No supermodel’s smile could compare with the radiant appeal of Leeya Whites smile. The three year-old daughter of Jon and Andrea won our hearts as soon as we saw pictures before her arrival to the United States. It is hard to express in these few words how a three year-old who was immobile and unable to talk could move us closer to God and tell us so much about life. Her story begins in a province of China called Henan. She was named Yan Qi. But she was born as a very sick baby. One doctor described a list of serious medical defects and issues, and then finally said, “Leeya is a “medically complex child.” As an orphan she needed much medical care. To receive medical care she was transported to Luoyang, a city of 1.5 million people. This special care center for sick orphans is often referred to as “heaven on earth.” It is a six-story sky blue building with white clouds painted all over it. It is called Maria’s Big House of Hope. It is full of orphaned babies who are sick, nannies, nurses, a doctor, cleaning staff and administration. But it is also full of love, and lots of hope.
This story has another scene which took place simultaneously on the other side of the world. Because God is in this story He can work on both sides of the world at once! People in America were touched by these precious residents of Maria’s Big House of Hope. The beautiful dark-haired children with penetrating dark eyes, who need love and family pull so strongly at hearts that many each year take vacation time to leave the US and go to China to serve these babies. One volunteer was an intern from the University of Tennessee. She contacted the Whites to let them know she loved going into “The Little Mermaid Room” to see Leeya each day she was there. Another was Sue, a beautiful lady from Virginia who is nearly 70 years old. She held Leeya on three annual trips praying for her all through the years. But in my eyes – the big stars of this story is The Jon and Andrea White family: Katelyn, Riley, Christopher, Gracyn and Sam.”
Everyone in this story loved Leeya deeply. Everyone in this story has Leeya stories, but also God stories. It seems that everyone who grew close to Leeya grew closer to God. It is amazing to see how God worked in the life of Leeya White. So today the Ultimate Focus and praise and glory be lifted up to the Blessed Name of our Lord God. We are thankful for blessing us with a beautiful life making such a powerful impact on our journey.
This poem shows the impact Leeya made on the doctor at Maria’s Big House of Hope. This is an excerpt of a poem written by her doctor, Dr. Seve Martin Jr., of Maria’s Big House of Hope.
In Loving Memory of Leeya YanQi White
What say, my soul?
What say, my soul, at the loss of Leeya
What to say to such a loss, oh soul?
And at this time so tragic to say goodbye
Why is it now?
Months and years ago while still in China
Her body frail, and fed by tube, so weak
Often barely breathing, more tubes and tape,
Her bed became a small ICU.
Oxygen and medicine and love
We could have lost her any time; but wait,
She had a smile, a small and beautiful smile.
She smiled in the midst of being so sick and ill
Nannies and nurses were drawn to her side.
I saw the travelers hold her close and gently
And she could only give them one thing back
Just her smile.
I sent her for more tests on her heart.
She almost died from that, barely survived
Then hospice care, and she continued to smile.
And with more time she started to improve.
Less sick, less tubes, more active, more rebound
Her bed was moved next to the other beds.
She played on the mat and smiled at all who came.
Mrs. Sue again had come and held her close,
And held her close.
A family was called, raised up to come for her
To love this girl without reservation.
They adored her, loved her, brought her into their home
Yet she was still in need and still quite weak.
Why would they come over oceans of papers and water
and why so brief her time with them to be?
What say, my soul, can I recall to mind?
What to say to such a loss, oh soul?
The winds and waves today do they still know?
And if these know, my soul – does it still know?
Peace, be still
Don’t speak, my soul,
During the funeral much was said about Leeya and her journey on this earth. But toward the end there were words that were directed to Jon and Andrea. Here are a few paragraphs.
Today Jon and Andrea, I do not bring you my pity as I would have done a few months ago if I would have heard about someone adopting a medically complex child and then within four months she passed. I would have said something like, “poor parents, can you imagine how devastated they are.? Or, can you imagine how angry they might become toward adoption or God or life? Can you imagine how difficult that must be to invest and love and now all is lost? Can you imagine how they might feel — it was all a mistake.
But you showed us something completely different. You showed us what it looks like to Love and Risk – and it has been far from devastating. And it doesn’t look anything like a mistake. Instead it looks so right, hopeful, so loving … So Christ like.
You showed us what it looks like to love with your all… and completely without restraint – even though you knew the risk was high of complications and even death. You knew her fragile health when you went to take her into your arms, Jon. You heard the doctor’s reports of a fragile being and yet you took her into your family anyway, Andrea. You could see her limited mobility and the need for a therapist and doctor for almost every day of the week — yet you took her into the depth of your heart. You loved… anyway…. always…
You helped us see what love looks like when one doesn’t love for what you can get in return but instead to love in order to give (true love – Agape)… because others are worthy of love because they are made in the image of an amazing Creator, a Marvelous Maker. I understand his grace better by watching you guys. I understand I have nothing to bring the father that will help him or improve his life. I have no real strength on my own, pretty much immobile. I am a high risk relationship. And yet he adopted me like you guys adopted Leeya. He loves on me like you did her. He gives me a new name and hope and all I need to be sustained today. Sounds very familiar to what the Whites did for Leeya. God loves us – takes us in – why — because HE IS LOVE. (I Jn 4:8 – He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.) The success of this adoption isn’t diminished in the length of time she lived. What is righteous and good is not measured by time, but by its reflection of Jesus. If adopting Leeya reflects Jesus – it doesn’t matter if it last for days or decades – it will always be right. Time doesn’t erode or define holiness – God does. Why because HE IS HOLY (1 Pet 1:13ff). And don’t forget, Love and Holiness has had past experiences with Death – most notable – Jesus. And death – the end of time for earthly life – doesn’t erode or diminish Eternal Life. Eternal Life swallows death. We so often think of death swallowing life. But Jesus’ death and resurrection was not only a victory – but it reordered our understanding of death. Through Jesus resurrection – Life swallows Death (2Corinthians 5:4)! She LIVES!
Your actions have helped me to understand scripture about Love and Grace better. And now I say this with the deepest caution, highest respect and the most gentle way you can say something bold at perhaps the wrong time — but Today, I do not pity you, I kind of envy you. You hurt today for all the right reasons. You have emptiness because you first Loved. You have a funeral today because you opened your heart. Leeya had an awesome family in her life because you guys adopted. Leeya’s smile became a powerful advocate for medical adoptions because you guys were faithful and courageous. I don’t pity you – I admire you.
We can’t stop children from becoming Orphans, but we can stop them from living as orphans! You did this. When Jon was traveling to China to pick up Leeya – one of the leaders of the trip, Rita, looked with great concern at Leeya and Jon.” Jon explained to her … “Rita, If she died today – she would have had a Dad for 2 days – it is worth it.”
What more is there to say? Except, we love you, Jon and Andrea, Katelyn, Riley, Christopher, Gracyn and Sam. Our prayers continue to be for you. Thank you for allowing us to journey in our own way with you. You helped us grow. Leeya is missed! But we know things are not immobile or quite for her now! But for you, we pray that the God of all comfort surround you and your family.
by David Shannon