Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reception at Fairfield Christian Church

We will be hosting a reception at Fairfield Christian Church on Sunday, April 25th at 6:30 p.m. We will share videos, pictures and stories from our journey through China. Please come of you can!

(Note: I've added my insigts on potty options in China on our family blog if you want to take a look)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Roots and Wings

We're wrapping up this part of the trip with the family. I'm still planning on visiting friends in Wuhan and then on to the orphanage in Vietnam, and then home in a week. So please pray for my family as they travel without me…

This has been one of those "once in a lifetime" experiences with my family. I really have to pinch myself every once in a while to make sure it's been true. My highlight has definitely been to see Sarah's and Lily's face respectively when we made a big deal about "their cities." Everyone wants to know who they are, and where they are from, and I'm glad that the girls will have this experience to remember in the future. I don't think they have much memory as little girls. And I'm not sure how much memory they will have of this trip on their own…but as we revisit pictures and remember the stories and talk about "Amu" and as they hug their stuffed animals tight (gifts from Amu), I believe they will have a heritage and roots so that later they can spread their wings.

As for spreading their wings, I see a renewed interest in the girls as they have asked me more and more how to say words in Chinese. They seemed to resist speaking any words in Chinese before the trip…now, their curiosity is stirred.

It was also really good for me to get to see the heart of some of the people here. For the most part, the people have been very friendly and have had encouraging things to say as I stumble through my Chinese with them. Many people have told us how kind we are to adopt the girls. I was touched by the way that Sarah's Foster Father gave a parting hug to me. I could tell he was genuinely touched with how well Sarah is doing, and also I could tell that he genuinely loved that little girl.

A side note…as we traveled through Sarah's hometown, I couldn't help but look at people riding bikes or walking the streets, at times making eye contact, and wonder if maybe, just maybe, God allowed me to look into the eyes of her birth mother. Eternity will tell.

It's been so fun to hear so many people say that the girls look like twins. I thought perhaps it was just because they are Chinese…but, even here, many people think they look very much alike. It's been fun to see them skipping down side walks together and through the hallways. I love being a dad.

Roots and wings. The roots go deep in China. People here have Dynasties of history compared to a few centuries in America. And now my family has a little bit of roots in China…we join the dynasties.

But the wings of my girls and China are spreading. My girls, along with many others adopted from China, have a bright future ahead because they have a "forever family." The wings of faith are also spreading in China, and we witnessed it often. All the indicators point to the fact that there is a real surge of Christianity in China. Yet of course, there is much more the Spirit will yet do in the years ahead. And many more children need homes in our world. The job is not done.

I have been refreshed during our time. It's always good to get a different perspective for a time. This trip confirms the importance of FCC's world outreach in my heart.

Attached are a couple pictures…I wish I were brave enough to dance in public. I never tire of seeing my girls have fun. Kathy and I are enjoying some "couch time." And Dane is practicing his "Chinese Yo-Yo."

Looking forward to our "Party" back at FCC…Sunday, April 25 @ 6:30 pm. We invite everyone to come!

See you soon...Tom

Monday, April 5, 2010

Swimming, Red Couch and Pearl River

re-enactment of the first photo of Lily during our stay at the White Swan in '04


Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is risen............................

Five of us headed to church this morning for the Easter celebration. It was the normal group on Sunday and the kids. The only difference was that we walked to church. Tom came a little late and left really early as he wasn't feeling well. We enjoyed the service at Shamian Christ Church. This is a Three Self Church in China; self-supporting, self-propogating, self-governing....basically a government sanctioned church. Anybody is free to attend a Three Self Church; unlike the international churches which only can welcome internationals. We attended the service that had moth Mandarin and English. It was good to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with believers who were both Chinese and other nationalities. We enjoyed the children's choir and the string instruments. We also enjoyed telling others, "Jesu wa ay ni. (hey-zu eyed knee)" which means "Jesus Loves you."

