How to Find Your Tribe

August 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

“Your people are my people, your God my God.
Not even death itself is going to come between us.”

Ruth 1:16-17

When we started the adoption process, we were not even considering Down syndrome. It was too scary. In fact, the irony of it, is we decided our cut-off for having bio kids was age 35 because of the increased risk of having a child with Ds. Then, as simply as turning a page, all our hearts could think about were children with Down syndrome. We had lots of questions, with answers we largely had to find on our own.

Until we found our tribe. The scariest part of taking a leap of faith is actually not the leap. It’s the not-knowing-what’s-at-the-bottom part. We all want to see what God is asking us to jump into but sometimes that water is dark, sometimes it’s swift and we can’t see its course.

My wife and I love to backpack. If you’ve ever been on a mountain trail, you know sometimes the path can become narrow and hard to follow. It’s good to have spotters on the trail ahead of you, especially when things get a bit more treacherous; someone just a few steps ahead who can relay valuable info to you to keep you safe and moving forward.

If you can find this in your process of adoption, it will be invaluable. And if fortune befalls you, some of these people will become your tribe. You need them. And not just for the process of getting you to your child and back home again. You need them when your child won’t eat or won’t sleep or starts acting out or has a rough week. You need them to celebrate the little wins as well. Because parents of typical, biological children don’t always understand your excitement over your four year old sleeping through the night.

Adoption is unique. It’s unlike any other parenting you’ll do. And when you add a child with special needs, the challenges increase. Sites like this one exist to give you encouragement and hope. But articles like this are only a step in the right direction. You need someone you can talk to. And if you’re lucky enough, you need someone you can put your arms around when it gets hard, someone you can look at face-to-face. You need a tribe.


Seth Godin, the entrepreneur, blogger, and best-selling author, has written about this idea of tribes. He says, “For [ages], human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

And that’s what makes my tribe unique. When the Bamboo Project started, there weren’t any books on adopting children with Down syndrome from China. Still aren’t. A quick search on Amazon for “Down syndrome adoption China” shows three results; two of them are fiction books about orphans who decided to escape the orphanage and live on the streets, and one about adoption statistics. Not super helpful, unless of course you like fiction and stats, then I guess… you’re welcome? The most helpful were the handful of blogs from the families who were in the process ahead of us. These people were how our tribe started. We were small and some of us pretty green, but our tribe is growing and with it, our resources.

There are now more than twenty Bamboo families who’ve walked the process and brought their children home. Twenty living legends, battle-tested, real-life experts on adopting a child from China with Down syndrome. I know, twenty doesn’t seem like much when you consider the tens of thousands of kids with Ds in China alone who don’t have a family. But these twenty families have become our tribe. We’re a community. We are a tribe.

bamboo map
Bamboo Family Map

“A group needs only two things to be a tribe:
a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Seth Godin

We just wrapped up our 2nd annual Bamboo Reunion with seven of the twenty families taking over a retreat center in Williamsburg, VA for a couple days followed by a few more days with three of those families at our house (which, by the way, is in the midst of a total kitchen renovation). Sounds a little crazy, right? But it wasn’t. None of it was crazy. Not the retreat center. Not even the time together at our house. It was enlivening, supportive, enriching. It kinda blew my mind. But it’s just the nature of a tribe. Mutual understanding. It’s what allows fifty-something people to hang out in a room together and just get each other.

Our friend Desiree said it beautifully, “We BBQ’d and passed kids around, someone did the dishes while someone else did laundry. One momma helped a little one clean up after a potty accident while a daddy helped form light sabers for the boys outside. There were air mattresses and camping gear and lots of bare feet running through the kitchen snagging whatever open Gatorade was nearest. There is a beautiful confidence that comes with knowing you are loved.”

Your tribe doesn’t have to be big. Ours was small at first. Regardless of size, the number one thing you can do is commit to each other. Commit to pray. Commit to encourage. Commit to advocate. It’s remarkable how empowering it is to know someone’s got your back. And the prime got-your-back resource is prayer. Prayer connects us in ways we can’t see. Every day at 2PM, someone in our tribe is praying; praying for the tribe, for the parents, for the siblings, for our marriages, praying for the families traveling to bring their little ones home, praying for the kids who wait, praying for our churches. These prayers are the life-blood of any tribe.

