An only child, a perfectly ordinary little girl in rural Wisconsin, I wanted sisters more than anything. When I turned seven, my parents made a decision that delighted me beyond measure: they chose to adopt.
It was Christmastime when my two new sisters, aged 6 and 3, arrived from Colombia. They came with a great flourish of celebration, as friends and relatives visited us bearing gifts to welcome them. That evening our guests went home and we were left to ourselves. My sisters and I went to the bedroom we were to share; as we crawledsintosour beds, our parents came to each of us, tucking us in and saying goodnight.“Te amo,”they whispered to my new sisters in Spanish,“I love you.”
From the beginning these newcomers were like my own flesh and blood; we played and bickered and learned just as if we had always been sisters. From the beginning we all were my parents' daughters equally, as they supervised and scolded and encouraged us.
Life seemed great. Beneath the surface, however, my parents were struggling with their own marital problems. As we girls were approaching our teen years, my parents uttered the fateful words,“We're getting a divorce.”
My sisters had been hurt before. They had been dealt a great wound when their birth mother abandoned them, and none of us understood the depth of their inner turmoil. It was a pain that now resurfaced, as the emotions from that abandonment years earlier overwhelmed them. ”
We all struggled during this time. My father remarried and strove to provide some sort of stability for us through this new family: another mother, brother and sister. But the bonds between my parents and sisters continued to disintegrate. By the time I left for college, my family was in profound disarray.
During my college years, my outlook on life evolved in significant ways. This personal transformation led my parents and sisters to reevaluate their own lives and make changes that ultimately brought us together as a family. My mother and father have again become great sources of encouragement for us three sisters. They have succeeded in providing our lives with a foundation of stable love. One of my sisters has recently married,and family gatherings are now occasions of happiness and renewal.
Chinese friends sometimes ask me why I am in China, working at a low salary when I could be prospering in America. It is the experiences I went through while growing up that have made me who I am today. I am on the staff of CBN, a humanitarian organization in Beijing that seeks to help people in distress. Among our many projects, we often work with orphans.
My colleagues and I have sent a number of orphans to the US and Canada for free operations. One is a little girl named Xiao Chu who was born with a weak heart. She was abandoned as a baby. By age two she was already experiencing shortness of breath and loss of appetite. Her future looked grim. Last January we flew her to Canada for surgery, along with two other orphans with heart problems. The operations were successful, and all three children have since returned.
We are also working in some of Beijing's orphanages and schools for the mentally handicapped. Every week we visit various schools, playing games with the children and teaching them English. Not long ago we organized a conference with orphan expert Sherrie Eldridge to define the special challenges that orphans face. The conference was of benefit to orphanage directors and adoptive parents alike.
Our charitable organization also provides funds for cleft-lip and palate operations for the poor. One young woman in Gansu, for instance, had spent her life watching the world go by from the refuge of her room, afraid to go outside because of her cleft lip. Now she can leave her house and be a participant in life rather than a spectator.
In western Gansu we have been building cisterns in villages that are short of water. In a region with so little rainfall, some people have to walk great distances to fetch water for their daily needs. Contributions from individuals and companies have enabled us to build over 500 cisterns, each big enough to supply a family of seven for an entire year. So this is how I have chosen to lead my life.
At one orphanage I visited this past July, I came face to face with two little girls aged 3 and 6. They looked up at me with their cautious brown eyes, and I felt I was once again lookingsintosthe eyes of my sisters fifteen years ago.I realized how much adoption had meant to each of us in my family. Fifteen years ago, my sisters too were sitting in an orphanage, with no one to call their parents and no place to call their home. Now they have both in the unconditional love of my family.