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.

IMG_0281 DSC_9441

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.

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?

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.

Si Hai- Love in Action

Each child who comes to the orphanage has their own set of hurts or difficulties. Especially with the older children, it’s often heartbreaking to watch them go through the stages of grief, adjust, and heal from the pain of abandonment. Children deal with it in their own ways.

When Si Hai (Four Seas) came in June, I was surprised by the way he handled  the adjustment. He wasn’t angry, despondent, or afraid. He just poured out love on the people around him.

If a child wants to be pushed in their chair or vehicle, Si Hai is right there, propelling them around the room with a smile.

If we’re helping a child, he wants to lend a hand, too.

And if someone needs a hugs (even if they don’t realize it), he’s absolutely there to give them a squeeze.

I’ve been astounded by this boys sweetness and unselfishness. These two pictures capture just a hint of his character. It’s as though he sees Hope loving on Xiao Shi…

…and then is so happy that the baby is getting snuggles that he can barely contain his joy.

Joy…Si Hai just exudes it.

Sometimes things can get a little rough, but his responses are just priceless. I’ve seen kids snatch toys from him or even push him, and he just shakes himself off, goes over, and gives them a big hug. At one point, I turned to the other volunteers and said, “Have any of you ever seen this child sin? Seriously, I know he’s not perfect, but he’s just so sweet!” Because of his kind reactions, he seems to have a good relationship with every child in the orphanage. Even some of the rougher ones can be found walking arm and arm with Si Hai, or coming over to get one of his hugs. His tenderness definitely has a softening influence.

Truly, this is a precious child. Look at his little face, just glowing with happiness…

…though sometimes he’s just as serious and earnest as can be.

When he’s helping or cooperating, he’s especially intent…

…doing his best to please the person with whom he’s working or playing.

This video captures just a bit of his joyful exuberance. Though it’s just cell phone quality, hopefully you can see his cute personality shining through, and fall in love with him as we have (sorry, I can’t figure out how to imbed it, so you’ll have to click on the link)- Si Hai, the Dancing King

I just love this kid. Loving, giving, peacemaking, joyful, kind…these are just a few of the words I’d use to describe Si Hai.

Any family would be unimaginably blessed to have this little guy join them. He’s about 6 years old, and gets along beautifully with older or younger children (even babies). Would you please join me in praying for a family for Si Hai, and search your hearts to see if that family might be yours? Please feel free to share this post with others, and don’t hesitate to contact me in the comments section or through email to learn more.

Have you had your hug today?




Egg-citing Day!

Since Orphan Camp is coming up next week, I figured I’d better go ahead and post about Easter so we can at least keep up with the big events. Way to stay on top of things,  Joy (haha)! :)

Easter has always been a simple, but fun holiday for us at the orphanage. Since the Good News is God’s focus for the holiday, we think it should be ours, as well. Though the kids are young, they’re never too young to hear this story. We have found Resurrection Eggs to be a very effective means of sharing Easter. Cathy did a fantastic job! Every egg has a small token of the resurrection story inside of it, such as a donkey to indicate his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, coins to show His betrayal, nails in the shape of a cross, and then an empty egg at the end to symbolize the empty tomb. The children were mesmerized by the story, and wanted to touch each piece. Xiao Man here was showing us that she knew how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. She’s such a smart girl. I just love her heart.

After the story time, we were ready for the Easter egg hunt. You have never seen excitement until you have seen the children go after those eggs! First we “hide” them outside (with varying degrees of difficulty)… …and then we set the children loose to find them. Every child gets to go, even if they can’t actively participate. Some of them like A Yu… …and A Buo, just enjoy the sun and breeze on their faces… …others, like Wu Fu (Five Blessings), stared in fascination at the proceeds… …while Gang Gang was a bit more hands-on in his play. AnAn couldn’t participate in quite the same way, because of his blindness, but he liked exploring the eggs with his hands and tasting the treats inside. Ah, the treats inside. My, how those children loved finding all that yummy candy! Xixi was feeling quite smug about his haul… …while A Bai celebrated every egg… …and Xiao Man was mostly interested in noshing candy.

Dong Dong, on the other hand, generously gave most of his candy away, and spent most of his time carefully arranging his colorful eggs. For at least half an hour, he was completely engrossed, making sure that every egg was un-nested… …taken apart… …and methodically arranged in rows. He was nothing if not thorough in his pursuit of order.

