The Baby Smuggler

(Disclaimer before I start this. I *did not* actually smuggle any babies)
Since it seems to be baby week here on the blog, I figured I’d give you the story about falling in love with a baby in a Philippine orphanage…
When I was 20, I went to the Philippines with my church to do dentistry. We also did some outreach to local schools and stuff. When we landed on Cebu, I was excited. Halfway to the Missionary Guest House though, I had changed my mind. There was dirt and poverty and my sensibilities as a spoiled American were offended. I am embarrassed to have to say that I spent the first week of the trip wanting nothing more than to go home. But sticking out meant that I got to experience God in some very real ways, and I learned a lot about life and about myself on that trip, but that’s not what this entry is about.
On Monday of our second week (our 8th day on Cebu) we went to an orphanage. In light of everything else we had seen, we wondered what that would be like. We pulled up to these rusty iron gates, and all of us were like, “oh. my. gosh. what are we going to see on the other side of those gates?”, but then they opened, and it was like a Savannah plantation- big white house surrounded by lush lawns, several swingsets and slides… it was gorgeous. We went inside and there was this group of kids waiting up for us, randing in age from about 5 to about 14. We sang songs for them and played with them, but my heart wasn’t in it. I still desperately wanted to go home, back to my safe, blithely oblivious life.
All the babies had been put to bed already, but there was one who was still awake. She was fussy and whiny and would not let the woman holding her put her down. Her name was Anabel, and she was 10 months old. I asked if I could hold her, and they said sure, but that she was sick and not to take it personally if she cried and wanted nothing to do with me. But she came right to me, and settled down a bit. She was tugging on her ear, and they told me she had an ear infection and that was why she was so cranky. I was in the process of getting over an ear infection myself, so I could sympathize. I held her close and stood to the edge of the crowd and watched the kids put on skits and sing silly songs for us, gently rocking my body back and forth. Anabel got heavier and heavier, and I looked down to see her slipping away to sleep. And in that moment, she stole my heart. I edged over to my youth pastor and I said “Dale… There’s room in my suitcase. This one is coming home with me.” It was in that moment that I got over myself enough to enjoy my last two weeks there.
Of course taking her home with me was not possible. So I did the only other thing I could do. I asked for the name and address of the orphanage, and sent money every month for Anabel’s expenses. Apparently she was a sickly child, and made frequent trips to the doctor. Which, though the orphanage got reduced rate medical care by virtue of being an orphanage, got expensive. I was a college kid working a retail job, but I did what I could and always sent something. A couple of years later, I got to the point where I was not working and try as I might I could no longer afford to send anything. That was a heartbreaking letter to have to send.
A few days after I sent it (long before my letter would have arrived in Cebu), I received a letter from the director of the orphanage, saying that Anabel had been adopted by an American couple in California. He could not give me their contact information, but wanted me to know that she had been adopted and that they had told the family about me and wanted my permission to give them my info. The family lived in Sacramento, a couple of hours from here, and I got to see Anabel again just before her fourth birthday. It was a misty moment for me, but she had no idea who I was because she had been too young to remember having only seen me once before in her life. Sadly, the picture of us from that day did not come out, and the family moved to the east coast about a year later, and we lost touch, so I’ve not seen her again. The family was really nice though, so I’m sure that wherever she is, she is happy and well cared for, and I have a picture from the night at the orphanange to remind me that life lessons come in all kinds of packages.

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2 thoughts on “The Baby Smuggler

  1. David Quinn

    What a fabulous story. I’m so glad you are posting again. However, glad you have not smuggled babies. I think in some parts of the world, that is illegal.

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