It was an April evening in 1975 in North Carolina. Early spring scents drifted in through the open windows, and soft light filtering through sheer curtains illuminated three-year-old Brian’s blond head as he knelt in prayer. His husky little-boy voice was asking blessings on everybody and everything he could think of.
“Bless my teddy, and Mommy’s sore finger, and my new backpack,” I heard him say. Then my mind wandered to my recent phone call to Mrs. Hebel at the Pearl Buck Foundation. I was anxious to know the latest report about Operation Babylift, a program that was bringing Vietnamese orphans to the United States from Saigon.
“No, Mrs. Andersen,” she had said. “You will not be getting a child this time. We are receiving only 47 children, and your family is number 60 on our approved list.”
Brian said, “And bless my bike, and Daddy’s new car, and …”
I looked again at my son, noticing how his brows knit together as he concentrated in prayer. We were lucky to have him. The doctors had given me little hope of completing my pregnancy successfully, suggesting instead that I terminate the pregnancy rather than subject myself to the risks. I had stubbornly resisted, and we were blessed with healthy Brian. Now we wanted another child, but I was unable to conceive again.
My thoughts were interrupted again when I heard Brian say, “Heavenly Father, please hurry up and send me a baby sister because Mommy’s tummy can’t grow one anymore.”
I suddenly realized that Brian had understood much more of our conversations about babies than I’d imagined.
For the next few days, Brian asked for a baby sister in his nightly prayers. One evening as I tucked him in, we talked about the orphaned Vietnamese children and what it meant to be without a mother or father.
“I hurt for those babies, Mommy,” Brian told me.
“Me, too,” I replied, holding him close.
About three days before his fourth birthday, Brian came running down the stairs in his pajamas, his hair tousled from sleep.
“Mommy!” he shouted excitedly. “Heavenly Father told me I would get a baby sister for my birthday.”
My thoughts and emotions were jumbled. I didn’t want to question Brian’s faith, but I didn’t think that even Heavenly Father gave birthday presents quite like that. I pondered how to handle the situation, which grew in seriousness as Brian proceeded to tell neighbors about his news. When people, many of whom knew we had been trying to adopt for nearly three years, asked me for details, I would sadly shake my head and say that we had heard nothing positive.
April 30, Brian’s birthday, dawned bright and clear. Brian rose early and came running downstairs to find his new sister. With tears in my eyes, I told him that she wasn’t here. Sensing my distress, he wrapped his arms around my neck and said, “Don’t worry, Mommy. My party isn’t until this afternoon.”
Feeling the need for some support, I telephoned my husband at work, but he was performing a surgery. “He should be out in about 15 minutes,” his nurse said. “I’ll have him call you.”
When the phone rang, I grabbed it and burst out, “Chuck, I need you to talk to Brian. He’s really expecting a baby sister today.”
After a short silence, a woman’s voice spoke. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Andersen. This isn’t your husband. This is Mrs. Hebel at the Buck Foundation. The orphans have arrived. We have one baby who was turned down by her scheduled parents because she is extremely ill and has a poor prognosis. Would you be interested in meeting her?”
Mrs. Hebel explained that the child had been born prematurely. Though six months old, she weighed only eight pounds. She was malnourished, faced possible blindness and deafness from infections, might never walk because she had been born with spina bifida, vomited frequently, and had ringworm and head lice. Mrs. Hebel said that she had skipped down the list to us because we had indicated we would consider a child with medical problems.
“We will take her,” I said with my heart pounding in my throat.
Mrs. Hebel suggested that perhaps we should wait to make our decision until after my husband had examined the child and seen her medical reports. “She is very tiny, very sick, and not very pretty right now,” she said.
Dear lady, I thought, you just don’t know what has been going on around here.
“Mrs. Hebel,” I said, “that child is our daughter. Her name is to be Anjali, and we will come up to Pennsylvania just as quickly as possible to get her.”
After I spoke to my husband and received his wholehearted approval, I rushed out to find Brian and tell him the news. He was playing on the swing and smiled when he saw me coming. Before I could say anything, he shouted, “You found out we’re getting my sister today, didn’t you! Mommy, I told you so!”
After several childhood surgeries on her back and ears, Anjali is today a healthy 21-year-old who is studying computers. When I reflect on the precious experience of adopting her and the great blessings she has brought into our lives, I feel grateful for the faith of my son. Both of my children have taught me much!