Stories of Hope: The Schaefer family
My husband and I have always shared a heart for adoption. We were high school sweethearts and I have a vivid memory of sitting at the picnic tables during lunch break talking about adopting a child. We had been married for 11 years and had 4 children when I watched a documentary about orphanages in China called “The dying rooms” that absolutely destroyed me and renewed my heart for adoption. I was heartbroken when I found out we were not qualified to adopt a child from china and I tucked the dream away, not really understanding why I felt called to something I couldn’t do.
Fast forward 12 years to 2016, our church announced that they were sending a team to China with America World Adoption and One Orphan, a trip with the purpose to advocate for orphans. My heart squeezed at the announcement, but I knew that it was not something I was equipped to do, financially or emotionally. That afternoon my husband asked me if I was going to China. I said no. Then a few days later when I was sharing the trip with my sister, she said,” You’re totally going to china, right?” Again I said,”No. I am not going to China” But my heart was stirred. I thought about it often over the next couple weeks and I finally sent a message to my friend Lisa, who was going on the trip and asked her if the team needed a photographer. She said the team was full, but I could call the team leader Ashley and ask her if there was room for a photographer. I took that as the no I needed to move on, but I was as disappointed just as I was relieved. Two weeks later Lisa sent me a screen shot of Ashley’s post telling the team that although they were full, they were praying for a photographer to join the team. I took that as the a yes from God and I was both excited and terrified!
I really believed that God was allowing me an outlet to fulfill my heart for adoption thru advocacy. I was thankful to use my gifts to capture the faces and personalities of these precious children, so that I could come home and advocate for them. I was excited to be a part of finding these kids homes. Mid-way thru our trip prep, our team was split in half and my half was re-directed to Beijing. We would spend a week at a hotel with 33 older special needs kids at a camp put on by Beijing Children’s Welfare institute called Hope Journey. My job seemed even more critical to me, as these kids were deemed difficult to place due to their special needs and their age.
The first day of the Hope Journey camp the kids put on a show for us. They sang and danced and read poetry. Part of me was heartbroken at what felt like the kids auditioning for families, but the other part of me was very impressed with how incredible these kids were. They seemed happy and well-adjusted and they clearly had wonderful relationships with the nannies. One particular boy stood out. He was one of the oldest kids there and he was obviously a big brother figure to the younger kids. He had an easy smile and was quick to laugh. He clapped for his friends and cheered them on when they were taking their turn in the show. I was so surprised that he had not been chosen. Yes, he had spina bifida and was in a wheel chair, but that didn’t seem like enough to keep a family from wanting him. It didn’t seem possible to me that he could still be waiting for a family. I was completely committed to advocate for him until we found him a family. I really thought that all we had to do was get his story out there and families would be fighting over him. My team leader asked me if I would be interested in writing his advocacy post and I said absolutely! America World posted it while we were still in China.
Over the week we went to the zoo and the mall, we did crafts and played games. (We won the wheel chair races by a mile!) The last day we had a birthday party for the kids. We had cake and gifts and then it was time to say goodbye. I hugged this sweet boy, America World was calling McCarter, goodbye and he squeezed me so tight that I wasn’t sure he would let go. My heart was breaking and I was desperately praying that God would let me be the one to find him a family. As he wheeled himself out of the room, his eyes locked with mine and his cheerful demeanor vanished and his face showed vulnerability and his eyes were filled with questions. “Do those tears mean anything? Do you want me? Are you my mother?” He did not break eye contact with me until the door blocked his vision and I was left standing there with tears rolling down my face and my heart shattered. But my prayer was still, “Let me be the one to find his family, Lord.”
Somewhere over the pacific ocean, in the dimmed cabin of the airplane, the flood of tears came. In my heart the longing to be this boys family overcame me and I cried uncontrollably for an hour. My teammates rubbed my back and cried with me, they both fell in love with boys they met in china and they understood my pain. (All 3 boys are home now, but that’s another story!)
As my husband and I prayed for wisdom, in the midst of every mountain we saw between us and this sweet boy, God asked us is we would say yes, if He promised to take care of the mountains. He spoke Psalms 97:5 to us. “The mountains melt like wax before the presence on the Lord.” In my fear, God showed me Joshua 1:9 “This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
So, we said yes to Gods prompting to be this boys family. We trusted Him to melt the mountains and He did. Incredibly. Miraculously. Amazingly.
If you aren’t sure there is a God, or you question His kindness, step into the world of orphan care. Advocate. Adopt. Support Adoption. Cry out to God for the orphan. Then buckle your seat belt, Because when it comes to His precious ones, God shows up and shows off! There is nothing He cannot do!
During this Season of Hope we pray that more hearts are moved than ever before. We pray that families say yes, that children are supported and that the work of America World can go on for years to come.