From China with love, for two local families

Two little baby girls from China filled the hearts of two families in Hillsboro to overflowing when they entered their lives in 2003.

The family of Loren and Nolly Loewen adopted Hui Qing at the age of 10 months in August and named her Sofia-Grace Huiqing Loewen.

The Bruce and Janell Heyen family adopted Ru Jie at the age of 10 months in December and named here MaryElena RuJie Heyen.

“Last spring, when we heard that the Loewens were adopting from China, I told Bruce, ‘It’s a sign,'”Janell said.

“Here’s another family in the little town of Hillsboro. They already had four children. And they adopted from China, which is what I’d always had this longing to do. So then Bruce was willing to at least look at the information and check it out.”

Both families have a number of things in common-each has four biological children, a set of twin girls is in each family, the mothers and fathers are the same ages, they all attend Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church, and each chose to adopt a baby girl from China.

The Heyen family includes Benjamin, 13, twins Elise and Emma, 11, and Claire, 6. Bruce is a chemistry professor at Tabor College. Janell, a former registered nurse, chose to stay at home after Elise and Emma were born.

The seed to adopt was actually planted after Claire was born.

“There was a big article in the Wichita Eagle one Sunday about these little Chinese girls need homes-that so many have been abandoned,” Janell said.

“I remember showing it to Bruce and saying ‘Now, we could do this. We’ve got room. All these sweet little girls need homes.’ I knew we wouldn’t have any more of our own then. We’ve got so much compared to so many.”

In spring 2002, the Heyens contacted the Great Wall China Adoption agency based in Austin, Texas. The paperwork to adopt began in July of that year. About 18 months later, they picked up their new daughter in China.

“She was left at the gates of the orphanage just with a piece of paper stating the day she was born, and she was one week old,” Janell said. “The parents left her with a little charm bracelet, and it was given to us.”

Bruce, Janell and Benjamin made the lengthy flight to China to pick up MaryElena in December. Although she was crying when they first met her, just days later she proved to have bonded with her new family during an opportunity to revisit her orphanage.

“It had been four or five days, and several of the nannies held her,” Janell said. “But she would reach back for me.”

Today, MaryElena shares a room with sister Claire, and her siblings all take turns holding her.

While their parents and Benjamin were in China picking MaryElena up, Elise and Emma wrote their thoughts in their journals. As tears welled up, Bruce and Janell recently shared the following entries.

Emma wrote, “I’m so excited. When are you coming? I’ve been waiting for you all year.”

And Elise wrote, “When we got the picture, I took the picture and gasped. You, perfect you, with your plump cheeks and cute nose and cute eyes and cute little fists and round little face and cute little dimples. It was a dream come true. How did they know that only you fitted in with us?

“It is true…that the Lord had moved mommy and daddy enough to help a helpless, loveless ‘familyless’ little China baby-you.”

The Loewen family met their new baby, Sofia, in the fall of 2003. Loren has a dental practice in Hillsboro and Nolly, a dental hygienist, has recently chosen to stay at home with Sofia.

The couple’s children include twins Julia and Maria, 14, Clara, 9, and Tessa, 6.

Faced with miscarriages and other complications between the birth of the twins and when Clara was born, the Loewens looked into the possibility of adopting because they were told they might not be able to conceive again.

“And then we prayed about it,” Loren said. “We weren’t quite willing to completely quit.”

But Clara and Tessa entered their lives without any problems. And talk of adopting didn’t resurface until Loren was in a Bible study class at church.

“We talked about things that we knew that were God’s will in our life to do,” Loren said. “For me, just raising godly children was my No. 1 thing.”

At about the same time, the Loewens met a Hutchinson couple who had adopted a child from China.

Over a dinner out one night, Loren asked Nolly, “What would be the one thing you would want to do in your life that you would want the most?” Loren said.

“She looked at me without batting an eye and said, ‘Have another child.’ So to me, it was just like God was talking through all these things, and we had already looked into adoption before.”

The family from Hutchinson gave the Loewens the name of a social worker who suggested they contact the Great Wall China Adoption agency.

“I had always dreamed of maybe having an Oriental baby,” Nolly said. “I don’t know why. And that’s how it all got started.”

The process to adopt took the Loewens longer than the Heyens. The Loewens started their adoption paperwork in January 2002 and didn’t pick Sofia up until August 2003.

“We were delayed because right when we were supposed to get our referral, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic happened, and they shut down travel,” Loren said.

As with the Heyens, the Loewens sent in photos of their family, and adoption officials attempted to match the families with the babies.

“In China, there’s a big thing about looking into your eyes,” Loren said. “They think you can tell the baby’s personalty or soul by looking in their eyes.”

When the couple picked up Sofia, the orphanage director told them she had “very intelligent eyes,” Nolly said. “Her Chinese name is her middle name. Hui means wise and intelligent. Then Qing means pure, clear and quiet.”

Sofia was originally found in front of a business located just one block from the orphanage, an institution that takes care of about 400 babies.

Compared to adoption conditions often found in the states, these babies are usually healthy, drug free and without a history of alcoholic parents, Loren said.

There are no guarantees that requests can be filled when adopting, and the Loewens originally asked for twins. So in April, they plan to start the adoption process again for another baby from China.

“We’re going to ask for a girl, because Sofia’s going to have to share a room,” Nolly said.

Both couples expressed the joy of reaching out to those less fortunate by adopting a child in a Third World country.

“We feel like we’ve been blessed with all these material things, and God’s blessed us with our family,” Loren said. “We did feel like it was partly a mission that we could give a child that has probably nothing, a good home.”

The cost to adopt is a personal issue, and those interested in adopting through the Great Wall China Adoption agency can begin to find information about cost and other issues at

“For people thinking about adopting, the one advantage for international adoption is the tax break,” Loren said. “A lot of people will comment that they can’t think about adopting because it’s just way too expensive. When you do it through Great Wall, it’s considerably cheaper to begin with than adopting here. The adoption costs in the States are pretty high.”

For both the Loewens and the Heyens, the process of adoption has been a long journey-literally and figuratively. “We have received a lot of support from our family and friends throughout the process that we are grateful for,” Bruce said.

Now that their babies are in Hillsboro, each couple said they have settled in to raise their children as a cohesive unit in a Christian family.

Both families talked of tears and laughter, of prayers and searching, and of acceptance and criticism from issues raging on both sides of the ocean.

Why are these babies abandoned? What kind of people would leave a baby at a door step?

In the 1970s, the Chinese government mandated a one-child policy. And 30 years later, that policy has gone through some changes, Loren said.

Today, if a baby girl is born to a farming family, the government now allows a couple to have one more child. But if the first born is a boy, they must not have another or face stiff taxes for each child born after that.

“If they do have a daughter the second time, they can go ahead and keep that daughter,” Loren said. “But if the family wants a son, they will continue to have babies often times to get that boy, and they will abandon the girls along the way.”

In a system where boys are traditionally considered strong familial patriarchs and can help on a farm, mothers find themselves forced to give up their baby girls.

“It’s illegal to abandon a baby, and they can’t afford to pay the tax to keep the baby,” Loren said.

“Either they abort the baby or throw the baby away-abandon it somewhere where it’s going to die. But they don’t want to do this. They are really caught. It’s a government policy in a communist country. And these people don’t have choices like we do here.”

To give up a baby for adoption under those conditions is an act of supreme sacrifice and love, Loren said.

And to confirm this thought, Nolly told of the reaction from the Chinese people on the flight home with Sofia.

“When we came off the plane in Los Angeles with a whole bunch of Chinese people, we were standing there, and several people said, “Lucky baby.”

Lucky baby, indeed.

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