After church we went back to the hotel to check on Tom. He was still down so we grabbled some money and took off! We hit a few of the shops. Lorissa, I got all of your things with the exception of the painting...still working on that. One of the shop owners is trying to get the artist to come to the island. The girls picked some things out for their classmates and two teachers. I made a few purchases for friends. We then went to Lucy's (again) for lunch. If Tom was well, we would have ventured off of the island, but decided safe was best. We didn't want to eat the Easter dinner at the White Swan because it was 480 RMB per 70USD per person...yes, you read that right. After Lucy's we returned to the hotel to check on Tom....still down so we grabbed more money and took off! This time we stopped at Starbuck's prior to allowing the girls to play at the park near the school. We also took some photos with statues from around the island. As all who know who have adopted, the island has several throughout. I even allowed the boys to take my photo with the fat lady by Lucy's....the only woman I've seen in China that is bigger than me! As we were making our way back to the hotel to check on Tom, we found him walking towards us. He joined us for a small walk and some time in the playroom with the girls.

We are now taking it easy for the rest of the day...ordering Papa John's for dinner! Tomorrow we are having dinner on a boat as part of the night cruise on the Pearl River. We hope Tom feels better to go along. We have decided to not push it the rest of our trip. We've done some pretty amazing things and have seen quite a bit. It's time to slow down and get ready for our return home.

TJ, missed you at church today. Know that we thought of you often and we look forward to seeing you on Wednesday night. We love you!

Thanks, again, for everyone that is following!

He is risen indeed,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Visiting Yangjiang Social Welfare Institute

Lily with Mrs. Wu

The girl on the right is the one being adopted by the famiy in the states. The girl next to her was found and brought to the orphanage just a few weeks ago.

Lily on the playground at the orphanage

the family with Mrs. Wu and the orphanage director

the view one direction down the road from the orphanage

the view the other way

The spot where they found Lily on the day she was born. It used to be the gate to the orphanage.

the girls with their new Barbie's.

Today was Lily's turn to see her city and her orphanage. First, let me say that it truly was a good day and I am gratefull for them allowing us to visit. Oh, by the way, Guangdong Province has a new policy and to visit an orphanage you have to pay 800RMB (app. $130 USD).

Yangjiang City has a population of about 2 million...according to our guide. Yangjiang City is known at the "cutting capital" as many cutting tools are made in Yangjiang. It also is close to the ocean so their is some tourist pull to the east. When we drove down the alley I was surprised that the gate to the orphanage was no longer there and major construction was beginning to happen. Lily was found at the gate of the orphanage. Just beyond the gate was a rather lengthy drive/walkway to the main building of the SWI. Currently, there is only enough width for two cars in front of the building. We were told they are building a new facility for special needs children. Like most Social Welfare Institutes in China, Yangjiang houses orphaned children, special needs children, children/adults with developmental disabilities and the elderly.

There was not much of a celebration or fanfare with our visit. There were no gifts given to Lily, but they were kind. We first met Mrs. Wu, the Assistant Director...maybe. It was at that time that I spotted the little girl that will be adopted by a family that contacted me to try to get some pictures. I don't want to share much without mom's approval, but I will have to say it was a special moment for me to give her a small gift from her family, a picture of them where I pointed out who was mommy and daddy and to take a few pictures of her. I threw in some dum dum suckers and later was thrilled to see her willingly sharing with the other children and the two adults with developmental disabilities. I sent the mom some photos so I know they will be a blessing to her and her family. Actually, the blessing was mine!

I also was asked to look into how a little girl, age 2 1/2 was doing. They were not going to allow us into the baby room, but decided to let me in. Tom followed. All of the babies were sleeping and I got a few pics of the little girl. She is certainly a cutie! Someone I know is advocating for her and would like to find an adoptive family. Lisa, feel free to post in comments on where to go for that information. I'll leave it up to Lisa if she wants to share her special need. I got a quick count of babies on my way out...about 34. When I walked out of that room I had the same emotions when I walked out in 2004. These babies were probably between nine months and maybe 3 years old. I'm not sure why they are still. I'm not sure if they are in the process of being adopted or not. I was really sad leaving that room....really sad. But like I did in '04, I held it in until I got off the property.

We then went and sat in the large meeting room with the Director and Assistant Director. I wanted to meet with them and yet I just wanted to get out of there! We had a nice conversation about some of the families I know through the yahoo group. We also told them that our travel group gets together every year and nine of those children are from Yangjiang. Two families from our group gave money to get something for the orphanage. We were encouraged to not get anything to large, so we simply purchased a lot of fresh fruit, fruit candies and an assorment of other snack foods. We gave those to the Director prior to taking a photo with them.

