A Wonderful Journey

Published 12:15 am Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dozens of family members erupted in a cheer when their adopted babies were brought inside a crowded room of a small orphanage in China and Laura Wilkinson said she spotted Joel right away.

“I just began yelling to him in Chinese, ‘I’m your mommy,’ and ‘I love you,’” she said. “His nanny was holding him and he was burying his face into her neck. It was sweet that I got to see him with her. He clearly loved his nanny. He just clung to her. I will always be grateful to know that he was well cared for. He wasn’t just thrown into a crib.”

Wilkinson said she and her husband, Barry, had both prayed for quite some time about the prospect of adoption before finally making the decision to begin the process.

“It was really something the Lord just put in my heart and in Barry’s heart separately,” she said. “We prayed about it separately for months without saying anything to each other. We finally started talking about it and laying hints. We just laid it out on the table.”

The decision to adopt a child from China was easy, Wilkinson said, after spending some time with the children and the country during a mission trip in 1995.

“I have always been more curious about adoption than other people,” she said. “When other people would say that they had adopted I was always intrigued by it. When I went to China I really fell in love with the children.”

She said the two-week visit to China was made worthwhile in that single moment when she saw the child that would soon be welcomed into her home.

“It was a million emotions at once,” she said. “It was not at all what we thought it would be. We had envisioned that all the families would be piled into one room and everyone would be videotaping and taking pictures of each other. When we got to the orphanage there were just so many people there to meet us. I had never expected that. The street in front of the orphanage was just lined with people smiling and yelling ‘lucky baby.’ It was just kind of overwhelming.”

Laura, Barry and their new 11-month-old adopted son, known to the nannies in his orphanage as Fu Ai Wu, took the long trip back to the U.S. Wilkinson said his name means “blessed, loved and strong” in English and the family always attempts to instill a sense of pride for Chinese heritage in their son they now call Joel.

“We celebrate the Chinese New Year and he can point to China on a globe,” she said. “We try to make sure he is proud of being Chinese. He is all American, but he is also Chinese and we want him to be proud of that and we promote that.”

Wilkinson said that Joel first attached to his adoptive father, but biggest connection was made when the family arrived home to greet Joel’s new “big sister,” Hannah Grace.

“I think it was maybe because she was so small,” she said. “They live in a world that is really all children and then they come into a world of adults. He clung to her. He was really close to Hannah Grace. The first person he went up and did a full body hug was Hannah Grace. He would back up to us and let us hug him, but the first time he went up to someone and hugged them was Hannah Grace. He did not let go of her for 10 to 15 minutes.”

Wilkinson describes experiences since that night as a “wonderful” journey watching Hannah Grace, who is now 6, and Joel, who is now 4, grow closer as brother and sister.

“When Hannah Grace came in she flew right by me and went right up to him,” Laura said. “The first thing she said was ‘he’s so cute’ and then she said ‘now we have four people in our family.’ They are very close ever since and they are very protective of each other. It has just been an amazing and beautiful experience.”