Journey to Shepherd's Field (part one)

 August 14, 2011

I’ve had quite a few inquiries about how I was able to move The Butterfly to Shepherd’s Field.

The short answer is GOD.

Here is the long answer.

Now before I delve into the how, let me first address the why.

As you know The Butterfly has cerebral palsy. Her CP affects her right side which is generally weaker than the left. She walks with a limp or drag of her right foot and her right hand is slightly contracted. But honestly THAT wasn’t what drove us to intervene. Unfortunately The Butterfly’s CP also seems to effect her speech. This is not a surprise as the injury to her brain is near the speech center but I say "seems to effect speech" because there are also the “normal” effects of institutional care on speech to consider. Based on her medical reports however we had no idea which was causing the greater deficit in speech and THAT had us worried.

Early on we contacted The Butterfly’s orphanage (via our agency) to learn what, if any treatments The Butterfly was receiving. We were discouraged (although not terribly surprised) to find out she was getting no therapy at all. (Well they did say “we encourage her to play outside” and that’s certainly good but it is hardly a substation for the OT, PT, ST she needs.)

Since The Butterfly turned 3 in May the window for language acquisition was closing fast. Our concern about her lack of speech combined with having no meaningful intervention and the realization that it would still be many months before we could get her home and into therapy is what drove us to intervene.

Of course at that point I had never heard of Shepherd's Field and I had no earthly idea how we could do anything from halfway around the world to help our daughter. Minor details. (Thankfully I am the sort of person generally not burdened by realistic, practical or in this case reasonable thought.)

So how did I find Shepherd’s Field?

Most of you know I visited SF as part of a Visiting Orphan’s trip to China in June. What you may not know is I had absolutely no connect to anyone on that trip and had absolutely no plans to go on a mission trip to China!

On March 3rd I got an email from the VO Team leader named Shannon. She wrote “ Hi Lori, I found your blog through a friend who just returned from Kaz last year with her daughter.” In that email she related her own adoption story and commented on my posts about my then Reluctant Husband and at the end of her post she mentioned she was leading a trip to China in June and she invited me to join her.

Five days later I said yes. I already had a mission trip planned to Kazakhstan and I was traveling to India in May and I had Kazapalooza the weekend Shannon’s group was leaving. it was crazy and ill timed and I should have said no. A normal person would have. And yet I felt driven to go back to China... with this woman whom I had just met... online.

There was no rationale way to explain it but I was going.

(Now for those of you paying close attention you know that at this point we had not learned of the beautiful little girl in Guangdong who would become our daughter. We locked The Butterfly's file on May 4th, two months after I signed up to go on the VO mission trip.)

Originally SF was not on our itinerary but Shannon has a tenacious heart for orphans and Jesus and when the chance to visit an American run Christian orphanage came around she jumped at the chance (and we all gladly gave up a tourist day to go with her).

SF was the last orphanage we visited: practically an unscheduled and certainly a last minute addition to our plans. We spent the least amount of time here but as it turned out (for me) it was the most significant part of the entire journey.

Shepherd’s Field is an oasis in orphan care. After nearly two weeks of visiting special needs children in government run facilities (not to mention my 6 weeks in an orphanage in Kazakhstan) the contrast with SF was practically disorienting. Was this really an orphanage? It looked more like a private boarding school.

Over the course of my half day visit I learned that SF was an orphanage unlike anything we had seen in China. They were structured in small groups living in individual homes with one caregiver for every two children. There was a clinic with on site western trained physicians. There was a school, filled with books and computers and bulletin board’s displaying the words “Jesus Loves all the little children”.  Children received OT and PT and speech therapy. And most remarkable of all (and in sharp contrast to the children in the SWI in Chenzhou) the babies were babbling and kids were talking!

Through God, the tenacity of the people who envisioned it and the dedication of the people who tirelessly worked there, Shepherd's Field had managed to de-institutionalize orphan care and create a place that 75 children could call home.

Before we left I knew that for as long as she had to wait for her us,  I wanted SF to be The Butterfly’s home too.

Now (finally)  as to the “how”. It was really pretty simple. 

I asked.

Two days after I left SF, while still in Beijing, I mailed a package for The Butterfly to Ann at Red Thread along with a letter to her director asking for permission to either arrange for a private therapist to treat The Butterfly in Guangdong or to have her moved to Shepherd’s Field.

As you can imagine this was a delicate letter to write (on top of that it had to be translated into another language). I was VERY careful not to insult him and I made a particular point to show appreciation for the loving care he had thus far provided. (I wasn’t being insincere but his turned out to be even more true than I knew.) I sent the package to Anne and 3 hours later I got on a plane and left China.

(Now I should point out that when I sent the letter I had not asked anyone at Shepherd’s Field if they would take The Butterfly. I just prayed and held on to hope. What else did I have?)

By the time my plane landed in the US I had a response from Ann.

“The orphanage said that they can not find right professional  therapists  from local place, they would love to help an xin but don`t know how !”
The orphanage would agree to let An Xin live in Shepherds Field, but they don`t know how to deal this part, as they never let their child live in any kind of foster agencies ever before ...
On this part,maybe you can ask Shepherds Field to contact An Xi`s orphanage and let them know how kids can live in their foster agency...

Have a wonderful day,love,Ann”

I was shocked. Sure it was the approval I hoped for but I really didn’t imagine I would get it. At this point I realized that I had better ask SF if they could and would take The Butterfly. More of those pesky details right?

(Oh my gosh I can’t believe this is so long (sorry). Come back tomorrow (if you have the strength) for part two of this (apparently epic) story.

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