In June, Josiah-now-Jay went home with his new forever family! He had been matched with this family since last summer (read the match story here). It has been absolutely amazing to walk through this experience with him and his family. To be on his side of the world throughout the waiting period, to send pictures and updates to his mom as he grew, to deliver a birthday cake from his family to him when he turned 5 years old.
Now I’m visiting the U.S. side of the world, and I find myself reflecting on all that happened with Hope Station during our first year and a half in China. In December, we received the very final news that we won’t be able to do foster care (read that story here). That was unexpected and difficult news to receive. It meant a total redirection of our programs, which was not an easy thing to wrap our minds around, let alone carry out. Yet, also unexpected in our first year was the role we were able to play for three adoptive families and their kiddos. For Anthony-now-Tommy, Maisy-now-Emma, and Josiah-now-Jay, we stood in the gap as families waited to meet their child, and children waited to go home.
I personally didn’t even realize the full impact that standing in the gap could make, until I walked through the whole experience with Josiah-now-Jay. It was a privilege to be his mama’s hands and feet before she came to get him, as I visited him weekly at the orphanage. And I looked ever forward to the day that his mama and brother and sister would arrive in China to meet him for the first time. I had stayed in such close contact with her that she graciously invited me to be there when they first met their Jay.
Adoptive mama has been waiting to meet her son for almost a year, pouring over every detail of his face in every picture she has of him, memorizing every word from every email in an effort to get to know this little boy who will join her family, wondering how he will react when they meet. Will he be excited? Afraid? Smiling? Crying?
Watching Josiah-now-Jay jump into her arms for the first time definitely tugged at my heart strings. But after those first few seconds, he gets down, looks at her and his siblings, and seems to be asking himself, “So… now what?” He doesn’t know her, and they don’t even speak the same language. We all play together for the next hour as paperwork is being signed by all involved. When it comes time for the orphanage staff to leave and for Josiah-now-Jay to go with his new family, he starts screaming, sobbing, kicking his way out of everyone’s arms as we try to comfort him. I make sure they were all settled in their van to go back to their hotel, as he is still screaming, and then I say goodbye. (His mom told me later that he cried all the way to the hotel - until they reached the elevator and let him touch all the buttons… then he was fine.)
It’s been three months now since he went home to America with his forever family. And we’ve kept in touch. Every time he sees a picture of me in his mom’s phone, he asks to video call me. He’ll call, and we’ll have short conversations in Chinese about his bike, or his love for milk, or going swimming. I’m now the only person in his life who is connected to the last five years of his life. His mama sends me videos of him often, and sometimes asks if I can understand what he’s saying if he’s frustrated or making funny faces when he says something in Chinese. He’s transitioning so well.
Being part of his life after going home was something I never expected. But the role that I play, through Hope Station, is bridging a gap that no one else can. As he grows up, he’ll forget Chinese and he’ll forget what his life in the orphanage was like. But I’ll always remember. I’ll always be around to tell those stories about when he was being potty trained, how much he loved books when we first brought them, or the funny sheep shaped cake he had on his 5th birthday.
Hope Station might not be doing foster care, as we originally thought. But we are still doing all we can to give the gift of family to these kids, standing in the gap between forever families and children during the adoption process, and bridging the gap between past and future after they go home. It’s oh so sweet. And it makes every struggle along the way oh so worth it.
A note from Rebekah...
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to start a nonprofit from the ground up, to open a home for ORPHANS with special needs in Asia, you've come to the right place.