Nathaniel's Story

by Rod and Shellie Smith

© 2005-2023 Rodney A. Smith
All rights reserved.
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Emma was adopted from China in 1999. Ellianna was adopted from Vietnam in 2003.

Every time one-year-old Ellianna or four-year-old Emma would ignore Shellie and reach for Rod, he would tell them, "You shouldn't do that or you will end up with a little brother and he will pull your pigtails." But, they did not listen, so here we are in the process of adopting a son from China.

Shellie has been intensely desiring to have children ever since she was very young. She almost had a son when she was twenty-one, but she lost her baby six months into the pregnancy. She had to wait nineteen years to have a child. Shellie and Rod adopted Emma from China in 1999 when Emma was thirteen months old. That entire experience is explained in Emma's Story.

Unfortunately for Shellie, Emma turned out to be a daddy's girl. She would actually push Shellie away and reach for Rod. So when we were ready to adopt a sister for Emma, Shellie insisted, "This one is going to be mine!" That entire experience is explained in Ellianna's Story.

Unfortunately for Shellie, Ellianna turned out to be a daddy's girl, too. But Shellie knew just what to do. Little boys always think that Mom is the greatest. The solution was simply to adopt a son.

This was not as simple as it first seemed. Rod was content to have two little girls. He did not see any need to add a third child to the family. Another factor weighing heavily on his mind was the roughly $25,000 cost of an Asian adoption and the sizable credit card balances from the expense of the first two adoptions.

Shellie was patiently insistent. She did not resort to begging and tears, or guilt trips. She left it all in God's hands and trusted that it would all work out if it was God's will. So, God sent a vacuum cleaner salesman.

Rod got a call from a man who said that he had a product about the size of a football that could clean an entire house and that Rod could receive a free vacation just for watching a demonstration. Since Rod is afflicted by an acute curiosity and is always interested in travelling, he agreed. He was quite disappointed to discover that the cleaning device was a vacuum cleaner. Against, his better judgment, he allowed the salesman to continue his demonstration. (This was a skilled salesman.) Rod was impressed by the demonstration but tried to put off the salesman by saying, "We are saving our money for an adoption." Nice try, Rod, but we ended up buying the vacuum cleaner anyway. (This was a very skilled salesman.)

And that was all of the permission that Shellie needed. She wasted no time filling out an application from Journeys of the Heart adoption agency and making an appointment with the social worker for our home study. Shellie was on a mission to adopt a son from China and she did not let grass grow under her feet. Soon, she was gathering birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, good health certificates from our doctor, good citizen certificates from the county sheriff, good employee certificates from Rod's employer, good human being certificates from our references . . . There seems to be no end to the paperwork that has to be gathered.

Then there is the hassle of dealing with the application and paperwork for Immigration and Naturalization Service, INS. Oops, they changed their name to the Bureau for Citizenship (BCIS) after Congress investigated lots of the complaints against INS. We helped get several congressmen involved in that investigation after INS kept us in limbo for three weeks in Saigon while adopting Ellianna.

There is a lot more to the story, which I will fill in when I have time. But I will cut to the chase. Here are actual emails we sent starting just days before Shellie and Emma left for China

Our church is helping with donations and asked if anyone wanted to donate money. So far nothing. I just looked up A Child Waits and called them. It is a loan so we did not try before. I am desperate enough to try now. I am not sure how they could process and send a check in time if they did agree.

I am going to get all the paperwork ready and maybe fax it tomorrow so it is waiting for them on Monday. On Monday I just need the rest of the plane fare and could get by without the rest until Wednesday morning.

Ready for some really great news?

God has come through with the money for the adoption! Praise His name!

Rod called his parents to see if they would co-sign for the adoption loan. They said yes so Rod e-mailed the form to them to sign and fax back.

When we did not get the fax back Rod called again to see if there was a problem. They could not open the emailed form so they decided they would wire us the money instead of co-signing a loan. We are still in shock.

And today at church, after our pastor had the church pray for us, a lady handed me a check for $100. Wow!

It is so wonderful to know we don't have this huge loan hanging over our head and to see how supportive Rod's family is over bringing Nathaniel home.

Tonight we are going to watch Mulan and eat popcorn and enjoy our family and take a break from the huge money stress of this adoption.

We were planning to all go until two weeks ago when it was time to buy our plane tickets. Up until then, the money we needed was always there just in time, but not that time. When it was the last day to buy our tickets, a check came for $2,000 as a scholarship from our adoption agency. It was about half of what we needed, so we decided that just Shellie and Emma would go.

We had discussed this option before, but our first choice was to all go. At least this way, I do not have to miss work so I can save my vacation time so we can all go to Iowa to visit my parents on my dad's birthday, July 30th. Also, I can take care of the dog and cats. Ellianna stays with the neighbor next door while I work. So far, it is working well.

