A Journey of Love
by Phyllis Campbell
Staunton, Virginia

To the casual observer there is nothing remarkable about the Phillips family of Aliso Viejo, California, yet they are remarkable in those things of the heart and spirit which can't be measured in appearance or dollars and cents--faith, a willingness to sacrifice and that priceless thing we call love. Todd and Kim have been married for 12 years, and the joy of that marriage is evidenced by many things, not the least being their three children.

It might sound silly, but that happiness is evident in Kim's very voice. One can actually hear a smile, especially when she talks about her family. She is a stay-at-home mom and leads an active life, running a tutoring business and home schooling her three children. She also takes great pleasure in walking their dog, Charlie, whom she describes as, "a fun-loving, mellow-tempered Goldendoodle, who likes to take showers and lick people."

Todd works as a technology manager. He enjoys playing music, tennis and Ultimate Frisbee. The couple's eldest child is Jonathan who is 11. His parents describe him as "an amazing guy. He's funny, he's a natural artist, and he loves making people laugh!" Jonathan is further described as an avid Lego home movie maker. He's made up his own comic strip called "Mixed Up Town."

Abigail, 9, is described by her parents as "our sweetheart." She is "always ready to give a word of love and encouragement." They say with pride, "She is a tender soul." Abigail loves to read and enjoys playing with her little sister as well as friends of her own age.

Hannah is 4. She seems filled with the joy of life, and manages to keep everyone entertained. She dearly loves her big sister and brother. Her family loves seeing her grow and develop as she expresses herself in so many special ways.

About two years ago Abigail heard about the large number of unwanted babies in China. Where most little girls' ambitions may range from growing up to becoming a scientist to raising a big family, Abigail's ambition was to grow up and adopt a child from China. She immediately began to save all of her money, and I mean all of her money, allowance, Christmas, birthday, any and all money that found its way into her hands. One would expect this to grow old in a big hurry, but not for Abigail's ambition. She kept at it for more than two years, managing to save $395.

With Abigail as their inspiration, Kim and Todd began to seriously consider a Chinese adoption. Like Abigail, they began to think "How much money?" They sat down and when the figuring was done, they came up with the staggering amount of $25,000.

The decision hadn't come quickly or easily. It represented much prayer and thought and more prayer. It was what might be called a family project because only if everyone participated in the decision, sacrifice and work could it become a practical reality.

Nowhere on the Web site or in my interview with Kim was the word "sacrifice" even implied, yet many untold sacrifices had to be practiced. They knew what they wanted and what God wanted for them, and they went after it with joy and love.

They were warned that an adoption could take several years, but told that there were many children with special needs who were desperately in need of adoption. This would be the way to go they felt. That couldn't be too hard, maybe a child with a cleft-lip or perhaps an extra finger. They could manage that! It was a big decision, but they felt at peace about it.

Not long after, they met a woman online from Tennessee named Jan. Jan had adopted a baby from China in 2006. She shared a lot of information about the adoption process with the Phillips', and they soon became friends through e-mail. One day they received an e-mail from her telling them about a blind baby in China whose name was Li Hao. Her file was about to be sent back to China because she had been up for adoption for a long time.

Jan asked if they would be interested, and Kim quickly told her that they wouldn't. Kim's refusal wasn't because she didn't want a blind child, but she felt that she simply couldn't meet her needs. "I'm not very organized," she told me, "and I thought everything would have to be put right back in its place. I hadn't had any experience at all with the blind."

She remembers feeling sick to her stomach as she said she wasn't interested. "Something about this little girl was drawing me to her, but I didn't want to acknowledge it, and I just tried to pass it by."

A couple of weeks later, they got an e-mail from another friend named Kelsey who lives in Kansas City. She told them that a friend, Pam, who lives in Ohio, told her about a little blind girl named Li Hao who was in desperate need of adoption. The e-mail included a picture of the little girl.

Kim says that when she looked at the picture her heart began to pound. Something told her that this was their child, but still she struggled with doubts. Could she meet the child's needs?

Late that day, Todd expressed the feeling that from the time he saw the picture he had felt "really drawn to her as if she was the one we were supposed to adopt."

Kim says that this was the most interest Todd had shown in the process. Suddenly Kim realized that this was probably the same child that Jan had told her about. They decided right then to get more information from their agency.

So it started--the paperwork, the fund-raising, and more and more prayer. It was decided that the entire family (with the exception of Charlie) would make the trip to China to bring home the new member. Even Hannah could hardly wait for the day to come.

Kim remembers that at times they seemed to be in over their heads in paperwork, but she knew that God was there helping with the paperwork, with fund-raising, every step of the long journey toward their goal to their little girl they call Hope.

A high point for the family during the waiting period was being able to talk to Hope using Skype. They were actually able to see Hope, age 2, through the Web cast.

Finally, on the third of March of this year, they received the letter of approval, and on March 31 their travel approval. The big day was set for April 30. That day began a journey to China after two years of prayer and nine months of actual preparation. They were on their way to their dream.

There is no way to describe Kim's emotions when they first saw Hope in the lobby of Bethel Foster Home, a facility for children with special needs. Kim told me that Hope herself seemed smaller than she thought and that the whole experience seemed larger and more wonderful.

The two weeks they spent in China were an experience of a lifetime, but nothing like the joy they all felt on returning home with their treasure, the tiny girl named Hope.

Obviously Hope was a bit frightened and more than a bit frustrated. She cried on the way home, and clung tightly to Kim, a sign that they were bonding in that special way between mother and child. At times they all must have felt frustrated and perhaps somewhat discouraged when nothing they did seemed to comfort Hope, but they knew that she was meant to be theirs and that they were meant to be hers.

Kim received proof of this soon after they returned to the states. She had taken Hope to get her routine inoculations. When the doctor gave her the injection, she held tightly to Kim and cried that most beautiful word in an adopted mother's world, "Mommy!"

What about the rest of the family? They adore their little sister, and she's adjusting to the family life more and more each day. She's going around the house on her own as though she's always lived there. She still has bouts of crying and anger, but they're fewer, and she's adapting to a world where even the food is strange.

I asked Kim and the children to describe Hope for me: "She has soft brown skin and silky black hair. Her hair is thin and soft, and reaches right below her ears. She has a cute little button nose, and sweet little lips. Her eyes are very small, and because she has nystagmus, they move back and forth. Her ears are paper thin on the top. Her fingers and toes are long, and she grips firmly with her hands. She is tall for her age and thin. She weighs 23 pounds. She is really flexible and can touch her feet to her head! She loves to jump up and down, clap her hands, and spin around and around."

Jonathan's description of Hope: "She's fun. She likes to spin. She is very enjoyable to be around. Sometimes she gets cranky, but that's okay. I love that she has a good little spirit and her voice is so cute. There are so many cute things about her."

Abigail's description of Hope: "I love my sister. I like her smile. I like how she plays and uses her hands to find things. She loves to shake noisy things and it's so cute how she loves to cuddle with me. She likes me to spin her around and around in my arms. I love her so much."

Hannah's description of Hope: "I love it when she claps her hands. I love it when she drinks her bottle. She is gentle and soft."

How is Kim coping with the "blind child?" She says that she's just one more of her children, a fourth child to cherish and nurture. Has the journey ended? No, that exciting journey of love and growth is just beginning for the Phillips family, especially for Hope.

For more information and to follow Hope's progress in her new home, visit .