Xiao Man’s Bio Video

Spunky, delightful, energetic, dramatic, joyful, cuddly, sweet…there are so many words that can be used to describe Xiao Man. When she came to the orphanage a couple of years ago, it was heartbreaking to see her grieve the loss of her family and the world she had known. However, this resilient little girl has adjusted beautifully, and recovered her happy spirit.

Stylin in the hood

This sweetheart LOVES to perform! Whether she’s delivering an impromptu “speech,” dancing to the music, or singing karaoke before her adoring fans, she is rarely happier than when she has a platform and an audience. She also enjoys being “big sister” to the smaller children, and they love and trust her. Despite her extroverted personality, she also loves curling up in a lap and snuggling in for a nice nap.

Sweetly Sleeping

Please watch her video and get to know this delightful little girl. Her extra 21st chromosome must contain a special dose of personality and fun, because she is over the top wonderful. Won’t you pray for a family for this sweetheart, and consider whether that family might be yours? Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have. :)



Orphanage Christmas, 2015

Christmas at the orphanage is always packed full of joy and laughter. Simple pleasures and gifts are met with shining eyes a delighted smiles. It’s hard to imagine a happier chaos. :)

Hugs are the best gifts of all!

Each year, we begin by gathering the children and the ayis around and reading the Christmas story. This year they listened quietly, even raptly, to the Luke 2 recounting of the birth of Jesus. It’s always touching to contemplate how God wove adoption into His own Son’s story (by having His earthly father, Joseph, care for Him through adoption), in order that one day we might be adopted as His sons and daughters.

After giving the ayis our gifts of appreciation to them, for loving and caring for the children week in and week out, the craziness of celebrating with the children began. Local believers had outdone themselves collecting specific items for the children…

The Gifts Arrive!

…and the boxes of gifts just kept coming!

So. Many. Presents.

It didn’t take the kids long to start opening their presents.

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As always, shoes were probably the most popular gift.

Love my sporty new shoes!

There’s something about new shoes of their own that captivates a child…

Can't take my eyes off of you....

…and fills them with joy.

So, so proud!

Warm coats and wraps were layered on and modeled by their proud new owners.

Bundling up

I love my snuggly new coat...and my Jie Jie!

Little Red Riding Hood; isn't she gorgeous???

Beautiful outfits were properly admired.

Girly girl

Xiao Hong, lovely in her traditional outfit.

While the babies were content to just be cuddled and watch the happy activity.

Our newest Downs arrival; what a little love he is!

Sweet RuRu

God supplied so abundantly; it was overwhelming how many practical, warm, lovely, and durable things the children received.

What a joyful chaos!

King of the Mountain

Of course, what would Christmas be without toys? Like any children, the orphans delighted in playing with their prizes.

Playing is more fun with GeGe!

Fun at the end of the tunnel.

Is that not just the happiest face??

Little Drummer Boy

Stamp of Approval

Driving Miss ZhuZhu

Having a ball!



What Christmas experience would be complete without playing with the boxes and paper?

Sweetest gift of all.

At first they weren’t quite sure what to think of this new activity…

What is this strange new game?

But they soon got over it, and reveled in the glorious mess of it.

I think I like it!

As wonderful as it all was, as fabulously excited as the children were, I couldn’t help but think of the present they all need most…the gift of a family. Clothes, shoes, toys, those are great blessings, but none of them can compare with the joy of family, and having a mommy and daddy of their very own. I’m reminded of that when I listen to this song by Steven Curtis Chapman. It’s been around a long time, but when I hear it, I’m always brought to tears thinking of the truth it conveys. What these children really want, what they need, is love and a family.


Please, pray for them as we enter this new year, fresh with promise and opportunity. Perhaps this is the year God will bring some of them a family.

Precious Zhong Zhong

After all, how great would it be to have this sweetheart under your tree next year? :)

He's such a lovable little stinker!

