By Becki Carlson, ACT Mission Trip Coordinator for the country of China.
If you’ve spent any time around our ACT Mission Trip websites and blogs these days, you might have noticed our theme for 2014: “Step into their story”/“Be a storyteller”. We don’t take these words lightly around here, they are deep and full of meaning. So grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit with us for a few minutes, and let me tell you a few stories:
My family and I adopted our third daughter from China in 2006. We received her referral when she was 10 months old. With her referral, we received two pictures of her taken at 5 months old. Two pictures of her face, and they were already 5 months old. What did she look like now? What was she like? Like every good (obsessive!?) adoptive parent, I did my research. I spent hours combing through other adoptive families websites and blogs, I came up with lists and lists of questions that I planned to ask about our daughter when we got to China. I. Was. Prepared.
By the time we received all of our approvals, and travel arrangements had been made, our daughter was 13 months old. 3 months had passed since we had seen those two pictures of that adorable little 5 month old face. That little face was now 8 months older. What did she look like? Would we recognize her? What was she like? We had dreamed of that little face for months. But it was ok. I went to China fully and completely prepared, armed with lists of questions about her, hoping that the director or nannies had found it in their hearts to bring extra pictures of my sweet girl to fill in some of the holes of those first 13 months of her life. Now imagine this: we walked into the civil affairs building with 12 other families in our travel group, all of us ready to meet our new babies! 13 families total, including moms and dads, new siblings, grandparents, travel guides, translators, and orphanage directors and nannies. Our daughter was the only baby from her particular orphanage. The other babies there came from different orphanages all throughout this province. Crying babies everywhere! Crying families everywhere. Chaos doesn’t even begin to describe that room we were in, waiting to meet our new daughter. We were one of the very last families called from our group to come meet our new baby girl. Our youngest son, who had been the baby of the family up until that moment, stood off to the side, not sure what to think of becoming the “middle child”. I was concerned for him. Our oldest daughter cried and sobbed tears of joy at finally meeting the baby sister she had longed and prayed and waited for. I was concerned for her. And then they handed me the sweetest little bundle of joy I had longed and waited for. She took one look at us and the tears started. Now I was concerned for not one, not two, but for all 3 of my children! I kissed her, I hugged my kids, and I looked at my husband in disbelief. Who had time to think about a list of questions? And then our guide yelled out to this chaotic room, “Ok families, we must go. Grab your belongings, let’s go” Wait what? I had questions! I needed to know some things. There were 13 months of a life that were a mystery to me. And we walked out the door.