We then made our way to Lily's finding location.....where the gate would have been about a month ago! I took a few photos down the alley each way. We jumped in the van and headed to KFC for lunch. We were quite the attraction there! After lunch we headed to a local store to purchase an assorment of cutting tools made in the city; two sets of kitchen knives for the girls, a few daggers, pocket knives, nail clippers. I also bought a tea pot for my sister Karen...for her 50th birthday...a little late!

We then returned to Shamian Island where we had dinner at Lucy's. Lucy's is one of the few places still open on the island. There are only a handful of shops open right now, which is strange. We then returned to our hotel where we found three Barbie "Going Home" dolls in our rooms! I'm not sure if it was a mistake or not, but everyone was pretty psyched. These Barbie's are unique to the White Swan. It's your typical blonde, skinny Barbie holding an Asian baby. Each of the girls have one from their adoption trips. Now we have three more. We are going to donate one to raise money for Tim and Tara Williams as they are raising funds for the adoption of their third child. We were in the same travel group when we adopted Lily. I'm not sure how I will sell it...either give it directly to them or put it on ebay. I know, in better economic times, they sold on ebay for $200.00. Anyone want to offer that price now? It's yours if you do!

So, today was a good day. Sad in some ways, but still very good! We are so grateful that God put Lily in our family! She's been a blessing to many...and I'd like to think that the emotions I had that day in the Yangjiang SWI in 2004 is what challenged me to join with others in our church to start and adoption/orphan care ministry. I'm thrilled to be part of a church that recognized the importance of caring for orphaned children across the street and around the world. So, the Pahls' have started the paperwork to adopt from China. Who's next?

Tomorrow we take a break from things and will attend church on the island and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus! We are so looking forward to that! No, the Easter Bunny did not travel to China with us, but the real meaning for Easter did! We celebrate Him tomorrow! Hope you celebrate Him, too! God bless.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lily's Story

Lily's second referral photo

Lily with her blanket

Lily and I waiting on her passport

The attempted Red Couch Photos for the 12 girls from our travel group.
The first photo of us with Lily on "Gotcha Day."

Today we arrived in Ghuangzhou, the city where we spent most of our time when we travelled to pick up Lily. We were with 11 other families that got girls from this province; nine were from the same orphanage as Lily....Yangjiang Social Welfare Institute.

Adoption from China was much different back then. It took me about 10 weeks to process our dossier. We logged it in on March 30, 2004. We requested as young as possible, healthy girl. Our referral followed in just a few months...September. Right now I believe families are waiting almost 4 years for as young as possible. We travelled in late October and toured Beijing with our travel group. It was on November 1st of 2004 that we got Lily!

She was 11 1/2 months on that day. She had a cold and we could tell that she was delayed developmentally since she couldn't sit up, roll over or hold her head up very well. We also found out that night that she had not eaten food other than the rice/cereal mixture and she couldn't eat without throwing up. It was on the second day that we had her that she started to get pretty sick and we had to take her to the local clinic. As for the orphanage visit, we decided to have Tom keep Lily at the hotel while I went to visit the orphanage. It was a 3 1/2 hour drive. Plus, I needed a break. She was so connected to me that I barely had a free moment. The time alone with Tom was good. And my time with Teresa on the bus to Yangjiang was good! We had Lily for about five days when we made that visit. The referral photo had become flesh and I held her in my arms and sang over her for several days. Visiting the orphanage was an overwhelming experience for me. As for as orphanage standards go, it was a good place. It was clean. I believe she got a bath most days. She wasn't tiny by any means so I know she was fed. Her development told me that she probably spent a lot of time in bed. I don't have the pictures of the bed with me, although you could find it on the family blog somewhere. There wasn't a mattress, just te wood planks. Anyway, it was an emotional time for me to see the orphanage. My only regret is that I didn't take Tom. Lily would have been fine. It's okay now, because he gets to see it tomorrow! We leave bright and early at 7:30 a.m. We'll visit the orphanage, have lunch and then stop and purchase some things famous from Yangjiang....kites and cutting tools of different sorts.

The White Swan looks the same, but the island does not. :( It once was bustling with activity, but is now under construction to prepare for the Asian Games. There are just a few shops open so we'll hit them in the next few days. We did go to an Italian place on the island for was really good!

