CatholicMom Book Spotlight

Cindy Champnella

The Waiting Child: How the Faith and Love of One Orphan Saved the Life of Another


CatholicMom.com is pleased to share the following interview with author Cindy Champnella.  Her new book,
The Waiting Child, shares the story of Jaclyn, adopted by her American family from China at age four, and her love for the little boy she had cared for in China.  Poignantly told, the story relates the details of Jaclyn's adoption, her transition to a new world, and her relentless pursuit to have "her baby" brought to a home in America.  I fell in love with Jaclyn and her family, while my eyes were opened to the international adoption process and its special challenges.  I highly recommend The Waiting Child and am happy to share the following comments from author Cindy Champnella

Lisa,
Webmaster, CatholicMom.com

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The Waiting Child: How the Faith and Love of One Orphan Saved the Life of Another
240 pages, St. Martin's Press

by Cindy Champnella

 


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CM:  What compelled you to write your book and what do you feel is the most important message you hope to share with parents?

After I adopted Jaclyn, I was inundated by questions from curious friends about what she was like and how it was to adopt an older child. This is what started my writing. My almost daily correspondence with a small group of friends, linked by email, received periodic posts about Jaclyn and her progress. As I got to know Jaclyn, as the events of her past unfurled, the words flowed out of me. It was as if I could not hold it in; to not write her story would have been impossible.

Then an amazing thing happened. Unbeknownst to me, the circle began to dramatically expand. Several people asked if they could share Jaclyn’s anecdotes with other groups that they were involved in. Some did not ask, but simply began to forward my messages to their families and friends. Within six months, I began to get letters. And they were incredible. People from all over the United States wrote to me about how Jaclyn, or some aspect of her story, had touched their hearts and lives. Many of these letters also contained amazing stories about their own adoption experiences.

For me, the turning point was an incident involving a woman who was very ill with advanced cancer. A friend of hers had complied all the stories I had written about Jaclyn over the last year and made them into a book for her. She enjoyed them immensely and then wrote me a heartfelt letter, which read, in part, “I am having a very difficult time with my cancer treatments. But when I get discouraged, when I lose hope, I think of Jaclyn. When I think of how incredibly brave she is, and all that she suffered at the young age that she is, it makes me ashamed of my own fear. When I think of how hopeful she was, even in the dark place where she had been, it makes me realize that I, too, must not lose hope.”

It was then that I realized that Jaclyn had a powerful story to tell. She needed me to write it for her, but it is not my story at all. It is a story of pain and suffering and almost unbearable grief. But it is also a story of love and hope and joy. I hope others will be touched by it, inspired by her life and changed, in some small way, by hearing her truth. I know, because of Jaclyn, my life will never be the same.


CM:  How did faith help you during the adoption process?

Adoption is, in many ways, the ultimate leap of faith. You must let go of all control and trust in an unknown process to find your own child somewhere out there in the world. What I know for certain is that you do find your own child; they just come to you in a different manner.

But Jaclyn taught me even more about faith. When she had exhausted herself, asking every person she knew for help and not seeing any promises being made in return, she looked to God. The request to bring her baby here was, predictably, the first prayer she uttered. I was not sure how much she could possibly understand about the concept of prayer. I had always thought of faith as a life long process when what it truly is is believing in something you cannot see or understand. I am not sure what she believed, but she did believe this: God would help her find him a mama. God would help him not to be afraid. In return, she promised God that “he a good boy.”

Her faith taught me something about the power of  PRAYER. It multiples. It multiples in an explosive manner. Not long after I began to share her prayers and her quest for her baby through daily emails to my circle of friends, the messages came: “My prayer circle in New York is praying for Xiao Xiao…..” they  wrote. And “My mother and I pray for Jaclyn and Xiao Xiao every day….” Also,  “My daughter and daughter-in-law ask me constantly if there is any word about Jaclyn’s baby.  Give Jaclyn a big hug from our entire Indian reservation. Please know you are all in our prayers….” And from across the ocean in far away England someone wrote: “I have prayed that God would not forsake him….”It reminded me of this Bible verse, “ If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed…nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:19)

 

CM: Please share more information on the charity your book helps to support?

ALL of the author’s proceeds from this book are slated for the “Half the Sky” foundation. (www.halfthesky.org) This is an organization founded by and run by adoptive parents. They fund many programs to help the “little sisters” of our adopted children who still live in Chinese orphanages. Our goal is to raise enough funds to build one pre-school center in a Chinese orphanage in Jaclyn’s name. We would then actually travel to China to build the center, working side by side with Chinese workers. Adoptive families travel in groups of five couples for two weeks at a time to do the construction.

 

 


CM: What advice would you give to prospective adoptive parents?

Like all the really important decisions you make with your life, this is one that is made with the heart. If you stop to think about it, you will never do it. Adopting Jaclyn was the probably the only illogical decision I have ever made in my life—we did not have the time, the space or the funds for another child. We already had five children and were too old for another. But it was, without a doubt, the best decision we could ever have made. Jaclyn has given back to us a million times more than we have given to her.


CM:  Can you give an update on how your family is doing and how the children have adjusted to living in the United States?

Lee continues to thrive in his new life. Amazingly, he hasn’t had any adjustment issues. He attends kindergarten now but shared Jaclyn’s lack of enthusiasm for Chinese school. Lee is a spirited, loving little boy who embraces life. Jaclyn’s sureness that he was a truly special little soul could not have been more on target. Lee is a shining example of the resilience of the human spirit. He embraces life; love healed him.

Jaclyn is now seven years old. She has so completely assimilated into her new life that she is in many ways undistinguishable in a group of children. In some ways, she is an extraordinary child. But what she is most of all is an ordinary child who has just seen too much of this world. 

Lee and Jaclyn have a bond unlike any I have ever seen. Jaclyn still smothers him with love every time she sees him and laughs at his attempts to wipe her kisses off. At the end of any fun-filled holiday, Laura always asks Lee what his favorite part of the day was. “See Jiao Jiao,” is his standard reply.

Another thing that does not change is Jaclyn’s prayers for Lee. To this day, he continues to be first in her thoughts and prayers each night. She still remembers to thank God for bringing her baby here. Even now, after all this time, I can’t write those words without tears.


6.  Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?

Jaclyn told me that she had never seen her baby smile when he lived in the orphanage-not once. You can’t stop this kid from smiling now. He is a joyful, loving, bright, handsome boy that is barely recognizable as the pitiful waif we saw long ago. When I see Jaclyn’s baby today I am always reminded of the power that each of us has to change a life, to make a real difference. If Jaclyn can do it, we can do it.

The things that Jaclyn had, we all have. We don’t need money, or connections or brilliance or wonderful communication skills. We all have at our disposal what she had-- fearlessness, persistence, hope, faith, prayer, and love. The journey to bring her baby here has shown me, beyond any doubt, the power that each of us has inside us. We have the ability to make things happen. We can change the lives of others. We can try things that others scoff at us for attempting and persevere. We can trust our own strength. We can trust God.  We have to believe that within us is the greatest power on this earth: the power of love. It can move the proverbial mountains in whatever form they take in our lives.

Through knowing Jaclyn I’ve come to realize that the real regrets I have about my life so far are not about all the bad things that have happened, but are about all the good things I could have made happen and didn’t.