The Straka Family

(left to right) Kelci, Noelle, Chris, Andy, Bonnie, Aimee, Lily


Andy and Bonnie February 2009

-Beijing  (New Day Foster Home, Love Without Boundaries Heartbridge)

-Jiangxi province (Luke's home province for adoption)

-Guangzhou (American Consulate)

February 18, Red Couch Picture White Swan Hotel, Luke, Mommy, and Daddy Preparing To Return Home!

February 18, Red Couch Picture White Swan Hotel, Luke, Mommy, and Daddy Preparing To Return Home!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Beijing to Nanchang

The rest of our time at New Day was filled with getting to know Luke and the other children, observing the routines of his little life, taking a visit into town with Doug and Sarah Grace and sampling the delicious Mandarin oranges, eating in the dining hall, being served breakfast each morning in the guest house kitchen, meeting and listening to Karen’s sister and brother-in-law and being awed and humbled by their life’s journey and ministry, helping Ellie (the New Day nurse) with medical care for the children, visiting a few foster families, and overall soaking it all in, trying to take mental pictures to last a lifetime.  Andy shot more video and I took a few photos the second day, but I found the kids were more open in approaching me if I didn’t have a camera in front of my face. 

Each time Andy and I reappeared, Luke looked a little surprised and then a huge grin would cross his face and he would reach out his arms to be held and cuddled by one of us.  Yes, he really is a cuddly, sweet little boy.  Thank you Lord.

We also spent time here and there with staff members such as Carrie, who coordinates the sponsorship reports, Caroline, who coordinates all the visitors and volunteers, Doug, whose daughter was adopted from Leping SWI, and who is responsible for the relationship with the orphanage director there and hence the finding of Luke.  Lauren, as mentioned previously, is spending a year at New Day teaching preschool, and will be heading to college next fall.  They are all Americans with generous hearts and a love for God as well as the children and mission of New Day.  What a privilege to count them as friends.

After lunch with Luke, many hugs, and final photos, we left New Day for a visit to the Heartbridge Unit at New Hope Foundation’s foster home about an hour away.  We were treated to an afternoon of touring the building, meeting many of the children, and getting to know Joyce and Robin Hill.  Joyce is a physician who oversees the care of many special needs orphans and has a tremendous ministry in China.  She helps coordinate the medical care of the 18 children who have beds on the second floor of the New Hope building and comprise LWB’s Heartbridge Healing Home. 

What a wonderful, colorful and peaceful place.  As we wandered from one part of the building to another I was able to scoop up children here and there for a few moments of cuddling and love.  I kept looking for little Xin, a post-operative 2 year old little boy with congenital heart disease whom we have been sponsoring through our office.  He has been doing so well that he has been moved downstairs so that he can play more with other children.  I finally found him in the very last playroom we visited…there, through the glass I spied a darling little boy with a huge smile on his face.  He looked just like his photos.  I went into the room with Andy and Joyce, wondering if Xin would allow me to pick him up.  No worries!  He literally ran up to me, arms outstretched (in full Luke mode), a huge grin on his face, eyes twinkling.  I scooped him up and danced around the room with him, stopping for a few photos just to document the moment (Wendy, I’ll get those to you when I’m home).  He is darling!  What a gift he will be to his forever family.  Another little life forever altered by the life-saving surgery that was funded and coordinated by LWB. 

We lightened our suitcases even more by leaving medical supplies behind with Joyce, and then we bid our new friends goodbye and headed to our Beijing Hotel, the Poly Plaza, in the downtown area.  We dropped our things off in our room and then headed outdoors, down the street, for a little “adventure” in nighttime Beijing….we perused the many restaurants and decided to have dinner at a place that was filled with Chinese, hoping that was a sign that the food was good and reasonably priced.  We were not disappointed, and enjoyed dumplings, an eggplant dish, chicken stew, and some type of beef sliced very thinly and coated in sauce.  I like eating in “local” hangouts when traveling, as long as there is a picture or English name next to the menu item so I don’t end up eating something that I will end up regretting….the Chinese have a very interesting and different array of meats and animal parts that seem to be widely available in restaurants and stores, and I’m just not that adventurous!