Many of you who know me know that Lily really changed my big and small ways. First, my color preferences were always earthtones and Lily brought pinks and purples into my life! I NEVER have my hair up and I've had to learn to do hair! In more profound ways, she's just made me a better person. What started out as "me wanting a daughter" turned into being so much more. Yes, she has probably made me a bit softer, a bit more emotional, a bit more loving. Tomorrow we'll visit Yangjiang.....Lily's first home.

Lily was found on the sidewalk at the front gate of the orphanage on November 17, 2003. They believed that this was also the day she was born. I am posting a picture of Lily with her blanket when we first got her. We have that blanket with us today as she has not slept one night without it since November 1, 2004! It is well loved! (That's the kind way of saying, "It's really gross!") Her red thread runs from Yangjiang to our home. Like Sarah, she was known to be part of our family before the beginning of time! We are so thankful that what started with my selfish desire to have a daughter has become one of the biggest blessings in our life!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dinner with Foster Family

Girls swimming..had to wear caps



Food from dinner...yikes

The two families together. The foster parents have one son who is married with one son. The grandson is peaking through his grandfathers jacket.

Two sets of parents

Girls dresses

This will be short because quite frankly, Tom and I are not feeling the greatest. We didn't feel well this morning so we took the day rather slow.

We allowed the girls to swim a bit this morning since it was the warmest day. I think it got up to 80, but I just can't take the time to figure out the switch from celsius!

We went to McDonald's for lunch. We then went to Walmart because I wanted to purchase a few things for a girl that lives at the Yangjiang Social Welfare Institute that will be adopted by an American couple. Please pray that the door will be open to meet her so I can give her this small gift from her family. In turn, I want to give the family a gift through pictures and information.

After our trip downtown, we went back to the People's Park. We promised Sarah that she could ride a few rides. I was a bit anxious about that, but we did it. We then went on ANOTHER boat ride. I was on park overload so I returned to the hotel for a nap while Tom fed the fish with the girls....AGAIN!!!!

This evening we had dinner with the foster family. I'm not sure how much I said yesterday, but this is a wonderful family. They have been so sweet to all of us and have loved on the girls equally. Dinner was their treat and we did our best to be grateful guests. We had rice, duck, crab, shrimp, goose, lamb, chicken, fish (in it's entire bodily form) and peanuts. The boys tried everything. Lily ate peanuts and Sarah ate peanuts and rice. Tom and I tried everything as well, and I think we are paying for it now.

We talked more about our life in the states. They had a hard time grasping what Tom does for a job and why people would pay him to do that job! Too funny.

At the end of the dinner she presented us with many gifts. The girls received two dresses, leggings and hair thingy's. The boys each got an outfit, too. I doubt anyone will see them wear them though. I got a beautiful jade bracelet, but I might have to grease my wrist to get it on and off! Lol! It is absolutely beautiful! We also got several boxes of unknown dried fruit and a huge bag of unknown fresh fruit. We are grateful, but will likely bless the hotel staff with the food. We finished the evening with pictures and a long good-bye.

We welcome prayers as we travel to Ghaungzhou late in the morning. First, Tom and I need to feel better. We are looking forward to getting to our final destination as a family!

TJ, missed you more tonight than ever! We did get to talk about you a lot with the foster family. Know that we love you tons! Looking forward to seeing you next week.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meeting the Foster Family

Girls swinging at the Peoples Park

Outside of the apartment building of the foster family

Foster Mom (Ah-Moo) with the kids and the fruit basket we brought for them

On couch with foster mom...and the small fruit we ate..yikes

Sarah with her foster father

Sarah in her old bedroom

small plant on the porch...we have several photos of Sarah in front of the plant...both were much smaller

foster mom with the girls

boys with foster mom

sarah with her old bear and the picture of her with it

foster mom with kids as we were leaving

girls in front of wedding poster

We had a slow start today as we didn't have anything scheduled until our meeting with the foster family at 3:00. The kids loved the park so much so we went back. It is a rather large park so Tom, the girls and I explored a different part of the park and found a playground. The girls enjoyed swinging and playing on the equipment. The boys took off on their own and went on the boat again. Of course, we had to feed those fish again at 3:00 p.m. we headed over to a fruit market to purchase a basket of fruit as a gift for the foster family. We also stopped at a pharmacy to pick up some cough medicine for Lily. She has been coughing a lot so I was concerned. Well, the Chinese cough syrup didn't go over well and ended up all over me.

