So on to Thursday...... our day to go to her hometown. Our guide here realized he needed to go to the passport office so he would not be able to accompany us to Hepu. He called me to ask if I felt good enough about my chinese to lead us to Hepu. I semi panicked.... while my chinese has come back to me somewhat, that was 20 years ago that I lived here! So I asked if he could see if Xiao Xiao (the head of Grace and Hope) had a colleague who could join us. He called us back to let us know that she herself said she would love to. We were so surprised that she could come on such short notice. Our guide also told us that it would not be a good idea to visit the foster mom so I kind of let that dream go.
That morning, we had a 3 hour ride in the van to Hepu and I have to say that spending that time with her was amazing. She is a believer so I felt like we could connect with her on such a different level. We talked about life stories, what it is like to be a believer here, marriage, fellowship, and a host of other things. She is so knowledgeable and enjoyable to talk to.
We got a little history lesson on Hepu from Xiao Xiao. The town itself is considered small although by our standards it is anything but. It is more of a farming community but there are still plenty of high rise condos and buildings. The town is 2000 years old and there is an ancient chinese proverb that says something about pearls from Hepu were fit for the emperor. Back in the day, they had giant beautiful pearls that were actually sent to the emperor’s palace once harvested….. they no longer have pearls now because they were all harvested hundreds of years ago. Kind of fun to think of our little Hepu sweetie as a jewel fit for the King.
So our guide has known the orphanage people for 20 years. The previous director was the one who maybe 8 years ago made the decision to close the baby rooms--- which meant all the babies were sent to foster homes and whenever a new baby is found, he/she is immediately sent to a family. Many of the former nannies became foster parents, which was the case with Colley’s foster mom. There are now only elderly people at HEPU SWI… about 40 or so.
Several years ago, this director found out he had very aggressive cancer and was given a month to live. Once he heard the news, he called Xiao Xiao and said “I don’t know why but I feel like I am supposed to call you.” She shared the Gospel with Him and he received Christ! In fact, his wife, parents and whole family became believers. He lived another year and then passed away. It is so amazing to me to see how God moved in him to make a decision that even now continues to change lives and in the end, God saved his life as well. His life had such a ripple effect of changing lives here on earth as well as for eternity. We were able to meet his widow when we visited the orphanage. I love hearing stories of God moving in corners of the earth that it would be easy to look at and think He has forgotten about..... I love that He seeks His people out which is always my prayer for my girls' birthparents.
So, Hepu SWI is down a bumpy dirt road. It used to be surrounded by fields but now to one side you can see high apartment buildings (which is where Colley lived) and to the other you see old huts of sorts, chickens, crops and poverty. It is well off the beaten path. It is kind of surreal to stand their and realize that your child’s birth mother walked that path to arrive at the orphanage gates in hopes of giving her child a better life. It takes effort to get here which somehow comforts me to know that her birth parents put forth that effort.
When we pulled in, we immediately saw her foster mother and oldest foster sister standing there with smiles across their face. Colley leaped out of my arms into hers which was fine with me. With Mei Sims, I didn’t want the nannies to get her from me but with Colley I knew that they needed this and that she needed this.... One last snuggle. Well the one last snuggle lasted 4 hours…. Through talking, lunch together and then shopping together! We were able to sit with her, ask questions, learn more about Colley’s life for the past 2 years, learn more about her foster mom….. it was a dream come true.
This woman has had 10 foster babies and said it never gets easy to say goodbye. She radiates joy and love for these children. She is not a believer but we hope and pray that God will move in her heart. A few tidbits to share--- Colley was the youngest of 4 foster sisters yet she was the leader of the bunch. She said whenever it was time for dinner, Colley would announce to everyone and round up the troops. Ha! She also said that Colley loved to sit beside the biggest sister as she did her homework and pretend to do her own. Colley came to us knowing how to swipe through pictures on the cell phone and we found out that she loved to play with her foster mom’s. In fact, she laughed that Colley broke the last 3 of hers. Along with the foster mom came an “aunt” who was the mom’s daughter in law and the biggest sister who the mom adopted. Apparently she never got to say goodbye when Colley left on Monday because she was at school. So she was so upset when she got home. This gave her a chance for closure. That Aunt and I have already been e-mailing back and forth. So excited to be able to maintain a connection with her past life and to send them pictures of Colley over the years.
If I had to sum up this gift we were given in Hepu, it would be that it gave Colley some closure and understanding even at 2 years old….. and her heart began to heal . The orphanage had a talk with the foster mom before we came, telling her to be strong in front of Colley and she pulled it off beautifully. She had a talk with Colley reminding her that this is her real family and she needs to go with us to America and to be brave and to not worry about her. I feel like Colley didn’t understand on Monday when she told her goodbye what exactly was happening. But now she had the only mama she had ever known telling her that I was her real mama and she needed to go with me. And then her foster mom handed her to me and walked away. There was something so significant in that hand off. Colley was so upset as you can imagine, but the mom remained strong and smiled at us and waved goodbye. When I glanced out the rear window, I could see her turn around and break down….. Colley and I were both a mess….. it was all so hard and intense but so beautifully perfect......
Colley passed out in sleep the next 3 hours and woke up a new person that night. I know she will continue to grieve on and off but she no longer calls out those phrases and seems to be looking for her mom during the day. She now looks for me and calls out for me. Her personality even seemed to come out more after our day in Hepu. I truly feel like God did a little miracle in her heart that day and I praise Him for orchestrating our day. It was nothing like what I thought the day would look like when I woke up that morning….. I’m so thankful He ordains our footsteps.
We left Nanning yesterday and flew to Guangzhou. One step closer to home! Colley did awesome on the flight. Hoping it is a good sign for the long flight! We are so excited to be back in the city where we got Mei Sims. It is comforting to be somewhere familiar and to have better food!! (i.e. not chinese food all the time!!) We have friends here also and are loving seeing people. Colley had her medical check up-- which she hated but skittles made her tears disappear.
She is such a happy, sweet and joyful little thing. I never knew it was possible to connect so quickly with your adoptive child! She has my heart. I really thought people that said things like that a week in were full of lies. ha! But now I know its possible.... and oh it is so so sweet to already feel this way. I cannot wait for you to all meet her!
Henry and Mei Sims are doing great from what I hear! Henry made the decision that it was best not to FaceTime because it makes him sad, so I miss seeing their faces but in one week, I will be able kiss all over them! Thanks for all of the comments, e-mails, texts etc. So encouraging to know we are being covered in prayer! Thanks friends!!