Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Personal Story of Adoption

Welcome today’s guest contributor, Mary, a fellow Memphian whom Christopher and I met while attending Idlewild Presbyterian Church. With her husband Stephen, she shares their experience of adopting a child from Cambodia.
{Photo above of Cambodian children helped through the Sharing Foundation, an organization that Mary and Stephen support and believe in a great deal. Click on photo to visit the website.}

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Thoughts on International Adoption from Cambodia

Adoption by itself and especially international adoption requires an initial leap of faith… our family took that leap 10 and a half years ago when we adopted our daughter from Cambodia. Traveling half a world away from our home, my husband, myself and 4 year old biological son, took that jump and humbly accepted the gift of a child from another culture, another people, another land. As our family has become one unit, we have been forever grateful to Cambodia for sharing one of her own with us and we strive to deserve that trust daily in the way we raise our daughter.

I now look at our children together and am amused that I ever was concerned that this might not work out. I am aware of and celebrate our daughter’s differences FROM me, but at the same time her exuberant smile, her zest for life, her infinite optimism, and her frequent hugs have become part OF me. The concept of family, to us, transcends blood relationships. In fact, the blood ties have completely fallen away when we focus on what we have learned. We have been blessed with a child by birth and one by adoption and we live daily the lesson that trust and love bind our family first. My husband said early on, that we are not particularly special people because we’ve adopted internationally. But instead we have been called to have a special experience. In answering that call to adopt, we have been stretched spiritually farther than we believed possible and the rewards of loving both of our children and being an international family have been a gift to each one of us.

{Photo of a school in a village close to Phnom Penh that they visited. It is a private school that is run for kids of the rural farmers. They farm cooperatively, and have access to land, seeds, tools etc and help with getting things to market as long as they agree to send their children to the school. It is run through The Sharing Foundation.}

This past Christmas, we returned, as a family, to Cambodia. We were part of a travel group of 11 families, all with children born in Cambodia, and each of us with a desire to learn more about this majestic country. When we landed in Siem Reap, our Cambodian born children were taken aside by the customs officials and their American passports were stamped with permanent and free of charge Cambodian visas, a generous gesture on their part of welcome to their native born children. They will always be welcome, they were told, to visit the land of their birth.

For our daughter, this trip was filled with excitement and not a little trepidation. Having no memory of her birth country, she was faced with the challenge of integrating her American raised current self, with her Cambodian roots. And, to be candid, there were times when the sights and sounds were overwhelming and foreign to her. But her tenacity in seeing new things triumphed and she has carried away a new found pride in the land of her birth. A visit to the orphanage where she lived, meeting the nanny who had cared for her and joyfully wrapped her in her arms at the reunion, playing games with children in the villages we visited, walking the ruins of Angkor Wat all seemed to mesh with her growing sense of herself as a Cambodian-born, American raised child.

It all seemed to culminate in her actions upon arriving home in Memphis at the conclusion of the trip. After an exhausting 36 hours of travel, we arrived home at midnight but our daughter seemed to have new energy. When we entered our home, she spied a folded up Cambodian flag that had been hanging in our living room for years, undisturbed by anyone. She shouted out, “Let’s hang this flag up right now!” And so, bleary-eyed, we watched our daughter, who so clearly had gained a tangible new pride in the land of her birth, race around the front yard waving the flag and laughing gleefully. After a few moments, she yelled, “A little help here Dad!” and her father picked her up and helped her place the flag in the flag pole on our porch. There it still proudly flies as I type this morning, waving gently in the southern spring breezes, a reminder to us all of the international bonds within our family.

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Thanks Mary for your wonderful story. We honor what you do to make a difference.

2 comments:

christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
christopher said...

mary, thanks for sharing your tale. made me tear up a time or two...

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