Tuesday, August 9, 2011

TESTIMONY: Matt Peterson In China Says--"Leave Your Cape At Home"

It's not often that I get testimonies from overseas.  Well, uh...actually...this is the first one.

The Petersons are planted in China.  Welcome to their wonderful story of how they've taken in a beautiful girl who was hard to place.

With God, there is ALWAYS a place!

In 2008 my wife Heather, my two daughters Sydney and Aubrey, and I all moved to China.  Our goals were to study Chinese and to love anyone who came into our lives.  What an awesome journey!  After living in China for nearly two years, we went back to the States to spend the summer with family and because my wife was expecting our third child.  We returned to China after my wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Caleb.  Once here, we wanted to continue with what we set out to do—to learn the language and continue to love and serve those around us.  We had no idea that our lives were going to take a drastic turn in a new, unforeseen direction.

Some friends of ours sent out a mass text saying that there was a little Chinese orphan girl who needed help.   Nearly two and a half years ago, she was found abandoned at a train station here in China.  Appearing two years old, her skin was dry and cracked. 

A Chinese family actually took her in and began to love her as their daughter.  Last year when China was conducting its census, this family learned they had to register the little girl.  Part of the registration process is a health check-up, during which time it was discovered that the orphan was HIV positive.  Although the family had been raising her for the past year and a half, they decided not to continue raising her. 

Like many places around the world, people who are HIV positive face many stigmas and this situation was no different.  The family tried to leave her with an orphanage and were turned away because of her being HIV positive.  In the end they took her to a hospital and left her, where she was placed in isolation, simply because she had the virus.  For the second time in this little girl’s life, she was abandoned by those who were meant to care for her, to love her, and to provide her with a secure home.

That’s when our friends’ text caught our attention.  They asked if anyone would be willing to foster her or help cover the expenses of caring for her.  I remember that it was literally less than a minute after receiving that text that my wife called our friend to get more details about this little girl’s situation.  By the end of that night, my wife and I knew that we were going to take her into our home.  That decision put us on a course that would rock us to our core. 

At first we didn’t know if we would only provide foster care for her until her forever family came forward, or if we would try to adopt her.  (My wife and I are both under the minimum age needed to adopt from China and because of that, we weren’t sure if we would be able to adopt her.)

Three days later, I (Matt) was on my way to the hospital to meet this little girl.  I can’t, even now, really put into words what that experience was like, but I can say that it was overwhelming, exciting, and nerve-racking all at the same time.  She didn’t speak a word of English, but luckily my wife and I can speak some Chinese.  It’s very possible that we were the first non-Chinese people she had ever seen, but she handled moving in with us like a champ.  It took a lot of adjustment for Heather and I, because, well, Lily is Chinese, and the Chinese culture is very different from ours.  For example, when Lily first came to us she preferred to drink hot water, eat dumplings and wear many, many layers of clothes.

This was one of Lily’s first days with us. It didn’t take her long to dive
into our girl’s dress-up clothes and put on everything she could get
her hands on. To this day dress-up remains one of her favorite activities.

One of the things I’ve learned through this process is that we don’t need to have a cape and superpowers to foster or adopt a little child.  In fact, the only thing we need is to be available.  I read this quote recently that puts it really well—“Availability is rarer than ability.”

The reality is that lacking ability in these kinds of situations can even be more helpful, because it forces us to go to God to find new strength and to grow in new ways. 

I will always remember the second night Lily was with us.  We had just laid all our kids down for bed and both my wife and I collapsed on the couch feeling completely exhausted in every measurable way.  That’s when we had a very honest talk with our Father about our deep need for Him, and you know what, He has helped us in ways that I would have never seen or needed if I were insulated in comfort. 

It must be made abundantly clear that my wife and I are just normal people.  The only thing that sets us apart is that we said “yes” when it would have been much easier to say “no.”  The reality is that you and your family are some of the best gifts you could ever give away.  This entire experience has probably been equally beneficial for our three birth kids.  They love having another sister and have made the transition for Lily even easier.  Remember life isn’t about what you store up but what you give away.  But we’re getting away from our story, so let me catch you up on our family since Lily joined us.

This photo was taken during a family photo shoot we had a couple months back. 
When Lily got in front of the camera all by herself, she put her hands
out and twirled, which made for some really precious pictures.

As I write this, it’s been exactly seven months since Lily joined our family and started HIV medication that boosts her immune system.  It’s been incredible to see that over such a short period of time her immune system has become nearly normal.  Outside of her health getting better, she’s also settled in amazingly with her sisters and brother.  All the girls love playing with dolls, dressing-up, and dancing, and we love every minute of it.  Also in these short seven months we’ve  seen Lily go from knowing zero English to now being able to communicate completely (including whining and arguing) in English.  It’s unreal how fast these little kids pick up new languages.  (It’s also cute, because sometimes our oldest daughter will talk with Lily in Chinese and Lily will respond in English).  My wife and I want to adopt our little Lily flower and are trusting in God to help us.  It might take a couple years because of our age, but she’s more than worth the wait.

I’m surrounded in a sea of pink and purple, but in that sea
are my three little princesses who I love and adore.

Another thing I would like to share is that doing the right thing isn’t easy.  It will cost you something.  Even people who were close to us didn’t agree with our decision.  They were afraid of Lily being HIV positive and the threat of spreading the virus to us or our children.  Part of this journey has been learning that HIV doesn’t spread as easily as our fears tell us. Are you willing to sacrifice comfort, security, and ease to help someone else?

As I write this I would imagine that there are a multitude of orphans who are going to bed and they’re praying.  They’re praying that a family would want them, that they would have parents who would love them and accept them no matter what.  Maybe the answer to their prayers is me.  Maybe it’s you.  But are we willing to be the Father’s answer to those prayers?

Thanks for reading all of this.  If you want to read more about our family and our adventures in China, please check out our blog at http://petersonchina.blogspot.com.

With hope,

Matt Peterson


  1. This is one of my favorites!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Beautiful! And thanks for fixing the link to their blog!!

  3. This story is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing! It almost made me chuckle, though, when they mentioned they're 'too young' to adopt! hahaha We have the opposite problem! And I thought age was just relative. :)

  4. Crying my eyes out at how good God is and how much He loves EVERY person!!

  5. This is wonderful. We've actually forwarded this on to family to help them understand what we're doing. Thank you for writing this Matt.

  6. HOORAH - you and your bride measure up to high standards - you are a Mom and Dad!! (And dude - you don't get much higher praise from me!!)

    But I will disagree with one thing you said...it DOES require a cape to foster parent...that brother is something that is beyond my abilities - I could never let them go and that risk is the fear that holds me back....

    And age - I laugh - we've pretty much aged out...in many ways I envy you....I certainly have great joy for you!

    aus and co.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this incredible story! Such an inspiration. We are praying for your journey as we walk our too. Your faith and courage to be available and say yes, encourages our attempt to do the same. Our blog is www.room4love.blogspot.com God bless you!!!

  8. Hey Anthony, I just wanted to let you know that my wife and I are taking in two more little HIV+ orphans next week. Hope you are well brother! Peace.

  9. Wow, Matt, that's fantastic!!! We're celebrating over here like crazy for you guys. Thank you for your courage and your obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit. So exciting! Keep us posted.


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