still our kids

I last walked the Great Wall of China ten years ago. Almost, anyway. It will be ten year in October. I know the date, because I turned forty in the air above the International Date Line, and I have maintained ever since that it never really happened, since the day disappeared.

Ten years is a long time chronologically. But emotionally, it can be a heartbeat, and I feel like I could go back tomorrow and the faces we met at the orphanage would still be there, still smiling, still making me smile. Of course, they are not. They are teenagers now, or even adults, and they have new stories and new dreams. For ten years, our family has kept up with those dreams, because for two weeks we were part of their lives, and now they will always be “our kids.”

Our own kids were 6, 10, and 11 when we packed them up to fly halfway around the globe and learn how to eat, sleep, play, and (the worst, in their opinion) use the bathroom in China. Of course, that wasn’t the main thing we wanted then to learn.

We live in a suburb. In one of the richest counties in America. We don’t fit in, really, but that’s beside the point. Culturally, our kids absorb daily the idea that things are gods, you are your successes, and anything (or anyone) that isn’t convenient is disposable. That osmosis process is deadly to their ability to be the humans God intended them to be. So, we thought radically and decided a dose of another culture was in order.

We also rebelled against the typical church culture that told kids their main purpose was to be entertained and educated (in no particular order) until they grew up enough to be of use in the church. Where did that crazy idea come from? Definitely not from Jesus. Kids have gifts, too, and we wanted ours to know they didn’t have to be sidelined at any age.

I can’t begin to chronicle here all the things we experienced that woke us up and rattled our complacent thinking. I still, ten years later, don’t know all the echoes that will result.

In fact, it took a book to chronicle it, and I’m very excited it’s finally done. No, the entire book is not about us (how boring would that be?). It’s about how other families can, and should, have this kind of experience for themselves, whether in China or Chattanooga. And–insert big confetti party here–it’s now available on Amazon! In paperback at the moment, though I hope to have the ebook version available this week.

So many parents look at me when I talk about this this and say, “Wow–I could never do that!” To which I want to reply, “Why in the world not?” So, for those who find the entire concept scary and overwhelming, I wrote the book. I thought it was that important to let other parents know it’s not scary and overwhelming. OK, it is, but in a good way.

Among the things addressed: how to find the right place, pack, apply for paperwork, prepare your kids emotionally and spiritually, follow up afterward, and a whole lot of other stuff. I am very excited, and when I’m excited, well, I want to let my friends know. So, now you do. And if there is a family, church, organization, etc. you think would also be excited, can you pass on the link? Thank you–you are fabulous.

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