Category Archives: The Story

Departing China

Guangzhou has been such a different experience than Nanning. The city itself is modern and more westernized. It is densely populated registering as China’s third largest city. It’s a busy metropolis focused on international commerce. Likewise, much of our stay in Guangzhou has been focused on business-the business of completing the adoption process. We have made numerous treks to the Chinese Immigration Office and US Consulate for Eden’s physical exams, to submit final papers and to apply for Eden’s visa.

One thing that has made these trips more enjoyable is traveling with the other families who are adopting through Holt. There are a total of nineteen families in our group. This unusually large number of people originate from Alaska, Maine, New Jersey, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Florida, South Dakota, New Jersey, North Carolina and California. While all of us spent less than a week together, we still shared something significant as we expanded our families through adoption all at the same time. I have enjoyed getting to know many of the families and hearing their stories. I think all of us have adopted children with special needs and most are believers in Christ. It is encouraging to know that the Father’s heart of adoption is moving through the hearts of his people everywhere.

I leave Guangzhou with mixed feelings. I am definitely ready to come home. I miss my house. I miss driving on open roads. I miss my church. I miss carne asada. I know “real  life” does not actually begin for our newly formed family until we return to Chino Hills and I am ready to start. At the same time, I am somewhat sad to leaving the country where my daughter was born. I have a greater appreciation and respect for the Chinese culture, history and people. Coming home, I also have a greater heart for the immigrants in my neighborhood.

At this point, I am rambling. It is midnight, Thursday, July 12. After all is said and done, Eden passed her physical exams, we have all the necessary paper work in order and her visa has been issued. Shortly, we will be departing Guangzhou and arriving at LAX, July 12, 3:50pm (PST). We look forward to seeing many of you at the airport and it will be my pleasure to introduce you to Eden Joy Meng Shan Hori for the very first time. See you soon!

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Nai Nai

As many of you know, we are now a family of six but have been traveling in China as a party of seven. I am so grateful that my mom has been able to join us for this trip. She has been such a help and blessing to me, Sonia and each of our children. They affectionately refer to her as “Gramsy” but now she is also known as “Nai Nai.” She is quite proud of the new title and even bought a bright red shirt with the words printed on the front in both Chinese and English.

Nai Nai gives so much to us but asks for so little for herself. Start the day with an amazing breakfast buffet at the Guangzhou Marriott and occasionally buy a Starbucks beverage or Slurpee and you have a happy Nai Nai. Gram has had the duty…uh…privilege of being the boys’ roommate the entire trip and has never complained about it. She has been flexible with our ever-changing schedule. She has been sensitive to our ever-growing bonding as a family. She has received her new granddaughter with open arms and an open heart.

Eden has taken quite well to Gram and I can tell she has grown quickly to love her Nai Nai. I don’t blame her. We all love Nai Nai. Thanks, Mom for always being there for the kids, for Sonia and most of all for me.

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Getting to Know Her

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Eden has been a part of our family for eight days now. In some ways, it feels like we picked her up just yesterday. In other ways, it feels like she’s been a part of our family from the very beginning.

In a little over a week, we have learned quite a bit about our daughter. In some ways, she is very child-like. Children who are raised in an institutional setting are often more immature and although Eden was in an unusually good orphanage, none the less she is socially behind her 10-year old peers. At times, she likes to play the role of the baby of the family-acting helpless or over-reacting to small inconveniences. Occasionally, she and Jaren play like peers. Being naive and innocent is cute at times, but in the long run it will definitely be to her disadvantage.

At times, Eden’s maturation process will appear stunted, yet at other times, I’m sure she will outpace our hopes. We have caught glimpses of this here in Guangzhou. When asked, she takes care of Jaren crossing streets and walking on sidewalks. She is not afraid to express her likes and dislikes. She is submissive when gently corrected and obedient when directed. She is responsible with her own purse and is conscientious of its valuable contents-candy, a few dollars, mini horsies, bracelets.

Surprisingly, Eden has not cried once yet. In fact, she is quite giddy and joyous even after eight days of being with her new, imperfect family. In fact, there is a strong desire to identify with our family which means she prefers to be called, “Eden” rather than “Meng Shan” and she prefers to speak English rather than Mandarin especially when spoken to in Chinese. She and mommy both get cold easily, wear jackets all the time and are always wanting the AC turned off.

As Eden transitions from being an orphan to being a daughter as well as from being a citizen of Nanning to being a resident of Chino Hills, I’m sure she will go through various phases of personal growth and development. I am confident that everything will be OK but I know it won’t always be easy. From moment to moment, we will need wisdom from on High to discern whether her behavior is personality, disability, history or sin. And then we will need His grace to respond appropriately.

While I have hopes and prayers for Eden to grow up to be a godly, young woman, in some ways I am in no rush for her to grow up too soon. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the wonderment on her face as she experienced her first plane ride ever and it warmed my heart to witness her delight during the international circus last night. She squealed as the animals paraded, the daredevils performed breathtaking stunts and the magicians dazzled the crowd. I know we have a lifetime to grow together in the light of the Father’s goodness and grace. That’s all part of the joy of the journey of getting to know her.

