On November 19, 1989, a knock on the door changed my life. The years leading up to that day had been filled with rebellion against God and my family. I had turned to drugs and alcohol and made many bad choices along the way. In reality, I was running from everything good that God had placed in my life. I was too blind to see His grace at work.
Several months prior, I had moved out of my parents’ house and was living with friends. I hadn’t spoken with my parents in months. On that particular day I wasn’t feeling well. The guys I was living with were out, and I had the house to myself. I remember having a heavy heart. I hadn’t slept much the night before. I thought about my grandmother, mother, and aunt, who had spent years praying for me. I wept.
Adopted into the Kingdom of God
On November 19, when I opened the door, there stood the man I had been harboring anger toward: my father. Although I knew he loved me, I felt he had been too strict, too harsh, and far too religious. Yet for some reason, I missed him. I still had a deep longing to reconnect with him and to restore the brokenness that existed between us.
Normally, he would have been stern with me in a situation like this. He would have told me what I needed to do to get my life back in order. But that day, he stood with tears in his eyes and asked me if I was alright. He asked me if I would like to go for a ride and talk. Honestly, there was nothing I needed more, so I took him up on the offer.
We ended up in front of Calvary Church of the Nazarene in North Carolina around 9:00 p.m. My dad asked me if I would like to go inside the church and pray. I told him I would. The pastor met us at the church. After a few minutes of talking about what God was doing in my heart, at approximately 9:15 p.m., I walked down the aisle of that dimly lit sanctuary, knelt at an altar, and gave my heart to Jesus.
On that night the kingdom of God invaded my life and changed everything. Jesus became my Savior, and a passionate journey of following Him began. On November 19, 1989, my earthly father led me to the place where I met my heavenly Father. My dad was Jesus’ witness. Through his witness, my life has forever been changed.
September 15, 2014 was “Gotcha Day” for Kacey Xing-Yu. Over 50 couples were picking up their children the day we walked into the civil affairs office in Guangzhou, China. Once inside, everyone found a seat, and they called people forward alphabetically by last name. When our name was called we proceeded to the center of the room, and our child came from another room. In those moments, children were united with their forever families. It is a beautiful part of the adoption process.
Finally, they called our names: “Brian and Heather Powell.” From behind a closed door, Kacey emerged. She seemed scared to death, yet trying to smile. Most families were adopting younger children who really did not know what was going on. However, Kacey was old enough to know that her life was about to change forever. She came out with her orphanage director and one of her caregivers. None of them spoke English, and we knew minimal Mandarin. She was being very polite, but it was obvious that she was afraid.
As the room started to clear, Kacey became more apprehensive. Finally, her caregivers told her goodbye for the last time. These were the only people she had ever known, and they were leaving her with two Americans with whom she could not communicate other than with a phone app.
When the caregivers left the room, tears streamed down Kacey’s face. She was trying hard to hold them back, but she couldn’t. Those tears quickly turned to sobbing, and she began to cry out for her caregivers, who had already left. Ultimately, she walked away from us and began roaming the hallways calling out for her orphanage director. Heather and I followed her at a distance with tears streaming down our faces. We didn’t know what to do.
Eventually, she found her orphanage director. As they spoke in Mandarin, we had no idea what they were saying. Our director told us that he was explaining to her that she had to go with us for at least one night. The law in China says an orphan over 10 years old has to agree to be adopted. That means they have to sign their name stating that they willfully choose to become the child of their adoptive family. However, the law also requires that they stay at least one night with the family seeking to adopt them.
Our translator, who also served as our guide through the process, took Kacey aside and gently explained the rules to her. However, she wasn’t listening. Finally, they began forcing her to walk out of the building with us. They pulled her down the hallway and out into the parking lot kicking and screaming. Once in the parking lot Kacey ran toward the orphanage director’s car. Kacey was relatively strong for her age; she would have been very difficult to drag for two city blocks to where the bus was parked. The fatherly instinct rose up inside me. I asked our guide, “Can I pick her up and carry her?”
She said, “I didn’t want to ask, but that would be the best solution.”
I looked Kacey in her tear-filled eyes and said several times, “Wo-ai-ni” (I love you). Then I scooped her up and carried her kicking and screaming.
In all of the confusion, Kacey failed to realize that something very important was taking place. In the midst of the struggle, we were trying to save her life. This was a rescue mission. At 14, she would have aged out of the adoption program. The Chinese government does not allow adoptions of children past age 14.
Also, she was very sick and needed medical attention. I wanted to give her a life she had never experienced. I wanted to treat her as a good father would treat a beloved child, but fear was standing in the way: She was afraid.
When we finally got to the bus, I carried her down the aisle to the back seat and sat her in the corner. I blocked the aisle, so there was no chance of her running away. She crossed her arms, looked up at me, and if looks could kill, I would be a dead man!
The ride to the hotel was over an hour. On the way, Kacey saw things she had never seen before. Her countenance began to change. As Kacey walked through the doors of the hotel, she was astonished. She kept saying, “Wow.”
When we got to the room on the 15th floor, she looked out over the city in amazement. She discovered a jetted bathtub and wanted to know if she could take a bubble bath. She ended up taking one every night of our stay. We took her to eat at a fancy restaurant. She wanted to know what she could order. I told her, “Anything you want.” The table looked like a banquet set for a queen.
That night, Kacey Xing-Yu Powell fell asleep near a mom and dad on the 15th floor of a five-star hotel after taking a bubble bath and eating a fine meal. She fell asleep lavished with love. In one day, her entire world changed!
A New Family and a New Life
Kacey now has a family. Most importantly, she has a Savior. A few months after she arrived back in the United States, she watched the Jesus Film in Mandarin. In our driveway, using a translation app on my phone, I led Kacey to Jesus with tears streaming down her little face.
Fourteen years before, Kacey had been left on the steps of a hospital. She had lived her entire life with a life-threatening blood disorder that had never been properly treated. She resided in an orphanage in an obscure village in Southern China. She would have aged out of the adoption process five weeks after we arrived. Everything changed, because eight months earlier, God said to two strangers on the other side of the world, “Rescue her.” Kacey was an orphan for over a decade, but now she is a princess for life, and will forever be a daughter of the King!