The People Who Didnt Give Up
by Sherrie Buscemi
Because we married
in our 30s, my husband Steve and I never thought wed have children. As our 30s drifted
away, we researched bed-and-breakfasts as a retirement option. Wed finished a business
plan for The Penwheel B&B, but at the last minute decided to visit one called Bonnies
Christian Bed & Breakfast to find out how a Christian B&B would be different than others.
Only Bonnie refused to talk with us about the business!
Instead, she told us that God wanted her to talk with us about adopting Asian children. We
laughed in her face! And then ... she showed us photos of her daughters from Korea. And then
... she showed us their old, crumbling adoption certificates and gave us the phone number of
Holt Adoption Agency. When we went back to the room, Steve wondered how many children God
would give us. I was like Sarah and laughed some more.
It turned out that Korea only wanted young parents, but Holt
told us that we would qualify to adopt from places like Russia and China. We settled on China
because only one adoptive parent would have to fly to China, and at the time I was terrified
of flying. We signed up with Abilene Christian Family Services as our international agency,
but then they quit working in Chinese adoptions. The next agency didnt work out for
other reasons. The next social worker quit. We rolled on for four years like this until we
became known in local social work circles as the people who dont give up.
Because the process was taking so long, we started praying to
be referred twins whom we gave the waiting names of Morning Star and Bright Star. Eventually,
a small Chinese agency submitted our papers to China when wait times were well over a year.
But just six months later, on Christmas Day 1998, we trudged around the snow and luminarias
in Old Town Albuquerque with our family as we celebrated the referral of our first daughter,
known as Little Lady from Gaoyou City. Then I realized ... I am going on
that plane to get my daughter!
When we met her on March 1,1999, we thanked the Lord she
wasnt twins because she was 30 Energizer Bunnies all wrapped up in one strong little
toddler! We named Morning Star after Halleys Cometbecause she was so fast in every
way. On the flight home, I mentioned that I was glad that my flying days were over for good.
Steve twinkled out these words, Oh, I think well be back many more times than we
can imagine. I rolled my eyes.
During the long wait for Haley Marie, we fell in love with a
13-year-old girl, Gloria, and since they were from the same province we tried to adopt her
when we went to pick up Haley. At the time, however, China required a year between adoptions.
Unfortunately, Chinese law says that, at age 14, orphans become ineligible for adoption.
Although she aged out legally, we adopted Gloria in spirit from afar and were given a unique
privilege to sponsor her directly when all sponsorships at the time had to go through
After we got home with Haley, the Chinese government asked us
if we wanted to use those papers to adopt a different child. Our hearts couldnt stand
more heartbreak over an older child at the time, so we said we would accept a healthy baby
and settled in to wait at least another year for daughter number two. But just six months
later, on Christmas Eve 1999, Steve, Haley, Grandma Buscemi and I landed at the Albuquerque
airport with sweet little Bright StarChristmas Holly! Her Chinese name means child
of the Good News. The doctors told us that, had she stayed at her place in China one
week longer she would likely have been dead from severely high lead levels.
We were sailing along as a little family of four when we decided
to learn more about our daughters spiritual roots through a class called Worldwide
Perspectives. Its a story for another day, but through that class about six months later
in 2001, we boarded yet another plane to China! Our family ended up on a rural mission field
where we managed a beautiful B&B called Beth Shalom; it was designed to give foreign
missionaries, especially ones who worked in orphanages, an affordable rest in the Chinese
mountains. Before we left the U.S., predictions were made that we would return with another
child. Our response: No way!
The faith-filled British owners of Beth Shalom had established
strong connections, understandings, and work with orphanages, so we asked if they would allow
us to invite Gloria to Beth Shalom for Chinese New Year in 2002. They gave permission with the
caveat, We can tell you right now that no orphanage director in all of China is going
to allow a 14-year-old orphan to travel by train for an entire day to come stay with unknown
foreigners for even a day much less a few weeks. You can ask, but dont be disappointed
when they tell you no. To everyones great surprise, the orphanage director
answered, YES! After that, Gloria Grace spent almost every summer and winter holiday living
with us in China for the next four years!
In fall 2002, the government closed the B&B and we moved to
northeastern China near Russia to work as English teachers at a medical university. A family
in America asked us to try to adopt an older child they had failed at adopting; we said we
would look into that. The whole thing was yet more heartbreak over older orphans, so we slid
back into our tough turtle-shell stance: We are NOT adopting any more children as our tears
and finances were threadbare.