As you’re reading this, maybe you’ve thought of the people in your tribe. What’s something you can initiate today that will help bind you more closely?

If you haven’t found your tribe yet here are some ideas:

Start in your city. Look for adoption support groups or support groups for your specific special need.
Look to your church. If you’re lucky enough to have a special needs ministry, arrange a meeting with the director to find out what resources are available.
Search social media. I can almost guarantee there’s a Facebook group for you.
Read, listen, and watch. Blogs, books, podcasts, documentaries, videos, etc. The creators and curators of these pieces are generally a wealth of knowledge are a eager to help you connect to valuable resources that may very well lead you to your tribe.

And please know this… Even though we may not know each other, I’m praying for you. Hundreds of us (maybe more) are praying for you to find your tribe and love them hard!

– photo by HaLee Curtis Photography; images by Bamboo Cousins


Beyond Folded Hands: Praying for China’s Orphans

August 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I’m not an artist. I’m better with words. At least, that’s what I’ve always believed, that’s what I’ve always told myself. I feel at home with a pen in my hand. It’s familiar and comfortable. I know what to do with it, and I am confident that the ink on the page will eventually produce something I can be content with. But, a paintbrush, not all that different in size and shape from my pen, feels utterly foreign and somehow makes me feel like a child again. That’s how this project started.


There’s no technically correct art. No syntax, grammar, logic, spelling. No thesis statement or five paragraphs. Art is free expression, spontaneous and authentic expression. Perhaps that freedom is what unnerves me. I prefer rules and order. But when I embrace that freedom, I am able to see things that all my rules and definition block out. I am able to pay attention to things that are often silenced.

Last spring, I started talking to Erin Leigh. I asked her to help me. I asked her to help me discover how I could use artistic expression that I knew made me weak to engage with God in new ways. I wanted to learn how to pray beyond folded hands and closed eyes. It was risky and scary, but I loved it. It was good, and I wanted to share it and bring others with me.


Today, months later, Creative Conversations With the Creator is the result. It’s put together as a kit, complete with a guide, pens, a quality watercolor palette and brush, practice sheets, a photograph focal point, and artwork by Erin Leigh.

Using the pieces included, you are invited to learn new ways to engage with God and put them into practice through several different projects that build on each other to bring the needs of the fatherless to the Father. Included is even an opportunity to return a piece to us to be handed as a gift to a child in China who waits.


Valued at approximately $50, we are making it available for those who make a suggested donation of at least $45 to The Sparrow Fund. Donations beyond the cost of producing the kits will be used to fund orphan care initiatives in China. Get your kit now while supplies last here. We are so excited to link arms with you as we go deeper together.


Given where our hearts are as the No Hands But Ours team, we’re not only encouraging readers to donate and receive a kit of their own, but we’re giving away one kit right here on our Facebook page. Just leave a comment, share and/or tag a friend to be entered – each will count as one entry and up to three entries per person. Giveaway ends Friday, August 26 and the winner will be selected at random and announced Monday on our FB page.

Waiting to be Chosen: Lorelai

August 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Say hello to lovely Lorelai! Born in June 2003, she is a beautiful 13 year old girl who will age out of the system and no longer be eligible to be adopted next summer. This outgoing, cheerful, and active girl is happiest when helping others. Her Chinese name means “hope” and it is the hope of her caretakers that her life is like clouds of heaven so that she is free and lives happily ever after.

Lorelai was found when she was just 6 months old. She had a red flower and note attached to her clothing which included her actual birthday. She was cared for by the security team who found her for several weeks until she was transferred to an orphanage. Lorelai has stayed at the same orphanage throughout her entire childhood except for two years when she lived with a foster family as a toddler.

