gotcha-day

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

“Gotcha Day” is a term used in the adoption community. It refers to the day when adoptive parents finally get their child. It’s the climax of months of praying, waiting, and preparing to bring a child into their life, of which they’ve usually never met. Imagine deciding to adopt a new son or daughter and working for many months toward bringing him or her home. Finally, the day arrives when you wrap your arms around that child. That’s Gotcha Day!

September 15, 2014 was “Gotcha Day” for Kacey. We committed to adopt her eight months prior. We spent thirty-five weeks praying, reading about her, looking at pictures, preparing her room, and filling out paperwork, and more paperwork, and more paperwork. But mostly we anxiously awaited the day we were going to fly halfway around the world and bring her home. We did all of this because we felt like God said, “rescue her.”

We flew out of Chicago in the early morning hours on Saturday September 13, 2014. Once in Guangzhou we spent a day adjusting to the time difference, then another day receiving final instructions for what the process would entail. On Monday morning we boarded a bus with eight other couples and headed to the civil affairs office to meet our daughter.

There were over fifty couples picking up their children from all over the Guangdong Province that day. We walked in with the group from our agency. Once inside, everyone found a seat, and family-by-family they called people forward alphabetically by last name. When your name was called you proceeded to the center of the room and your child came from another room. In those few seconds families were united with their children.

It seemed like forever before they got to the “P’s.” Finally, they called our name. From behind another door Kacey emerged. There she was, scared to death, yet trying to smile. The picture at the top of the blog post captures this moment. Most families were adopting younger children who really didn’t know what was going on. However, Kacey was thirteen years old, and although she wasn’t that old emotionally or physically because of her blood disorder, she was old enough to know that her life was about to change forever.

She came out of the door with her orphanage director and one of her caregivers. None of them spoke any English; we knew minimal Mandarin. She was being very polite, but it was obvious that she was afraid. Who wouldn’t be? She’s lived her entire life in an orphanage. She’s been told that she wants to be adopted, but she really doesn’t know what it means to be adopted. She has no context for understanding what a “family” really is. She’s heard the words “mother” and “father,” but doesn’t understand what it means to have parents.

As the room started clearing out, Kacey became more apprehensive. Finally, her caregivers told her goodbye for the last time. Remember, these are the only people she’s ever known and they’re leaving her with two Americans with whom she can’t even communicate (other than with the iTranslate app on our phone).

A few minutes after they said their final goodbyes tears started streaming down her little face. She was trying so hard to hold them back. Her effort to smile was causing Heather and I to cry. After a few more minutes Kacey was sobbing. Then she walked away from us and began roaming the hallways yelling out for her orphanage director.

Eventually she found him. As they spoke in Mandarin we had no idea what they were saying. Our director told us that he was explaining to her that she had to go with us for at least one night. The law in China says an orphan over ten years old has to ‘agree’ to be adopted. That means they have to sign their name in front of an attorney stating that they willfully choose to become the child of their adoptive family. However, even though they get that choice, the law also requires that they stay at least one night with the family seeking to adopt them. Kacey was fighting even going with us for one night.

The director of our adoption cohort, who also translated for us, took Kacey by the arm and gently tried to explain the rules. However, she wasn’t having it. Eventually, they begin forcing her to walk out of the building with us. They literally pulled her down the hall, onto an elevator, and out into the parking lot kicking and screaming. Along the way our director kept trying to explain to her that she had to go with us for one night.

In the parking lot Kacey spotted her orphanage director’s car. She ran toward it, but the leader of our group wouldn’t let go of her arm. Kacey is relatively strong and extremely strong-willed. She was hard to manage and would’ve been very difficult to drag for two city blocks. The fatherly instinct rose up inside me. I looked at our director and said, “Can I pick her up and carry her?” She said, “That would be the best solution.” So, I swooped her up and carried her kicking and screaming, against her will, for two city blocks.

All the people in our group were crying for us, we were crying, and Kacey was squalling and fighting simultaneously. It was quite the scene. As the others in our adoption cohort carried their toddlers and infants to the bus with no problem, I was literally forcing our little teenager to go. It felt strange. People on the busy sidewalks looked on with concern as this white man carried a little China-girl down the street against her will.

In all of the confusion, Kacey didn’t realize that something very important was actually taking place. In the midst of the struggle we were literally trying to save her life; this was a rescue mission. You see, at fourteen she would have aged-out of the adoption program. The China government doesn’t care if you show up at midnight on a child’s fourteenth birthday; they will not let you take them when they reach that age.

