Friday, February 1, 2013

Liliana's Finding Place and Maria's Big House of Hope

Several families from our adoption group have children who spent a portion of their time as orphans at Maria's Big House of Hope. Liliana is one of these children, and in fact it is also the place where she picked up the name Liliana and where she met a young (now college freshman) girl named Sarah, who Rachel and I credit as being one of God's instruments for moving our hearts towards adopting Liliana. Her prayers for Liliana and her writing on her blog are a wonderful part of Liliana's story that I love telling over and over again.Of the families here that have children that spent time at Maria's, two of us wanted to visit along with someone whose child did not spend time there but she wanted to see the place. Maria's is in Luoyang, the same city as Liliana's orphanage. So the group of us decided to travel back out there today but before getting to Maria's, we stopped at Liliana's finding place.

A finding place is aptly named as it is the place where an orphan is found when s/he is abandoned. So here's what we know: On April 11, 2010, Liliana was found in the Shiji Huayang Square at the intersection of Jiudou Road and Lixin Road. She was taken to the police and placed into the orphanage. They estimated her birth date to be March 27, 2010. An investigation was completed. Her parents were not found, and she was officially declared abandoned. An ad was placed in the local newspaper with her picture and the name they chose for her (that name is Dang Cai Tong and yes, we now have a photocopy of the ad). She was never claimed by her birth parents or relatives. How sad it was to see the ad because it appeared on a page with about thirty or more other ads for abandoned babies. This province is filled with abandoned babies.The people in our little group heading out to Luoyang knew how important is was to me for us to get to Liliana's finding place. I wanted to see it, smell it, feel it, and hear it for myself. I wanted to capture it as best as I could for Liliana so when she asks about that place years from now, I can show her pictures and speak about it. Although both Maria's Big House of Hope and Liliana's finding place are in the same city, going to Liliana's finding place added a lot of extra time to the travel, especially with traffic. In addition, the fog has been extra thick this week (Clay said this has been the worst it has been in years). So driving is not easy (plus all of the traffic and crazy drivers). So I am forever grateful to our driver, CCAI rep., and the families who trekked out to Liliana's finding place with us. They were so kind and loving to allow me the opportunity to get to Liliana's finding place and go through all of the trouble of getting there. I cannot thank them enough. It was not just a kind gesture but in fact a gift to Liliana as it helps me fill in another gap in her story.

Picture of the intersection
Our CCAI rep. told me in advance that the square where Liliana was abandoned was a very famous and busy area of the city. When we arrived, I stepped out of the van with Liliana. The emotions hit me hard. Think back to what you were doing in April of 2010. I was just finishing my second year of teaching third grade. Rachel was newly pregnant with Simeon. Elianna was about to turn three years old, and we just finished celebrating Janaya's first birthday that February. At the same time as I was living out my quiet little life in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, the daughter I did not know I had was being left in a public square by someone (most likely her mom ... maybe her dad).Two years, nine months, and twenty days. That was the last time my little girl was in this square, and now here she was. Back for the first time since she was abandoned, and here I was setting my eyes on a place that changed my life forever before I ever knew it existed.I tried to take it all in. I first grabbed as many photos and videos as I could. Some included Liliana (alone, with me, with Mom and me). Many were just pictures of the intersection and surrounding area. There's no way to know exactly where in the square she was left. We do know that this is a more upscale section of town, and the large hotel on the corner is one of the nicer ones in town. The imax theater across the street did not exist at the time. There are also many tall residential buildings in the area.
Street sign at Liliana's finding place

Liliana at her finding place
When I finished with pictures and videos I just sort of stood there, walked around, and tried to take it all in. Mom had Liliana at this point and was heading back towards the van. I wept openly as I stood there. My heart just broke for what was lost here that day in April. It still hurts, and I find it difficult to even write about it now. I don't know why Liliana's parents abandoned her. I assume that they were from another part of the city (or another city completely) and chose this location because they were wanting their daughter to be found by someone better off than themselves (many make this choice). I assume that for some reason they could not keep their daughter but they wanted something better for her, and so they chose this spot. I can't ever know if my assumptions are correct, but they make sense given the circumstances. I wonder about her parents. Were they just not able to afford her? Did they already have a daughter and now needed a son so they would have someone to take care of them when they were older? Was it harder for mom than for dad to abandon her? How was the decision made? Did one of them bring her or did someone else? What did they think if/when they saw her face in the newspaper? Where are they now? Have I seen them while I have been here? Do they think about her and have a story they tell themselves about what happened to her?
Another intersection picture

