Anyway, it’s been a busy week… but we’re in our hometown now. And, everything moves slower here, so it should be fairly relaxing. Having time to reflect on our journey over the last couple of years, I was overwhelmed with memories of the beginning…
It started in my friend’s Jeep. My college friend, Kineta, and I were driving home after work… the moment is so vivid in my mind; I can even remember the sun was in my eyes, and I flipped down the visor in an attempt to see where I was going. The two of us both worked at a small international adoption agency in Dallas, and we were talking about her desire to go on a short term mission trip in the summer. The thought had honestly never crossed my mind, but I asked her what places she was looking at. She rattled off a list of countries… I don’t remember most of them, but the one that jumped out to me was China. After working in adoption for about a year, I had developed a favorite program. It was definitely China. The process was smooth, the prices were low, and at the time it was taking about a year start to finish! I was developing a deeper curiousity about China (oddly enough, I place I’d always sworn I didn’t want to go — too many people, I thought), and so as she began telling me about the trip, my mind started reeling with the possibilities.
The trips were hosted by another international adoption agency. They were taking a group of people to volunteer in government orphanages around China for 2 weeks. I had spent the last year educating prospective adoptive parents on the “impacts of institutionalization on childhood growth and development,” but I’d never seen the inside of an orphanage. At the time, I thought it professionally important to educate myself on the reality of an orphanage, so I was drawn to the trip. I asked for the brochures she had received. As fate would have it, that year Kineta didn’t go on a trip, but her brochures weren’t wasted.
I’m not one to make spontaneous decisions, but by the time we reached our exit, it was decided. I went home and announced to my then-boyfriend Jacob that I was going to go to China for two weeks in the summer to work in an orphanage. I asked him if he wanted to go with me. He said yes — partially out of curiosity (neither of us had been to China before), and partially out of the knowledge that two weeks apart would be far too difficult for both of us. I like to think the latter reason was the most compelling. Next step was telling my parents. My mom’s voice quivered with nervousness until she heard Jacob planned to come along. I guess she figured he could protect me from… I don’t know… the orphans?! and so she and my Dad quickly came on board.
There were various cities to choose from — scattered all across China — and all the trips seemed interesting. Funding was a problem. Being young and broke (side note: those of you who are adopting, know that your caseworkers aren’t in it for the money, and please always treat them kindly — even when they are the bearers of bad news.) my eyes immediately scanned the price column first. A small city in Henan province had the lowest price. I think the trip total was $1,600, including airfare. That settled it. To Henan we would go.
Later into the story you will understand this more fully… but isn’t it funny how a seemingly random choice can forever redirect the course of one’s life and the lives of those around you? Oh, and as it turns out… if my mom was worried about what the orphans would do to me, she was more on-target than any of us could have realized at the time. I didn’t know it at the time, but that moment in the Jeep and the decision I made on the commute home would truly change the course of my life.
In the next installment: The BIG question, wide open doors, an unusual offer, and the WTHDWJD moment.