Heart to Heart
By Rev. Joshua Zhong, CCAI Co-founder & President
& their twins
On September 15, 1992, we decided to open an adoption agency. I joked with my wife, Lily, that we needed to be prepared to take ten or twenty children into our own home in case some of the adoptions didn’t work out. Thank God that has never happened!
However, Lily and I, as well as our twins, Art and Amy, always wanted to expand our family through China adoption.
We would talk about it for over ten years; but every time we would fall short of making an affirmative decision. There were two reasons. First, our daughter, Amy, wanted a young baby. Lily and I wanted a two or three year old toddler (so we wouldn’t have to deal with poopy diapers – just kidding!). Secondly, the increasing workload and responsibilities at CCAI left us with little extra energy to focus on something we knew would need 100% of our attention. Time went by.
One day in April 2004, I learned that the information for thirty children with special needs had just arrived in our Waiting Child Department. Like everyone else in the office, I was very excited and went to the conference room, where the children’s information was being reviewed. Immediately, I noticed a little girl’s picture on top of the pile.
“She is so beautiful!” I burst out.
"Don't you think she would fit into your family beautifully?" asked one of our staff.
“She asked me the same question. So what do you think?” Lily asked. I responded with a tentative, “Why not?” Then Lily and I left the conference room and went back to our own offices, like nothing had happened. By the end of the day, a file was placed on Lily’s desk. It included the beautiful little girl’s information and photos.
Anna's Match Photo
The following day our whole family flew to Nashville for a scheduled adoption conference.
As soon as we checked in at our hotel, I got a call from Dr. Max Mitchell, a pediatric cardiologist at Denver Children’s Hospital and the Chairperson on CCAI’s Charity Fund Committee. “I heard that you are considering adopting a nine year-old girl with congenital heart disease,” he said. I listened quietly, not sure what to say. “I have reviewed her basic medical information sent to me by your staff,” Max continued. “She seems fine. I will be happy to help her when she is here.”
I was not able to go to sleep that night. The little girl’s face was stuck in my mind. I closed my eyes and prayed… When I opened my eyes, tears were pouring out uncontrollably.
God had spoken to me: “She is yours to love. Take her.”
The next morning, I gathered my family. Holding the girl’s photo, I asked, “What would you think if we brought this nine-year-old girl into our home?”
“Nine?!!!” Art and Amy looked at each other with eyes wide open, then looked at her picture. “I guess,” they said simultaneously. (This is teenager-speak for “yes.”)
I turned to Lily. Before I opened my mouth, she said, “Why not?! I was just waiting on all of you.”
Four days later, we returned to our office, made an official adoption announcement to our staff, and turned in our Application for Adoption. Yes, even the co-founders had to fill out an application.
Just like every adoptive family, we had to go through the long and frustrating process of dossier compilation, being fingerprinted, completing a home study, and parenting training, etc… The process gave us a new perspective and appreciation for the challenges our adoptive families have to endure to fulfill their dream for a child.
This was what we knew about her: She was born July 21, 1995, with congenital heart disease called Tetralogy of Fallot. She was found abandoned at Beijing Aviation Hospital when she was four months old. Then, she was delivered to the Beijing Orphanage and was named Hua Gao Jie. Hua means China. (All the children registered at Beijing Orphanage in 1995 were surnamed Hua.) Gao is the name of the police station that received the report of her abandonment. Jie is her first name, given by the orphanage, which means pure. After about one year at the orphanage, she was placed in a foster home in the countryside, three hours’ drive from the city. The foster family was also caring for three blind and special needs children when Gao Jie arrived. She stayed with her foster parents for almost six years, and she “often got sick.” In August 2001, she finally received the much needed heart surgery by a group of volunteer South Korean doctors. To better provide for her post-surgery needs and to enable her to go to school, the orphanage took her back from her foster home soon after her surgery. In 2002 the orphanage decided to send her file to the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA), hoping to find an international adoptive family for her. Unfortunately, due to her age and heart condition, no agency was able to find a family for her until her file arrived at CCAI.
Through it all, there was no doubt that God was preparing her for our family and us for her.
Josh, Lily & entire family
We went to China and hugged Gao Jie for the first time on October 25, 2004, our forever family day. She came to us with a big smile. Her new name is Anna Jie Zhong.
Not every moment of our adoption journey has been easy, and we have come to deeply appreciate the challenges our families adopting older children face. Still, we would not change one thing about our Anna.
We want to thank our staff who supported us during this very emotional process. We thank all the families who have been praying for us. We thank Anna’s birth mom, her foster parents, her orphanage caretakers, and doctors. Above all, we thank God for His wonderful gift of life and love.
We are truly blessed,
Josh and Lily
Anna got married in September, 2021