In September 2011, Jenn Watson
left on the World Race and prayed that God would use her to do his will in the world. Jenn and her team spent their second month of the Race in China serving at an orphanage for special needs children. She met a little boy named Zi Ping, and both their lives changed forever. She shares the following story
"He was the first one that caught my eye – probably because of the way his eyes danced with joy. He was the first one to attract my attention – probably because of his charming smile. He was the first one to melt my heart – probably because of his innocence. He was the first one to hold on tightly as we danced around the room – probably because he's used to falling in love, only to have his precious little heart ripped out when the volunteers leave.
"Zi Ping is a four-year-old bundle of energy whose eyes can light up the room. His Down's Syndrome does not keep him from putting "the moves" on the ladies and charming his way into your heart. His loyalty knows no bounds. Once he has deemed you worthy of his affection he'll do all he can to make sure no one else moves in on his prize. This little orphan's heart is simply yearning for someone to love.
"Each time I played with Zi I fell more and more in love. Every little thing he did seemed to remind me of my own niece and nephew. His charm reminded me of the irresistible way that Micah smiles sideways and looks at me out of the corner of his eye as if to say, 'Yeah, I know I'm cute.' His dancing reminds me of the way Isabelle moves to the beat of Hannah Montana.
"Being reminded of how much I loved and missed Belle and Micah made me love Zi Ping even more. I couldn't help but think how much they would enjoy playing with him, how similar they were, and how well they would get along. He started to fill a place in my heart reserved only for family and it made me sad that he had none – no mommy and daddy, no one to hold him when he was sick, read him stories, or sing him to sleep at night. And I couldn't help but think how perfectly he would fit into a family like theirs.
"That's why I did it . . .
"Because of the restrictions in China, I had no contact with friends or family the entire time I was there. But as soon as I got to the airport I fired up my computer and got on Facebook. Within seconds I received a message from my sister."
(Katie) "Oooh! You're online! How are you? I miss you soooo much!"
(Me) "I miss you too! Hey, I have a favor to ask you." (I knew it was a long shot, but my sister and her husband are the best parents I've ever met so I had to ask)
(Katie) "OK, shoot"
(Me) "Will you guys please adopt the most beautiful little boy with Down's Syndrome that I've ever met in my life?"
(Katie) "OK, sure. Do you have any information for me?"
"A couple minutes later I received a message from her husband, Josh."
(Josh) "Hey stranger, how are you?"
(Me) "Good. I'm trying to convince Katie to adopt a little boy with Down's Syndrome that I worked with this month."
(Josh) "Oh good. We can talk about it at dinner tonight."
And just like that, Jenn's sister and brother-in-law decided Zi Ping would be their son.
God worked quickly because he had really been working behind the scenes for years to prepare Katie and Josh for that moment. After their two children were born, Katie was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. They decided they should not have anymore kids, even though both of them wanted a bigger family. They were open to adoption, but it never seemed like the right time.
Until Jenn contacted them, and in minutes they each separately committed to bring Zi Ping home. Katie explained on their blog how her battle with depression was part of God's perfect path leading them to Zi:
"Can a horrible, cruel, and debilitating diagnosis like depression really be considered a blessing? Absolutely, 100% yes! At the time I did not see it as a blessing, but it is really the only way we would have opened ourselves to the idea of adoption. It is the only way my sister would know we didn't want another pregnancy, but wanted another child. It is the only way she would have known to ask us about a child she had hand picked for us. And it is the only way we would look into the eyes of a little Chinese boy and see our son."
Josh and Katie began the long process of applying to adopt Zi Ping and raising the money to pay all the fees, and Jenn continued on the World Race with her squad. A few months later, Josh and Katie decided to host a fundraiser to help offset the $30,000 adoption costs. An anonymous foundation volunteered to match 100% of the donations given on April 13th. They named it Zi Day and spread the word to everyone they knew. Jenn's squad mates shared it on their blogs, and people around the world prepared to help bring Zi home.
Josh set a goal of $2,500 for the day, and they asked people to pray about helping them. But Jenn felt God telling her to pray for more. She spent the morning with her team praying for Zi Day, and decided to publicly declare she was praying for $5,000 to be raised, bringing the total after matching to $10,000 for the day.
All day Jenn's team prayed for the fundraiser while they ministered in Serbia. Back home in Philadelphia, Josh and Katie updated their blog every few hours as the gifts poured in and the total crept higher and higher. $3,000 by 9:00 am…$8,000 by lunchtime…$10,000 at 2:00 pm. By midnight, the contributions totaled $16,345 – $32,690 with the foundation's match. God not only provided more than they asked for – he paid for Zi Ping's entire adoption in one day.
After that amazing day, Josh and Katie were able to move forward with the rest of the process to bring Zi home. Jenn finished her Race, and they all anticipated the day he would join their family forever. Finally, on January 3rd, they received the news they had been waiting for: It was time to go get their son.
Today, January 16th, Josh and Katie board a plane to China to bring Zi Ping home. They're planning to update their blog with news about the process and pictures of their first moments with their boy.
Please join us in praying for the Edwards family in the next days and weeks. Pray for health, a safe trip to China, smooth processing of all the adoption paperwork, and a beautiful time meeting their son.
When Jenn Watson first left on the World Race with the September 2011
Zi Squad, she had no idea she would be bringing home a new nephew. But God had already started writing their story.
One month in China. A three minute Facebook conversation. One day to raise $30,000. God doesn't need a long time to change a life.