A girl adopted from China smiles at the camera

After years of a paused China adoption process due to COVID-19 shutdowns, Amanda and Justin Mohr were one of the first Holt families to travel to China to complete their adoption in August 2023 — finally uniting with their daughter, Paige.

Amanda Mohr strained to hear the little footsteps coming down the hall. Time, like the hallway, felt endlessly long as the pitter-patters grew louder and louder from where she sat at the civil affairs office in China. This was the moment. “She’s coming! I can hear her!” she said out loud.

A minute later, a little girl with short black hair and a timid smile was standing in front of her. It was Paige.

“I am seeing her with my eyes! I cannot believe this moment!” Amanda remembers thinking. “After three years of unknowns, I wasn’t sure this moment would ever come to fruition.”

Paige should have been 20 months old in this moment of meeting her mom for the first time. But instead, she had just turned 5 years old. The Mohrs’ process to adopt Paige took three and a half years longer than expected due to COVID-19 and the resulting shutdowns in China. This meant years of unexpected waiting and difficult decisions for them and all of the families that were in Holt’s China adoption program at the onset of the pandemic.

But in summer 2023, China finally reopened to allow adoption-related travel, at long last beginning to unite the nearly 50 Holt adoptive families and children who had been stuck in the process — like the Mohr family and Paige.

Starting the China Adoption Process

Amanda and Justin first started the adoption process in August 2017. They already had two daughters, Kate and Blakely, who were 2 and 4 at the time. Feeling like their family wasn’t yet complete, they felt that God kept putting adoption — specifically China adoption — on their hearts.

After attending a conference that talked about generosity, they felt convicted and led to move forward.

“Something that stood out to us was [the encouragement to go] beyond financial generosity to consider, ‘What do we have that we can be generous with?’” Justin says. “We thought, ‘We have a family, we have room in our house, we have the capacity, we have love and we can give these things to a child.’”

So they began the process to adopt from China. At the time, the average timeline to adopt from China was about three years from initial adoption application to uniting with a child. Their process was moving according to plan, and in November 2019 they were matched with Paige.

Amanda was in the grocery store when she got the phone call about the match. And as soon as she saw Paige’s photo, she knew.

“She had on a diaper and a bib and was just standing there by a crib, smiling,” Amanda says. “I just remember seeing her and just feeling, ‘She’s our daughter.’”

This conviction helped them through what would become additional years of waiting to unite with this special little girl.

Adopting From China Through the Pandemic

After accepting the match for Paige, Amanda and Justin began preparing to travel in March 2020.

“And then, all of a sudden the virus came,” Amanda says. They decided to wait to book their flights until it would presumably die down… But then came the shutdowns. “I think initially,” she says, “I was like, ‘Oh, this will just delay us a few months.’”

But then weeks turned into months, which then turned into years. And they suddenly found themselves waiting with seemingly no end in sight.

“We always said we’re going to wait until they say, ‘No, there’s no way you can get her.’ We just really felt we were in it for the long haul. Whatever it takes.”

Amanda, adoptive mom

“It was a very uncertain and emotional period,” says Beth Smith, Holt’s director of adoption for China, who walked with Holt’s China adoptive families through this long season of waiting.

During this time, Holt’s China adoption team held monthly virtual meetings where they shared any updates they had on the situation. But for many months, there wasn’t any new news to share. Beth also held regular one-on-one sessions with many families to discuss their individual situations, their children waiting in China and their options — such as possibly changing country programs.

“Most of the families were so committed to the child they were matched with that they were not interested in other options besides completing their process,” Beth says. As was the case for the Mohrs.

Over this time, there was limited communication with orphanages in China. Amanda, Justin and their girls sent birthday videos to Paige each year, and treasured any and every update they got about her through this time — even though they were few and far between.

“We always said we’re going to wait until they say, ‘No, there’s no way you can get her,’” Amanda says. “We just really felt we were in it for the long haul. Whatever it takes.”

Three birthdays, three school years, three Christmases passed. Kate and Blakely grew older, waiting for their little sister to finally join them.

Years of Waiting

In those years, their family life continued as normally as possible — and always in anticipation of bringing Paige into their family.

“It was really hard watching her grow up from a distance,” Justin says. “Your heart aches. ‘That’s another night in the orphanage. That’s another year in the orphanage…’”

As Paige continued to grow, they began to see some of the effects of prolonged time in the orphanage. Their updates about her began to reference developmental delays — which hadn’t existed in her initial file as just a 1-year-old. They considered how, if she had joined them at 20 months old, she wouldn’t have been fluent enough in Chinese for the language barrier to be as much of a hurdle when she was adopted. Whereas, when she did finally come home at age 5, learning English was a big part of her transition.

