Amesegenallo – an adoption story from a sister’s perspective

The journey that changed my life

by Alexa Dantzler

Exactly one year ago, my parents told me news that forever changed my life. One evening, my parents gathered us in the living room. We called our oldest sister, Dana, at college. And then my dad said, with a grand smile on his face, “Girls, your mother and I have decided to begin the adoption process of a little boy, in an age range between 4 and 7, from Ethiopia. We know you have always wanted a little brother. Now, the opportunity has presented itself to us.” After hearing this, it seemed as though our living room turned into a water park – we all broke into tears.

I was so overcome with joy and excitement that I could barely sleep that night. I prayed, asking God and St. Charles – the patron saint of orphans and adoption – to please watch over our adoption process and let it progress quickly. From that night on, I prayed every night for my brother’s health and spirit.

In June, we were matched with our little man, Berhanu. He was four years old and looked so adorable that I wanted to just take him out of the photo, hug and squeeze him. It was so exciting to hear my dad read Berhanu’s monthly health and social assessments, and see updated pictures of him. Finally, one afternoon, my dad called us. It was early December. He told us that we should start packing our bags – on Christmas day, we would pick up our “little prince” in Ethiopia!

All of a sudden, it was December 23rd. I was more than ready to take off for Ethiopia! We arrived in the capital city of Addis Ababa on Christmas Day, which was actually night in Ethiopia. When I stepped out of the airport and into the night air, I sensed a feeling of returning home, as though I just belonged in Ethiopia. In bed that night, I still couldn’t believe we were finally there, and that my brother was sleeping peacefully right next door in the Addis Ababa transition center. Continue reading “Amesegenallo – an adoption story from a sister’s perspective”

We Are Fully Blessed

A mother’s hearing loss, five years prior, leads to the adoption of a hearing impaired son from India

By Ellen Singh

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! And what a blessing Deelip is to us!

My husband, Dave, and I already had two biological daughters, Katelyn and Anna, and one son, Michael, who we adopted from India. Our life was full with our young brood. Yet, for the past several years, we’d continued to casually look at Holt’s “Waiting Child” page. About two years ago, we read a brief description about Deelip, a 3-year-old boy from India, and knew God wanted us to pursue this child.

All we knew about Deelip was his age and his disability of being profoundly deaf. We were specifically interested in a child with hearing issues due to a major event that changed our lives five years prior. In 2004, I contracted bacterial meningitis. By God’s matchless mercy my life was spared. I woke up from a drug-induced coma with complete hearing loss in my left ear. As a result, we have learned so much about hearing issues and have a great sensitivity to others in similar situations. At age 36, I had to instantly learn how to live with single-sided hearing loss, which has been a great challenge.

Through this devastating event, I got to know various hearing professionals and volunteer in hearing loss research. I learned that St. Louis, near where we live, is a Mecca of hearing loss treatment and research in this country. Plus, there were several schools for the deaf nearby!

After discussing Deelip’s medical records with my ENT specialist and touring a local school for the deaf, we were absolutely confirmed that God was leading us to pursue Deelip. Continue reading “We Are Fully Blessed”

Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: Love Can Do Amazing Things

The value of foster care in China

Foster families provide a loving home environment that even the most caring orphanage workers cannot provide. Their selfless love nurtures homeless children while Holt completes the adoption processing for permanent families. Holt’s dedicated temporary families are often the only hope for infants suffering from malnutrition, children recovering from surgery, and others who need extra care.

The Chinese government is asking Holt to step up our foster care programs in China immediately.  Every effort must be made to get orphaned children out of institutional care. 

Before coming home to the United States, Lilah Ruud lived with one of Holt’s loving and attentive foster families. Lilah’s older sister, Danica, had this to say about her visit to China to meet her little sister:

“We visited an orphanage where babies were lined up in beds, in rows. These babies didn’t have the one-on-one attention of a loving family. I also saw babies – like my sister – who had been cared for by foster families. Love does great things for people. Foster care for orphans can change a child’s life!”

The Following is Joan Ruud’s account of meeting Lilah for the first time, and her thoughts on the importance of foster care:

In September 2004, my husband and I decided we wanted to grow our family through adoption. Because we had an 8-year-old daughter, we chose the country based on how quickly we could bring our second child home. As fate would have it, we chose China! As the wheels of foreign adoption churned, we ended up waiting for Lilah for 4 years.

We received our first picture and official match on November 2007, and that Christmas Eve, we received an e-mail informing us that Lilah was not in an orphanage – as we had anticipated – but with a foster parent. Holt had no additional information and we inferred that our daughter had recently been placed in foster care.

During our wait for Lilah, I had read a bit about orphanages.  I just assumed that our child would be placed in an orphanage, and we would bring her home almost directly from that institution. I was prepared for potential developmental delays and perhaps some attachment issues. The news of Lilah’s foster care placement didn’t mean so much to me, because I assumed it had been a recent development in her young life.