Xiao Wen’s Bio Video

We’re not supposed to have favorites at the orphanage, but my sister, Hope, definitely has had a special relationship with Xiao Wen since he first came. It’s so sweet to see the two of them together– her tenderly caring for him, and him smiling and snuggling responsively.


Actually, very few of us think of him as “Xiao Wen,” because we nicknamed him “Yoda” almost as soon as we saw him. It’s impossible not to imagine a baby Yoda when we see his adorable ears and beaming smile.

Content Joyful


Watch Xiao Wen’s video, and fall in love with his happy, responsive personality, as we have. The force of love is strong in this one. Needs a family he does! :) Perhaps it’s yours? Please pray that God would provide someone to love Xiao Wen forever. He’s so deserving of a family of his very own! Please contact me if you have any questions about this precious boy.

Xiao Ming’s Bio Video

Smiles have a way of transforming faces, of brightening the dreariest days and filling them with sunshine. Xiao Ming has the kind of grin that shines so happily that we’ll do almost any silly thing just to see it spread across his face.

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His delighted giggle, brought on by having raspberries blown beneath his ear, or being swung upside down, matches his sweet smile. How wonderful it would be to see that smile bloom in the loving care of a family!


Please watch Xiao Ming’s video, and get to know this special child. Pray for him. Feel free to fall in love with his grin, as we have! :) If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I’d be glad to answer them. Wouldn’t you love to see this beaming face around your dinner table?

Zhu Zhu’s Bio Video


During my nearly 9 years at the orphanage, very few of the original children remain (thankfully). Though children have come and gone, Zhu Zhu (Pearl) has been a constant. We’ve watched her grow from an extremely sick baby, to a physically strong and healthy 9 year old. Though she has never known the love of a family, Zhu Zhu is eager to seek out affection from the volunteers who visit. Strong and active, she’s not much for sitting and snuggling, but would rather hold hands and go for walks, or take as many piggy back rides as others will indulge her in. She also loves water, and is eager for bath time, or the rare opportunity to enjoy a swim.



Please watch Zhu Zhu’s bio video, and delight in the uniqueness of this precious girl God has created. Pray that He’ll send a loving family to make her their daughter, and consider whether that family might be yours. If you have more questions about Zhu Zhu, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

God has a plan for Zhu Zhu’s life. Will you be a part of her story?

Orphan Camp 2015

Guest blog entry by Paul Thomas

Joy asked me to step in and write a blog post for her. I’ve done the admin side of Orphan Camp for the last couple years, which keeps me busy making sure that kids, staff, toys, buses, and food is all where it should be — so not a lot of time to play with the kids.

(I’m totally fine with this. Some have these gifts, and some have those gifts…)

Because of this, I get a “bird’s eye view” of the event. A few things jump out at me, as I watch the day progress.

For example, you sometimes don’t expect the people who are the best with kids to be the best with kids.

Some people who seem tough and serious on a daily basis have hearts of oak that can give the most steadfast, deep love to some of the kids who need it the most steadily.




Sometimes, people who have no experience as parents turn out to be experts at connecting with somebody who needs somebody to connect to.








Seeing kids grow up over three summers is, well, amazing. And heartbreaking.




And obviously, there’s a lot of smiles and laughter, but that’s kids for you!



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What isn’t in these pictures is the staff of both the orphanage and the facility where we host the event. Obviously, the kids are the focus of the day, but they’re not the only ones we have the chance to show the love of Jesus to. The orphanage staff get a fun day while we take care of their kids, but they also get a few minutes to talk with believers who try and explain why we spend our “free time” doing this.

(Our time isn’t free. He paid for all of it. We can just try to use it well.)

Similarly, the staff of the facility are bemused and appreciative that, on this blazing hot summer day, a bunch of foreign strangers are eagerly taking on the work of setting up and breaking down the tables and chairs, cleaning the pool, serving the food — jobs which normally would fall to them. We’re frank with them about why we’re eager to do this.

(“In all humility, consider others as greater than yourselves.”)


