The year 2020 forever will be remembered for a worldwide pandemic and an election like no other. But, for the Connelly family of Acworth, 2020 was a year of a promise fulfilled with a blessing from China.
As a young girl, Cassie Connelly desired one day to adopt a child. In her 30s, she and her husband, Keith, then parents of sons Noah and Ben, began training to become foster parents. Then, their third son, Will, was born. Their lives were full, with their careers and parenting three boys. They were happy and content.
In her early 40s, Cassie awakened several nights in a row with the idea of adoption. A woman of faith, she believed the biblical mandate to care for orphans and widows. The “wake up” calls actually were a calling to be obedient to Scripture. She reluctantly approached Keith with her revelation. He agreed, without hesitation, that they should be obedient to God’s calling for their family to pursue an adoption.
Keith and Cassie wanted to adopt an older child, specifically between the ages of 5 and 7. With three boys, they felt their lifestyle was more conducive to another son, and applied for a boy, at first with an agency in Africa, and later in China. Every country has different adoption laws, procedures, wait times and financial requirements. Perhaps due to the great need in China, which has 500,000 orphans at any given time, adoption in China is easier than in other countries.
The adoption agency sent them the file of a 3-year-old girl for their review. At first, they were a bit nervous about the idea of a girl. After much thought and prayer, they realized the decision wasn’t really theirs. They believed God was leading the way, and they would trust him. Cassie stared into the little girl’s eyes, wondering, “Are you my child?” She prayed, asking God to make it clear to her. She felt God’s gentle reply, “Don’t look in her eyes; look in mine.” Without reservation, Keith and Cassie chose Gracie to be their daughter.
The Connelly family began making plans for the 16.5-hour flight to Shanghai. The boys were eager to meet their little sister. As Cassie reflected back on Family Day at the orphanage, she tearfully recalled being flooded with every emotion imaginable, as they all anticipated meeting Gracie for the first time. At 4 years old by then, the orphanage was all she had experienced. With no way of knowing how Gracie had been prepared for meeting them, or whether she would understand what was happening, their greatest concern was for Gracie to feel loved and safe. While Keith and Cassie were signing the paperwork, Gracie unexpectedly was brought into the room. In the peace and quiet of the moment, the Connellys moved to the floor to meet Gracie on her level. Respectful of her space and mindful of her body language, they began showing her special gifts they brought. She drew closer to them, sharing precious moments with giggles and eye contact. It was the single most beautiful moment of their lives as a family. Cassie never will forget Gracie’s courage, the care and empathy expressed by her boys, and the instant love she and Keith felt for Gracie. Although they had no idea what the future held, their new life had begun, and they forever were committed to protecting and loving their special little girl.
Cassie passionately encourages anyone considering adoption to do it without hesitation. Educate yourself on the process, she said, and don’t allow fear, finances or logistics to stop you. While it might be the most difficult journey you ever will take, the rewards are unimaginable, she said. There are 153 million orphans worldwide. If adoption has been placed on your heart, there is a reason. If adoption is not an option for your family, consider other ways to help these vulnerable children by fostering, sponsoring, volunteering and donating.
Almost a year later, Gracie is thriving in the Connelly home. She is full of joy and love, and her light shines brightly wherever she goes. Gracie balances out their family in the best possible way, unveiling a more compassionate and sensitive side in everyone, particularly her brothers, who are now 17, 14 and 9. She is absolutely adored by them.
The timing of Gracie’s homecoming was appointed divinely as well, they believe. The Connellys were in the last travel group to transport their adopted children out of China before the COVID-19 shutdown. They arrived home Jan. 17, 2020, and heard about the pandemic in China on Jan. 20. The Connellys answered God’s call. In his perfect timing, God blessed them with Gracie, whose Chinese name means “One Promise.”
– Vicki Davis, an Atlanta native, frequently visited her parents’ hometown of Acworth. She moved to the area 32 years ago with her husband and sons. Family is her focus; writing is her passion.