Rev. Joshua Zhong, CCAI Co-founder & President
When I think about where we began and where we are today, James 1:27 comes to mind. “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and father, to help orphans…”
When I was twelve, I joined the infamous Red Guard. At the age of fourteen I was accepted into the Communist Youth League. I was a die-hard believer and supporter of Communist ideology.In 1978, when the reformist Deng Xiaoping came into power and declared the end of the decade-long human suffering brought on by Mao Zedong’s Great Cultural Revolution, China reopened its doors to the outside world. Once again, higher education institutions started to enroll students after years of closure. Fortunately, in 1980, I became one of the earliest foreign language college freshmen.
In 1982, I was selected as a tour guide to assist the city of Dalian in entertaining foreign tourists who rushed into China after years of being restricted.
One day, an older American woman approached me and flashed a 3x5 card my direction. I could recognize the Chinese writing on the card right away. It said, “Do you want to know Jesus Christ?” I surprised her with my quick response of “Yes!”
We talked quietly for about thirty minutes and I sensed an invisible power suddenly open my heart. I knew at that moment it was God. I prayed with her and accepted Jesus into my life.
Harvey and Toni Milkon who led me to the Lord
Four years later, this same wonderful woman sent me an acceptance letter from Columbia Bible College in South Carolina. She has spoken to the college about me, and they would allow me to come. But how would I ever get there? I was very nervous because I worried that the local Chinese government would put me to prison if I told them I wanted to study at a bible college.
It took me several weeks of deep prayer before I gathered enough courage to go to the Public Security Bureau to apply for a passport. After endless hours of questioning and interrogation, a passport was miraculously granted. I rushed to the U.S. Consulate immediately before anyone could change their mind. I will never forget the huge smile on the American visa official’s face when he put the big American visa stamp on my crisp new passport.
I landed in San Francisco on December 3, 1986. Later, I found out I was the first student who was allowed by the Chinese government since 1949 to come to America and study at an evangelical Christian seminary. Glory Be To God!
Six months later, my wife, Lily, left her law firm and joined me at Columbia Bible College. Though a trained professional in China, once in the United States, Lily took a job providing cleaning services to help out financially. She also attended a language institute to learn English and eventually earned her MBA.
While at seminary, we met a beautiful Christian couple who will forever be an influence in our lives, Dr. and Mrs. Layman. They had four biological children and four more adopted children, two from Africa and one with special needs. Their loving adoption story was both incomprehensible and inspirational to Lily and me.
We transferred to Denver Seminary after hearing about Dr. Ralph Covell, the Academic Dean of the Seminary and former missionary to China in the late 1940’s. Ralph became my spiritual mentor and continues in this role today. Our children call his wife, Ruth Covell, their “American Grandma!”
I graduated from Denver Seminary in 1989 and went on to pursue my doctoral degree at the University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology (IST). During the Tiananmen Massacre on June 4, 1989, I was called upon by Dr. Gordon Loux , President of International Student Inc., an evangelical Christian ministry for international students on U.S. campuses. He asked that I co-chair the Chinese Student Emergency Fund, with former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong. Six months later, the operation was successful and tens of thousands of dollars were raised to help Chinese students stranded in the U.S. as a result of the tragedy in China. The miracle that occurred was that many Chinese students and scholars accepted Jesus Christ into their lives because of this emergency fund.
Josh is being congratulated by the committee
after his official ordination in 1989
In 1989 I was ordained by the Ordination Committee of ISI and became the first mainland Chinese Christian since 1949 to be ordained in this country.
One day in April 1992, I was in the dorm room of a student, Frank Hu. I happened to pick up a copy of the Chinese newspaper, People’s Daily and noticed that the Chinese Adoption Law had just been published. I showed the newspaper to Lily and we decided to call Dr. and Mrs. Layman right away because we thought perhaps they might want to adopt another child.
“Do you want to adopt a Chinese baby girl?” we asked.
“That would be great but we don’t think the Chinese government will accept an application from a very old couple like us. But there are many loving parents out there who would be willing to bring one of the abandoned girls home.”
With that encouraging advice we started to contact some local and national adoption agencies to offer our help. Everybody loved our volunteer offer but when we found out how much each agency charged for their services, we felt ashamed and hesitant.
“Why is adopting a child so expensive?” we asked, but the answers did not seem good enough.
So after a lot of soul searching and prayers, we started to sense God’s call to take a leap of faith for the sake of the abandoned Chinese children dying in the orphanages.
On September 15, 1992, Chinese Children Adoption International (CCAI) was born in our 200-square-foot basement. By offering adoption services that were personal, professional, and affordable, CCAI became the largest China-only adoption agency in the United States by 1998.
In 2011, CCAI was ranked the #1 adoption agency in world by the Chinese central government. Today, CCAI places about two children every working day. On July 1, 2012, CCAI reaches another milestone of finding loving homes for 11,000 Chinese orphans!
God has called us to reach out to the littlest and most vulnerable ones whom He loves dearly. As God adopts all believers into His Kingdom as sons and daughters, I believe we must follow His example. Both Lily and I are committed to finding caring parents and loving homes for as many abandoned Chinese children as possible. This is our mission and our calling.