Favor
We were surprised to discover in October that Hope had been moved from the original orphanage in Qianjiang to a place called Bethel Foster Home (Now called Bethel Training Center for the Blind, per China’s request). For a few days it was a little suspenseful because nobody seemed to know where she was.

We were initially told through an amazing connection I developed online with a special woman that Li Hao had been taken to Beijing for eye surgery without any other information! After a few long days spent scouring the internet looking for Hope we actually found her listed on Bethel’s website, and then our agency was able to confirm this. We then learned that she’d been permanently moved to Bethel and had actually been there since December of 2006! (Read the original post about this here.)

Current news about Li Hao then began to trickle in from our agency and then it started pouring in directly from Bethel! We were greatly encouraged to learn that Hope was receiving top notch care at the orphanage there. Bethel is a foster home styled orphanage for special needs orphans, and is actually the best place in China we could have ever imagined her being.

This discovery was a huge relief to us because we went from thinking that she was in the Qianjiang orphanage where she was probably the only blind orphan there, and not being very well cared for, to not knowing where in the world she was, to knowing that she was at Bethel being well loved and cared for. Knowing she was at Bethel, and especially being so fortunate to see recent pictures of her caused us to feel like we could relax a bit. We were reminded that God was in charge and taking good care of his daughter in China, and that we weren’t supposed to be striving or worrying.

Another amazing highlight experience of our adventure happened on October 28th, 2007 when we received a four thousand dollar grant on stage at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert! Some amazing connections were made through that experience. (Read all about it).

We have had so many opportunities in all of this to sit back and admire God for his love and faithfulness. As you can read in the blog posts, we were extremely fortunate over the course of the adoption process to be able to correspond with the amazing staff at Bethel. Very special thanks to Sarah Butrell who was volunteering there at the time, we received regular updates and pictures of Hope. Guillaume and Delphine were amazing as well and thanks to them we were even able to talk with Hope a couple times using Skype, and see her through the webcam!

All in His Hands
We finally got our Letter of Approval on March 3rd, 2008 (3/3/08, another double for our numbers game.) Then we got our Travel Approval on March 31st. We were scheduled to leave on April 30th for China and on the day of our departure we were still in need of at least three thousand dollars! We were supposed to have six thousand in cash to take with us to China, and the cash had to be in crisp hundred dollar bills. We were told that the bills had to be new because China is super picky about the money they accept, that they require it to be in flawless condition, and they don’t accept checks or credit cards. This cash was needed for the orphanage donation, legal fees, and paperwork fees, etc. We also knew we needed more money for personal expenses like meals, diapers, gifts, etc.

We were about an hour away from getting in the car and there wasn’t anything else we could think of to try and obtain the funds. We’ve heard many stories of God coming through at the last minute for people going on missions trips etc., and he had been right on time every step of the way so far, so we expected that He would do something! Fortunately things were so busy there wasn’t any time to sit around and worry about it. We had already maxed out our remaining credit options to get three thousand in cash, but were still in need of three thousand more, plus money for food and personal care while on the trip.

I sat with Abigail on our bed right before it was time to go. Abigail looked at me and asked knowingly, “Mom, we don’t have all the money we need, do we?” We were looking at each other and I said, “Either God is real, or He’s not, and since He is, and has brought us this far, get ready to see a miracle!” And with that we got in the car. Our friends who live near the airport were set to watch our dog and were also having a little going away party for us before our scheduled 1am departure, so we went to the party.

Everyone gathered around us for prayer and someone asked me specifically if we had all the money. I explained our situation and confessed that we weren’t sure how to proceed because we didn’t want to be foolish, but also wanted to walk in faith. Moments later one of our friends walked up to us and handed us a big stack of cash! He then told us how a tenant who rents a property of his had stopped by earlier that day and paid him the monthly rent a week early, in cash! He was really tripping out because that normally didn’t happen. There before us was three thousand in brand new hundred dollar bills! It was such a beautiful moment, and I couldn’t stop crying.

Every step of the way God had been making sure we had the money we needed, and here he was again, right on time! If our friend had written us a check at that point, that would have been great, but it wouldn’t have helped as much because it was already 8pm and all the banks were closed, and we needed the money in cash. I was also worried about our friend giving us so much money, but he kept insisting, and even slipped us another thousand, knowing that we needed it for personal expenses, and then we pushed them to agree that it would be a loan.

We were trying not to worry about how we were going to pay back that loan, but the neatest thing was that when we got back from China he told us that they ended up getting two random checks in the mail the very next day, and he was now giving us the money! Both checks were from work he had done a long time ago, and he hadn’t even been expecting them. One was for $3,200 and the other was for $800, the exact amount they had loaned us! We were so thankful because we knew they needed that money. We believe that God waited until the very last minute so we would have the opportunity to trust Him in the face of the impossible, and so we could see that his promise to us was good, that he was going to make this adoption happen, and we didn’t have to strive. He also knew the desire deep inside my heart to see a financial miracle like this. Even though it was agonizing to get that close to the edge of the cliff, I’m so glad for the experience now because it really stretched our faith!

The same leader who gave us the interpretation of the vision with the white key also had this to say to us about God’s provision: “The method of God’s provision is always in His hands. All you have to do is keep believing and leave the ‘how’ and ‘when’ to Him. Only do those things that He impresses or speaks to you to do as a release of faith. Remember that when something is in the Will of God, God Himself will bring it to pass.”

If you have an adoption on your heart but don’t have the money, please don’t let this stop you. We literally started out with fifty bucks, and few would say it was a financially wise thing to do, as we don’t have a retirement fund, or savings, etc., but if it’s in your heart to bring home an orphan, God will provide! You may not feel like you have it all together, but love is the key ingredient. All it takes is a “Yes”, and God will take care of the rest! Please feel free to contact us, as we would love to talk with you and encourage you!

Well that’s it for now. You can read more about how things have been going for us since we got back from China with Hope in mid-May of 2008 by reading through more of the blog posts. Thanks for taking the time to share in our adventure! 😉