I knew it the moment I saw her at the orphanage in China. We were there to visit the orphanage in which our daughter, Eden, had been living for the previous 4 years. We had just completed the adoption of Daniel and Eden two days before, and we knew we were in for a challenge with both of them due to all the medical and emotional needs our children have. But when I saw this beautiful girl at the orphanage, and she was following us around while the teachers were telling us that she really wanted a family, too, and would age out (turning 14) in January 2017 (a short 5 months from when we were there in July 2016), I knew she was meant to be our daughter. The children who had been in a dance class together with Eden all put on their dance for us. As I watched them dancing, I realized that each of them (there were 5 or 6 there dancing), were being adopted or would be adopted within the next couple of months; all except for this sweet girl who so wanted a family. I remembered seeing her in the photos we periodically received of Eden in the orphanage before we traveled. She is straight and tall, and looked older than Eden, so I had assumed that she was older and had already aged out or was a worker in the orphanage. What I realized then was that these two young ladies were friends in the orphanage, and had spent the last four years together there. While the children were dancing, a warm, gentle breeze blew through the open window and brushed across my cheek. I felt like Elijah, knowing that God was in the gentle blowing in 1 Kings 19. My friend who was adopting two children from that orphanage as well, turned to me and said, “I think she’s your daughter.” I got goosebumps.
When we got back in the van to leave for lunch with the children and the orphanage director and teachers, I said to Todd, “We need to come back for her.” Todd’s response was something like, “Are you crazy?” I’ve heard that from him before. 🙂 The truth was, since this little girl had such a short time, only a family who was already in the process of adopting, or one that had just completed an adoption could most likely adopt her. We thought about advocating for her, but we knew that her chances were very, very slim of someone moving to get everything done in time to adopt her before she aged out. Given Todd’s less than agreeable response to the idea of adopting another child at that time, I decided I would pray about it and just see what happened after we got back home and settled with our new children.
Of course, life was rather crazy upon our return, as it usually is, and even more so as we were adjusting to life with two new children who didn’t speak our language, and who had different needs emotionally and physically. It was easy to let a month go by and not really do anything about the little girl on the other side of the world. I can’t say I stopped thinking about her, however. There was probably not one day that passed without a thought or a prayer about this child. In early September, one month home from China, I sent an email to a different agency to see if they could locate the file of Eden’s friend. She had actually been on the list with the agency we used to adopt Daniel and Eden, but her file had been released back into the shared list right around the time we were in China. I was glad about that because we weren’t very happy with that agency, and in the very unlikely case that we would be moving forward, we wouldn’t want to use that agency again. The only problem with not using the same agency was that in order to do a dossier copy, which is what would have been the easiest and fastest way to proceed, we would have had to go with the same agency. It is not very common for the Chinese government to agree to take a dossier copy for a family if they go with a different agency.
I was able to view this sweet young lady’s file and see her photos. According to her file, this girl had no physical disabilities, and her special need was listed as “developmental delay.” She had been found at one month old, and had lived in the orphanage ever since. The file said that she had developed strong attachments to her teachers, which is a really good thing.
I took all of this information and…..did nothing for another month. I really didn’t want to bring it up with Todd again. He had seemed pretty certain that we were not going to be adopting another child so soon after completing our adoption of Daniel and Eden. I wanted to keep the peace. So, I prayed. Every so often, Eden would look through the little photo album that was sent with her from the orphanage. Her little friend was in almost every picture with her. Several photos showed them laughing together. I looked at these pictures and felt a little twinge in my heart. I was supposed to do something about this. But, I was afraid to push it with my husband. So, I let another month go by. With the passing of another month went the ticking of the clock that was counting down this young lady’s chances of ever having a family. And I began to have dreams about her every night.
In early October, Eden saw me looking at a picture of her friend on the computer as I was praying for her. She got really excited, gasped and said, “(the girl’s Chinese name) coming here? Daddy go get her!” Hmmm, I hadn’t even said anything of the sort. I responded to her, saying, “Let’s pray and see.” After that, she began to ask me every day if Daddy would be going to get her friend and bring her here. She showed me where we would put her bed. I would tell her, “Maybe she will come.” We prayed. I didn’t ask Todd. I just couldn’t bring myself to go there and stir up any confrontation. Then, Eden started to ask Todd about her friend, too. He would kind of grunt and say, “no.” Eden would come and tell me, “Daddy say ‘no’ not coming,” and sadly walk away. I continued to have dreams about this young lady. The contact I had at the new agency that had sent me the file would check in with me every couple of weeks, and she kept reminding me that if we thought we wanted to move forward with this girl, we would have to move quickly. They had seen adoptions completed within 4 months before, but every day we delayed, the likelihood of everything coming together in time was dwindling.
By the second week in October, I felt that God was pushing me to talk to Todd about this young lady. If I didn’t step out in faith and at least mention it to him again, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing that I hadn’t at least advocated for this child’s life. The morning I resolved to talk to my husband about her again, I received an email from the adoption agency telling me that basically we would have to begin the process in the next couple of days if she was even going to have a chance at being adopted. I knew I had to do something that day.
So, I sent Todd an email (I wasn’t really brave enough to talk to him about it quite yet in person) with the subject line “Christmas gift for Eden.” I sent him the file, and told him how I had not been able to stop thinking about the girl we had met at the orphanage. I wrote to him about my dreams, and about Eden’s persistence in asking me every day. I told him that time was running out and that we only had a few days. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh? I waited for a response, and that afternoon, Todd wrote me back with an answer that wasn’t “no,” but was more along the lines of, “It’s going to take an act of God to convince me that this is what we need to do, but what are the steps we would need to take and how much is this going to cost?” I breathed a somewhat relieved sigh, thinking to myself that at least this wasn’t a “no!”