We arrived in China on January 8th, 2008 and held Lilah in our arms for the first time on January 13th. We had traveled in a group of 13 families to Jiangxi Province. About half of the children had been in orphanages and the other half had the good fortune to be placed in foster care. We also learned at this time that Lilah had been placed in foster care, thanks to donations to Holt, within a few weeks of birth.

As Lilah was placed in my arms, her inevitable tears began. Poor child had to deal with strange smells, strange sights and sounds, and strange people who were all so ecstatic to finally meet her. After an hour or so, she settled in and we began our bonding. She wasn’t so interested in big sister, she didn’t care for dad at all, but she wanted me. Lilah clearly assessed her situation and gravitated to the most familiar person; I attribute this to her relationship with her foster mother. She had experienced a home and recognized a family and, in particular, a mother. Her eye contact with me was constant. Continue reading “Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: Love Can Do Amazing Things”

Holt Adoptee Camps

A mother’s perspective

When my nine-year-old declared there was “no way” he would go to Holt Adoptee camp for a whole week, I was disappointed. I was sure it would be a good experience, but he didn’t want to sleep away from home. I considered the usual parental options: persuasion, bribery and coercion! Fortunately, I soon discovered Holt’s day camp. Not only was this one-day camp much more acceptable to my eldest, but because the age range was from 5-16, his younger siblings could participate too. And parents were welcome!

The kids and I arrived at Camp Angelos promptly at 9 am, and Harry immediately spotted a friend from home on the basketball court. Before I could even apply sunscreen, he was off, disappearing into a crowd of black-haired, rough and tumble boys. Five-year-old Betty darted across the lawn to the playground. Theo, who is 8 and quite shy in new situations, walked with me to the registration table. Camp leaders Michael and Steve greeted us with friendly smiles and gathered the parents and kids into a big circle for some icebreakers. It was refreshing to be in a group of families similar to our own: kids of all complexions, with parents who resembled them very little, performing motherly and fatherly duties – encouraging, cuddling, slipping away for potty breaks as needed. Many of the kids were reserved at first, but the staff’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Steve invited the younger day campers to team up with a group of older, week-long campers – veterans now, with three days of Holt camp under their belts!  And all the day campers, except one, followed their new teenage mentors onto the lawn for games and icebreakers. Theo stuck to me like Velcro, and I was grateful that the staff and other parents were totally accepting. He participated gamely in the adoptive parent workshop, writing a list of words that described his parents and another that described him (“Mom? How do you spell ‘good climber’?”).  But when one of the camp counselors invited him personally to join in a game of freeze tag, this was too tempting, and I didn’t see him again until lunch!

While the kids played and participated in age-appropriate workshops about race and adoption, the parents were invited to consider adoption from our children’s point of view. We heard from teen and adult adoptees and had the chance to listen, ask questions, and share our own experiences with race and racism. I took home an uncomfortable truth: all of our minority kids, regardless of country of origin, experience racism on a regular basis. Both positive and negative stereotypes, as well as nosy and inappropriate questions about where our kids are from or “what” exactly they are, are upsetting to our children. Adoptive parents often want to minimize these encounters, but we need to acknowledge them. Continue reading “Holt Adoptee Camps”

What Faith Can Do

July 31st marked the 10th anniversary of Bertha Holt’s passing.

When asked how she would like to be remembered, Bertha Holt’s request was a simple one:

“[Remember me] as that lady who loved the Lord,” she humbly replied.

On the tenth anniversary of her passing, it’s fitting to reflect on Bertha “Grandma” Holt’s love for the Lord, her faith in Him, and how that faith has inspired many people around the world to carry on Holt’s mission of finding families for children.

Brian Campbell, Holt’s creative services director remembers Bertha Holt, and how she has inspired him:

I remember watching Bertha Holt at a Holt picnic, one year, as she sat and had her picture taken with hundreds of children of all ages.  I stood there, amazed, listening to her recall the names of the children and sharing a brief story about each one of them. Older adoptees also came up to her, giving her hugs and thanking her for the work of Holt International.  The younger children referred to her as “Grandma.”  She had prayed continually for all of these children while they were in Holt’s care and traveled all over the world to serve them; they were always her top priority.


During a quiet moment, between the visiting and photos, I caught Grandma by herself.  A look of peace and blessing was on her face.  Not a look of pride or pleasure in knowing that she was important to all these people, but rather a look of peace that comes from knowing that she was doing what God had called her to do.

Now, more than 20 years later, I recall that moment with Grandma Holt. I imagine her with me in places like Ethiopia, surrounded by children, listening to their giggling and crying, laughing with them, and cradling and comforting them without hesitation. I ask for the children’s names, take their pictures, touch their little hands and pray for them. Today, inspired by Bertha Holt, these children are also my priority.

After the death of Harry Holt, many thought Holt International would close its doors. But Bertha always had faith that the agency would carry on. “This has always been God’s work,” she said. “If He wants it to continue, it will.”

And it has. What followed, and what remains today, is a 55-year legacy of caring for and providing loving homes to the world’s orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

Evidence of Bertha Holt’s faith can be seen today through Holt employees, working diligently and joyfully for children all over the world, to the hundreds of adult adoptees who were touched by “Grandma’s” life and, most importantly, through the smiling faces of children now home with their loving families.

