From China to China Grove: A miraculous adoption story
By Katie Scarvey
CHINA GROVE — It sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale.
Once upon a time, there were three boys who lived in an orphanage in Tianjin, China. They were deaf, and so the chances of them being adopted were not great.
But they had each other.
They were best friends.
In 2008, fortune smiled on one of the boys, Sun Bin Fang. He was adopted by an American couple and given the name of Ben. He was happy, but sad too, because he had to say goodbye to his friends at the Children’s Welfare Institute, knowing he’d never see them again.
A year and a half later, in 2009, the second of the trio of friends, Wu Ye, was adopted by an American couple and became Eddie. Eddie was happy to be adopted, but he worried about Zhen Sen being alone without him.
Zhen Sen stayed at the orphanage, missing his friends. Month after month, year after year, he edged closer to being 14, when he would have to leave the only home he’d known and return to the streets of Tianjin.
Eddie and Ben never forgot him. And even though they were both in the United States, with loving families, they couldn’t help but miss Zhen Sen — and each other.
• • •
Flash forward a bit. Eddie’s interpreter at school told his parents that she knew another family who had adopted a deaf boy from China and wondered if they wanted her to set up a meeting. Eddie did, and the parents of both boys agreed.
As the boys saw each other, each signed the good news: “That’s my best friend from the orphanage.”
They’d last laid eyes on each other 7,000 miles away, in Tianjin.
And now, they discovered, they lived only 25 minutes apart. Eddie was in Marshville in Union County and Ben was in Concord.
What are the odds?
• • •
But let’s go back to 2002 because there’s another golden thread to this improbable story.
That’s when Lisa Fink, 34 at the time, says she felt God calling her to learn American Sign Language.
There wasn’t an obvious reason for it. She didn’t have any family members or close friends who were deaf. She did encounter a few deaf customers at her job at Food Lion.
She enrolled in a continuing education class and discovered she had a gift. Her instructor encouraged her to enroll in an interpreter training program, so she did.
Before her last semester started, Lisa’s brother Sam died. She was heartbroken and almost quit the program. But God gave her the strength, she said, and with the support of her teacher, she took two weeks off and returned to finish.
Lisa then started a ministry for the deaf at Blackwelder Park Baptist Church and later began contracting for Cabarrus County Schools as an interpreter.
It was there that she got to know Ben, a deaf boy from China who had been adopted by Mike and Lisa Jordan of Concord. She also learned about the miraculous reunion of Ben and Eddie.
In May of 2010, Lisa attended “deaf camp” at Camp Caraway, a Baptist camp in Asheboro. Ben was there, and introduced Lisa to his friend Eddie.
As Lisa was introduced to Eddie’s father, she was surprised to realize he was an old friend from Wingate University, Jimmie Quesinberry. They hadn’t seen each other since 1988.
As they started catching up, Lisa learned from Jimmie that there had been a third friend that had remained at the orphanage, who hadn’t been adopted. Eddie talked about him a lot, Jimmie said. He was worried about his friend being alone.
Eddie’s heart was broken, Jimmie said, because he still had a friend at the orphanage who would be out on the streets soon.
She and her husband Gary hadn’t really wanted to have children, she told Jimmie. But she said she’d pray for the right family to adopt Eddie’s friend.
So she and Gary prayed.
After a month of praying, she says, “God made it clear as day” what they needed to do.
They were to adopt Eddie’s friend. And that would mean that the three boys would all be living in close proximity in North Carolina — with mothers named Lisa, Lisa and Alisa.
And so Lisa and Gary embarked on a nine-month long process to assemble the necessary paperwork, expediting the process as much as possible because they knew that time was not on their side. Everything had to be finalized before Chet — that was to be his name — was 14.
And Chet was already 13.
After Lisa and Gary received approval to adopt, they sent Chet a package of goodies and photos introducing him to his “forever family.”
When the package arrived at the orphanage, an interpreter at the orphanage signed to him the good news — he was to have a family of his own.
It was inconceivable to Chet.
“Who would want me?” he signed back. “You’re teasing me. I don’t have a family.”
In April of 2011, Lisa and Gary flew to China to get Chet, who was set to turn 14 in June.
Because Chet knew only Chinese sign language, their communication with him at that point was limited. They began to teach him some American sign language.
Lisa and Gary showed him photos of Ben and Eddie and told Chet he’d see his friends soon.
“He never believed it,” Lisa says.
But when their flight landed in Charlotte, he spotted Ben and Eddie down the steps to baggage claim.
“I believe he missed every step to get to them,” Lisa said.
Chet hadn’t seen Eddie in three years and hadn’t seen Ben in five.
“He just ran and hugged them,” Lisa said.
The smile Gary and Lisa saw on Chet’s face as he was reunited with his friends was worth all the hassle of gathering paperwork, worth all the cost of the adoption, worth all the challenges they face. “It is priceless,” Lisa says.
Eddie was thrilled. “When I saw Chet, I don’t know how to explain how I felt, I was so happy.”
On Chet’s first morning in the U.S., Gary and Lisa’s pastor, Keith Kannenberg, met them at the church, playing basketball with Chet and then showing him around the church. Kannenberg made a big impact on Chet, building trust with him and helping him feel comfortable at church, Lisa says. He had never had any religious training in China.
Despite the language barrier, Chet’s first church service showed him, through smiles, handshakes and hugs, that he was loved, Lisa says.
Now, Chet’s been in China Grove for more than a year.
He’s soaked in American Sign Language like a sponge and is now fluent, Lisa says. Gary has also been learning ASL in order to communicate with his son.
And of course Chet is thrilled to be with the old friends he thought he’d never see again.
Last month when the three boys got together Chet signed to Lisa: “Mom can we be brothers?”
And all three boys agreed: they were brothers.
But Chet would also like an “official” brother. He asked Gary and Lisa about it.
The couple prayed again on that one.
Yes, they decided.
They contacted the agency they used for their previous adoption and asked them to send information about 12-13 year-old boys who were deaf.
Lisa interpreted the information for Chet and let him pick. When he realized that they were adopting only one out of the four whose information had been sent, he told his parents he’d share his bedroom — a big deal for a kid who grew up in an institution.
So now the Fink family is waiting for their second son from China: Pan Xilong, who will be named Thomas Samuel after Lisa’s brother Sam.
And the fairy tale continues.
• • •
International adoptions are expensive. Chet’s adoption cost Lisa and Gary about $35,000. They’re grateful for the help they received from their family, friends and Blackwelder Park Baptist Church. They now attend Revolution Church of Salisbury.
A fundraiser is planned for next Saturday, Aug. 11, to help them raise the money they will need — about $25,000 — to adopt Sam.
There will be a yard sale and barbecue plates for sale at Main Street Baptist Church, 1615 N. Main St. China Grove.
Hours for the fundraiser are 7 a.m.-2 p.m., and they’ll be cooking barbecue all night so that even people who come to the yard sale at 7 a.m. won’t have to come back later to buy barbecue.
The cost is $8 a plate.
If you would like to donate to the adoption fund, send checks to:
c/o Fink adoption fund
P.O. Box 924
China Grove, NC 28023