"Am I too old?" It was the nagging question in the back of Joanne Greco's mind as she contemplated adopting a blind child from China.
Joanne was 59 years old. She’d already raised two children and hadn’t planned to adopt another. The first agency she approached confirmed that she was too old, though they would be willing to give her an age waiver.
For the next year, she pondered what would be best for her life. Joanne liked to travel, and having a child who was blind in tow could be difficult. She had recently retired and was getting used to “free time.” What if she died while the child was still young? After much prayer, she was convinced that the Holy Spirit was telling her to move forward.
Everything was falling into place over the following months. Joanne was ready to travel to China to meet her new son, but then several complications threatened to undermine the process.
First, her passport and Chinese visa were lost in shipping. She canceled her flight to China and went instead to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco to secure another visa. Then, while staying at the USO at the San Francisco Airport, she noticed that her mandatory orphanage money, almost $5,000, was missing. She broke down crying.
“I wanted to go home," Joanne recalled. "I was exhausted and didn’t see how I could do this anymore.” So, she gave it to God.
As she sat in the car, a change came over her. "The stress drained from my head to my toes, and I was covered in peace. God knew that we couldn’t let this boy go without a family.”
Joanne arrived in China in February and traveled to a government orphanage. All the kids wore jackets continuously in the unheated building. As Joanne processed what she felt and saw, a little boy walked in. She’d never met him before, although he looked a lot like the pictures she studied over the past few months.
“I just knew I was looking at my son,” said Joanne. “When I saw him, I knew this was who God wanted me to have.”
Joseph was 10 years old and had been in the orphanage most of his life. He endured nannies who refused to touch the children except to beat them for doing something wrong. Joseph had been hit on the head with a shoe multiple times. When Joanne placed her hand on his shoulder, he shrugged away from her touch. Her heart dropped. "Wow, he doesn’t like me," she thought. "What am I doing?"
Joseph slowly learned English and started to build trust with his new mother. It wasn’t always an easy task. Joseph was afraid she would hit him as the nannies had done. If he did something wrong, he turned his face toward Joanne and asked, “Love me?”
Joanne also began to build trust with her son. His legs looked like a spotted leopard from running into so many things. She knew he was dependent on her to get around. So, they went everywhere together — on walks around the block and down the street to buy food from Chinese street vendors.
Life changed tremendously for Joseph over the last five years. He is almost 16 years old and wants to be a pilot. Mom is his wholehearted supporter. They joined a flying club in Washington state, and when pilots took him up for a short flight, they let Joseph take the controls. He loves it. Joseph’s autism fades into the background as he focuses on an activity that brings him joy.
Joseph experienced another joy-instilling, confidence-building opportunity last summer. He attended blind camp at Sunset Lake Camp, which partners with National Camps for Blind Children, an outreach of Christian Record Services Inc. “He loves going to camp,” said Joanne. “He thrives with all the activities, and it helps him learn how to be independent of me.”
Two lives have been changed. Joanne discovered she was not too old to make a difference. Joseph went from being an orphan — who was never touched — to a young man whose life has been touched for the better.