But through the waiting, they saw God’s hand in it all.

“Waiting is not fun, but from a faith standpoint there’s always something that God does in the waiting,” Justin says. “As much as we wish it would have gone differently in the moment, looking back [we see how] the waiting did some amazing things in our life and our family.”

For one, he says he believes their love for Paige is even stronger because of having to wait.

“Waiting those years created a void and a longing to get her,” Justin says. “Our capacity to love her and receive her was even greater in the moment that we did get her.”

Now, every night that they tuck her into bed is all the more precious.

“People can say, ‘Look at all those wasted years,’” Amanda says. “And yes, there’s a reality that we have missed time with her. And there were a lot of hard times and a lot of tears, but I just don’t feel like it was all for a waste. God does not waste time. Our faith and our family — we have grown.”

“Waiting those years created a void and a longing to get her. Our capacity to love her and receive her was even greater in the moment that we did get her.”

Justin, adoptive dad

In summer 2023, there began to be whispers of China reopening for adoption travel. For the nearly 50 families who had remained in Holt’s China program through this time, there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

“The travel invitations have been very slow,” Beth says, with monthly groups of two families each invited to travel to complete their adoptions since this time. The Mohrs were part of the second travel group to China this summer.

On July 20, 2023, Paige’s fifth birthday and three and a half years later than originally expected, the Mohrs got the call that they would be next to travel to go get her.

Finally Uniting With Paige

Even this last phase of their adoption process was not without unforeseen hurdles. Due to his profession as a pastor, Justin was initially denied a travel visa to China. Thankfully, Amanda did receive a visa and was able to travel to China to be with Paige. A week later, upon second attempt, Justin’s visa was miraculously approved — allowing him to join his wife and daughter in China.  

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Justin says about finally meeting Paige. “I think in a lot of ways I was overcome with relief — just this relief of, ‘It’s you, it’s really you!’ I just remember giving her a hug and saying in Chinese, ‘I’m your dad.’” 

Today, just over a month since she traveled to her new home in the U.S., Paige is thriving. She loves playing all day long with dolls and with her sisters, who are now 8 and 10. She is outgoing, full of energy and is constantly exploring.

“Her personality has been a really good addition to our family,” Amanda says. And even in this short time, they can see she’s beginning to understand life in a family, instead of an orphanage.

This is even evident in her new bedtime routine, Justin shares. Just the other night, Paige began all the typical child stall tactics of asking for more water or snacks before bed. After finally being told, “No, you just need to go to bed,” she burst into laughter.

“I found myself smiling in the dark thinking, ‘This is her letting her walls down. This is her becoming comfortable,’” Justin says. Already, the love of a family is making up for her years spent in an orphanage. And family is a concept she is beginning to grasp.

One night at the dinner table, Paige, in her slow and choppy English, added onto their family’s mealtime prayer: “Thank you Jesus for Mama, Baba, Kate and Blakely… My family.”

“We just looked at each other with tears,” Amanda says. “She was getting family.”

A girl adopted from China smiles at the camera

The Bigger Story

In their short time home together, they say they’ve even experienced how God is using their story to impact those beyond their family.

“I believe there’s a bigger story, and we’ve been able to share that,” Justin says. Through the wait, they’ve seen God’s goodness and faithfulness. They’ve even seen that their experience and family is encouraging others in their community to consider adoption, too. 

“It’s just amazing,” Justin says. “God has been good. He’s been faithful. And if you believe God called you into something, you have to wait until He sees you through it.”

Now that they’re finally “through it” themselves and are beginning their life with Paige, they can’t imagine having done it any other way. Through it all, through the unexpected years of waiting and worry and hardship, it was more than worth the wait.

“It’s hard, but keep waiting if you have to,” Justin says. “Jesus sacrificed his life so that we could be adopted into his family. We can sacrifice a little bit for these kids so they can be adopted into ours.”

For Paige, being adopted into the Mohr family means so many things: catching up on development, loving parents and big sisters of her own, all the nurturing care she needs to thrive — and never having to live in an orphanage again.

“All of the pain, all of the tears, all of the waiting, so many things seemed overwhelming and crushing in the moment,” Justin says. “But everything was worth it to finally see her and to have her.”

mom adoptive son and dad holding hands and laughing

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