Maybe the best is seeing some of the kids who have left the orphanage as they blossom in the care of a foster family or their new adopted family. We invite these kids back every year so the staff can see beloved little ones as they blossom and grow.




I am very grateful to the volunteers who come and make this event fun and loving. I am very, very grateful to the supporters around the world who have made this possible thanks to contributions and prayers. (Two years with beautiful, sunny days, despite being in the middle of a rainy season? What are the chances…?) Most of all, though, I am grateful to have been given a little way to serve, and to try to show these kids and the staff what Christ’s love means.

Reach out and Touch Someone

Touch is something we often take for granted. Hug a friend in greeting. Hold hands as we pray. Rock a little one to sleep. Lean against each other for warmth or support. As members of a family, or a friend group, we usually have as much physical affection as we want (some of us more than we want, although I’ve yet to reach that point :) ).

Cuddle Time

Orphans have the same need for touch that we do, but sadly far less access to it. Caregivers are busy keeping them fed, clean, and safe. Their hands are often too full to hold the small fingers reaching out to them. So whenever the children have the opportunity to cuddle, they take advantage of it.

Content to be Loved

I Love Jie Jie!

The closer they can snuggle, the more they can nestle against us, the better they like it.

Satisfied in her Arms

Don't let me go, okay?

Sometimes there aren’t enough laps to go around, so they make the most of the laps available.

Lap-full of Lovin'

Other times even therapy is welcomed, as long as loving arms are part of the package.

Helping HandI love therapy, if I get time with you!

Naptime is never quite as sweet as when it can be taken resting against a loved one.

Sweetly Sleeping Naptime Snuggles

And of course hugs and kisses are the very best things of all!

Hugs are the best! Kissing Tiny Toes

Thankfully, they always have their “brothers and sisters” at the orphanage to love and support them…

Friends Forever

…but we know that’s not the same as a family. As wonderful as friends are, they cannot replace the safe and loving arms of a mommy and daddy, which is what these children really want. Truly, it’s the same thing we want, which is why God promises in Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Safe and Sound

Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to open our hearts and arms to one more child, and touch their lives forever? Can we put aside the comfortable known, in order to embrace the sweet unknown that is these little lives?

Happy to be Held

I pray that one day each of these children would know the secure love and affection that comes from having a forever family. They will give just as much love (if not more) than they receive.

First John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” Will you love one of these little ones?

The Many Faces of Xiao Wen

How we love this expressive, happy little boy! Each face seems sweeter than the last. Here’s a peek into some of our favorites:













Don’t you  just want to snuggle him? You can! Contact me at joydexter@pearlriverdiaries.com to find out how. :)

Dong Dong’s Bio Video

For several years now I’ve wanted to have bio videos made for the orphans, to help you get to know them better. Their fun personalities and sweet character come through so much more clearly on film than through pictures or words. Recently, God answered prayers by bringing a new couple to our volunteer group, one of whom just “happened” to be a filmographer. When he broached the idea of making videos for each child, I eagerly accepted. As you will see, he did a beautiful job. This video on Dong Dong is the first in what we hope to be a series of short films letting you meet some of our precious kiddos.

A couple of years ago, I posted this article about Dong Dong– http://pearlriverdiaries.com/advocacy/?p=236. Though he’s paper ready and his file has been on China’s Waiting Child List, no family has yet come forward to make this treasure their own.

DongDong with his eggs 4

Let me tell you about Dong Dong. Spend a day with him, as we do when we go to the orphanage. When we drive up, he’s usually waiting in the parking lot, greeting us joyously with “JieJie! GeGe! (Big sister! Big brother!), and giving us hearty hugs. Grabbing our bag with one hand to carry it upstairs, he’ll hold our hand with the other, and happily climb the stairs with us to his domain.

Throughout the day, Dong Dong is never far from one of his buddies. He’ll often have his arm around one of their shoulders as they go about their business. Because he’s a “big brother” at the orphanage, he is a leader in play. Their sometimes rambunctious fun can alternate between wrestling, acting out elaborately imagined scenes, dancing to peppy Cantonese music, playing chase, building blocks, singing karaoke, and playing ball.

