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A Beginning

March 24, 2015

The contents of Haven’s research package.

You sit down on your living room sofa and reach for the remote control.  As you scan through your program guide in search of something to watch, a movie title catches your eye.  Unfortunately, you quickly discover that it had started 15 minutes earlier.  It’s a movie that you’ve been wanting to watch for quite some time.  But, you just aren’t sure that you want to watch it – knowing that you’ve missed out on those first precious 15 minutes of the story.

Have you ever been in that situation before?  My guess is that you have.

I know I have.

Beginnings matter, don’t they?  If you miss out on the beginning of a film, it can be difficult to fully appreciate the story that is being told.


They are  important.

On the day that we were matched with our son, Haven, I found myself reading through the information in his file over and over again.  I hung onto every word as I read through the beginning of his story.

Sadly, it didn’t take me long at all to read and re-read it…because there wasn’t much there for me to read.

In less than two pages, his first two years of life in the orphanage were encapsulated. (His likes/dislikes/eating schedules/sleeping schedules/etc.)

In less than two pages, my son’s entire story was told.

Using just a few sentences, the details of his birth, relinquishment, and discovery were relayed to us.

Using just a handful of words, his beginning was told.

In his file, we learned that he was born on April 8, 2012 and he was found on the day of his birth by a man who lived in a neighboring village.  Haven had apparently been found beside a road.  Supposedly, the man picked him up, took him home, and cared for him for a month.  After one month, he took Haven to the nearest police station, reported the situation, and handed him over to the authorities.

It wasn’t a heartwarming story at all, really.  Relinquished on the day of his birth.  Placed on the ground beside a road.


I can remember telling Bryan that I had no idea how we were going to spin this story in a positive way for him someday.  But, I was determined to figure a way to do so.

My biological children have stories with beautiful beginnings.  They were surrounded by love and acceptance from the first moment that I found out that I was pregnant with each of them.  They were cherished and adored.  They received warm welcomes into this world.

And Grace – even though she didn’t necessarily have the same warm welcome that our biological children had received, she DID have a good story.  We knew from her file information that she had lived with her birth parents for the first month of her life.  And when they relinquished her, they chose to do so in the safest place possible.  On a rainy day in Wuhan City, they took her to a hospital and placed her in the hallway on the third floor.  They tucked a note into her clothing which stated her date and time of birth (an act which indicates to us that her birth was a very important moment for them).  And – last but not least – they had wrapped her up in a red bath towel.  Red.  China’s lucky color.  It was a very simple act that has had – and will continue to have – a profound impact on Gracie’s life.  That one simple act speaks volumes.

No.  Grace doesn’t have much.  We don’t know much at all about her beginning.  But, as time has gone by, I’ve grown to appreciate the beauty of what we do have more and more.  And I think we can conclude – without a doubt – that her birth parents cared about her and wished only the best for her.  She can safely conclude that her birth parents loved her.

I wanted so badly for Haven to be able to say the same thing someday.  But, I wasn’t sure if he ever would.

Fast forward to several months later.

While we were in China completing Haven’s adoption, I was handed his abandonment certificate.  As I read through it, I noticed that the name of the villager who had found and cared for Haven was listed on the certificate.  I can remember thinking at the time that it was such a cool piece of information to have.  Haven would always know the name of the man who found him, took him in, and cared for him during his first month of life before he entered into the orphanage.

It wasn’t a lot.  But, it was SOMETHING.  And I was thankful.

Fast forward to a few months ago.

I spotted a message in one of my online adoption groups that stated just how important the name of your child’s finder can be in an attempt to locate birth parents.


The message stated that sometimes the finder is actually a member of the child’s birth family….and, in those cases, it would mean that their story about the discovery of the child would have been fabricated in order to avoid any sort of punishment as they handed the child over to the authorities.  (It is my understanding that Chinese citizens can face up to five years of imprisonment for the abandonment of a child.)

The message went on to say that if your child happened to be abandoned in a small village, then your chances of locating their birth family are much better.

I didn’t know much at all about the beginning of Haven’s story.  But, I did know the name of his finder.  I knew the name of the village where he lived.  And I knew the name of the village where the finder supposedly found Haven.  I also had a birth date/finding date of April 8, 2012.

I realized in that moment that we needed to pursue a birth parent search.  Thankfully, the same member who had posted that message in the online adoption group was also able to recommend a search team to us.  It just so happened that they were planning a trip to Guizhou the following month. So, we jumped at the opportunity and hired them to perform a search for us.

Fast forward to today.

Today, I am so happy to share that Haven is now the proud owner of a beginning.

There is still much to be learned.  There are still questions to be answered.  There are still mysteries.  There are still holes.