We arrived at the apartment complex at 3:30. It is a large complex and is much like the typical apartment in China. I've included a picture of the building that has the apartment in it. We waiting downstairs for the foster parents to come greet us. It was just like I had imagined....Ah-moo (that is what Sarah called her when she lived with them and is a term of endearment for an older lady in one's life) ran to us and first wrapped her arms around me and kissed me and then did the same with everyone else! Then the foster dad scooped Sarah up and carried her up to the apartment..on the sixth floor. He told us that he always carried her up the stairs since it was so high. The apartment was just as I had imagined, only smaller. There were two small bedrooms, big enough for a full-sized bed. The kitchen was very small. The living room had a couch, a few chairs, a television and a table. We spent about two hours together talking, laughing and crying. They insisted on us eating fruit with them. We ate two new fruits that were rather good. I'm a little concerned that the girls ate grapes. We were told not to eat fruit that isn't peeled. I hope we don't regret allowing them to eat it.

Our visit was a lot of fun as we shared stories of Sarah both when she was with them and now that she is with us. You'll notice a monkey in one of the pictures. When we heard that the foster brother had his first baby, the girls went to Build-A-Bear and made the monkey for him. We also got a wooden train set from Amish country. I took pictures of the girls making the monkey and sent them along with the monkey and the train. It was great to see both the monkey and the train. There was also this white bear. Sarah said, "That was my bear." When Sarah would look at her pictures from China she would always ask me, "Where is my white bear? Why don't I have it?" I would just explain that the foster family could not send it. They gave Sarah that bear. I added a picture of her holding the bear and the photo album with her and the bear in it. It was fun to look at all of the photo albums. Two were from us and there were others of other foster children. They had fostered six children; Sarah being the last.

We all just love the foster mom....she is very loving.....and talked so much. The foster dad was very quiet. We knew that he had spent some time working in Africa as an engineer. We were surprised to hear that he was still working there and had come home the week before to meet us. He will be home for one month. We also got to spend time with the foster brother who is a security officer for a bank. We did not meet his wife as she was working at the bank. We did get to meet the granson, but he was pretty shy. I was so impressed with how well they treated all of the kids. They even gave Lily a stuffed animal. And the foster mother kept hugging on the boys throughout our visit.

After our visit we all walked down to the courtyard where the foster mom would tell everyone something where we only understood "xiao ning." I'm sure she was telling everyone that this was Xiao Ning who used to live with them. We made arrangements to meet for dinner tomorrow evening near our hotel. I'll do better at getting pictures of all of us together.

Again, Sarah lived with them for 18 months! What a blessing to have met them and to have speak to them in Mandarin, "Thank you for taking care of and loving our daughter until we could bring her home." What a special time we had today. Sarah was so happy the entire time although she said she did not have any memory of the apartment. She was bold enough to ask to see her room, which we did. She shared a room with the foster parents.

Another good day for "Sarah's Story."

After our visit, Tom and I decided to eat Chinese for dinner. The boys didn't want anything to do with it, so we gave them money for McDonald's and a taxi....gave them the necessary hotel information for their return and sent them on their way! You should have seen their eyes when they realized we were allowing them to take off on their own. Not to worry.....they are now safe in the hotel! I added a photo of their girls in front of a wedding banner. There have been six weddings in this hotel since we have been here. All of them have these banners made. The bride and groom greet everyone at the banner in their wedding clothes and give them a small gift and/or snack. It has made for conversations with the girls about their weddings...too funny!

Tomorrow we are free most of the day. We'll have dinner with the foster family. We leave for Ghanzhou on Friday morning. We are looking forward to the White Swan hotel...a familiar place for most Americans who adopt from China. It is where the final in-country swearing ceremony is at the US Consulate. The medical exams take place there as well. Since Lily was a Guangdong baby, we stayed at the White Swan the entire time. We will also enjoy Shamian Island, where the hotel is located. I understand it is under construction, but will still be a great place to finish up our trip. We have great memories with our travel group from our Lily adoption trip in 2004...hope we get rooms on the seventh floor! The girls have such different stories. Sarah has a connection with her foster parents. Lily has a connection with the other girls that were adopted at the same time. If Lily's "China Sisters" are following.....stay tuned.....Ghangzhou here we come!