A couple of the children had no desire to hunt eggs at all, but were much more excited to be pushed around by their “big brothers” in their cars. The preferred speeds were fast… …and faster! :)

Out of all the children’s reactions and pictures, this one was the hardest won and most satisfying- Xiao Xiong (Little Hero) was left at the orphanage this winter, and has been (very understandably) grieving deeply ever since. Because he speaks a dialect that none of the orphanage staff, nor any of our volunteers speak or can identify, his frantic communication cannot be understood. Even when being cuddled or played with, he is almost always grave and solemn. You can imagine how excited we were to see his sweet, shy smile break out over his face as he broke open the egg and discovered the sweet treat inside.  Definitely the best surprise of the day!

Every holiday like Easter or Christmas, I think of all that Jesus sacrificed so that I can be adopted from my broken, grieving, hopeless life; made His child; and given joyous life eternal, filled with forgiveness, hope and peace. I look at children like Little Hero, with his hurting heart and deep need for love, and I see myself before Jesus made me His own. When all the trappings and traditions of these holidays are stripped away, there is His heart for adoption. Do you share His heart? Do you look at Little Hero, Dong Dong, Gang Gang, Xiao Man, and others, and see broken hearts worthy of love and redemption? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to help you learn more about the process of adopting one of these precious children as your own.

Xiao Qiang- Sweet, Spunky and Soulful

Children who come to the orphanage tend to be in four distinct categories. One group is infants with obvious special needs or illnesses. Another tragic cross-section is older children whose needs have either become too significant for their parents to handle, or who have outgrown their usefulness to bosses who have used them for financial gain. Quite a number of children, especially boys, come in between 6-12 months, when it becomes obvious that their motor skills development is not consistent with other children their age. Then there are the children who are abandoned due to socioeconomic reasons, or who are truly orphans. Of course, I’m not condoning any of these as reasons for abandoning a precious child, but I think the observation is helpful in understanding their pasts.

Xiao Qiang is in the third group. When he came, he was probably 8-10 months old, and had low muscle tone, which made it difficult for him to be as active as babies that age usually are.

Instantly, he captured my heart. When I held him, his beautiful, soulful eyes searched my face, and he’d smile softly when our gazes met.

Can I just say that I absolutely love this boy? He has the sweetest personality, and is one of the spunkiest, most motivated kids I’ve ever met.

Because of his low muscle tone, everything is harder for him, and we have to do therapy with him to build up strength and dexterity. Most kids at best endure physical therapy sessions, and many resist them with all their might. Not Xiao Qiang- he throws himself into each session with single-minded determination and zeal.

Eagerly responding to encouragement and cheers, he celebrates each sit-up, squat, and stand-up by clapping his hands and grinning. He practically begs for physical therapy sessions, and his hard work is paying off in a big way.

Whereas before it was difficult for him even to roll over, he can now get into a sitting position by himself, and rise to a standing position with very little support. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more resolved, purposeful kid than Xiao Qiang.

Don’t be fooled by his resolute nature, though. This boy is a real ham!

He will not hesitate to use his sparkling smile and shining eyes to garner admirers.

Nor is he reluctant to show off just a bit when he has a captive audience.

When he has the opportunity to play, he’s all boy.

Digging in the dirt is the best!

I think my favorite part about Xiao Qiang is how much he loves to cuddle.

He’ll just lay his head down on us, pat us softly, and gaze into our eyes…

…until he drifts off to sleep.

How could anybody not love this kid??? He’s just crying out for someone to take him home and love him forever.

Xiao Qiang was born around January 2010, and has been diagnosed by the orphanage as having cerebral palsy. He seems very bright- responding to commands in English and in Chinese, mimicking others readily, and showing initiative in his therapy. He truly is a delightful little boy, and would be a sweet, happy addition to any family.

Would you please prayerfully consider whether you could love this precious boy enough to make him your son? Help us spread the word about Xiao Qiang, so that he can have a family of his very own!





Orphan Camp 2013- A Sea of Smiling Faces

Orphan Camp is highlight of our year, for orphans and volunteers alike. It’s a chance for the children to hang out in the fresh air with people who love them, and do all the things that they like most. After years of experience, we’ve found that simple activities and a relatively unstructured time work best.

The pinnacle of many of the children’s time is the water fight and accompanying pool games. Those kiddos love to get wet!