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God in Guangzhou

Jesus I believe in you.
Jesus I belong to you.
You’re the reason that I live.
The reason that I sing
With all I am

These are the words that I sung with tears in my eyes during Sunday morning worship yesterday. Then the pastor preached a gospel-centered, biblically sound sermon on the conviction and grace of the Holy Spirit. It was all a moving experience (1) because God was exalted and (2) because all of this transpired not in Chino, CA but instead in Guangzhou, China.

The Triune God is alive and well in China and moving powerfully to save and transform lives. To freely and passionately express our love of the Father as an international body was a moving experience. For a moment, I forgot where I was and tasted just a tiny slice of Heaven this side of eternity.

The entire service was translated into English but hearing the praises of God’s people expressed in both Mandarin and English was truly a delight. I got chills singing especially at a point during the praise time when the repeated chorus resounded,

You are Lord over all.
You are Lord over all.
You are Lord over all.
You are Lord over all.

Truly, He is Lord over all!

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)

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Last Day in NN

Today, we depart from Nanning to Guangzhou but before we do, I want leave you with two pictures.

This spider was sitting on the crown molding above Sonia’s head during our entire meal at a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. She didn’t know it was there but I did. I didn’t say anything because I thought it was fake. It’s hard to gain perspective in the picture but it’s about the circumference of my hand stretched out wide. After taking a closer look, I realized it was alive especially after the waitress squealed when I pointed it out. If you know about Sonia’s arachnophobia then you know she wanted to kill me.

This sign displays the name of a restaurant near our hotel. We didn’t eat there but I wish we would have. We saw a lot of Nanning but I felt like I never did open the lid to smell full of the city.

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Newbies in Nanning

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Nanning is the capital city of the Guangxi province and boasts a growing population of over 3 million people. It’s a city in transition attempting to blend the new global China with the venerable local one. There are stores selling Gucci and Chanel on one street and shops offering a bowl of hot noodles for $2.50 right around the corner. Mercedes Benz and BMW share the roads with mopeds and bicycles. Modern traffic signals mark every corner but very few drivers heed to them. Crossing the streets in Nanning is a little like playing Frogger except you’re literally the frog and there are no second chances.

Nanning is only a four hour drive from Vietnam so the weather in July runs in the low 90’s and is extremely humid. It makes me sweat just thinking about it. The people are warm and friendly. They seem less pretentious and more relaxed than the people in Beijing. The older generation seems to love kids and is fascinated with our large American family. The younger generation is eager to practice their English since most learn it in High School and college.

The local cuisine is quite tasty. We had garlic eggplant at almost every restaurant we visited. Fried whole, sliced thick and topped with a sweet garlic sauce. Slightly different at every establishment but equally good. At night, the streets permeate with the aroma of garlic, ginger and wood ear mushrooms as people slurp bowls of spicy noodle soup late into the night.

Nanning also happens to be Eden’s home town. We came to here to pick her up but also stayed four additional days to do adoption paperwork and process her passport. Staying here was not just an administrative requirement, it was an important part of knowing my new daughter. Seeing the sights, smelling the culture, eating the local cuisine and meeting the people of Nanning have all been an important part of understanding the context and culture that helped shape who Eden is.

I have grown to love this city simply because this is where my daughter was born and spent the first ten years of her life. Some day, I hope to bring her back to her hometown. I imagine it will be vastly different than the way she remembers it. But alas, I know she will be drastically different as well. Nanning may be losing her, but I hope she never loses the Nanning in her.

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Six Heads

 

Obviously, swim caps are required to swim at the pool in Nanning. Gratefully, Speedos are not. Unfortunately, Chinese men wear them anyway. Some things are no different cross-culturally and that’s one of them.

Anyway, I love this picture not only because it’s so funky but primarily because it shows six heads all lined up (though mine could count for two). Becoming a family of six requires all kinds of adjustments. Some of the minor changes include changing Sonia’s email address to fivehoris@…com to sixhoris@…com, remembering to ask for six seats when dining out and paying a little more to do so, and counting heads more often to make sure you haven’t lost one.

There are also greater adjustments needed to re-relate as a family of six. Adding one more individual seems simple but is more complex than it appears. It effects everything and everyone. Today, I was in the pool with my four kids and at one point, I felt tugged in four different directions, relationally and literally. Each child is learning to re-relate to one another and to me and to Sonia. This does not worry me because I know it’s natural and necessary but I know I will need to be intentional to give each child his or her own time. I know Sonia and I will need our time together as well.

At the same time, Eden has made a remarkable transition into our family. It is clear that she truly enjoys being part of a family. She loves to call me and Sonia, “Daddy” and “Mommy” and soaks up our affection like a dry sponge dropped in the ocean. She looks up to her big sister and is willing to follow her lead as Tani holds her hand crossing streets and helps her get ready in the morning. I hear Eden calling Evan’s name the most either to play or out of playful frustration.