Caretakers speak affectionately and positively while describing Lorelai. They say she is a sweet girl who is very attentive to others and not afraid of meeting strangers. She likes talking with the nannies and quickly grasps what is being said. She also likes being outside, especially participating in activities and games. She is working hard to walk on her own because she “wants to get rid of her wheelchair”.


Her favorite colors are pink and red, and she likes to keep herself clean and beautiful. She takes good care of herself – eating, getting dressed and making her bed independently. She loves listening to music and singing children’s songs but she especially enjoys reading books. She reads very carefully so she can retell the story to other children. Lorelai says she wants the other children to know and do the things that she does. If that weren’t all enough, her favorite TV show is Looking for Love. Oh my, doesn’t she melt your heart?!

Lorelai is diagnosed with postoperative cerebral palsy and received a successful surgery on her legs in 2011. She has delayed motor development and her speech is understandable but slightly slow. In 2014, WACAP staff noted that she can definitely benefit from physical therapy to strengthen her legs. It was also believed that her mental development was estimated at 7 years old while her actual age was 11 years at the time. In addition to her vaccination record, Lorelai’s file includes lab, operative and growth reports.

In a 2015 update, Lorelai continued taking special education classes and was doing well. She could read 8-10 Tang poems and communicated normally with others. She could stand and walk with support for a short time, mostly using a wheelchair. She also practiced grasping and holding objects with her hands, walking, and expressing her ideas.

Lorelai wants to be a teacher so she can help others. One of her friends has been adopted and she wants to be too… she has just one year to fulfill one of her many dreams of having her very own family!


Lorelai’s file is currently on the shared list. WACAP is offering a $7,500 grant for qualifying families. Seriously interested families should download and complete their pre-application (no fee, no commitment) found here.

You may email the completed pre-application to with your request and the first available case manager will respond.

Sign Language and Adoption: The Gift of Communication

August 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


You’ve made the decision to adopt. Your homestudy is underway or maybe even finished. You’ve taken adoption classes and read book after book. You’ve worked hard to prepare your home, your family and your hearts to bring your little one home. But what about communication? Have you prepared to communicate with your child? For most …Read More

Lessons in Fatherhood

August 22, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


While it seems like forever ago now, in reality it was only about three and a half years ago that my wife and I began praying about adoption…. Like all parents my wife and I had dreams of healthy babies, healthy incomes, and a healthy marriage. Well, after fifteen, almost sixteen, years of marriage we’ve …Read More

When God Honors Our “Yes”: Our Sign Language Journey, Part Two

August 21, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


In Part one I described how the adoption of our daughter, Ava, born with cleft lip and palate and deafness, set us on a journey to become skilled in sign language. Our desire to support her ability to communicate with others led us on a roller-coaster of experiences and emotions, which culminated in our decision …Read More

Find My Family: Maryanne and Luke

August 20, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Luke MAA Collage 2016

Meet Maryanne. Maryanne is like the precious picture she drew of a little girl reaching out to a mother with tears in her eyes and a beautiful rainbow in the background. She has a light about her and an inner and outer beauty that makes her shine. Maryanne is a beautiful 9-year-old girl who came …Read More

Q & A with the Four Agencies in the FSL Program

August 19, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


With the new Former Shared List (FSL) program unrolled, many people within the Chinese adoption community have questions about what it means for future placements. Over the last three weeks, we’ve looked at these changes from a few different perspectives. First we interviewed Martha Osborne, the founder of RainbowKids, the advocacy site which will host …Read More

Kings and Queens

August 18, 2016 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments


“Maybe we are here to love wildly, passionately, and fearlessly,” whispered the heart. “You’re going to get us killed!” yelled the brain. This can be true for just about anything we find ourselves on the brink of but this particular quote, I believe, can be applied specifically to those taking the leap into the world …Read More

How HIV Changed My Life – For the Better

August 17, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


“Why would you want a child with HIV?” asked an employee from our daughter’s foster home. The question took me off guard. After all, she lived with and cared for people with HIV. Without skipping a beat, my husband spoke up, “Because she’s our daughter.” Three simple words. She’s our daughter. Words that echoed in …Read More

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