But family from Santa Fe relentlessly pursued us. The mom had
promised her Chinese daughter that she would find a family for the girl who had stolen food
to keep her daughter alive at the orphanage. She sought families all over the world for this
tough little girl who told her that she would never get a mama because of her
hearing problem. In the end, the mom learned that, because Chinese rules prohibited
pre-identified adoptions, only a family living in China would be allowed to adopt this girl
under the relaxed rules for expats. When we told the mom that our search for other expats to
adopt this young lady failed, she asked us to adopt her. We were preparing to write an e-mail
to tell her that we just couldnt afford it, but opened her e-mail first. The words
tumbled off the page: I will pay for the adoption. Itemize the cost and I will send
the money when you get a referral.
A translator contacted the orphanage for us about this girl
but told us we didnt want her, there was a problem with the girl and that they thought
we would be happier with an older boy from their place. We were denied a request to visit her
ourselves but it was agreed that we could have a Chinese doctor come see her. Upon his return
he told us that she was fine, so we pressed on for her.
Gloria went with us when we adopted this trembling
nine-year-oldHarmony Joyduring the 2004 Moon Festival. After a few days, Harmony
decided she didnt want to be adopted. Gloria told her through the voice of experience
that the aunties in the orphanage could care for her basic needs, like food and shelter, but
at the end of the day they all go home to their own families and she would someday be
left alone. And, through the tears, Gloria told her that we were offering Harmony a LAST NAME,
a real family; an opportunity Gloria lost at 13. So even though she was scared, Harmony stayed.
Then more salty, silent tears dripped from Glorias face into our hearts forever as
American families with babies (and our family with Harmony) filed past her while she waited
outside the U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou for the children to be issued visas to the U.S.
She quietly said, If only I were a baby I could have a
family too. Be still, my heart!
Our family stayed in China for six months after Harmonys
adoption. After she lost her Chinese but hadnt learned much English, Harmony became
language-less. As soon as she did acquire some English, we started making a memory book with
her about her nine years in China. Thats when she shocked us by telling us the truth.
It wasnt that I didnt want to come to America. It wasnt that I
didnt want a family. I just wanted my best friend to come with me, but the aunties told
me that if I said that to anyone, bad things would happen to me. She believed it because
bad things had happened to her in the past.
We said we would try to find a family for her friend, but we ran
into dead ends because Harmony didnt know quite the right Chinese name. Eventually, a
Chinese friend sorted it all out but told us that the girl was going to turn 14 within months
even though everyone we knew said she was only 12. We agreed to sponsor her through Love
Without Boundaries until a family came forward for her. Steve was in nursing school so we were
out of the picture as a potential family. Then one day in April, just after Steve started work
as an RN, our Chinese friend wrote to say that if a family didnt start now, there would
not be enough time for this girl ever to be adopted. Harmony pleaded with us to adopt her.
Holly prayed then told us in her straightforward fashion, Done. Were getting
another sister. We didnt laugh as strongly this time.
It was the hardest of all adoption processes because the U.S.
had just signed on as a Hague Treaty country for international adoptions and no one knew
how to do it. Eventually, we had to get Senators and even presidential candidates involved
to make the adoption happen. To save precious time, in faith, Haley, Steve and I flew to
China before China had even approved the adoption! The approval came to our hotel one
hour before we met her! Harmony couldnt go because she was scheduled for surgery
during the adoption time. (Steve popped over to China to sign the papers and then immediately
flew back to take Harmony to L.A. Shriners Hospital). By then Gloria had been kicked
out of her orphanage when she turned 18 and had married a nice young man shed met on
the bus she took to school. They brought their tiny baby girl Anna Rose to be with Haley
and me during this adoption
Our new daughter got her last name just one day before she
turned 14! The Chinese offices told us that almost every Chinese adoption official had heard
of this miracle adoption from Beijing downward. We had given her the option of keeping her
Chinese name, choosing her own Chinese name or of using Melody since she was friends with
Harmony. She said she wanted to choose an H name like our other girls so we gave her a
list of names. At the last minute, I added Honour to the list, which is what
she selected. At the time, neither she nor we knew that Honour was a translation of her
name in Chinese! It was also the same as Glorias first name in Chinese! Just as
their middle names Grace will tie them together forever, His Grace stitched every piece
of our adoption tapestry.
Some of the stitches are still painful, like the girl who
cried for two solid weeks after Honour left, and eventually dropped out of school from
depression when a few months later she aged out and never got a family. Some of the
stitches amaze uslike how the boy the orphanage wanted us to adopt became part of
an American family and is now good friends with Harmony and Honour! Some of the stitches
are unfinished, like the mystery part of the tapestry: how we can best use the heart that
God has given us for older orphans.
is a longtime friend of Jenna Wiley. They were college roommates. Sherries husband,
Steve, is a nurse practitioner working in the sleep disorders program in the UNM Health
System. They will be moving to Albuquerque from Tucson this summer, as soon as daughter
Holly graduates from high school. We hope O.I. members can get to know the Buscemis well.
Excerpted from the
April 2016 edition of the Operation Identity Newsletter
© 2016 Operation Identity