But, the most interesting dynamic is watching Jaren and Eden together. At times, he is competing for attention as the baby of the family and at other times, he and Eden are playing like equals. We keep reminding Jaren that she is his big sister even though she’s not that much bigger than him. Today, Sonia had Eden take responsibility to hold Jaren’s hand when crossing the street and walking in the supermarket. This brought out her motherly side and helped her bond with him. Plus, he loved all the attention he received from her and gladly accepted the role as the baby of the family.

So many adjustments already made. So many changes yet to come. Is it a little more hectic to be a family of six? Of course it is. Would I have it any other way? Of course not. Six heads are always better than five even in a big pool full of tiny Speedos.

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School of Eden

As parents of a new daughter, we have inherently gone back to school. Eden is both the subject and the teacher and we are on a crash course to learn as much as we can about her likes, dislikes, personality and limitations. Despite having her for only 36 hours, I think we have learned quite a bit in a short amount of time.

The first moment I saw Eden, my first thought was “she’s a little cutie.” I’m not just saying that because I’m her dad…OK I am but that’s honestly what passed through my mind. She is very delicate and quite lady like. Her frame is extremely petite and there is no meat on her bones. She is only a few inches shorter than Evan but Evan’s no Yao Ming to begin with. She weighs the same as Jaren who is four years her junior. Whether this is due to her disability, her growing up in an orphanage or just plain genetics, we just don’t know yet. Regardless, she can really eat when she likes something. She loves Coca Cola, chicken legs and can eat dumplings like they’re popcorn.

After initial physical observations, I quickly discovered that Eden has a great personality. She loves to tease and she loves to laugh (sometimes very loudly). Her smile is sweet and contagious. Her persona also embodies a unique blend of contrary but complimentary characteristics. Eden is naive often acting much younger than her age. Combined with her small stature, at times some people may assume she is 7-8 years old rather than 10. Yet, my daughter is not afraid and possesses a quiet confidence to assert herself especially with her new brothers. Eden is very methodical and takes a long time to complete a task. Yet, she is extremely observant and learns very quickly.

We were pleasantly surprised that she has a better grasp of the English language than we anticipated. Eden still has a long way to go but she comprehends much more than I thought she would. Her limited English, her intuitive sense and our Jibbigo translation app has made communication relatively smooth.

Another pleasant surprise is that Eden is willing to try to speak. A rare brain disorder causes her speech to be severely hindered. The best way to describe it is that she sounds like a deaf person when she talks. I was afraid she would be too self-conscious to try to speak to us but fortunately, she is not. I love the sound of her voice. She tries hard to speak, is willing to be corrected and yet does not grow frustrated when we just can’t understand her.

There’s so much more about my beautiful daughter but I will hold those things close to my heart for now. I share this brief description about Eden not only for my memories sake but for the many of you who desire to know and love her upon our return. I can’t wait to introduce her to each of you.

Please forgive me if I seem like a proud father. I can’t help it. I am. The glow on my face is not just oil of the Chinese food, it’s because I just received a new daughter and I am in love with her.

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Day One

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Day one as a new family of six is done and oh, what a day it was! Eden arrived at our hotel room at 10am but waiting was nerve-racking. It felt like we were all sitting in the waiting room of a maternity ward. I was pacing, my mom had the camera ready, the kids were trying to stay quiet and still. It was like waiting for the start of a surprise party except it was no surprise to anyone. My wife said I was glowing but I said it was the grease from all the Chinese food. She said “yes, but you are still glowing like when our other three children were born.”

When our 10-year old “newborn” arrived, we hugged, we cried, we laughed. She was new and unknown, yet familiar and family. Our new daughter seemed to fit right in immediately. It was truly the way it was meant to be! Kristin, Evan and Jaren adored their new sister. They were always jockeying to hold her hand, sit next to her or get her attention. It brought me such joy to watch them bond.

After our initial paperwork was completed, we trekked down the streets of Nanning into the downtown area. Our first meal together was at KFC. It was extremely crowded, unbearably hot, difficult to order using hand motions and pointing, but it was truly one of the best meals of my life.

Afterward, we walked back to our hotel in extreme humidity and 90 degree weather with intermittent rain showers. That led us to take a swim in the large hotel pool. Swim caps required to enter the water so we all looked like eggheads. We cleaned up, rested and took off to have dinner. Us guys caught a cab and the four ladies crowded into a sheet metal covered scooter. It was quite an adventure! It was a blessed celebration dinner with Eden’s foster family and another fellow brother and sister. Pure fellowship. We shared delicious food, a common mission and love for the same King. It was a little taste of Heaven in south China.

We took taxis back to the hotel and quickly fell asleep. July 2 will always be recognized and celebrated as Eden’s “gotcha day.” This was the first of many, many more to come!

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