Twenty-plus hours on a plane would make anyone fidgety, but this was the most important trip of my life. My husband, Doug, and I were on our way to China to meet our new daughter and take her home to Kansas.
I pulled a handful of photos out of my purse. I had already given her a name: Hannah. She was two years old—older than many adoptees because Chinese authorities considered Doug and me too young to take an infant out of the country.
To increase our chances for success—full adoption—we were open to caring for special needs. We just wanted a child! For months I’d held onto this paltry collection of pictures wishing I could hold the little girl in them.
She was a tiny thing with big brown eyes and curling wisps of dark hair. I re-read for the hundredth time the brief paragraph of information the orphanage had sent.
“The baby was born in the village of Wuzhou and has no family,” it said. She had no family in China, but she had me. I already loved her, and I longed to know more about her. She appeared to be healthy, but I worried about her first two years.
Her first smile, her first word, her first steps. Had she ever been sick with no one to comfort her? Had she cried too many tears, even for an infant? There was so much I would never know, and Hannah would never be able to tell me.
I closed my eyes and prayed the prayer I’d been praying since the agency matched us up: God, send Hannah an angel to watch over her until I get there. She’s all alone in the world.
“Almost there,” Doug said. It was hard to believe our journey was almost over. We’d started trying to have children a few years before. When it didn’t happen I had some fertility treatments.
“It comes down to this,” I said to Doug when that didn’t work. “Do we want to be parents or do we want to be pregnant?”
A TV report about poor conditions for little girls in Chinese orphanages had sealed the deal for us. What could I do now but trust God to care for Hannah until we could?
Above my head the Fasten Seat Belt sign chimed. We were beginning our descent into Hong Kong. From there Doug and I and the other new parents would go on to China. “We’ll arrive as a couple,” Doug said. “We’ll leave as a family.”
It seemed like forever before we got to our base hotel in Nanning. A representative escorted the group to a building where we would meet our children.
An interpreter explained the procedure. Every few minutes someone would shout out the name of a baby and a couple would make their way out of the crowd.
Finally our Hannah! Doug put his arm around me and we followed the interpreter to a little room. As if by some fairy-tale magic, there she was, so small and delicate. Our daughter! I loved her even more.
“She has traveled ten hours on a bus from her village of Wuzhou,” the interpreter explained. “She’s tired. Give her time to rest.” Hannah cried most of the way back to the hotel, but Doug and I had never been happier.
Back in our room, I rocked Hannah to sleep in my arms, wondering if she’d ever been rocked before, if she’d ever been loved.
But of course I knew she had no family, and the orphanage was full of hundreds of children to be cared for. No one child could possibly stand out for special attention. You’re not alone anymore, I thought. You’ll never be alone again.
In the coming days Doug and I took a bus back to Hannah’s village, where a notary officially released Hannah to us. That done, we prepared to take a ferry ride on the Pearl River to Guangzhou for a health report.
The red tape seemed endless, and with each step I feared something might go wrong. “I won’t relax until we’re all back in Kansas,” I told Doug as we packed our bags. Back where Hannah has me to watch over her. Someone who loves her.
There was a knock. I jumped. Doug opened the door. “I have someone here,” the interpreter said hesitantly. “She wants to say goodbye to Hannah.”
Doug and I looked at each other. I reached for Hannah. “Someone from the orphanage?” I asked.
“No,” the interpreter said. “Just a friend.” I took Hannah in my arms and held her tight. Doug and I followed the interpreter down the hall to the lobby. As we turned the corner a young Chinese woman stood up. She was about my age, very pretty, with long, shiny hair.
When she saw Hannah her face lit up and she stretched out her arms. Hannah laid quietly against me as the young woman patted her back.
Hannah’s not afraid of her, I thought. She can’t be a stranger. But who is she?
The woman spoke softly to Hannah in Chinese, pausing occasionally to wipe away a tear. After a few minutes she said something to the interpreter. “She’d like to keep in touch with you,” the interpreter said.
We exchanged addresses, but I was afraid to press for details. We said good-bye and gathered our luggage for the final leg of our journey. The three of us returned to Kansas as a family, just as Doug predicted. Hannah had a lot to get used to in America. But little by little she made herself at home.
One day, a few months after our return, I received a letter. “It’s from the woman we met at the hotel,” I told Doug as I looked it over. “There’s a translation in English, and—oh, Doug, look at this!”
My hands trembled as I flipped through the packet of photos from the envelope: Hannah as an infant in her crib, Hannah hugging a stuffed animal, Hannah playing in the park, Hannah in the young woman’s arms, grinning from ear to ear.
The life I saw in these pictures was nothing like the lonely world I’d imagined for Hannah in the orphanage. These are the memories she carried with her from China, I thought. This was what Hannah was doing while I prayed for her.
“I don’t understand. How is this possible?” asked Doug.
I read the letter out loud: The Chinese government had declared the year Hannah was born “The Year of the Family.” The young woman, MoBin, wanted to do something to honor that, so she volunteered to visit the children at a local orphanage.
“Among the children in Wuzhou Welfare Yard, I was attracted by a baby lying on a bed,” MoBin wrote. “Her intelligent large eyes and curly hair were so lovely that I liked her at the first sight.”
But Hannah was very sick. The staff didn’t have much hope she would survive. MoBin begged permission to take her to a doctor. For six months MoBin cared for Hannah at her own home and returned her to the orphanage strong and healthy.
MoBin continued to visit her, taking Hannah home with her on the weekends. “I called myself her Auntie MoBin,” she wrote. It broke her heart to say good-bye to Hannah, but MoBin was happy Hannah would have a family of her own to love her.
Doug and I would be eternally grateful to this selfless young woman. She was an answer to my prayer, an angel for Hannah on earth.
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