Zhong Zhong just wanted to get his toes in the water…

…while Xiao Ming, prefer to relax and enjoy the coolness.

Xixi preferred to have his adoring fans wet him down while he giggled with glee.

But Dong Dong and Jin Qiu were much more active in their water games. Dong Dong went at it with his usual zestful gusto. He zeroed in on a target, took careful aim…

…and shouted in victory when his spray hit its mark-

Jin Qiu preferred to broadcast his attack and shower whoever got in his way.

Digging in the sandbox was another popular pass time. Oh, the glorious fun of playing in the dirt and getting absolutely covered! I think this was Gang Gang’s favorite activity.

He sat happily engaged by the hour- digging, piling, and making important phone calls… :)

A Yong loved the sandbox, as well. I don’t know when I’ve seen him more focused and determined in an activity than he was in transferring sand from one bucket to the other. He did a great job!

Sliding in various forms appealed to many of the children. The combination of the exhilaration of whizzing downward, while still being safe and secure in their friend’s arms was irresistible. Yuan Yuan took A Buo for a ride, which A Buo thoroughly enjoyed.

Zhong Zhong was a bit more tentative about braving the slide. However, with Luke spotting him at the bottom…

…and Angel and Shelley’s support…

…he made it!

By the way, is this not one of the sweetest little boys you’ve ever seen? God has done a lot of healing for him to be able to smile and trust this readily. What a precious little love!

A Feng, with his love of open spaces, preferred sledding down the hillside with Jim.

Look at that laughing boy; what a joy!

However, A Feng’s very favorite thing, the activity that he ran, beaming from the bus to do the moment he arrived, was to roam around in the wide-open field.

Something in this sweet boy just longs passionately for the sky overhead and grass beneath his feet. One volunteer’s full-time task was to do nothing but follow him around from a safe distance and let him enjoy his freedom. All of us who saw it cried with joy just a bit, I think. Such a simple pleasure meant so much to this young man.

Speaking of joy, Xiao Man was pretty cute twirling her ribbon streamers-

What a darling little girl this one is!

Food is another central theme of our Orphan Camp. We try to have the children’s favorites, and plenty of them. Fangbian mian (convenient noodles, or what Americans might call Ramen noodles) are the macaroni and cheese of Chinese children. They inhale it! Nothing says fun for Xiao Ming like Stephanie feeding him noodles by the forkful. Look at those eager eyes! :)

Yoghurt is another favorite. A Feng could eat 10 a day with no problem. We have to feed him lying down, because it helps him swallow. As soon as he sees a container of yoghurt, he assumes the position-

Lunchtime is a bonanza of meat and veggie rice boxes…

…and fresh fruit (a perennial favorite). I love Dong Dong’s face while he’s getting ready to eat his watermelon.

Of course, the ice cream is the crown jewel of the kids’ culinary adventure.

We had a treat this year, in that a number of our fabulous foster families were able to join in the festivities. These parents are doing such a wonderful job of loving and nurturing the children God has laid on their hearts for this time.

Eva Joy with her foster parents Elizabeth and Xie Li-

Laila with foster mom Joslynn-

Luke and Shelley-

Ruthie with Rachel and Caleb (not pictured)-

And Miss Summer with Hugh and Crickett (how did I end up with a picture of only her?)-

We were so glad that the foster families could enjoy the fun day with us, and that we all had a chance to visit with their delightful kids. Truly, these families have a special role to fulfill in these children’s lives, and we deeply appreciate them.

Oddly enough, I have still more pictures, but I’ve apparently reached my upload limit for this post. Either I’ll write one more post on this event, or I’ll leave it to your imagination. In any event, I hope you have gotten a taste of the children’s joy in the simple pleasures of the day, and perhaps caught the vision for how much more joy could be a part of their lives if they had a forever family of their very own.

Did  you delight, as we did, in the exuberant joy of DongDong’s water play-

Xiao Man’s sweet smile as she twirled her ribbon streamer-

Xiao Ming’s wide-eyed enjoyment of his fangbian mian-

Gang Gang’s sandbox revelry-

Xixi’s laughter as his friends splashed him in the pool-

And Zhong Zhong’s smile of success after his sliding adventure?

Please, pray that God would provide each of these orphans with forever families! They do so love to be loved. Would your or someone you know be willing to love them?

Hard not to, isn’t it? :)