We decided to forego the Great Wall tour the next day (BTDT) in favor of spending a leisurely day exploring the area on foot, catching up on emails and blogging, and organizing our suitcases and life a bit in preparation for meeting Luke the next day in Nanchang.  Andy found a local cell phone and sim card that worked as my phone and the sim card we bought in the Beijing airport did not.  I puttered around the local market and picked up a few trinkets but am saving most of my shopping/buying for Guangzhou.  We skyped our kids back home and caught up a bit with their lives and were happy to see that Chris and Julia had made the drive from Duke and were with the girls.  Thanks guys!  And thanks, Sarah, for your wonderful care of the girls during the week. 

We were up very early this morning (Sunday) for a 2 hour flight from Beijing to Nanchang, the capital city of the Jiangxi Province.  Luke spent 3 months at the Leping SWI, in the northern portion of the Jiangxi Province, before being taken to New Day, so all his Chinese adoption paperwork will need to be completed here.  We are staying at the Jinfeng Hotel, a beautiful 5 star hotel in downtown Nanchang.  We splurged by upgrading to a larger room than originally planned so that we have a king size bed for snuggling Luke and room for him to play as well as a large Jacuzzi tub where I anticipate that he will have some fun bath time enjoying the foam animal bath capsules we brought along.  I remember how much Noelle loved those foam animals on our trip to adopt her last year.  A highlight of the evening routine.

We are waiting for our guide, Jenny, to bring Luke to our room any minute now.  I am not sure if we will also meet the orphanage director or anyone else, but being flexible is the key, and I am glad that they are bringing Luke to us rather than our having to travel somewhere outside the hotel to meet him.  We know that he took the overnight train with a New Day staff member last night, and I bet he is tired and a bit overwhelmed with all that has gone on over the past 24 hours; certainly a break in his routine.  I am so glad that he has already met us and that we will not be complete strangers to him.  I will show him once again the photo album I pulled out at New Day and I also have a little set of cars for him to play with. 

So today, February 8, is Luke’s Gotcha Day.  Tomorrow will be his official Adoption Day.  We will meet with the local officials early in the morning to complete all the necessary paperwork and then will have the rest of the week to get to know each other and explore the local area until we fly to Guangzhou on Saturday Feb 14.  Valentine’s Day!  (On a side note, I brought multiple bags of chocolate for the big day, not to mention before and after, because Heaven forbid I should be out of chocolate in a foreign country!  Or anywhere, for that matter….ah, chocolate, my comfort food.)

Tomorrow is the last day of the Chinese Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year), so the officials are very motivated to complete Luke’s paperwork first thing in the morning as they have the afternoon off work to celebrate.  I have a new appreciation for the magnitude of this Chinese holiday.  It lasts for weeks!  Fireworks were going off all night long in Beijing both nights we were in the Poly Plaza Hotel.  And since the room was quite warm and our windows were open to try to cool things down a bit, we really heard those fireworks!



  1. Wow...I am filled with joy for you guys!! It's so wonderful watching your story. It's a great inspiration as we prepare to embark on our FOUR days!!!!!!! Four days, wow, that seems really soon...that is really soon!! You guys are great. Luke is a lucky little boy! What a beautiful family you all make :)

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  3. Love reading about your meeting. Now you are at the Jinfeng...home to the beginning of my life with Claire! I'll keep peeking in on your blog. Sounds like things are going very well. Enjoy your time in Nanchang. I'm sure you'll get to see the TengWang Pavillion :)
    Ann Tembreull

  4. We were at the Jinfeng when we adopted Emily. If I remember correctly there is a little store next door that sells Cadbury chocolate bars! I needed chocolate fixes too:) Luke is adorable--and Andy looks like a proud papa! Of course you look like a proud mama with a sweet son too.

  5. Hi, we did this same trip (NDFH to Nanchang) a year ago for our son, Hudson. We enjoyed NDFH. We pray that everything goes well.
    Doug and Cheryl