Every adoptive parent dreams of how they will “meet” their new child…
Will they see him or her on an advocacy post and be flooded with warm fuzzies?
Will they get “the call” or open an email to an endearing face that will change their family forever?
I had been dreaming about this moment for over twenty-five years. Yep, that’s a bit of a wait! At age six, my parents bravely moved our family to Russia right after the Iron Curtain fell in the early ‘90s. We spread God’s love in a once cold and shackled land, especially visiting orphanages.
One of my clearest memories from our time there was playing in a room full of love-starved little children. When it was time to leave, a boy probably four years old clung to my mother’s leg and had to be pried off by the nannies. I begged through tears, “Please, let’s take him home! He can sleep in my bed!” My little mind didn’t understand the labyrinth of international adoption, just that this little boy needed a home and we seemed to have room in ours for one more child.
I carried this heavy burden of wanting to help vulnerable children in my young heart and never forgot his pleading tears.
Fast-forward many years later to when I was dating my now husband and I told him adoption was part of my “plan A” for growing a family. Thankfully, God had been working in my husband’s life too, as he was able to see firsthand the need for adoptive families when he visited Romanian orphanages on a youth mission’s trip years prior. Although I wasn’t a big fan of his last name, I agreed whole-heartedly to becoming his “Mrs. Mann” in 2008.
Through a turn of events that can only be accredited to God’s sense of humor, we ended up moving to China as teachers a few years later, despite my serious concerns about Chinese food. Orange Chicken and I weren’t good friends and I couldn’t imagine a whole country filled with nothing but Panda Express-ish cuisine. Thankfully, my stereotypical ideas of Chinese food were completely and utterly wrong! This American quickly learned that there is no such thing as “orange chicken” in China, only oily goodness that I’ve craved every day since.
I had high dreams of going into orphanages and rocking crying babies, however foreigners weren’t allowed into the orphanages in our city. However, we did have the privilege of walking beside friends who adopted from China and had another friend who ran a foster home, so we were able to learn firsthand the desperate need for adoptive families for precious Chinese children.
But we didn’t qualify yet to adopt from China and would still have to wait many more impatient years. During the waiting season, God taught us lessons of trust and faith in Him despite serious battles with the one-eyed monster, Mr. Fear. We, who lived in China, knew the language, and celebrated the culture, but were almost paralyzingly scared to dip our toes in this mysterious world of adoption. Thankfully, our loving heavenly Father built a solid worldwide community around us and led us to a church with numerous adoptive and foster families once we moved back to the States. Plus, He gave us a blonde-headed, blue-eyed little girl, growing our family in His perfect timing and perfect way.
Somehow, I found No Hands But Ours and gobbled every post, researching and preparing for the day we could say “yes” to every one of China’s qualifications. It gave us such strength and encouragement that we weren’t the only crazy ones wanting to bring a child home from a culture much different than our own.
Finally, on November 28, 2017, with pounding heart, we sent in the initial packet to our agency and eagerly began combing the advocacy websites for our precious little boy. (At that time, you could be matched at any time to a Special Focus child.) We sweated over and Googled every special need on the MCC (medical checklist) and wondered how in the world could we provide for a child with possibly significant medical needs on our teacher’s salaries.
I begged my husband daily if we could request the file of each precious little soul that paraded across my computer screen. I thought he’d never, ever say “yes!” But then, one day about two months into the process, I saw a profile that caught my eye.
It wasn’t his piercing eyes or seriously adorable look that captured my attention. It was his name.
Yes, the very same name as our last name, minus one letter. His file said the nannies called him “Man Man” and he was ten months younger than our daughter. Ironically, his special needs listed were delayed development and anemia. Through our friend’s experience with children coming from institutionalized living into her foster home, we were already prepared for a child with global delays in speech, motor skills, and cognitive abilities. And funny enough, I had anemia as a teen and already knew quite a bit about it. (So much for those hours of becoming Dr. Google!)
Even though his name seemed like a pretty obvious flashing sign from God that he was ours, we spent a week praying, struggling, and asking medical professionals to review his file. We got opinions that his needs could be anything from minor to serious, making us realize that we just needed to trust God and say a resolute “yes” to this precious child who already shared our name.
