February 13, 2015 Chinese Culture, Hannah, orphanage realities 1 Comments

We were advocating domestic adoption around the table. Somehow I had been seated to the Director’s left – the most important seat, and one much too auspicious for comfort, and our chopsticks clinked upon the same plate of celery and mushrooms. He turned to me and looked me square in the face. Of course I looked back, quivering a little bit because what 20-something girl sits next to the top director of an orphanage and puts her chopsticks into the same dish of food at the same time and then gets “a talking to”?

I had just mentioned, nonchalantly I thought, that many of the babies in the orphanage could be adopted domestically. He turned, placed his hand on his knee, and said, “I’ll tell you, Hannah. In China we are different. We do not have the same beliefs and ideals as you Americans. In China, 99.99% of families want a 100% perfect child, and 99% will adopt a girl. Families want children who are wanmei – perfect. They want a child who will yanglao – care for them as they get old. This is how we are different.”


The conversation continued, and we had opportunities to share some of the very foundational reasons behind American’s willingness to adopt children with special needs. It really is a total ideal-shift, isn’t it? It’s the acknowledgment of a child’s innate preciousness because of Whose image they were made in. It’s often more about Faith than it is culture.

What the director was sharing was likely true. It would certainly explain why babies kept being abandoned at the orphanage – a heartbreaking reality for so many little lives. Families abandoning their children who aren’t “100% perfect” breaks my heart because seriously, how many kids are 100% perfect? I was born after a rather low-stress pregnancy, safe delivery and had a healthy start. I have had no surgeries, hospitalizations or close calls. And I am not perfect. I was not a “100% wanmei” baby.

Missing fingers. Just one ear. Cleft lip. These children have great potential for a beautiful future. They have great potential for success, for loving and being loved.


Adoptive families! Your dangerous loving has influenced society in such a drastic way that the government directors of Children’s Welfare Institutes in China think that believing in a child who is “not 100% perfect” is a foreign thing. Is it? I don’t think that any of us would agree with this, however it is something unique – a privilege that not nearly enough of us get to enjoy. If it’s a foreign ideal, then it’s one that I actually do want to catch on in this progressive society.

Will you stand in the gap with me?

Will you intercede on behalf of the fatherless of this nation? Ask that those in their own provinces, cities and communities will rise up and care for their own fatherless. Pray that they will reject the idea that a child must be 100% wanmei, perfect. Because there is only One who was ever wanmei on this earth.

One response to “wanmei”

  1. Karen says:

    I love this post and keep re-reading it. I appreciate your insights into Chinese thinking.

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