With his fun-loving personality comes a very sweet and helpful side. When we give the children baths, he’s often right there to help rinse the tubs, hand us new cloths, dump out the old water, and draw up a fresh tub. He delights in being given something productive to do, and we can see the pride on his face when we commend him for his hard work.

Dong Dong is also a great cuddler. We all enjoy his impulsive, warm hugs throughout the day. In the afternoon, he often has quiet times when he just wants to curl up on our lap and rest his head on our chest. At times he’ll be so contented and relaxed that he’ll just fall asleep. Those are precious moments, indeed.

Please, watch this video and see for yourself what a sweetheart Dong Dong is. Though he has definitely made a place for himself at the orphanage, he would thrive so much more in a loving family. Dong Dong’s time to be adopted is running out. In just a few short years he’ll be fourteen, and forever unable to be adopted. Would you please join me in praying that God would bring a family to adopt Dong Dong? Perhaps that family might even be yours. Feel free to fall in love with him while you watch. Please also don’t hesitate to share this post with a friend or forum you think might be a good fit for him.

We love Dong Dong, and hope that after you watch this video you will, too! :) Contact me at joydexter@pearlriverdiaries.com if you have any questions.

The Long-Awaited Christmas Post

 In January, my friends Rebecca and Isaac wrote a post on the orphans’ Christmas, full of great pictures and descriptions. For several months the administrative section of our blog was down, and we were unable to post any new content. Now our wonderful webmaster has fixed the problem (thanks, Roy!). At long last, here is the Christmas post. Take it away, Rebecca and Isaac! :)

Many of us are familiar with a round jolly man, who wears a red suit and brings gifts to children around the world on Christmas Eve.  He does this while traveling in his sleigh that is carried by nine reindeer no less!  While this is a whimsical thought, and can be helpful for parents to use as an incentive for their misbehaving children, the story of the origins of this beloved character is worth remembering.
Nicholas was a man who lived in Turkey around 300 A.D., who was orphaned at an early age and left with a large inheritance. To many peoples’ dismay, Nicholas did not keep the money for himself, but rather used it to give gifts to those in need. Why would anyone do that? Because of the love of Christ; knowing the sacrifice that Jesus made, and how He has called us to do the same.
This Christmas at the orphanage was quite lively. While none of us dressed up in red suits, each child was given much needed gifts and attention.
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The day began with one of our regular volunteers reading the story of the birth of Jesus in the local language. This was a wonderful opportunity for the children and their caregivers to hear in their own language about why we celebrate Christmas and why we give gifts. None of us had ever seen the children sit so still and quietly before; that was definitely a miracle.
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We were also blessed this year to have enough volunteers come so that each child had one-on-one cuddle time and help opening their gifts.
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In the gaily wrapped packages were socks, shoes, jackets, clothes, learning toys and stuffed animals. This was all because you and local brothers and sisters gave generously from their hearts.
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All of the children were so excited that they began putting on their new things right away. I dare say that some children were more excited about their new shoes than the toys!
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 Paper was flying, ribbon twirling, giggles ringing, smiles flashing, and tummies filling with candy and other treats.
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For some of the children the flurry of gifts left them worn out and drifting off to sleep while being lovingly held.
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This was a wonderful celebration and while we were so grateful for all that everyone gave, it was for one day.  I long for a time when every Christmas, no, every day, these precious little ones will have a forever family to call their own.
Let us together “learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” just as it says in Isaiah 1:17.

Joy here again. I hope you enjoyed hearing about the orphans’ special day as much as I did. :) By the way, for those of you who love the orphans as we do, stay tuned for the first in what we hope to be a series of biographical videos on children who are waiting to be adopted. This has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and now someone has come along with the skills to do it! :) I hope to have the post up in the near future. We’re so excited for you to get to know these sweet children better, and are praying that God will use these videos to “place the lonely into homes.”