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By Kris Kauffman, as told to Andrea Johnson

”Oh no, Lord, you are not calling us to adopt are you?!” This couldn’t be the Holy Spirit talking to me, could it?

That was my first reaction in the fall of 2014 when I felt the Lord asking us to adopt another child. I loved my four children, but four kids is a nice, balanced number. Two girls and two boys made it even sweeter. My husband, Lee, and I never talked about more than four children. Five children crossed the line into a large family.

I had received an email from the adoption agency we had used to adopt Kate, our daughter from China. I always enjoyed these emails, seeing the updates on events and children joining their forever families, and I would then just delete them. But for some reason this email kept popping up in my head. I kept my thoughts to myself for a day or two, thinking I was making too much of it. Lee and I were not getting any younger. I already felt old when I attended elementary events with Kate.

That weekend Lee and I were on a cycle riding trip for couples. As we had some time alone on our bike, I wondered if I should say anything to him. I felt more comfortable asking him while we were on the cycle and he couldn’t look me in the eyes and say, “Wow, you are crazy!”

I wasn’t even sure how I wanted him to answer, but I finally got up the courage and said, “Lee, you are going to think I’m nuts, but I think God might be calling us to adopt again.”

I broke into tears with Lee’s response. He said, “I’ve been feeling the call again too.”

Soon we were immersed in the process. We wanted to get a child from China so Kate could have a family member who looked like her. Finally in June of 2015 we received a file for a five-year-old girl. I fell in love with her instantly! She had an infectious smile. In fact, when I asked Kelly from Sparrow Fund, a ministry that supports adoptive families and orphanage workers, why there were so many pictures and videos of this little girl, she said, “It’s just the smile.”

Poring through her file, we learned that Kylie had had surgery to correct a cleft palate. She had also undergone open heart surgery and her right side was weak. With medical care in the States would she regain movement in her right leg and arm? How would her classmates treat her when they could see she was different?

Leaving the government building in China with our new little girl: (left to right) Kris, Kylie, Lee, Kate, and Grandma Katie.

Leaving the government building in China with our new little girl: (left to right) Kris, Kylie, Lee, Kate, and Grandma Katie.

Despite our many questions God revealed to Lee and me in many ways that Kylie was to be our little girl. We knew one hundred percent that she was a Kauffman.

Grandma Katie and Kylie on her seventh birthday

Grandma Katie and Kylie on her seventh birthday

With the blessing of our other children, on October 8, 2015, Lee, Kate, Grandma Katie (Mom Kauffman), and I left for China. On October 11, we met our little girl for the first time – and our lives were turned upside down. Even though she had just turned six, Kylie scribbled on walls, scratched, pulled our glasses off. And her attention span … well, she had none. We realized there was a good chance our fifth child might not ever be able to move out of the house. We knew that God had called us to this, but that did not make the reality easier.

Thankfully Grandma Katie had traveled with us. She was just what we needed. In her kind, stable, quiet way she just kept encouraging and helping us. I don’t know how we would have done it without her.

We returned home with our little, smiling tornado and her behavior drastically improved. However, a week later when we took her to our cardiologist here in Lancaster another bomb dropped. Although we had been told Kylie’s heart surgery had corrected her heart “defect,” we learned that she was in need of major heart surgery and that she was a heterotaxy baby. (Heterotaxy syndrome is a rare genetic birth defect in which the heart and other organs are missing or arranged abnormally.) Our cardiologist directed us to Dr. del Nido at Boston Children’s Hospital, a specialist in cardiac surgery well known for his double ventricle repair. He is one of only a few surgeons in the world who could perform the surgery she needed.

Lee, Kate, and Kris bonding with their newest family member.

Lee, Kate, and Kris bonding with their newest family member.

In the next year and a half our Kylie, whom we had completely fallen in love with, went through two major heart surgeries. Then in the spring of 2017 she went into heart failure and ended up back in Boston Children’s Hospital. Thankfully the cardiac catheterization doctor did an amazing job repairing a very large leak in her heart. Cumulatively we have spent over two months in hospitals and attended more doctor appointments and therapy sessions than I can count. We learned her learning disabilities and the weakness in her right side are due to a stroke she had in China during her first surgery. Through all her hardships, she continues to smile and melt our hearts.

When we first brought Kylie home, she could communicate to us her basic needs like being hungry or needing the bathroom, but she could not communicate deeper things like why she might be sad. We would soon discover we were not the only ones who loved Kylie. There was a special little boy in her life whom she missed deeply.

The Kauffman family having fun in Florida wearing their t-shirts from a Sparrow Fund fundraiser: (left to right) Lee, Cody, Shira, Kris, Kate, Mitch, and Kylie.

The Kauffman family having fun in Florida wearing their t-shirts from a Sparrow Fund fundraiser: (left to right) Lee, Cody, Shira, Kris, Kate, Mitch, and Kylie.

