The Least We Can Do
When Koni and Ken Maat decide to adopt a 3-year-old girl from China with significant medical needs, they are moved by the generosity of others who help them bring her home.
Everything in life was great! Our four biological children were all healthy, successful adults and the youngest was halfway through college. We could go where we wanted, when we wanted, without a thought to childcare or bedtimes. And I was finally able to have a dedicated guest room that I had always wanted in our modest home.
I was excited as I planned, painted and decorated the guest room, imagining the family and out-of-town friends who would stay there. When it was completed, I would periodically open the door and look in. It was the one room in the house that was always perfect and glancing in gave me a sense of peace. The satisfaction was short-lived. It seemed so pointless to have this empty room when there were children without a home. I began to research foster care, domestic adoption and international adoption. I would read waiting children’s bios knowing I could help them. I began frequently mentioning my desire and my findings to my husband, Ken, but was met with silence. On the occasion he did respond, he made it clear that he thought I was crazy for wanting to mess up our clearly perfect lifestyle.
We have a friend from Ken’s college days who has worked closely with orphanages in China for 20 years. He had been trying to get Ken to come to China on a mission trip for years. In 2013 Ken finally agreed to bring a team from our church to China. As he left for the airport, I half-jokingly said to him, “Look for a child to fall in love with.” His response was just a laugh and an eye roll.
Ken has been on a lot of mission trips over the years and the trip to China was not typical for him. He likes to do physically challenging things, and rocking babies and feeding and playing with children did not qualify. However, by the time he came home, his heart had changed. Not only did he see spending time with children at an orphanage as a true outreach, he was touched by what he saw. He saw real children with real needs and he knew we could help at least one of them.
After he shared this with me, we began the adoption process immediately. We were matched with a 3 ½-year-old girl. Chinese doctors had given her a life expectancy of 15-20 years because of a kidney/bladder issue. We had a lot working against us. We only had six months to take our classes, complete our homestudy and get the pile of necessary paperwork logged into China before my husband’s 50th birthday. Happily, with diligence on all fronts and the grace of God, we made that deadline with two weeks to spare.
Along the way, funds were needed and we were more than willing to completely deplete our savings, which we did. We were also willing to go into debt to bring our daughter home, though it would not have been an ideal start given her significant medical need. As our story became known, so many wonderful people came forward and gave towards our adoption. One man who gave generously told us, “I figure that if you can give your lives to raise this child, the least I can do is give my money.” The Special Needs Adoption Fund at Holt International was also a blessing that kept us from having to go into debt for our adoption.
We brought home Chen Jing — we call her “Jing” — almost exactly one year from the time we started the adoption process. I know without a doubt that Holt International, their attentive, persistent staff and their presence in China were the reason it moved so smoothly and quickly. They also helped us gain access to an ultrasound from Jing’s file in China, which enabled us to consult with a local specialist before she came home — preparing us to quickly correct her medical issues.
The specialist we consulted with at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans diagnosed Jing with a duplicated right kidney and an infection so uncontrolled that no antibiotic would remedy it. Jing had a five-hour surgery to correct this abnormality and, after three years and numerous checkups, she is thriving. She is very smart and excels at school. She loves to sing and takes piano lessons and gymnastics. In all regards, she is a normal, healthy child. But she was so close to being shut away, untreated and left to die of something so easily treatable. All she needed was someone who cared enough to do so.
When I see how bright and full of life Jing is and I recall the faces of the other children pictured with her at the orphanage, I wonder how many of them are just like Jing. How many of these precious children simply need someone who cares enough to bring them home and love them? Someone who has the resources to give them the needed surgery or medical care that is so easily attainable in the U.S.? Someone who can give them a promising future just like Jing’s?
Oftentimes, the label “special needs” means a child needs medical attention that they can’t or won’t receive growing up in an orphanage overseas. It does not always mean an overwhelming, life-consuming issue. I have embraced the sentiment of our generous friend – if there are loving people willing to give their lives raising children with “special needs”, the least we can do is give our money.
Koni Maat | Louisiana
Help a child with special needs come home to a loving family! Give to the Special Needs Adoption Fund.