It's easy to get angry at these types of parents and to look down at them in judgment. I mean, what kind of parent abandons his/her own child, right? Yet, I do not feel any anger at them at all. Rather, I am grateful for them. I don't know their story and the circumstances that caused such a difficult decision to be made. So, I can't judge them. They made the decision that they made. For Liliana's sake, I wish they would have held on to her and kept her in their family. As much as we love her and as much as she is now fully a part of our family, the reality is that her birth parents family was the place God designed for her live and grow originally. Though they abandoned their daughter, the reality is that Liliana's parents gave her one parting gift when they left her in that square that day ... life.Not every child gets the gift of life. Far too many babies never get the opportunity to live life outside the womb, but Liliana got that chance, and look what God has done. Yes, not every story ends as happily as Liliana's story does, but just because us adults are not doing enough to ensure happy endings for all children does not mean that all children don't deserve a beginning. So wherever Liliana's birth parents are right now, let me take a moment to thank them for giving her life. We pray that she will use that gift to live her life fully devoted to Jesus Christ and that one day they too would know this faith.

So the journey to Liliana's finding place was long and rough. The time there was filled with difficult emotions, but the trip was well worth it. When I felt like there was nothing more I could take in and when the crying stopped and my eyes were a bit drier, I walked back to the van, loaded up, and headed off to Maria's Big House of Hope.Maria's House was a completely different experience for me. At Maria's, we were able to take a brief tour, and we got to find our children's rooms. Liliana stayed here between nine months and seventeen months old while she was very sick. She was in the Tinkerbell room on the first floor mostly (she may have spent some time in another room upstairs briefly). We toured nearly the whole place and got to see the room of the other family with us on this trip. Near the end of our tour, we got to Liliana's room. When we entered her room, I recognized some of the toys from pictures I had seen. The nanny in the room did not seem to recognize Liliana too well, and Liliana did not respond to her like she did her nanny at Luoyang or nannies at Swallows Nest. There seemed to be a meeting of nannies in another room at the time. So perhaps this was a second tier nanny. Still, she held Liliana, offered her a candy, and played a little with her. We took some pictures together, and then needed to leave to get home before the fog closed the highway and we needed to spend the night in Luoyang.

 I am so grateful for the ministry of Maria's Big House of Hope. They took care of our daughter when she was quite ill. I don't yet know how sick Liliana was but clearly it was bad enough to warrant going there. Without their work, who knows what would have happened to Liliana. We will be hopefully getting more information and pictures on her stay there when I get home. In addition to this, their partnering ministry, Show Hope, gave us a grant towards our adoption and also gave us a ton of free DVD resources from Dr. Karyn Purvis (an amazing and brilliant woman). So Maria's House, Show Hope, etc. has been a real blessing to us in this process.

Both times we were in Luoyang, Liliana got a bit upset. I'm not sure exactly why, but I think either somehow she knew where we were or some spiritual warfare was happening. In ether case, we were able to pray over her and reassure her that she was safe. Riding in the van seems to be difficult as well. Think about it though: van rides always meant change for her. So this is a normal reaction. Lots of snacks seemed to provide good distraction.Liliana also still does not want to go to sleep. She is a bit afraid too. We've been praying over that, and tonight went fairly well. We discovered that rocking her to sleep is the only way to get beyond the emotions/trauma. So this evening I spent a lot of time rocking her to sleep.

 As for me, I am missing home as any husband and father who loves his wife and kids would. This week has been all about filling in gaps in Liliana's story and saying good-bye ... good-bye to being an orphan, good-bye to Luoyang Orphanage, good-bye to Swallows Nest, good-bye to Maria's Big House of Hope, good-bye to the Shiji Huayang Square. Next week our focus shifts and we get ready for saying hello to our future.With this shift comes a deeper longing for home. Perhaps the biggest reason I want to see us home soon is Rachel. Liliana needs to meet her Mommy. She is going to fall in love with her Mama. Right now she gets to see her on Skype at least. She already places value in that relationship. She loves the hat Rachel made for her. She was looking for it earlier this evening and was sad until I got it for her. She brightened right up as she ran (as best as she can) towards it. Later when I went to put her to bed, she asked for it and seemed to be comforted by it greatly. Hold on just a little longer, Liliana. You will meet your Mommy soon, and when you do you will be blown away! She is more amazing, more brilliant, more loving, more kind, and more sensitive than anything you could have dreamed about a Mommy being.

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