Shellie and Emma are on their way to China to adopt Nathaniel in Shanghai. Emma will get to visit her orphanage, Mothers Love, in Nanning. Shellie will present her quilt wallhanging, Tree of Shared Love, to Mothers Love. The leaves on the tree are the hands of about twenty children adopted from China including several from Mothers Love orphanage. Rod and Ellianna are staying home to care for the dog and cats.

Here is their itinerary:
June 15: Northwest Airlines 5Y, Portland to Tokyo, 2:35 pm-5:00 pm,
Northwest Airlines 11Y, Tokyo to Beijing, 6:25 pm-9:15 pm
16: Arrive in Beijing at 9:15 pm, welcomed by Marsha at the airport and check in Tianhong Plaza hotel: tel: 010-82356699;
17: Visit Summer Palace with dinner;
18: Visit Great Wall with lunch and some art factories;
19: Visit Tian'anmen Square and Forbidden City, lunch; Beijing to Shanghai. Check in at East Asia Hotel, tel: 63223223
20: Go to the orphanage, pick up baby and do some paper work;
21: Registration and notary;
22: Free;
23: Sightseeing/ ChenHuang Miao and Yuyuan Garden;
24: Pick up notary paper and passport;
25: Shanghai to Nanning by June MU 5397 (14:40-17:10), met by local guide at the airport, check in XiangYun hotel; Tel: 0771-2101999;
26: Visit Emma's orphanage, meeting director Ms Liu and Emma's foster mom;
27:Nanning to Guangzhou, met by local guide, check in White Swan Hotel;
28: Take picture and do medical test and fill in visa forms;
29: Guide will pick up medical test report; Send visa papers to the consulate in the morning;
30: Families swear in the consulate in the morning and pick up visa in the afternoon;
July 1: Leave for USA.
Northwest Airlines 10Y, Guangzhou to Tokyo, 8:20 am-2:10 pm
Northwest Airlines 6Y, Tokyo to Portland, 3:40 pm-8:50 am

Please pray that they will have a safe and pleasant trip and that Nathaniel will bond with them quickly.

Shellie called from China. They arrived safely in China Thursday at 9:15 pm local time. The flight was boring but the Beijing airport was frightening. They were the last ones off of the plane because Emma was sleeping. It took a long time to get through immigration because Shellie filled out the immigration card with pencil and had to fill out another card after borrowing a pen. By the time they found the luggage carousel, it was empty. After checking all of the luggage carousels, they finally found their luggage on a cart. But, they found their guide, Marsha, waiting for them along with another family who had been waiting for an hour and a half after their flight.

Shellie and Emma toured the Summer Palace in Beijing on Friday and went to the Great Wall on Saturday. She said she was surprised to see many people walking their dogs. We were told that very few Chinese people have pets.

Emma said, "China is great!" Marsha has been teaching her more Chinese words. She was a little bit homesick for her dog and cats.

They will tour Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City, then fly to Shanghai on Sunday, to get Nathaniel on Monday.

Rod and Ellianna are doing fine at home. Shellie stocked up on food before she left. Every morning, Ellie says that she doesn't want to go to Jamie's house so Rod tells her all of the fun she will have with Jamie and the twin boys. Then she is happy to go.

Shellie called today to ask for prayers for them. The air pollution is so bad that she has to use her inhaler when she goes outside. She is going to skip the sightseeing trip planned for Thursday.

Nathaniel is having trouble adjusting to them. He is pretty fussy. They speak a different dialect in Shanghai so he cannot understand the Chinese that Emma speaks. Shellie has a hard time pronouncing his Chinese name, Li Cai. The C is pronounced something like "ts". He has only looked at her once when she said his name.

Shellie met a woman who was adopting from the same orphanage at the same time who is in a serious mess. She is traveling alone for her first time overseas. Her husband is home with their five children. When she got to the registrars office, the first step of the Chinese adoption paperwork, the name on her husband's driver's license was somehow different than the name on his second piece of identification. The official concluded that there were two different men so he refused to process her paperwork. When Shellie left, the woman did not know what to do.

Also, Shellie's sister in Arizona lost her husband suddenly to a heart attack last week.

Please pray for Shellie's health and that Nathaniel be comforted and will bond with them.

I finally got through to Shellie in Shanghai. I had been calling morning, noon and night and getting a busy signal. Finally, I found the hotel's website and discovered that I had been dialing an extra zero in the area code. Then it took two tries to speak to an actual person instead of a Chinese recording. Then it took two or three people to find one who spoke enough English to connect me to Shellie's room.

Shellie was glad to hear my voice. She was feeling pretty forgotten when I didn't call the last two nights. Also, she is pretty congested. When she is outside, she coughs and coughs from the air pollution. When she is inside, her nose runs from the air conditioning.