But, we have SO much more today than we did two months ago.  So much more.

Two months ago, I was wondering how we would ever be able to explain to Haven why his birth parents might have chosen to say goodbye to him in the manner that they did.  How would we ever be able to explain why they chose to relinquish him just hours after he took his first breath…with his umbilical cord still attached.  How would we explain that, of all places, they chose to leave him on the ground beside a road?  Couldn’t they have chosen a safer place?

Today, I am no longer asking those questions. I’m not asking those questions anymore because we believe that we now have some answers.

Last week, we received our research package from the search team.  Here is what they shared with us in their report:

“We began our search by handing out some of Haven’s posters at the finding spot area, and we asked people for directions to the finder’s village.  No one knew anything about a child being found at the finding spot area listed in Haven’s paperwork.  No one had ever heard anything about an abandoned baby.

First and foremost, we wanted to locate the finder.  So, we proceeded to the area where we believed that the finder was from.  While we were there, we encountered some farmers and asked them about the finder.   They did not know who he was.  We started to walk further, and met two men who were walking with their granddaughter. We asked them about the finder.  One of them said that he knew him!  He told us that he had some issues with his leg, foot, and hands, and that he has never been married before.  They said that he lived in the neighboring village.  We thanked them and headed off toward the village. 

The road that took us there was actually a newly-built country road, but no public transportation can enter into that area. The local farmers have to take their own vehicle or share someones vehicle to get to the village entrance and then catch a shuttle bus into town. 

We noticed that it was an area that didn’t have much farmland.  The land had lots of stones on it, and it is called the stone desert.  Since it is winter, we saw many large fields of canola plants.  They were very pretty.  The farmers make canola oil from these plants.  The canola plant belongs to the same family as the cabbage and cauliflower.  

Life appears to be hard here and there is much poverty.  As a result, the younger generations leave the village for migrant work. Most of them are men.  So, we saw more women and children remaining in the village.

We parked our car outside of the local elementary school.  We were there during the Chinese New Year break, so school was not in session.  No students were there.  Just outside of the school, we spotted a few ladies who were chatting with one another.  We gave them the name of Haven’s finder and asked them where he lived.  Since not many outsiders come into their village, we kept getting asked why we were there, who we were looking for, and what our reason was for being there.  We simply told them that we were looking for our friend so that we could visit him. One of the local farmers pointed us toward the houses that were located down the hill from the elementary school.  They said that the finder and his younger brother live next to one another, and that we could find their home if we walked down the small path. So, we walked down the path by a field of canola plants.  

As we approached the cluster of houses, we met a lady who was carrying a heavy load of canola plants to feed her pigs. She told us that she would take us to the finder’s home.  We followed her.  As we walked together, she said something to us about “the mother being remarried” (we did not know if she was referring to the finder’s wife or the finder’s mother).  Another lady who joined us told us that the finder and his brother probably weren’t home.  With the Chinese New Year coming, there were many weddings and parties to celebrate people moving into new homes. She guessed that they were probably off celebrating somewhere.  But, when we approached the young man who is the finder’s neighbor, he told us that the finder WAS home, and that he was probably sleeping

So, we approached his home and knocked on the small door.  He came out.  We first noticed that he had some significant problems with his feet and possibly his legs, too.  But, he had pants on.  So, it was hard to tell.  But, he seemed to be able to walk just fine.  We introduced ourselves to him and told him why we were there.  He denied that he had ever found a child.  But, as soon as we gave him Haven’s photos and your family photo, he went silent. He would only say that he needed to call his younger brother.  We asked him for his phone number, but he refused to give it to us.  Eventually, though, we were able to convince him to give us his phone number.  

He was afraid that we were government people. We pulled out a postcard as well as a piece of paper, and we asked him to write a few words for Haven.  He said that he had never attended school.  So, we wrote down his message for him and asked him to sign it.  We noticed that he had difficulty gripping the pen due to the problem with his hand.  

He said that he hopes Haven has a good life.  He welcomed your family to come visit him, but he wouldn’t share anything else beyond that. We gave him 100 yuan on your behalf, and we gave him our phone number. We also gave him some of Haven’s paperwork, his photos, and one of his posters. We asked him to have his younger brother contact us. 

Judging from our past experiences with these kind of searches as well as the finder’s reaction to the news, we think that this finder IS a member of your son’s birth family.  Which member?  We don’t know yet.  Only time will tell.”

After they wrote that initial report, they continued to provide us with updates.

We learned that in the days following the search team’s visit, the finder called them numerous times a day to double-check and make sure that they were who they claimed to be.  He feared that they might bring him trouble.  They continued to reassure him that they did not want to bring any trouble his way, and they weren’t asking for any money.  They were simply there on our behalf in order to connect him with Haven.  They promised him that he would be receiving a package from our family to further prove that they were working on our behalf, and that they meant him no harm.