A few days before leaving to bring him home, we joined a chat group with the other families in who were in our travel group. We noticed that one family was coming from the same city as our son’s orphanage, which just so happened to be only two-hour fast train from where we previously lived in China. To make a long story short, this adoptive mom used to be a social worker at our son’s orphanage and gave us so many details about our son’s wonderful first home. And the icing on the cake? She not only lived in our same state and city, but just a few minutes down the road from us! Today we go to the same church and our sons play side-by-side while we have community group together in our home. Astonishing!
Our new friend also told us that his orphanage was formerly part of the ICC (International China Concern) partnership program, making this the sprinkles on the icing of an amazingly orchestrated-by-God cake! The man who founded ICC previously attended our church in Hong Kong and we had heard, seen, prayed for, and given to support their work with orphans in China for years.
Only God, in His almighty sovereignty could plan that our son with our last name would be cared for in a place that we were already praying for and that we would be placed in a same travel group as someone who previously worked in his orphanage and now lives a few minutes away!
Sometimes you have to take a giant leap of faith in the adoption world and say a daring “yes” to a child with so many unknowns. But it’s been a beautiful thing to stand back and be awestruck at how God was weaving the beautiful tapestry of our son’s life all the while, making him a perfect fit for our family. God’s impeccable plan was beyond what we could have ever imagined and on November 28, 2018, we made him officially a “Mann,“ one year to the day we started the adoption process.
Two days after our son, whom we renamed “Titus” (because “Man Man Mann” would be just slightly confusing!), was placed in our arms, we had the privilege of visiting his first home and family. We are so thankful that he spent his beginning two years of life in a colorful and caring place, however our hearts left burdened for all those precious souls we left behind. It felt like a flashback to twenty-five years ago, when the seed of adoption was planted deep in my heart.
We brought our three-year old daughter with us to China and as we were leaving, she asked, “Where are mommies and daddies for these boys and girls? They need mommies and daddies too, just like my brother.” We are so grateful God is at work in her young heart and she already has big plans of filling our house with as many brothers and sisters from China that she can!
Titus has transitioned splendidly into our family and most of his developmental delays have been addressed with a nurturing family atmosphere. Now, he’s able to jump, climb (furniture is his specialty!), swim, run, and do just about everything his big sister does. He approaches life with caution, sitting back and observing before diving into something new. For example, it took him about three months to step into the pool on his own, however once he realized it is a safe and fun place, he’s been our little water bug ever since!
His language abilities are still a bit delayed, however he is adding to his vocabulary every day, with his most favorite sentence being, “I want more bacon!” We are so grateful for our daughter who has become his personal translator and can understand about 95% of what he says. Most of the time though they seem to communicate in their own little language and their adorable tight-knit bond is nothing short of miraculous. Their favorite activity to play together is loading their backpacks with toys and pretending to fly to China…to bring back another brother or sister of course!
And after a few months of home-cooked meals and green smoothies, his anemia has been resolved! He’s gained five whole pounds and grown two inches in the last ten months, mostly due to his love of bacon!
Of course we couldn’t shake our daughter’s pleas or the faces of the beloved children we left behind, so we started our adoption journey again this summer as soon as we were able. We know some families are surprised with a child whose needs are much greater or different that what was in the file, however we are thankful our son’s special needs have been easily manageable, allowing us to pursue another son or daughter as quickly as possible.
They say hindsight is 20/20 and that is definitely true in adoption. We wish we could take back those wasted hours and squandered energy worrying about how we would be matched to our son. We spent many hours lying awake at night doubting if this new child would truly fit into our family, bond with us and our daughter.
If only we could have seen a snapshot of our home today, with our son and daughter spending every waking moment playing, laughing, and learning together.
We wondered how we could afford the adoption expenses and life with a child possibly having major medical needs, only to see now how God has provided everything that we need. And we worried how we would preserve our son’s Chinese culture and identify with his given name. Never in a million years would we have guessed he would get to keep his name, just adding an extra letter to it. He now interchangeably calls himself “Titus” and “Man Man,” while we marvel at how our little man is flourishing in our family!
So what is in a name?
Every child is just one courageous family’s “yes” away from being called son.