She was aging out of the adoption program soon. Beyond that, she was very sick and needed a lot of medical attention. I wanted to give her a life she’d never experienced. I wanted to take her from the orphanage to the castle, so to say. I wanted to treat her as a good father would treat a much-loved child, but fear was standing in the way.

When we finally got to the bus, I carried her straight on, down the isle, to the very back seat, and sat her in the corner. I blocked the isle so there was no chance of her getting up and running. She crossed her arms, looked up at me, and if looks could kill, let’s just say I’d be a dead man. I felt terrible, however, I did what needed to be done.

The ride from the civil affairs office to the Garden Hotel was over an hour long. On the way Kacey saw things she had never seen before; her countenance began to change. Once we arrived at the hotel she was astonished. The Garden is a five-star hotel that provides special deals for adoption agencies. Many adoptive parents stay in the Garden while they’re in China. As Kacey walked through the doors of the Garden she was amazed. She kept saying, “woooow.” It was literally a rags-to-riches story coming to life.

When we got to the room on the 15th floor she looked out over the city in amazement. Then she discovered a jetted bathtub; she had never had a bathtub. She wanted to know if she could take a bubble bath (she ended up taking one every night of our stay). I had brought some beef jerky on the trip; she loved it. In fact, she ate the entire bag. We took her to eat at a fancy restaurant. She wanted to know what she could order. I told her “anything you want.” Soon the table looked like a banquet fit for a queen. She had never eaten that good before.

That night, Kacey Xing-Yu Powell fell asleep on a king size bed between a mom and dad on the 15th floor of the five-star Garden Hotel after taking a bubble bath and eating a fine meal. She feel asleep lavished with the love that only a mother and father could give. In one day her entire world literally changed. What a difference a day can make.

We got up early the next morning. After breakfast our adoption cohort loaded the bus to return to the civil affairs office to sign the legal documents for the adoption. Once we arrived everyone was again sitting in the same room as the day before. We were apprehensive that once she got back in that element she would become anxious again.

The process included going to two different offices, sitting before attorneys, signing documents, and promising to take care of the child for the rest of her life. Again, once a child is over ten years old they have to agree to go with their adoptive parents. Therefore, she also had papers to sign.

While in the attorney’s office Kacey began to have a conversation with the official. It was in Mandarin; we had no idea what she was saying, but it was obviously serious. Our director came over and joined the discussion. The attorney sent us out of his office to work out whatever it was Kacey was talking about. After about five minutes of conversing with Kacey, our director filled us in.

“She’s negotiating,” our guide told us. I smiled and ask, “What’s her terms?” The guide smiled back and said, “Kacey says you have to promise to take her back to visit the orphanage before you leave China or she will not sign the papers.” I almost laughed. “Deal,” I said, then Kacey signed the documents knowing there was no turning back.

We made plans to visit the orphanage the next week. I paid a driver to take us back to the little village where the orphanage was located, which was a couple of hours from Guangzhou. In the days leading up to the visit Kacey kept asking to buy small items, mostly snacks. When the day came to visit the orphanage she had filled two large bags with all kinds of food, snacks, and toys. We quickly realized what she was doing. She wanted to give these gifts to her friends before leaving them forever.

When we arrived at the orphanage, I followed her with the bags. She walked into the main office, gave specific instructions as to who got what, and left the bags with the workers. Then we followed her up the stairs and through the halls of this building where she had lived. We passed so many children on that short walk, many crying and reaching up to us. Heather and I were again in tears.

We arrived at Kacey’s room. Her friend that she shared the room with was there; she had aged out of the adoption process and was now looking for a job. Kacey started collecting items that were stashed in various places. Once she gathered all the things that were important to her, she placed them in the luggage bag we had bought her, then she looked up at me and in plain English said, “Let’s go!”

I can hardly type this without tears. The rest is history. Kacey now has a family and a future, but most importantly, she has a Savior. You see, a few months after she arrived back in the United States she watched the “Jesus Film” in Mandarin. In our driveway, using the iTranslate app on my phone, I led Kacey to Jesus with tears streaming down her little face.

Fourteen years before, Kacey Xing-Yu Powell had been left on the steps of a hospital at eleven months old. She’d lived her entire life with a life-threatening blood disorder that had never been properly treated. She resided in a poor orphanage in an obscure village in southern China. She would have aged out of the adoption process five weeks after we arrived. However, that didn’t happen.

Everything changed because eight months earlier God said to two strangers on the other side of the world, “rescue her.” Kacey was an orphan for over a decade, but now she’s a princess for life, and will forever be a daughter of the King!

i-believe-literally

The Bible… It’s been a source of lively discussion for centuries. It’s a shame when it moves from being a source of healthy dialogue to a form of division, especially among those who claim to represent what is contained therein.

