Thursday, May 31, 2007

Orphanage Visit

I'm so sorry I didn't post yesterday, and I thank everyone who emailed me to express their concern! Michael and Sawyer took the camera and visited the Zhangzhou Welfare Institute, the orphanage where Oakley spent the first 33 months of her life. Our guide helped us arrange the visit, which was not scheduled prior to this week. I'm thankful that the director granted our request because it's so important to us that we see Oakley's first "home."

I had intended all along to take her back to visit, but Michael and Sawyer were both really concerned that she would regress. She's doing so remarkably well -- we didn't want to chance a setback. After much prayer and soul-searching, I decided to remain at the hotel with Oakley. I hope I don't live to regret the decision -- I'm so torn on whether or not it might have provided a sense of closure for her.

Michael and Sawyer both feel good about the decision made. They returned late yesterday afternoon (it was an eight-hour round-trip venture) physically and emotionally exhausted. There are not many children left in the orphanage. I think it was really difficult for both of them to see the conditions where she spent her most formative years. Michael marvels at how she survived that experience and how she still managed to develop such a radiant personality. They were not able to visit her finding spot because it was much further out in the rural county. However, we did receive her "finding outfit" on Gotcha Day, along with the first photo ever taken of her and the disposable camera we sent in her care package.

Upon arrival, they were well-received by the orphanage staff and invited to take photos. They were able to get a photo of her crib and the director gave us the identification tag off of it. They also took a photo of her favorite piece of playground equipment and it looks something like a stairstepper. We took photos of all the children in the orphanage, but out of respect for them and their waiting families, we will not post individual photos publicly. I have shared them on our Zhangzhou Welfare Institute yahoo group so the families waiting can see their beautiful babies.

During the visit, they found out that Oakley attended kindergarten (pre-school) six days a week and she cried on Sundays when the school was closed. I'm sure it was a great relief to her to be mentally stimulated and challenged and we clearly see her love of learning. Not only has she picked up quite an english vocabulary already, but she's teaching us some Chinese as well. Our guide thinks she speaks the local dialect and not mandarin. I do know that when we're out and Chinese people approach her and start firing questions at her, she shuts down and refuses to respond. I catch the word "Mama" a lot, so maybe they're asking her if she's been abducted or if this strange looking American is her Mama. Last night we had dinner in town and a Chinese man said hello to her in english and she responded with "Ni Hao," so she does know some Mandarin.

She continues to amaze us and I thank God for uniting us with her. She blossoms more each day and I pray for every child still remaining in orphanage care to receive a forever family. They so desperately need the love, care, and nurturing that only family can provide. This afternoon I compared photos of Oakley at the Civil Affairs office on Gotcha Day, one of her three hours after we got her, and one of her three days after we got her.

A child transformed by love.
Sullivan and Hagan:
School is over -- woo hoo -- and summer break is here! We can't wait to get home and start our summer vacation. It's going to be so wonderful to have our family all together and I think Oakley is going to love going out on the boat. We have a lake right across from our hotel and she points to it now and says "water". Hagan, I know you were worried about how we were going to communicate with her, but I'm telling you, she gets her point across and she learns so quickly. Start choosing some books for her with easy pictures because it's a great way for her to learn to associate words and objects. We're still working on her manners and she's come along way. She doesn't say thank you very much but she'll remind you to say it, and she reminds you in Chinese and in English.
We love and miss you guys SOOOO much!!
Mom and Dad, Sawyer and Oakley


Rebel Judge said...


I have been following your journey via your blog and ...

I told my family to gather around the computer to look at what love had done for your little girl in a matter of days and pointed out the exact 2 pictures you pointed out in your blog.... he eyes are alive now... they sparkle! What a blessing!


Anonymous said...

though i don't know you well, i just wanted to say how happy i am for you. i know that you have yearned for a little girl to call you own, and i am rejoicing with you. my son johnathon has wanted to adopt, and now is begging me to.
i think he may want to meet oakley :)
judy g.

Anonymous said...

Like many others, I was very worried when we didn't 'hear' from you yesterday. It brought home how very far away you really are. I know the decision about the orphanage was a difficult one. Only time will tell if it was the right one but I have to think it was. I was so afraid that Oakley would think that you were taking her back. Yoy said that there aren't many children left -- are they closing that orhanage?

Lisa P.

Anonymous said...

So glad to see your post this morning. You all are in my thoughts and prayers, always. You have developed quite the following. Yes we can see the difference in Oakley in just three days, just imagine how she will blossum once she is home with your entire family! Can't wait to meet Oakley. Be safe.


Kathy Shanklin said...


I get chills all over from reading your blog. I'm so happy for all of you. The change in Oakley is amazing. God is so good. You all are in my prayers.


The Ferrill's said...

How awesome to see Oakley's little face lit up with love!

Nicole said...

I am glad they were allowed to see her beginnings. I think she and Em will be quite the pair. We talked about you guys and how much you will love the resort we stayed at on Cumberland this weekend....we have to make plans for a get away together this summer. I love you Jana! does amazing things and Oakley is well loved!

Leslie said...

I just love Oakley's new and forever smile. I hope that you and Oakley had a wonderful time toghether while the guys went back to her orphanage. I don't think Oakley left anything behind at her orphanage, and that you did the right thing by not taking her back. I'm glad she will have her photos to look back on, when she is older. Jana, you did the right thing...just look at her before and after photos. Don't beat yourself up about it. She is where God wants her to be now.


Francie said...

Jana, I'm so glad to hear everyone is okay. I think we all got a bit spoiled when you posted three times Tuesday so when you didn't post yesterday, we each had ourselves a little panic attack :) It's good to hear everyone is still doing well. It's obvious you are witnessing a metamorphosis in Oakley. It's amazing that she's changed so much in less than a week!
Please don't regret your decision not to take her back to visit the orphanage. I have to believe that there are no mistakes - everything happens for a reason. You all are her family now. Take comfort in knowing your hearts led you to make the decision that was best for her.

Anonymous said...

take it from one who knows - let the past be the past and concentrate only on the present. You did the right thing. It's amazing the change in her eyes and smile. You have been blessesd and so has Oakley. By the way I love her name.

love you guys,
ronnie and donna

Anonymous said...


You and your family are such an inspiriation. You have changed Oakley's life with your love. What an amazing impact in the world you are making. She is beautiful; and I am so happy she is finally with her Mom, Dad, and brothers.

Anonymous said...


I don't know if you remeber me, my name is Angie Mattox, We met through Tracey Jacoby and a love of scrapbooking...LOL...I've been reading your Oakley Blog and following your families jouney. What an inspiration you and your family have been to me and i'm sure too many more. I'm so glad you've decided to share these experiences with us. Your daughter is too cute :) And you can clearly see that she's quite a at home in your arms. Have a safe trip home, and God Bless.

Angie Mattox