Does God answer prayers?
Jeri and Brian Wilson have no doubt.
For evidence, the Grain Valley couple, along with their three adult daughters, point to what has happened since Tuesday morning. That is when CNN ran a story out of Beijing on what it called China’s “abandoned children,” the countless thousands of boys and girls, many with severe disabilities, who pack the country’s orphanages.
The example the reporter used: JiaJia, a smiling 9-year-old boy who, because of a botched spina bifida operation, is forced to drag the dead weight of his legs behind him.
JiaJia (pronounced Zsa Zsa) is also the child for whom the Wilsons, since February, have been trying to raise some $30,000 to adopt, bring to the Kansas City area and make part of their family. Before Tuesday, their fundraising efforts, including a concert and a garage sale, had raised $10,000.
But by Tuesday evening, the GoFundMe page that they had put up on Tuesday afternoon had already neared $30,000 and was continuing to climb.
“Beyond belief. Overwhelmed. Excited,” Jeri Wilson said Tuesday evening.
Where does prayer come into it? Everywhere, she said.
The Wilson are both 49 years old with grown daughters — Cassie, 26, Aryn, 24, and Jana, 19. Although the couple earlier in their lives had considered adoption, they figured they were past child rearing until two friends adopted two disabled children from China.
Matt and Amy Mangels of Kansas City added the Chinese children to the two biological sons they already had. They first adopted Samuel, now 4, who had a cleft palate.
“We were like, oh, this is awesome and this is exactly what we are called to do,” Matt Mangels said. “And we did.”
This year they adopted Jeremiah, now 7, who also was born with spina bifida and who, at the orphanage in China, was best friend to JiaJia.
As Jeri Wilson tells it, Amy Mangels came to her and said that in her heart and mind, she saw the Wilsons as the right parents for JiaJia.
“It was very clear in her mind,” said Matt Mangels, who with Amy now has added a fifth child, an 8-month-old biological daughter. “God was urging her to share what was on her mind and on her heart with Brian and Jeri.”
Jeri Wilson recalled, “They asked me to pray about it.”
So she did. In December, during a church service, the answer came to her: Yes.
Initially, she said, the answer wasn’t as clear for her husband, Brian. But by February, she said, God spoke to his heart as well.
“It wasn’t difficult,” Jeri Wilson said of the decision. “His (JiaJia’s) special needs were not a reason not to adopt. God loves us, special needs or not.”
The only questions, she said, were practical, putting in the paperwork and figuring out how to refit their house, which had stairs and several levels, to accommodate a boy who will need a wheelchair.
Also, there was the money, the $30,000 estimated for the adoption itself, along with travel and other expenses. The Wilsons aren’t wealthy. He works as a project manager for an architectural glass and sheet metal company. She is a pharmacy technician at a Hy-Vee store. They estimate it will take an additional $10,000 to reconfigure the house.
“We didn’t care that he was paralyzed,” Jeri Wilson said. “We just wanted to know how to do it.”
To raise awareness, Cassie Wilson put up a Facebook page. Three times, they’ve spoken with JiaJia by Skype.
“He said he wants his name to be Jason,” Jeri Wilson said.
Then, on Monday, out of nowhere, the family was contacted by news reporter Will Ripley from China. He said he had visited JiaJia in the orphanage, called Alenah’s Home, and wanted to refer to the boy and the Kansas City area family in his work.
The Wilsons agreed.
“We’re just overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from people we don’t even know,” Jeri Wilson said.
The hope now, she added, is that they might be able to bring JiaJia home by Christmas. Even though money will not be the concern it was, the Chinese government, Wilson said, still needs to work through its processes to approve the family for adoption.
The family is confident it will work out.
“God has made all this happen,” Wilson said.