“Siblings” Reunited

While in China, Kylie had lived with a foster family inside the orphanage that included a “mom,” “dad,” and another orphan named Wesley. After we adopted Kylie, Wesley was adopted by the Sparks family, who have two biological children and three adoptive children. Cindy Sparks, Wesley’s forever mom, found out about our family through a link on Facebook. She recognized Kylie from the pictures she had of Wesley with their foster family in the orphanage and connected with us. She shares his story.

Kylie and Wesley were inseparable.

Kylie and Wesley were inseparable.

At only five months of age a scared little boy close to death was found abandoned on the corner of two main roads in Baoji and brought to an orphanage. When Wesley was one year old, he was placed in a foster family within the orphanage in hopes they could help nurture him to healing. From then until he was five years old, this little guy thought his life was normal, that he had what everyone else had. This “mama” and “baba,” siblings, orphanage walls, and other orphans were the only idea of family he had.

Wesley’s foster parents were painfully aware that they were not his forever family and could not provide and care for him for life. When I met his foster mother the tears fell. She struggled to let go and I struggled with watching it all. I have such an honor in my heart for what his foster parents gave him. Little Wesley was unsure of what was happening to him, yet he trusted blindly the words of his foster family: “You are five years old now, and old enough to go to America.”

As soon as we met Wesley all parental instincts kicked in, and we knew what we had to do: fight for him, love him when it felt as if his life was being ripped apart, and allow the heart-wrenching cries to shake his little body and break our hearts. When grief overtook him, we held him. If only we could tell him his pain was all part of a journey that would lead to peace and security – a different, permanent kind.

A framed photo of Wesley and Kylie (front, right) with their foster family in the orphanage.

A framed photo of Wesley and Kylie (front, right) with their foster family in the orphanage.

About a month after being home Wesley was still sad, so we asked a translator to come and help us communicate with him. When we showed him a photo of him with his foster family [from the orphanage], he began trying to tell us about the little girl [Kylie] in the photo. (Kylie and Wesley were together in many of the photos we had from the orphanage.) He had so much he had not been able to tell us about missing his foster family and about Kylie leaving to be with her forever family first and not knowing where she was. He actually thought she was in a different country.

We showed him pictures of Kylie with her new family and pointed to a map. When he realized she was in the same country and only one state over [from us], he asked right away to see her. I remember him smiling, as if a piece of his heart had healed. She is the only physical link of his past.

Wesley was ecstatic when, in August of 2016, Kylie’s family made the ten-hour trip from Pennsylvania all the way here to Ohio to spend a long weekend so the two foster siblings could reunite. I’ll never forget it. What a treasure for him to have been given a friend, someone who understands what it’s like to make such a beautifully hard transition.

Wesley and Kylie enjoy a quiet moment by a lake.

Wesley and Kylie enjoy a quiet moment by a lake.

Sweet little Kylie is amazing, with a smile that lights up the room. She and Wesley were inseparable – laughing, playing, swimming, and eating together. It was fun to see that they share so many of the same silly and ornery personality traits. Kylie’s whole family was easy to love!

I never realized the healing that would flow into Wesley’s heart knowing his foster sister was also with her forever family. We feel that Wesley witnessing Kylie with her family – safe, secure, and loved – was part of God’s perfect design. Wesley struggles with insecurities from roots of rejection stretching back to his being abandoned. Seeing Kylie having that beautiful connection tells his heart he isn’t alone.

The Sparks family: (left to right) Hudson, Jenna, John, Cindy, and Ryan. In front: Elyanna and Wesley

The Sparks family: (left to right) Hudson, Jenna, John, Cindy, and Ryan.
In front: Elyanna and Wesley

I am confident the Kauffmans will be our lifelong friends. When Kylie had her heart surgery, Wesley prayed every night for her recovery. Her name is still the first name he shares when I ask for prayer requests during family Bible time. Words seem to fall flat when I try to express how much it has meant to have God bring the two back together again.

It brings tears to my eyes remembering how Wesley automatically helped Kylie everywhere they went that weekend we spent with the Sparks. The two instantly reconnected. It was obvious he had looked out for her in the orphanage. They were just precious to watch and Kylie now talks about him often. The Sparks are a beautiful, God-fearing family.

This was not the journey we would have picked, but it is the one God put us in. Obedience to Him does not mean life will always be easy, but there is beauty.

Mom Kauffman and I often talk about how we know God has a BIG plan for this little girl. There is a reason He brought her from across the other side of the world to get her the surgery – and the family – she needed.

To learn more about the Sparks family and their adoption journey, go to https://redthreadoflove.wordpress.com/

About the Author

Kris-Kauffman-web Kris Kauffman and her husband, Lee, live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She has worn many hats throughout her career, from dental assistant,  to bed and breakfast host, to office manager. Currently Kris is a stay-at-home mom, whom God decided to “stretch and bless with five children!”

About The Author

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Since 1920, Message of the Open Bible has been a medium to celebrate all the wonderful things God is doing through His people in Open Bible Churches – from personal testimonies, to news-related stories, to inspirational articles by quality authors.