They asked us to put together a care package and mail it to them immediately.  So, that’s what we did.  We picked up some slippers, shoes, towels, hats, socks, gloves, matches, snacks, etc., and shipped them out as soon as possible.  We had our doubts that the package would actually make it there.  But, it did!

Once the package arrived in their hands, they forwarded it on to the finder.  Thankfully, the package reached his home.  As soon as he received it, he began contacting the search team again.  In the days following the arrival of our package, he called them at least five times a day…asking the same questions over and over again.

Finally, last Wednesday, we learned that he decided to open up just a little bit.  Believe it or not, he told them that HE IS HAVEN’S BIRTH FATHER.

We couldn’t believe it.

Could it be true? And if it is true, who is the birth mother?  Did they relinquish him because they weren’t married?  Did they relinquish him because they could tell he had a medical condition and needed help?  Did they relinquish him for financial reasons?

We tried to just push those questions aside and rejoice in the fact that there was a very, very good chance that Haven’s so-called “finder” could actually be his birth father.

We have no reason to believe that he isn’t the birth father.  However, we know that before we can fully rejoice, a DNA test will need to be performed.  And whether or not it is performed is up to him.  He has to give permission for the test to be administered.

So, that brings us to today.

We now wait for the search team to make their way back into Haven’s hometown this summer so that they can try to convince his finder to take a DNA test.  As of now, we still haven’t heard from them as to whether or not he has agreed to it over the phone.  They may wait awhile to even ask him about it.  I’m not exactly sure what their game plan is.  But, I do know that they don’t plan on traveling back to that region of China until this summer.  So, they have some time to convince him.

They tell me that they have to treat birth families like sponges.  They just have to keep squeezing them for information.  And, over time, it will begin to pour out of them.

I hope they’re right.

But, if they’re not…and if Haven’s finder never shares anything with us beyond the fact that he is actually Haven’s birth father, I am still incredibly grateful.

I’m so grateful that Haven now has a beginning.  And it is a beginning that I am not afraid to share with him.

He was NOT abandoned on the day of his birth.  He was not left alongside a road.  No one found him.

That information was fabricated (and understandably so) by his alleged birth father when he turned him into the authorities.

From the information we have been given by the search team, we can conclude that Haven was born on April 8, 2012.  He lived with his birth family until he was a month old.  For whatever reason, his alleged birth father was the one who ended up turning him over to the authorities.  As he did, he falsely told them that he had found Haven abandoned on the day of his birth and decided to foster him for a month before handing him over to them.

So, it appears as though some of the information in Haven’s file is inaccurate. But, I am totally fine with that.  I’m fine with that because what was shared in his file isn’t nearly as good as what we now believe to be true.

If we hadn’t moved forward with this search, we would have simply continued to believe what was written in Haven’s file.  We would have continued to accept it as the absolute truth.  Haven would have lived his life believing that he was relinquished on the day of his birth and found alongside a road.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

But, now…..NOW he is able to say that his birth family cared for him during his first month of life.  He was not bundled up on the day of his birth and left alone on the ground as a vulnerable, fragile newborn.

That is a crucial piece of information.

I can only imagine how this newfound knowledge will affect him someday.

Two months ago, Haven’s beginning was basically non-existent.

Today, a beginning to his story finally exists.

Yes, it’s a short one.  It lacks depth and detail.  But, it exists.

It exists in the hundreds of photographs that were taken during the search team’s journey into his birthplace (several of which I have posted below for you to see).  It exists in the images of the humble home where he spent his first month of life.  It exists in the beauty of those vibrant yellow fields of canola plants that encircle his home village.  It exists in the great videos that were sent to us…giving us a glimpse into the sights and sounds of Haven’s roots.  It exists in the descriptions and details that were spoken to us during each of those videos.  It exists in the beautiful song that is being sung by a Chinese children’s choir that I can hear playing in the background of one of those videos.  It exists in the two small souvenirs that were purchased and sent to us from the area where Haven was born.  It exists in the small stone that we will let Haven hold and touch someday….knowing that it came from the spot on this planet where his life began.  It exists in the special note that we now have, which was written by the man who we believe to be the one who gave Haven life.  It exists in the details that were relayed to us through the research report.

Through those things and more, it now exists.

What a difference two months can make.

What a difference.

The other day, I walked into our pantry and spotted a bottle of canola oil.  I picked it up and held it in my hands.  It’s the same bottle of canola that I have seen in my pantry for months.  It’s been in there for quite some time.  Two months ago, I would have had no reason to pick it up and hold it in my hands for a few moments.  But, that day, I did.  I did because it reminded me of my son’s roots.  It reminded me of those beautiful fields of canola plants.