The next day, I sent in our application with the new agency. We were quickly approved, and they sent me a timeline of what would need to happen when in order to even have a chance of completing the adoption before the girl’s 14th birthday in early January. We had less than 3 months to finish everything and get to China. It looked pretty dismal on paper, but I knew in my heart that this child was going to be a part of our family before she aged out. It was October 6th. They wanted us to have a completed (new) dossier FedExed to their office in Colorado by October 19th, or at the very latest the 20th as it would have to be sent to China by the 21st. It had taken us about 9 months to complete the dossier for Daniel and Eden’s adoption. It seemed impossible to me, but I knew God could do it. The first step was that we didn’t have the money for the first agency fee right away. It would take us some time to be able to get money together for all the steps, but all the agency fees would need to be paid before the dossier could be sent. This was about $10,000. Again, this seemed quite daunting. By that Saturday evening, donations came in that totaled around $3100, which was enough to cover the 1st agency fee and part of the homestudy update (this fee ended up being almost triple what it would have been because we had to go with a different social worker since the one who had done our home study said she couldn’t do it in time). On Monday, October 10th, we found out that all of our documents would have to be ready and completed by the 13th to overnight to a courier who could help us get it certified and authenticated and sent to CO by the 19th. This meant we had 3 days to have a home visit and have the new report written and signed off on by the agency. I couldn’t see how it would happen. Thankfully, we didn’t need to wait for birth certificates or our marriage license because we would be allowed to use copies of those. We would have to start the process of the homestudy update, which was the longest step. Todd wasn’t ready to commit to another $2500 just for the homestudy update. He thought that was ridiculous. However, we found a social worker who could do the home visit and have the report updated by the 13th. Incredible! Todd was going through the motions, but wasn’t really feeling comfortable with everything. We had physicals on Tuesday, I spent all night Tuesday and Wednesday uploading documents and information into the website for the homestudy update. Wednesday was the only day we could get our fingerprints done for the police reports. They only did them on Wednesdays. Todd kept telling me he didn’t want to do it, and he was uncomfortable. But he kept going through the motions. He did the physical. Wednesday, I thought he wasn’t going to get his fingerprints made, because he was pretty mad at me and uncomfortable with everything. When I went down to get mine done that afternoon, the man looked at my name and said, “Oh, Erdner! Your husband was here earlier!” I was a little shocked, but a little glimmer of hope remained in my heart. The next day, Todd expressed that he would do whatever it took to complete the steps for the adoption, even if we couldn’t know for sure if we would be pouring more money into a lost cause. There was a strong chance we wouldn’t get everything in time (immigration, etc. can take months that we didn’t have). At that point, however, I knew for sure that this was going to happen! We weren’t sharing with many people, because things were so iffy, but deep inside I never doubted.
Friday morning, the homestudy update was finished, and we had everything we needed. I was ready to FedEx everything to the courier, who would get it all authenticated and sent on to our agency. I called our agency to check on something, and was told that by a miracle, the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption) was going to allow us to use a dossier copy! SO, even though we had miraculously gotten all of our documents together, we would only need to send the updated homestudy and two more documents in order to do the dossier copy! China rarely allows the use of a dossier copy for families going with a different agency! God was confirming to me that this was HIS doing! I was so ecstatic. This saved us a lot of money, and made things way easier and faster on the China end as well.
Since that day, all of the steps have fallen into place smoothly. We got our immigration approval within a couple of weeks when it can take a couple of months. Same with the immigrant visa and citizenship for our new daughter. It has been a whirlwind, and I have felt so humbled at times to be used by God in such an amazing story. I can’t even believe it sometimes. I remember when I became a Christian my Junior year of college. There was a new song out by an artist named Steven Curtis Chapman called “The Great Adventure” (I’m dating myself here). I remember thinking that I was now part of this big family of believers who had this great adventure to live. I had no idea what that truly meant. The last 20+ years have definitely been that adventure! And this amazing story we have been called to walk in has been one of the most wonderful adventures so far. Saying “yes” to God is not always easy, but it is always rewarding. I have to say if I had said “no” to many of the things God has called me to, I would have missed out on some amazing things. My salvation wouldn’t be affected, I believe, but, boy, would I have missed out. I am so thankful that I didn’t ignore God’s voice in my life the many times I have heard and obeyed, and I’m so blessed because I heeded His promptings and that still, small voice in that gentle breeze that day in China.
Last Thursday, December 15th, Todd and our daugther, Nina, flew to Beijing. They toured the Great Wall Saturday, and Monday morning in Changsha, China (Sunday night Austin time), they went and welcomed our new daughter, Hadassah, into our family! When that sweet girl saw Todd, she ran to him and gave him a big hug! That’s so wonderful, since we know it’s not uncommon for some kids to shy away from hugging and physical touch. Eden is still learning how to show affection by hugging. It definitely doesn’t come easy to her. I really wish I could be there with them right now, but it was important for me to be here for Eden and Daniel, and of course little Tovi, who is his Mama’s boy these days.
I can’t wait to be reunited with Todd, Nina and my new daughter, Haddie. I can’t wait to see Eden and Haddie together. I’m so excited to see what their future holds, and my prayer is that they will come to know the God who orchestrated this Christmas miracle.
If you would like to donate towards our adoption, to help us cover some of the costs of travel, agency fees, etc., we have a YouCaring site set up: https://www.youcaring.com/todd-michelle-erdner-and-family-for-adoption-472347
This is one song by Steven Curtis Chapman that has always stirred my heart, and now it really does have a special meaning for me. I definitely heard Him asking me, “What NOW?”