Shellie is also frustrated by the language barrier. Very few of the hotel staff speak English so she has to hunt for someone when she needs something. Her guide knows a lot of English words but has trouble comprehending an entire sentence.

However, Shellie has been really blessed by Mark and Leah, who are from Shanghai but live near us in Oregon. They "just happened to be" (It has to be God's work.) visiting his parents in Shanghai the same week that Shellie is in Shanghai adopting Nathaniel. Leah took Shellie and the kids to a restaurant next to the hotel and filled everyone up on Chinese dumplings. Shellie never cared for them before but they taste so much better in China. She says that she must have eaten her body weight in dumplings by now. Then, Leah took them to a bookstore, the Bund area along the river which was mostly built by Europeans, on a river cruise, and to dinner.

On Thursday, Mark and Leah invited them to a big family dinner party given by Mark's parents. It was quite a blessing to Shellie to be included in the family gathering. However, they fed her jellyfish and it was just awful, but they were watching her so she could not spit it out. She finally chewed it down and swallowed it. YUCK! At another meal, she wasn't very happy about eating the duck with its head still attached.

Shellie and the kids were also invited into Mark's sister's apartment. Shellie really wanted to see the inside of a Chinese home so she was thrilled.

Nathaniel is adjusting to Shellie and Emma. He smiles a lot and is a happy baby. He is happy to go on outings with them. He also gets into everything so Shellie and Emma get lots of practice saying "NO" in Chinese. He also responds to Emma when she says his Chinese name, Li Cai, but Shellie still can't say it right. He seems to understand quite a bit of what Mark and Leah say to him.

Shellie says Nathaniel is short and stocky, almost square, like a football player. Emma says Nathaniel is nice but he messes with her stuff. They say "NO" a lot.

Shellie got five pages of information about Nathaniel from the orphanage. It included where he was found. Mark and Leah did not recognize the place as anywhere in Shanghai so he was probably found in a nearby village.

They still draw lots of attention. The people were six deep around them. Many people are sure that Shellie must have a Chinese husband.

When they went to dinner with Mark and Leah, Mark and his two kids were sitting at the table with Shellie and our two kids. A cute little old man came over and spoke with Mark quite awhile. After he left, Mark explained that the man wondered why they had four kids. He decided that they must be from Tibet.

When I called, Shellie was about to go to pick up Nathaniel's passport and paperwork on Friday afternoon. On Saturday afternoon, they will fly to Nanning. On Sunday, they will visit Mother's Love orphanage where we got Emma. They will present the quilt Shellie made, Tree of Shared Love.

Shellie just called from Nanning. She is having a really hard time with her lungs and asks that people pray for her. She coughed for four hours yesterday and thought she might die. She is using her inhaler and she is taking antibiotics just in case. Another woman in her group at Bejing came down with the same complaint and is responding to antibiotics.

The second hand smoke is really bad in China. Their plane from Shanghai to Nanning was delayed for two hours and they were stuck in the airport. That is what caused her four hour coughing fit. Also, she tried to go shopping for clothes at the Nanning Department Store but she coughed so bad that she had to go back to the hotel. She gets by if she stays in the hotel room but they have to fly to Guangzhou on Monday.

Emma has had a sore throat for most of the trip. It's a good thing Shellie took antibiotics along. Emma had a fever but it finally broke yesterday. The little boys that live next to us came down with strep throat just before Shellie and Emma went to China so that is probably what Emma has.

But, Shellie says Nanning is gorgeous. The sky is blue, the first she has seen in China. They had a wonderful visit at Mothers Love Orphanage with Kit Ying. Also, they had dinner with Emma's foster parents and it was wonderful.

Shellie and Emma had a wonderful visit with Kit Ying at Mothers Love Orphanage yesterday. Kit rushed out the door to greet them. She remembered Emma. Then she gave them a tour.

They enjoyed seeing the babies. There was a very cute 3 month old boy with Downs Syndrome. They now have many children with severe special needs that will never leave the orphanage. They also have a new row of crosses in the orphanage cemetery.

Kit said that God had to prepare her for a year to take on the severe special needs children. She was quite open with Shellie about her prayer concerns.

They were overwhelmed by the donations we sent, mostly crayons, pencils and some medicine. We gave them fifteen t-shirts that say "All Gods Children Are Adopted". They were also very touched by the quilt Shellie made with hands of children adopted from China, some from Mothers Love. They now have a way to donate money directly to Mothers Love over the internet.

Shellie called twice on Tuesday. She left a message that said she was sick again. The four families in her group gathered in her room at the White Swan to fill out the US Visa applications. Shellie had to crawl into bed and rest. Helen, her guide, finished filling out her application.

Later, when she called, she said that she was feeling much better. They stayed inside the hotel all day because there were heavy rains in the area that day. Maybe it washed the pollution out of the air.

