Kevin, Philip, and I traveled to just outside Dayton, Ohio to attend the annual Philip Hayden reunion. It's hosted by a wonderful and giving church whose members sponsor the Philip Hayden Foundation (a foster village in Ch*na), and in particular sponsored the heart surgery of a little boy who was there with his new forever family. This church invited families who have children who once lived at the Philip Hayden Foundation and anyone who had worked there, including the founders of PHF.
What a moving and emotionally packed time it was. When we first pulled into the parking lot, I spied Elijah and his forever family. He had been adopted back in January, and we had been following his journey since then. He also had lived in our Philip's home in the foster village. I jumped out of the van and asked if they were Elijah's family and told them we were Philip's mom and dad. Immediately, Elijah came over to the van and lifted Philip out as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do. It was the sweetest moment, seeing two little boys who had once lived together in China greeting each other now with their new families.
A year ago, when we went to PHF to pick up Philip, we were not able to meet the couple (Tim and Pam B*ker) who had founded the foster village. This past Saturday at the picnic, they were the first people we saw upon entering the gym, and it felt so good to hug them and thank them personally for being the organization who took in our little boy when he was only two months old and provided love and care to help him grow. Kevin and I were crying even before opening our mouths to say "Thank you." In fact, "Thank you" seemed woefully inadequate to say.
How do you thank someone for saving your precious child so that one day he could join your family? There aren't any words really. This couple was so sweet and spirit filled. They responded that it wasn't really them but God instead who had done the work.
Then we saw Leah who was the American women present at PHF's main hall when we received Philip. We were overjoyed to see her, and she was so tickled to see how well Philip had grown since she last saw him. She said that he was very tall now, and that made her smile because he had always been so small and round!
We also met Carrie, Philip's speech pathologist from PHF, and between Leah and Carrie, we were able to figure out that Philip had been just as ornery in China as he is here! We all got a chuckle out of that. We love his ornery side, though, and wouldn't want him any other way. That's just a small part of him. He is much more - loving, joyous, sweet, smart, funny, and a huge sponge soaking in everything he can. What a treasure!
The picnic was great fun with lots of activities for the kids. A very touching moment occurred when we were all together for a group photo. Tim introduced Philip Hayden's mom. We all clapped, not a dry eye there. He hugged her and said, "Look at all the children you have!" Philip Hayden was the young 28-year old friend of Tim and Pam's who showed them the plight of the orphan in the late 1990's. He died quite suddenly, and he is the inspiration for PHF.
Kevin, Philip, and I journeyed overnight to see Kevin's aunt, uncle, and cousins who had never met Philip. We had a sweet time with them over dinner. It was great to see all of them, and Philip got to meet more of his family. That was an added bonus to the weekend, plus Philip's Gram was there for a visit too!
Playing with bubbles at Aunt Marjorie's and Uncle Dwight's with his just met uncle and cousins!
The next morning we all were back at the church to attend the worship service. Tim spoke about PHF, and then he introduced Elijah and his mom and dad. Elijah's dad spoke about how thankful they were that this church had sponsored their son's heart surgery. His surgery was two years ago, and he joined his forever family just this past January. Elijah then took the microphone and thanked them for his heart surgery. It was another beautifully touching moment in this incredible weekend.
Then the minister invited all of us families who had come for the reunion with our children to come up to the altar where members of the congregation came forward also to sing and pray for us and PHF. On the screen behind us were pictures of children from the foster village. I can honestly tell you that by this time, Kevin and I were bawling like babies as our hearts and minds took in this beautiful moment of worship, giving thanks to our God for all that He had done to bring us to this moment. We will never forget that special moment in time.
After returning from Ohio, we joined our older son Ted and my family and celebrated Father's Day in style with Mom's good cooking and steak on the grill! Three wonderful examples of fathers were there, my husband, my dad, and my brother. How blessed we are!!
WOW! What a weekend.
Then reality struck as we got ready for Philip's first major surgery home. On Tuesday he underwent surgery to help revise his lip and nose. Philip came through like a real trooper, and even though we were terribly sad for him to undergo the surgery, we were also overjoyed that we, his forever family, got to be the ones to comfort him during his ordeal. In some way it has helped cement his bond to us. He now sees that we are there no matter what, through the joyful and difficult times.
We were a little worried too about how he would react to attending the reunion and seeing people with whom he had lived with Ch*na, but we found we hadn't needed to worry at all. He thoroughly enjoyed being around all of those loving and caring people, and he certainly had a lot of fun at the reunion, but he readily came back to us even saying a couple of times, "Don't ever, ever leave me. OK?" Philip is in the habit of saying that to Kevin, Ted, and me often these days.
Oh Philip, how those words break our hearts and heal them at the same time. That you would even have had the trauma in your life to fear that possibility is heartbreaking, but to think that you really do love being a part of your forever family now touches something in us and makes our hearts soar.
We give thanks to our Lord for your life and the weekend that helped turn a corner for all of us.