The Peoples

Joel’s Journey

When I think of an epic Journey, I usually think of someone backpacking an ungodly distance, through oxygen deprived elevations, over treacherous terrain, with no water, and a broken leg or two…….or something like that.  But today we followed a six year old boy, with known handicaps, on a journey to be adopted by his new family, and the work “epic” just doesn’t seem to do it justice.

Joel started this Journey six years ago when he was born to be a visually impaired orphan.  He spent a couple years at an orphanage before coming to Bethel China.  At Bethel he was cared for, loved, and taught how to function in society with his disabilities.  Joel had spent four years at Bethel, but today was his last. The day had finally come; the day when he would look up into the loving eyes of his parents and be called son.

While all of this was happening, God was preparing the hearts of Lee and Sandra Peoples to bring Joel into their family.  Their journey to Joel was full of ups and downs and highs and lows, but they were steadfast and patient.  This patience had led them on a 14 hour flight, a 4 and a half hour train, and a 10 minute van ride to a room in China where they again waited patiently for their son.

Joel packed his things and walked hand in hand with Chloe (Bethel’s director) toward a van.  The van pulled away from Bethel and toward the train station.  The two friends boarded the train and it jetted away at 188mph from Beijing toward Nanjing where Joel’s parents where anxiously waiting.  After four and a half hours, the train came to surprisingly smooth stop in Nanjing.  This led to a subway, which led to another van, which led to a walk, that led to a door.   Joel stepped through the door and found mommy and daddy wide eyed with grins from ear to ear.

After signing some paperwork Lee and Sandra took custody of Joel and began to get to know the stranger that they now call their child.  He is a stranger because they chose to love him before they knew him.  He did nothing to deserve this, and there is nothing more beautiful and nothing more epic.


An update from the family below:


July 15, 2015 

The first time I heard the word “disruption” in reference to adoption, was from a family with whom we traveled and documented their adoption a few years ago. We experienced a unique and special bond with this family and adopted child and were crushed when we found out the family was having such a hard time.

To say we understood would be a lie. We were new to the concept and didn’t agree with the decision. But, we weren’t them.

We weren’t living 24/7 with the family and did not know what went on behind closed doors.

We were then faced with a few options. We could move forward in judgement and anger or accept their decision and trust them and pray for the child’s heart. We all have this choice when it comes to viewing an adoptive family. We can walk in judgement or trust. No one can fully understand another person’s life and suffering.

We are moving forward with a week about disrupted and dissolution adoptions. To disrupt or dissolute (we’ll go further on the definition tomorrow) an adoption ultimately means that the parents choose to relocate their adoptive child into another home, perminately. The reasons for breaking an adoption are endless. As we share this side of the adoption world we ask  you all to be open to learn something. We ask that you would hear our two guest authors.

Please know that if any hurtful comments to either author are posted they will be deleted. We are here to share the harder side of adoption this week, not to cause people to judge. Below you will find the words and testimony from a mom with whom we traveled (different family than the opening sentence). Please be kind and read Sandra’s words with love.

*     *     *

No adoption goes exactly as planned. Our journey certainly didn’t go as we had hoped, but even through it all, it was still worth it. Our younger son James was diagnosed with autism just a few months after we had started the adoption process back in 2010. “Will you still adopt?” friends and family members asked us. “Of course!” we answered with confidence. Why wouldn’t we? The adoption process took years, but we had lots to keep us busy with James’s therapy and doctors appointments. We had a strong team who helped him make progress each week. James does have level three autism, which for him means he has very limited verbal ability and low social skills. Even though our older son David has always been an amazing big brother to James, he prayed each night for the child we were adopting and planned to name Joel. “God, please bring me a brother who wants to play with me.” In September of 2013 we accepted the referral for Joel, a little boy living in China who was blind in one eye and had developmental delays. The delays did not concern us. Any child coming from an institutional setting would be expected to have delays. In September of 2014 we travelled to China to bring him home. Within minutes of meeting him we knew he didn’t just have delays. With our experience of parenting a child with autism, we could see the signs. We believed he had autism. We didn’t know what to do. We weren’t approved for another child with autism. We called our agency and they promised to help. “Just bring him home,” they said. So we did. We had James’s team of therapists at our house the week after coming home. They agreed with our assessment, that it did seem to be autism. We did lots of research and figured out that Joel wasn’t the only child adopted from another country who seemed to have autism but didn’t have the diagnosis. They had was is known as “institutional autism,” which means the child isn’t actually autistic, but learned to imitate autistic-like behaviors. These children were showing drastic improvement after being with their new families in a short time. But we didn’t see this with Joel. In our family he wasn’t away from other children with autism. He would never stop imitating his new brother. We made the incredibly hard decision to interrupt Joel’s adoption and find him a new family who would be able to meet his needs better than we could. We worked with Second Chance Adoption Agency, who specializes in cases like ours. In April, Joel transitioned to his new family. There are many more details we will keep private, but here’s what we want you to know. It was worth it. Over four years in the adoption process. $60,000 spent by the end. Six months of therapists and evaluations for Joel. A school system and an adoption agency who didn’t believe us and made us spend more time and money convincing them than was necessary.

The bitterness and anger I continue to fight against each day. The depression Lee battles. The doubt in God that David battles (Why didn’t God answer the one prayer he prayed for four years? For a brother who could play with him?). The anxiety James battles.

All worth it because a little boy who didn’t have a family now has two who love him deeply. We did what we had to do to put our desire for a whole family, for three boys, for a successful adoption, all aside for what was best for him. And what was best for him was not our family. Each week I get updates from his new mom. It breaks our hearts every time, but I know he’s happy and healing. He’s already making progress in areas we didn’t see in his months with us.

We are glad God used us to get him into a country where he will have every opportunity to succeed. We are glad we had experience with James and saw the signs of autism right away (within minutes of meeting him). We are glad we brought him home. We are glad we had the months with him that we had. We feel we were faithful to obey God’s command in the book of James to care for the orphans.

It was worth it all.

-Sandra Peoples


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