There is a virtual hill to climb in order to adopt internationally, and it is comprised of sheets and sheets of paper and months and months of waiting. Audrey Todd, 39, of McComb, describes international adoption as a “long rollercoaster.” While it can be exhausting, “it is exciting to know you have this child out there,” she adds.
Audrey, along with her husband Mike, 41, the director of Children’s Evangelism Fellowship of Greater Findlay (CEF), decided to seriously pursue adoption in January 2016. By March 2017 they were fully “logged in” having completed everything that the application requested. Of the countries available through their agency, America World Adoption (awaa.org), the couple looked forward to adopting a child from China.
The waiting game
“The toughest part was the wait, wondering when we would be matched and wondering why it was taking so long,” says Mike. Waiting along with Mike and Audrey were siblings Brayden, now 16, Bethany, 14, Isaiah, 12, Jonah, 9 and Skylar, 6.
Finally, in May 2018 the call came. The Todds had been matched with Yu Zhi Xi, a little girl from the city of Nanjing in the Jiangsu Province. They learned that she had been abandoned on a road as an infant and discovered by a police officer who delivered her to the orphanage.
Last July and August, thousands of miles of travel brought Mike and Audrey to China. Their daughter arrived to meet them via her own journey of a three-hour car trip. The 19-month-old was given her bonus name, Selah Mei Todd, and accompanied her parents, first to Beijing and then, eventually, through the doors of her new home in Hancock County.
After adopting comes adapting
Selah took to Audrey right away and despite sleep difficulties, a sign of some of the trauma she experienced as a baby, which continue to be a daily struggle nearly a year later, the family has seen her take tremendous strides to catch up developmentally. Upon arrival in the family, the 19 month old was physically functioning as a 7 month old, but she has since learned to literally run her way around the Todd residence.
“Selah makes our family feel complete … she is truly one of us. Her smile and joy brings such happiness to each of us,” said Mike. Selah has also endured two surgeries, with repairs made to her cleft palate and cleft lip. The Todds count it a blessing that she had already been introduced to solid food when they adopted her, as some orphanages would have simply kept her on a bottle. Though for now Selah remains non-verbal, she has learned some sign language and is receiving speech therapy at the newly established “Grace Speaks” on Tiffin Avenue in Findlay.
Keeping a cultural connection
In a moment of curiosity, Audrey and her sister did an internet search for how the word “eat” was pronounced in Chinese. They found the Chinese symbol and followed pronunciation guides to say “chee.” When they did, little Selah’s face brightened with recognition and she signed “more.”
A tour guide on their trip abroad showed Audrey and Mike the Chinese countryside and they sensed the pride he had in his culture. They hope to provide ways for Selah to gain that same pride in her heritage. The family has already participated in a Chinese New Year celebration held in Findlay and they hope to connect to the Chinese congregation which worships monthly at Findlay First Church of the Nazarene. Should Selah someday travel to China, the Todd family will make another long journey together and daddy Mike will be sure to advise walking, rather than attempting a full-out run, up the stairs to The Great Wall.
Encouraging others to adopt
Adopting internationally is expensive—around $30,000. Audrey mentions couples who have unfortunately “freaked out and backed out” when they discovered the cost. Their family found help through grants from “Hope for Love Ministries” (hopeforloveministries.org) based in Findlay and an organization founded by Christian recording artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, “Show Hope” (showhope.org). Their life group at Good Shepherd United Methodist also held several fundraising events on their behalf.
Audrey and Mike advise others to remain undaunted if they feel led to adopt. “I would say be patient and make sure you have a support team to be honest with. It is also good to have access to others who have gone through a similar adoption so you can ask questions,” Mike said, adding, “God’s timing is perfect and Selah (now 2) is such a blessing to us all.”