The next day, they went for Nathaniel's pictures and Medical exam. Then she did some shopping at Jennifer's Place. We like to get enough birthday presents to last for several years.

Shellie ran into the woman she met in Shanghai who was stymied because her husband's name did not exactly match on his two pieces of identification. The problem was cleared up and she and her daughter were going to fly home the next day.

Emma and Shellie have been asking each other what they will do first when they get home. Both decided that they would find our cat, Dakota, and cover him with kisses.

Nathaniel is happier but he has not bonded with Shellie, yet. When they came back to the room before the maid finished cleaning, Nathaniel followed the Chinese maid and wanted to be picked up.

They are really enjoying the trip in spite of being sick. They have met some wonderful people this trip. Their guide has a boy about Nathaniel's age so they compare notes. Shellie was annoyed by the way the Chinese people usually just push past her, but when she had to get her two children and carry-ons up the stairs to an airplane, two strangers (women, of course) each picked up a carry-on and helped them all the way to their seats.

The White Swan is very nice, but expensive. A hot dog at the restaurant costs about $12. They have been eating at a noodle shop down the street, which has very tasty food. However, Shellie says being in a foreign country with children and not being able to find a place to feed them, brings out something very ugly in a mother.

Their experience at the new US Consulate was very different from the last time with Emma. Their guide took all of the application paperwork to the Consulate. The parents only go to swear an oath that the information in the application is accurate. Security is really tight. To get to the consulate, they had to go two blocks up, then two blocks back, and pass through several security check points.

The last time I called, they were packing up everything. They had to leave the hotel at 6 am Friday to catch their 8:20 am flight to Tokyo. Shellie met several adoptive families that will be on the same flight. They will arrive in Portland Friday at 8:50 am. It worked out very nicely that Nathaniel will have a four day weekend to get acquainted and settle in.

We arrived home Friday morning. I have been really, really tired so I just did what had to be done and left the rest. I don't remember being so tired the last adoption trip.

Nathaniel traveled very well all over China but was absolutely terrified when we landed in Portland. We have moved very slowly with him. He was scared of Rod but Rod is so gentle and kind that Nathaniel has warmed up to him.

Poor little kid has so many things to get used to. Tomorrow is his first doctor appointment. No shots or blood draws. Just a check and introduction time.

Emma was an excellent traveler even when she had a fever and we were delayed at the Shanghai airport she was not fussy. She has been fussy since she came home. We are all tired.

I really enjoyed the trip. It was a big challenge as usual with my lungs and my huge amount of fears but God was so present and I felt people praying so I knew we would make it.

It was hard to bond with Nathaniel traveling. I felt so much pressure with being the one in charge and carrying all the money etc etc that is was very hard to have time to just play with him. And the Chinese I worked so hard to learn was useless this time. Shanghai is a different dialect so he did not respond to anything I said. Also his Chinese name is very hard to say. So he did not respond to it at all. Since we came home I am using Nathaniel but in China I used his Chinese name since he had so many adjustments I thought using his name would be easier for him.

We did blow bubbles and play. And also he is a BIG boy so I could not use the Sara's ride and the backpack so he had to be in the stroller.

All we know about Nathaniel is the name of the village where he was found and our friends from Shanghai did not recognize the name of the village. He was a few days old when he arrived at the orphanage and he stayed there for 18 months. The orphanage was a showcase orphanage so he received the best of care. When Shellie visited Emma's orphanage, the founder and the director discussed Nathaniel and decided that he must be northern Chinese. Usually healthy boys are only available from unwed mothers. That is probably all we will ever know about his background.

We napped and got acquainted with Nathaniel over the 4th of July weekend. He was overwhelmed and a little scared when he first arrived. He warmed up to me when I fed him lunch and supper. I did not try to hold him until evening but he came right to me when I held out my hands.

He was afraid of the cats. Even the second day, he cried and quivered when Dakota walked past him. He is warming up to them now. He even went over to Sarah tonight and tried to pet her. Carl (the dog) is still pretty scary, though.

He is a happy boy except at bed time. He started screaming tonight as soon as I started up the stairs. I think he just wants to keep on playing. He quieted down after five or ten minutes and we both fell asleep.

Ellianna missed her mama and sister more than I realized. She is pretty happy to have them back home. Emma missed me and her cats. She has passed out plenty of kisses to everyone since she got home.

Nathaniel is a happy guy. Today we taught him to "Give me five." He was so tickled. Also, Emmaline told him, "pi pi shoh" which means "clap your hands." Immediately he clapped his hands and smiled really big. This is the first time he has recognized any of Emma's Mandarin.

If you have questions or comments, please EMAIL me at rodandshellie (at)

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Emma's Story
Emma's Timeline
Ellianna's Story
Prayers for Ellianna
Elllianna's Timeline
Nathaniel's Story
Journeys of the Heart Adoption Agency
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