Eight years ago I saw my daughter for the first time… a sad face standing behind metal bars.
She looked scared and confused, with an expression that seemed more like an old woman than a young child. I searched her eyes and saw… nothing. No life, no twinkle, no joy.
Expecting a referral for months, I had read countless blogs of others who had gone before us. I had seen children on the day they left their orphanages and how they changed with the love of a family. I knew that the pain of being orphaned was real, but nothing prepared me for seeing her expression. All the books we read and all the studying we had done had educated us on the effects of institutionalism – how it alters the brain and wreaks havoc on the soul. There, in her eyes, I saw it. I understood. She was lost, utterly alone, and losing her sense of self by the moment. The bars in front of her seemed a metaphor for the child locked inside.
We read through her file and learned she had a rare blood disorder called beta thalassemia. She would require blood transfusions every several weeks to live, as well as chelating medicines. This was a huge thing for our family to consider. Could we do this? Should we do this? Would she live into adulthood? Statistics were saying hers was the first generation that might live an average lifespan in America… but no one knew for certain. She might not. Or perhaps she would obtain a disease from the transfusions themselves.
Fear entered my heart. Could I say goodbye to a child I had learned to love? I looked at her face and realized all over again that this adoption was not about me. It was about her. It was about a little girl halfway around the world that would most certainly die without treatment, but whose soul was already dying a slow painful death from invisibility. To me, her greatest and most immediate need was love.
Each time I thought of her, I remembered the verse from Isaiah where the Lord speaks and says, “I have called you by name. You are MINE.” We wanted this precious child to know that out of the whole world, we were picking her to be ours… to be His. And so we named her Mia, which means “mine.”
Mia came home in 2008 and our church family watched the tiniest pipsqueak of a girl begin to bloom. When she came home at almost three years old, she could barely walk and had no language. Her fears were huge (and some still are), but she loved being loved. She found her smile and her laugh and her love for pink and polish. She received medicine and food and a daddy who cherishes her.
Her transformation has been amazing and the effects continue to cause a ripple.
As people began to see Mia and other children welcomed home through foster care and adoption, fear began to vanish among those we knew. God began to do a work in our church as we learned that orphans aren’t statistics and that God is able to do more than all we can ask or imagine.
It’s so tempting to be discouraged by the enormity of injustice in the world. We cannot solve the orphan crisis through adoption; the roots run too deep. But for a little girl behind bars, it gave her the wings to fly.
= guest post by Jessemyn