NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Tiny as she was, she might not have realized just how loudly she was wailing, lying in that box.
But Kevin and Lynette Ezell heard her, even though she was in China and they were in Louisville, Ky.
“Even though we had three children, our family wasn’t really fully complete. And we knew there was such a great need in China,” said Kevin Ezell, pastor of Louisville’s Highview Baptist Church. “Libby was found in a box outside of a police station when she was only a baby. God led us to her, and we got her from an orphanage when she was 1 year old.”
That was six years ago.
Thousands of other Chinese babies like Libby have made it to the United States tucked in the arms of new adoptive parents. In 2007 alone, the Chinese government granted 6,520 visas to children to join American families, making the nation far and away the largest source for international adoption to the United States, according to National Geographic.
“It’s not that we wanted a larger family,” Lynette Ezell said. “It’s that God had blessed us so much we wanted to bless another child.”
But as it turns out, Libby’s been the blessing, Lynette said.
“Starting over with a baby at almost 40 was a challenge,” Lynette said with a laugh. “But we’ve received more of a blessing than she’ll ever get from us.”
Since Libby came to the Ezells, they also have adopted a fifth child -— a little girl from Ethiopia.
“We like to say that there’s international conflict every night in our house,” Kevin Ezell joked. “When we get together, it’s like a gathering of the United Nations.”
It has helped his family see the world differently, Ezell said. To underscore that, the couple took their three oldest children on a two-week trip to China to work with special-needs children in an orphanage.
“We wanted them to see the environment Libby was from, to have an even greater understanding,” Ezell said. “My children have learned how to love others in a deeper way. It’s been an enrichment to the whole health of our family.”
‘INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF JOY’
Bringing a child from China home is “a challenge” but you “find love you didn’t know there was,” said Sherry Meadows, a member of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., who with her husband Phillip adopted Julianna, a 22-month-old with minor special needs. The couple is now in the process of adopting a little boy from China.
“It’s a rocky road —- there are a lot of attachment issues they have from being in an orphanage,” Meadows said. “It made it difficult for her to trust us at first.”
At first, Julianna -— now 3 — sometimes hoarded food or cleaned her plate because she didn’t know whether she’d get more, Meadows said. Sometimes she’d have trouble letting Meadows out of her sight and sometimes she’d scream and scream with night terrors.
“But those all fade away over time,” Meadows said. “And she brings an incredible amount of joy to our lives, joy we never thought possible.”
‘BLOOM LIKE A FLOWER’
“We had teenage twins, and I thought we were done. My wife didn’t, though,” joked Dwayne Hastings, a vice president with Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “She’d been convinced for years, and I finally saw beyond my selfishness.”
And now 4-year-old Gracee has him wrapped around her finger. As does James, her new brother, who’s coming home from China in a few weeks.
“The biggest blessing is just to see this child who when we met her was basically a human being simply existing -— barely existing —- to see her bloom like a flower. She’s becoming the person who she is, the way God fashioned her to be,” Hastings said. “He has used us in a small way both to rescue her and give her hope for the future.”
If you feel called to adopt from China, go for it -— regardless of the daunting amount of paperwork, Hastings said.
DOING THE PAPERWORK
Paperwork — even it is a great thing, according to then-5-year-old Blayne Owens. It’s how babies are born.
At least that’s what he would’ve told you when his brother, Joshua, came from China in 1994.
“He had prayed for a sibling for a year,” Betsy Owens said. “And he [thought] that’s what you do to get brothers — your mom does paperwork.”
It’s just a different kind of labor, she added with a laugh.
“When Joshua was little, he equated his birth with us getting him from China. When he was told that something happened ‘before you were born,’ his response would be, ‘Oh, I was still in China,'” Owens said.
Later the questions did come — but he never questioned his place in the family, nor did his two sisters who followed from China — Grace in 1998 and Mary in 2001, said Owens’ husband Waylan, associate professor of pastoral ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
“The children have all been simply brothers and sisters from the beginning,” Waylan Owens said. “How they became parts of the family has not been relevant to the fact that they are all equal parts. While we hear questions from time to time, the questions have little sticking power because they have been answered from the beginning both with words and with relationships.”
The main question has been why a parent would abandon a child.
“Joshua asked me that once when he was 6 or 7,” Betsy Owens said, “and I told him that there were parents in China who could not provide the care their children needed, so they loved their children enough to put them in a safe place until their new parents could come get them.
“I have told them that their birth mothers were like Moses’ mom, who loved them enough to put them in a safe place so they could be found, cared for and raised to love and serve God.”
Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.