Angela and Andrew Holland could hardly believe it when he walked in the room.
It was the moment for which they had hoped and prayed.
A little boy, just 21/2 years old and a few feet tall, toddled into a room at the Shanghai child welfare office in China.
“It was like a dream come true,” Angela said, remembering how she watched him enter the room. “It was what we were looking for, what we were waiting for, and all eyes were on him.
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“We were anxious at the same time, too, because [we wondered], ‘Would he like us? Would he love us?’”
She didn’t have to wait long for the answer.
The boy laid eyes on Angela for the first time and headed straight to her.
She scooped him up, hugged him and told him over and over that she’s his mom.
“It was surreal,” Andrew Holland said of that first face-to-face meeting with his son after the couple worked for 11/2 years to adopt him from China. “There’s that child and you instantly love [him].”
The Hollands brought their newest son, Ethan, home from China last month to join the rest of the White Settlement family — daughter Rachel, 10, and sons Isaac, 7, and Ryan, 4.
Without a doubt, they’ve changed Ethan’s life, giving him parents, siblings, a home, and the love and stability that come with having a family.
What they didn’t realize was how much he would change their lives.
They not only have another child to love but also have a new mission in life.
“God put on my heart that this field we had stepped into personally with adoption was more than about us adopting one child,” said Andrew Holland, an associate pastor at High Ridge Church in Fort Worth. “He wanted me to spend the rest of my life advocating for orphans.”
So he’s launching Hope Fort Worth, an effort to help local churches set up programs to assist those interested in adopting children or becoming foster parents.
“The goal is to have more families waiting for children than children waiting for them,” he said. “It’s possible.”
The idea of adding to their family started in 2012, when the Hollands traveled to Ethiopia.
Andrew began considering it after a friend startled him by asking him to talk to fellow pastors about adoption. He said he knew nothing about adoption, and his friend told him he could do it because “it’s in the Bible.”
Angela seriously began thinking about adoption when she visited an orphanage there and a boy grabbed her hand and asked, “Will you be my mama?”
“That made a huge impression on me,” she said.
Not long after the Hollands returned home, they found themselves in the hospital with their young son, Ryan.
After a number of tests, they learned he has type I diabetes.
“It was a rough day,” Andrew Holland said. “We had found out our 2-year-old had type I diabetes and that this would be a lifelong struggle.
“Angela turned to me and said, ‘I still feel we need to adopt — and [now] a child with special needs,’” he said with a grin. “I was like, ‘That’s great. But let’s deal with this crisis right now.’”
A year later, when life was a little stabler for the family and everyone was more accustomed to Ryan’s diabetes, the family celebrated Orphan Weekend at High Ridge Church.
A visiting pastor from Florida spoke about how he and his wife had three biological children and had adopted two boys from Africa.
Maybe it was a sign.
The Hollands knew it was time to move forward with their plans.
They wanted to adopt internationally and felt drawn to China, which has a large number of orphans, partly because of its “one-child policy” for most urban families.
“China has been the No. 1 choice for Americans,” said Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council for Adoption. “It is the most consistent, stable program if you qualify. It’s still a very viable program.”
Adoptions from China generally take one of two routes, he said.
Adopting a healthy child could take five to seven years. Adopting a child with special needs — which could mean anything from a cleft lip to missing limbs — could take around 11/2 years, Johnson said.
The Hollands, committed to adopting a special-needs child, started the paperwork with the Gladney Center for Adoption in January 2014.
By September, they had been approved.
They had hoped to adopt a girl with special needs, but there were no girls up to age 4 who would have been a good fit for their family. By November, adoption officials asked whether they would consider switching to a boy.
They said yes and received an email.
In that note was information about Yang Li Jun, a 2-year-old boy living at the Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute.
“We opened the email and we were done,” Andrew Holland said. “When we saw his face, I turned to Angela and said, ‘That’s our son.’”
They learned he had likely been born premature, with a hole in his heart that apparently healed. His main special need was a hemangioma, essentially a dime-size birthmark, on his left palm.
In April, they sent pictures of their family to China for their newest son to see. They waited for approval to head there, pick him up and bring him home.
During the months of waiting, they raised money for the adoption and the upcoming trip, seeking grants and receiving donations from friends and strangers alike. They estimate that the entire process, including the trip to bring him home, cost $40,000 to $45,000.
By June, they were on their way to China.
And June 15 will forever be celebrated in their home as “gotcha day,” when they finally met Yang Li Jun — now Ethan Geoffrey Holland — and legally made him part of their family.
Rachel, the eldest child, was with her parents in China and said she will never forget the moment she first saw her new brother.
“It was pretty magical,” she said. “I thought Dad was going to cry, but he didn’t want to freak [Ethan] out.”
The family stayed in China for about two weeks while medical tests were run and paperwork, including a visa for Ethan, was processed.
They arrived home in late June and finally had their whole family under one roof.
There are a few new phrases around the Holland home these days.
Wo ai ni — “I love you” — is at the top of the list.
So is búyào, which basically means “I don’t want.”
But as Ethan adjusts to living with a family, and in a house rather than an orphanage, things are beginning to change.
In the first few days, he constantly carried around crackers or wanted to keep food near him but has since learned that food will always be available. He still doesn’t want anyone to take food off his plate, though.
He seems a little confused about what meat is, making his parents think he might not have had it before. But he does like chicken nuggets.
While he was terrified by the sight of a bath — likely because people in the orphanage indicated that the children were wiped clean with cloths but not placed in tubs of water — he now enjoys that tradition, along with the many toys in the tub.
He likes to be where he can see both his parents, but if one leaves, his new sister and brothers can usually distract him so he doesn’t get upset.
And when he goes to sleep — he is only recently beginning to sleep through the night — he yells “I love you” to his parents and the whole family.
“Adoption is truly about creating a new and strong forever family,” said Gongzhan Wu, vice president for Asia programs at the Gladney Center. “We are thankful to the Holland family for their generosity in offering both home and love to a child who was in need, and waiting.”
Spreading the message
As Ethan thrives with his new family, Andrew Holland’s mission to help other orphans find forever homes is underway.
In recent months, he has traveled with The Keep, another effort that supports adoptions, and has spoken about his own threefold goal: encouraging churches to preach what the Bible says about helping orphans; assisting families that want to be foster parents or to adopt; and helping churches begin their own orphan-care ministries.
In Fort Worth, he said, a number of Christians are engaged in adoptions and foster care.
“But the missing component is individual churches making an impact, supporting people to do that,” Andrew Holland said.
He said he wants Hope Fort Worth to change that by encouraging churches not only to urge members to adopt but also to help show them the way.
“It’s about mobilizing churches,” he said. “Tarrant County is the beginning for us.”
The Hollands hope that many others can experience the love and fulfillment that they have found by adopting a child.
“We are definitely busier, but we laugh more, we love more, we get more and we get to serve more,” Angela Holland said.
“It’s not about getting a child,” Andrew Holland said. “It’s about giving a family.”
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610
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Source: State Department