Those blankets of yellow that surrounded my baby on the day of his birth.

Those blankets of yellow that now cover the ground where his ancestors once walked.

Those blankets of yellow whose brightness reminds me of the brightness that emanates from my son each and every day.

finder lives at Huang Ni Tian village (16)

The beautiful blankets of yellow that surround the village of Haven’s birth.

I looked at that bottle of canola oil and I had to smile.  That bottle was a reminder of one simple fact.

Two months ago, I saw a bottle of canola oil as just a bottle of canola oil.

Today, a bottle of canola oil transports me back to Haven’s roots.  To Haven’s beginning.  To the beginning that I once thought he would never have.

I realize that this might seem like a very trivial piece of information to grab a hold of, but when you once had nothing, you grab onto any “something” that comes your way.  You grab it and you hold onto it with everything that you have.

Someday, we will tell Haven a story.

His story.

It won’t have a beginning that overflows with details.  But, it will have a beginning.  And it is a beginning that we are no longer fearful to share with him, thanks to the information that the search team has been able to uncover for us so far.

How thankful we are.

Haven’s story is a beautiful one.  It has always been beautiful to us simply because it is his story.  But, now that we have a beginning to add to the story, it has become even more beautiful.

And, praise be to God, there is so much more to be written.


“God, you know exactly where I came from and how I was made, bit by bit.
 You know how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you have watched me grow from conception to birth.
All the stages of my life have been spread out before you.
The days of my life were written in your book before I’d even lived one day.

I thank you, God, for you are breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration.  What a creation!
You know me inside and out,
You know every bone in my body.”

(Psalm 139:15-16, 13-14)





We were told that outsiders don’t enter into this remote area of China very often. This was just one of the many stares that the search team received as they did their research.



The search began by handing out laminated posters with Haven’s photos and information on them. We had 200 of them printed. They handed them out to people who lived in the village where Haven was supposedly found.


The search team eventually came into contact with someone who knew Haven’s finder. He was able to give the team some directions and point them toward the village where he lived.


This is the place where Haven was supposedly found.


The landscape surrounding Haven’s supposed finding spot.

at Huang Ni Tian village elementary school (1)

The elementary school that is located in the finder’s village – which we believe to be the village of Haven’s birth. This is where Haven would have attended school – had he remained in his hometown.

at Huang Ni Tian village elementary school (4)

Another shot of the elementary school from Haven’s hometown.

at Huang Ni Tian village elementary school (5)

This photo gives me a healthy dose of perspective. This is one of the classrooms in which Haven would have sat…had he grown up in the village of his birth. Such a vivid reminder that even though our schools and our education system here in the U.S. are certainly flawed, we do have much to be thankful for.

finder home is in Huang Ni Tian village (6)

The view of the countryside as the search team made their way to the finder’s home.

finder home is in Huang Ni Tian village (23)

This woman was carrying a large load of canola plants to feed her pigs. The search team stopped her and asked if she could direct them to the finder’s home. She told them not only where he lived, but also his younger brother.

finder home is in Huang Ni Tian village (47)

As someone who loves color, I was so pleased to see that amid the dark, dingy, gray tones throughout the village of Haven’s birth, there were blankets of vibrant yellow for the villagers to enjoy. I am told that the area is known for its large, beautiful canola fields.

捡拾人肖大年和他的家 (4)

The village was marked by poverty. Homes were dilapidated.

finder home is in Huang Ni Tian village (45)

Beautiful canola fields.

finder home is in Huang Ni Tian village (29)

Another view of the yellow blanket surrounding Haven’s home village.

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A very bittersweet image, to say the least. This is the finder’s home.  It is where Haven spent his first month of life.

捡拾人肖大年和他的家 (11)

Just outside of the finder’s residence.

捡拾人肖大年和他的家 (6)

Some of the finder’s possessions. I have no words…



捡拾人肖大年和他的家 (18)

Here is the leader of the search team showing the finder our family photo, as well as some current photos of Haven.


Sadly, the finder was unable to read or write. So, a member of the search team helped him put his words down on paper. We received that note in our research package. What a priceless gift…


Here is the care package that we put together and sent to the finder in an attempt to soften his heart and open his mind to the possibility of sharing Haven’s story with us. It took quite awhile to get there. But, it DID arrive there in one piece! The finder called the search team at least five times a day after he received the package….wanting confirmation again and again about their true intentions. Finally, after several days of this, he opened up just a bit and told them that he IS Haven’s birth father.  It appears as though our prayers for the softening of his heart and the opening of his mind have been answered.


















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