Monday morning. March 12th. The day our family grew by one. The day we had waited for for fifteen months. We woke up
I am using Knox’s Chinese name for this post. It seems appropriate. We kept it legally as part of his name, but this is who he is to his foster family, and will always be a part of his identity.
We were allowed to go and meet his foster family today. They live about an hour outside of Nanjing, in a smaller village. We had a driver and a guide go with us, which gave me time to ask a lot of questions about our son’s time with the foster family. I know I have a small window to learn what I can about our son, while I am here in China.
After arriving in his village, we turned down a small road, and saw his foster mom and some of the teachers at the local school waiting for us. I was surprised at how young his mom was. I don’t know why I imagined her to be older. When the van door opened, she instantly hugged YunDi, spoke into his ear, and he nodded and replied. I hoped he was telling her that he felt happy.
They gave us a tour of the community center, inside and out. It is cheery and bright, with a nice play area in courtyard. Most of the kids there had moderate special needs, but all were smiling and happy. They were working on school projects and waved to us as we walked by. We were surprised to see how many elderly were there working with the special needs kids. Some had severe disabilities. If there is one thing that stands out in my mind about China, it is how interactive the older generation is with the younger people. They don’t retire, it seems. They are actively involved in family life, helping, teaching and serving. Many grandparents drive colorful tiny buses around, taking their grandkids to school and running errands. I want one of these.
After that, we were invited to the foster family’s home. His grandfather and grandmother were waiting for him with open arms. Yes, I am crying as I type this. It was so hard to watch, and yet it gave me a clearer picture of who this little boy is, and where he came from.
They welcomed us into their home and made us feel so loved. They gave us oranges, which are in season right now. If they only knew how much I love oranges! We gave them gifts from America, which included a necklace for YunDi’s foster mom with his photo inside. They invited us to stay for dinner, which would be cooked by the foster aunt, who owned the restaurant with her husband. But first, they took us for a walk along the Yangxi River because our guide told them we had a story at home about a duck named Ping, who lived on the Yangxi, and that I would love to show my daughter at home a photo of it. So, we walked along a dirt path, with a soft breeze to cool us off. We passed a few fishermen, and walked through a small patch of woods to the water’s edge. I felt like crying as I watched YunDi hold his foster mother’s hand ahead of me. It was familiar to him, and I knew they must have walked this path many times during his childhood. He and his little cousin ran and laughed, but they didn’t realize the weight of this moment. China was quickly fading from his life, and it made me sad to see it happening. Yet, I know God has been directing his life since he was born, and He has a plan for YunDi.
‘The whole time I have been in China I have been a little nervous about where we should and shouldn’t eat, because I am a little nervous about any of us getting sick since we aren’t used the local water and food. Ok, that is putting mildly. I have been stressed beyond belief! But, I knew all of that had to be set aside because I knew how special this moment was for them and us. Scott leaned over and said, “I don’t care if the food is alive and wiggling on the plate, you have to eat it.” I knew he was right. Even when I walked though the kitchen, and saw piles of raw meat in large piles, with no refrigerator in sight, I didn’t flinch. I just said a little prayer (ok, maybe a got a little Pentecostal), and took some charcoal pills that Scott has been traveling with. Ask my mom, when I eat chicken with bones, I look ridiculous, trying to avoid everything but the meat. I have a long history of being finicky with food. Especially unfamiliar meat that is looking up at me. But I would not offend these dear people for anything. Most of my bites were with eyes closed.
We were directed to a room with a round table and a huge lazy Susan. The food was served in bowls, which we all ate out of. I think America has made me try to be too controlling and safe. Here, I have seen babies in baskets of motorized scooters and we have been almost side swiped no less than ten times, and yet, most people seem to survive just fine. I thought these things as I dipped my chopsticks into the bowls along with everyone else. Chase was next to me, so I leaned over and told him, “Burn this moment into your memory. This may never happen to you again.” He agreed.
There were ten to fifteen different local dishes for us to eat. They made crawfish for YunDi, because we were celebrating his tenth birthday and crawfish is his favorite food. He is nine, but in China they are one at birth, which makes perfect sense. He was in heaven, and eating like a King. Scott had races with a little boy to see who could de-shell the crawfish the fastest. The little boy loved yelling, “I won!” in Chinese.
We laughed, and shared stories. We truly felt part of the family. Villagers came by to watch this momentous event through windows. One old man literally stared at us through a window for 10-15 minutes. Maybe he had never seen Chinese and Westerners sharing a meal together. To me, it was a glimpse of heaven.