The mission of Holt International has carried on, and will continue, all because one woman had faith that it could.

The Road to Oliver

a son from the Philippines

 

“There’s Oliver!” The social worker beamed, pointing toward the living room where two little boys were playing. My husband Sam and I walked inside the small, concrete house, forgetting about the stale, humid air of the tropics. I held my breath as I looked for the boy that resembled the photo we received from Holt. The photo showed a toddler dressed in over-sized clothes and a hat that covered his hair. His round face had eyes shaped like almonds and lips that were round and full.

One of the boys in the room wore an old, red shirt and had thick black hair. His eyes and lips were the same as the photo. I sighed quietly. He was more beautiful in person. Sam and I knelt down to Oliver’s level and took a long look at the child we had prayed for, dreamed of and longed for.

One afternoon in February of 2006, I stood in front of a mailbox and said a little prayer as I dropped our application to Holt International. At our ninth year of marriage, Sam and I had walked a long road of false hopes and fertility tests. Coming to a fork in the road, we picked the path of adoption. Little did we know that in the same month I dropped that piece of mail, our baby boy was born across the Pacific in a humble town in the Philippines. Continue reading “The Road to Oliver”

Lines

A father’s poem to his daughter, Quinn—a child in Holt’s Journey of Hope Program

by Robert Flanders

When people ask me to prove that God exists, I show them your picture and tell them about lines. The lines on which our lives travel along the points plotted by the choices that we make. I reflect upon all the choices, some good, some bad, that have led me to the place where I stand now holding your picture. I can only imagine the decisions that your birth parents have made, especially your mother. In an act of desperation and hope, she severed a sacred bond and your lines diverged. Yours led you to the orphanage and, years later, to me. Your birth mother’s life line drifted away, as silent as a ghost carried along by the force of circumstances, into her future and your past.

I remember the day that our lines, and our lives, intersected. I saw your picture and two lines, out of the six billion lines moving through time and space, came together at one point. That point is called love. I’ve seen many pictures of older, waiting children traveling on their journeys of hope but our lines did not intersect. When the Holt worker asked me, “why you?” I did not tell her about lines, I told her about love.

Now the lines of our lives will travel together, parallel to each other in love. I feel certain that God was lovingly drawing our lines so that they would one day come together. I look down at your picture in my hands and I believe.

Older children in Holt’s care need families….click here to view the photolisting for Holt’s Journey of Hope children in China.

or visit our Waiting Child page

“All Things Are Possible”

Senior Writer Robin Munro discusses her experience at a Holt-supported foster care program in Northern China.

by Robin Munro

Jilin City, China—Today, we drove to a small farming village just outside of Jilin City, a forested, mountainous region of Northern China where Holt sponsors foster care for 39 children. Here, amid lush green acres of corn stalks, rice fields and gable-roofed homes, we meet several of the children in our sponsorship program. Ducking out of the rain, we step into an unoccupied house – recently built by the village – where the families have gathered, anticipating our arrival. I am with Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager and assistant to Jian Chen, Holt’s China director; Jessica Palmer, Holt’s Waiting Child program manager; and a couple officials from the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute, with whom Holt has partnered since introducing a foster care project to this region in 2006.

I find a windowsill in which to sit and observe the scene – foster mothers sitting in a circle on the floor, cooing over babies swaddled in blankets as Sue and Jessica assess the children’s development and the foster care manager distributes formula and food. One boy – an older boy of about 9 or 10 – comes over to talk to me. “Hello,” he says in English, smiling. “Hello,” I say back, followed by a couple more simple phrases. He shakes his head, not understanding. “Ok,” I say. And he repeats. “Ok.” He wants to learn, wants to engage me with any means of communication he can find. I give him a thumbs-up. And he lifts his hand to mimic me.

But even this – this universal symbol for a job well done – he can’t use to communicate.   Continue reading ““All Things Are Possible””

Who do you see?

 

Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program.

Robin Munro, Senior Writer—Today, we visited a beautiful orphanage in Northern China – a place full of color and life.  Each room opened onto another group of faces – curious, apprehensive, wide-eyed faces.  Most of these children have special needs, conditions beyond which most birth families have the capacity to provide medical care – conditions like cleft lip and palate, CP, Down’s Syndrome, Spina bifida, feet and hand deformities, as well as a few cases of pneumonia.

In the first room we enter, metal barred cribs line the wall.  In each, a child sits or lays, staring at the ceiling, the wall, or nothing in particular – into middle space.   These children have some of the most severe conditions.  Most don’t seem to notice our presence in the room – don’t jump up, or cry, or reach out to us.  I walk over to one boy, who lifts his head when I touch his back.  His head is swollen from Hydrocephalus, a condition in which water gets onto the brain.  In some cases, this condition is minor and won’t interfere with the child’s life.  But this boy’s condition is serious, says Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager.  As I rub his back, he begins to smile.  When I stop, he stares at me blankly.  I gently touch him again, and his smile returns.   Continue reading “Who do you see?”