I love the Bible. I trust the Bible. I believe the Bible is reliable. I believe God has preserved it so that His children can use it as a source for living the life He’s called them to live. How we read the Bible, however, is another topic.

There are those who believe it is nothing more than a collection of ancient documents. There are also those who believe it’s merely a compilation of sacred stories meant to reveal divine purposes. Someone who views the Bible primarily as a collection of metaphoric fairytales likely does not believe Adam and Eve actually existed, but that they only symbolize the creation of mankind. Those who write off Adam and Eve as supernatural fables also likely deny other biblical miracles such as “Moses Parting the Red Sea,” “The Fiery Furnace,” “Jonah and the Big Fish,” and many others.

Then there are those who are literalists in the strictest sense, meaning they refuse to recognize allegorical language in scripture. I’m uncertain as to what they do with hyperbolic passages like: “If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out…” We certainly don’t see very many Christians walking around looking like patch-eyed pirates. Metaphor is used as a literary device throughout scripture. For example, Isaiah 64 teaches us that we are like clay in the hands of the potter; this is metaphor. Matthew 5 teaches that followers of Jesus are the salt of the earth and the light of the world; this too is metaphoric language. We are not actually clay, salt, or light; we are human beings. These metaphors serve as literary devices to reveal deeper meaning pertaining to our relationship with God and His call on our lives.

Personally, I believe the Bible is it’s own best interpreter. If one can understand the difference between literary genres, the Bible isn’t overly difficult to read. While it’s certainly not a mindless task, scripture is organized in such a way that assists the reader in understanding if they’re reading poetry, history, prophecy, allegory, theology, etc.

So what’s the best way to read the Bible? Through the lens of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify Jesus on every page and in every story. In fact, I believe we read the Bible irresponsibly if we’re not recognizing the salvific message of Christ throughout. Everything in the Old Testament points forward to Jesus. Everything in the New Testament builds off the foundation of Jesus.

So much for the introduction, let me tell you what I believe.

I believe in the beginning was the Word, literally. I believe God spoke the universe into existence, literally. I believe God created man and woman, and placed them in the Garden of Eden, literally. I believe God destroyed the earth with a flood because mankind had become extremely wicked, literally. I believe Noah really did build and Ark (can you imagine how much faith it took to cut down the first tree?). I believe God actually scattered people all over the earth at the Tower of Babel. Yes, I believe these things actually happened.

I believe God literally made a covenant with Abraham. Part of that covenant was to make His children like the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea, metaphorically speaking. I believe Jacob literally wrestled the Angel and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. I believe Moses literally led the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, not a few inches of water, but ground as dry as a desert floor. I believe God led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.

I believe Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho and the walls literally crumbled to the ground. I believe Gideon actually defeated the Midianite troops numbering over 100,000 after God reduced his army to only 300 valiant men. I believe Elijah literally left this earth riding a chariot of fire in a whirlwind and never experienced death. I believe Daniel spent the night in a Lion’s Den, maybe cuddled up beside them, and lived to tell the story. I believe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego hung out in a fiery furnace with Jesus and not a hair on their head was singed.

I believe everything in the historical books really did happen. I believe the books of poetry provide great imagery and give us deeper insight about the nature of God. I believe the prophets received visions from God that reveal His plans and desires for His people. And yes, I believe Jonah really did spend three days in the belly of a fish!

I believe Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. I believe He lived a perfect life. He healed the sick, raised the dead, performed miracles, and preached with authority. I believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, shed His blood and died on a cross at Calvary for our sins. I believe the Cross works and nothing else does!

I believe Jesus defeated death, hell, and the grave. I believe He rose from the dead on the third day and the tomb is still empty. I believe He literally levitated into the sky when He ascended to the Father. I believe Jesus is at this very moment making intercession for anyone who expresses faith in Him.

I believe everything described in the Gospels and the Book of Acts actually happened. I believe the Book of Acts provides the model we should strive for as the New Testament Church. I believe God gives us a picture of how the Church should proceed theologically through the writings of the Apostle Paul and the other NT authors.

I believe Heaven and Hell are literal places and that every person will end up in one of those two destinations. I believe Jesus will return, literally. The dead in Christ will rise first and we who remain will be called up together with them in the air, and from that time forward, for all eternity, we will forever be with the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.

I believe God still saves, sanctifies, and sets people free, literally. I believe God is omnipresent, but that He also manifests His presence in unique ways as He has throughout history. I believe we should strive to walk in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, literally. I believe we can know Jesus personally, literally. I believe we should be diligent and relentless at reaching people with the love, power, and presence of Jesus, literally. Hope that clears up any confusion.