YunDi was offered Coke by his Grandfather because now he was “an American!” We all had a good laugh at that.
I focused mostly on vegetables, but I did eat the sweet and sour pork, and Peking Duck. The sausage meatball soup was very good too. I just had to keep chewing and smiling. Scott sure was enjoying watching me so subdued! Especially when they served the eggs boiled with baby chickens inside. We all said we were full at that point. None of us were that brave, but they did send them ALL back to the hotel with us.
They brought out YunDi’s birthday cake. We sang in English and Chinese to YunDi. He then fed his foster mother birthday cake. And I watched through watery eyes.
Afterwards, we stood outside in the courtyard and ate the birthday cake. The foster grandfather told how much he loved YunDi and that he is his first grandson. He said they could have adopted him, but decided he needed to be adopted by an American family. This was clearly a difficult situation for them, and he had tears in his eyes most of the day. He wanted me to know that he loves YunDi, and that he gave him everything he could. He told me he is used to eating an apple or an orange before bed each night. I promised in honor of his grandfather that I would keep this tradition going at our home. (Which won’t be hard, since I love apples and oranges more than anything!)
At one point in the evening, our guide translated this precious announcement from YunDi as he pointed at me, “She’s my biological mother.” I stood there trying not to cry. She told me he knows how important it is that he is a real son now. At this point, the mood shifted. We knew things were winding down and we could all could feel it. We knew we had to get in the van and head back to the hotel. Yet no one wanted this special day to end.
YunDi is very close to his Grandmother. It was evident the whole time, because she kept hugging him each chance she got. Every time she looked at him she was beaming. She honestly is the cutest Chinese woman I have ever seen.
As we started to leave, the grandmother told our guide that she had something very important to tell us.
Looking very seriously at me and Scott, she patted her chest and said, “I am a Christian.”
When I was told what she said, I grabbed her hand tightly and said, “What?!”
She nodded and said again, “I am a Christian.” I grabbed her and hugged her so hard.
She said, “I have brought YunDi to church every week since we first became his foster family seven years ago. “
I asked, “You have taught YunDi about Jesus?” She tearfully and happily said, “Yes!”
She continued, “YunDi told me a few months ago that he will go to America, grow up, go to school, make money, and come back to his village and build a large church for all of his people.”
My knees buckled. Scott started crying. Chase stood there stunned.
I felt God’s presence settle into that village courtyard in a way I can barely describe.
We told her that YunDi’s first name is after a famous pastor from Scotland, and his middle name is from our pastor at home, and that we would continue to raise him in the Lord. She said her prayer for many years was for a Christian family to adopt her YunDi. I looked down at his little bright face as he tried to understand why I was crying. I stood there, and held her hand and wished we had more time. We told them about Scott’s job, and they asked for Christian books in Chinese. We promised to try to send them some.
In an instant, we went from friendly strangers, to dearly loved family. This sweet little lady was my sister in Christ. We all embraced and cried.
Our guide told us it was time to go. YunDi hugged all of his family, and hugged his grandmother extra long. His foster mother and grandfather walked down the dirt road with us to the van. His grandmother stayed back and watched us until we were gone.
It was a quiet walk. My heart was breaking and thankful at the same time. This is where we get the word, “bittersweet.”
YunDi hugged his mother, the only mother he has ever known; the mother who cared for him and kept him safe for seven years. She wept as she buried her face in his shoulder.
Next, his grandfather spoke in his ear, giving him last words of wisdom or sharing his love for him. His face crinkled as he also wept and held YunDi.
I hugged both his Mom and grandfather, and thanked them, and promised to bring their boy back one day. And I meant it. I know someday YunDi is meant to go back. Only God knows the rest of this story but I am so excited to see how it unfolds.
We drove away. Nobody spoke. We just cried. YunDi kept looking up at me concerned as he held my hand on the drive back to the hotel. I knew he didn’t understand fully what had just happened. Behind us, there was a family that truly loved him and raised him in the Lord. This wasn’t the end of anything. It was just the beginning.
For most of the drive back to Nanjing, I sat there in almost disbelief of what God had done. But God does that. He blesses and gives abundantly more than we could ever imagine or expect. This whole time we thought YunDi was an answer to our prayers and yet we were the answer to the fervent prayers of his godly grandmother. It was a powerful reminder that this is God’s world. We are part of His story. And YunDi is going to be an amazing part of how God answered the prayers of his faithful grandmother on the outskirts of Nanjing on Shangba Street in China.