When Hidy came up from the water in the baptismal pool, her face beamed with delight. She had no idea when she came to America from Shanghai, China, just weeks before that the trip would change so many lives, including her own.
Hidy and her husband Ryan, an American, had come to the United States for a private adoption of their unborn baby boy, diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome.
Months earlier, when they first learned they were pregnant, they were so happy to be expecting their first child. But in China, there are no accommodations for special needs children. Parents are required to provide for all personal and medical care and the education of the child.
The couple was faced with a dilemma. Both Hidy and Ryan held jobs, and at the time, the Chinese government limited couples to only one child. They initially agreed to follow the country’s suggestion to have an abortion when Hidy was 24 weeks pregnant.
Plea for help
The decision was heartbreaking, and Ryan emailed friends Sept. 13, 2010, just days before the scheduled procedure. “Please,” the email begged, “Will someone in America adopt our baby?”
The plea reached Rhonda Littleton, children’s minister for First Baptist Church, Simpsonville, South Carolina. Littleton knew Chris and Laura Barrineau were open to adoption, as well as to a special needs child.
The Barrineaus had always wanted four children. After having three healthy, happy biological children, then ages six, four and two, Laura’s heart imagined opening her arms to an orphaned child.
While Laura had been thinking of being a foster parent or adopting for some time, Chris was not immediately on board, but watching a random TV interview changed things.
Stephen Curtis Chapman was the guest being interviewed and he referenced the book, “Shaoey and Dot: Bug meets Bundle,” written by Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth. The story follows a Chinese orphan who is adopted by American parents.
Chris gave the book to Laura on their anniversary, Aug. 14, 2008, to signify he was ready.
“Adopting is a biblical mandate,” Chris said, noting how it is described in James 1:27. “It doesn’t mean we should all adopt, but we should all help take care of the orphans. We were prepared to help a family, whether in Fountain Inn, Simpsonville or Shanghai. We were open to whatever the call.”
When Littleton called Laura Barrineau, they suddenly understood why their efforts to adopt or even foster a child in South Carolina had not been successful.
This baby, due on Jan. 16, 2011, was their child. By that evening, the Barrineaus were emailing Hidy and Ryan in China — and the abortion was canceled.
In less than a week, they started the adoption process. Since Ryan is an American, they were able to arrange a private adoption without going through regulations from another country. Laura, Chris, Hidy and Ryan were emailing daily to discuss details, navigating laws in two countries.
A plan eventually emerged for Hidy and Ryan to come to the U.S. to have their baby.
Hidy and Ryan stayed with Littleton, who had ample room in her home in the nearby town of Simpsonville.
Hidy shared that she was Buddhist, and Ryan said he was a non-practicing Catholic. They became family to the Barrineaus, their church in Fountain Inn, Littleton and the church she served in Simpsonville.
Wherever the Barrineaus went, they took Ryan and Hidy — the soup kitchen, church, parties and ministry events. They held their hands at the table for the blessing. The hosts modeled their faith but did not insist Hidy and Ryan accept their beliefs.
On their way to a family Christmas gathering Dec. 22, 2010, Hidy went into labor. Laura, a nurse, sat in the back seat with Hidy as they rushed to the hospital. Within moments of arrival, Caleb was born with no complications.
As they wheeled Hidy to the obstetrics floor, Laura was standing by the door. Caleb was lying on Hidy’s stomach facing Laura with his eyes open. Hidy looked down at her newborn son and said, “Caleb, here’s your mommy.”
Tears flooded Laura’s eyes. Later she asked Hidy how she could say that immediately after delivering her son.
“After I knew you were adopting him, I was carrying him for you,” Hidy explained. “I loved him like he was yours. I knew you would give him the life I wanted him to have.”
Capstone Church, Fountain Inn, where Chris is executive pastor, and First, Simpsonville, flooded the families with care and support.
Caleb and Hidy came home from the hospital on Christmas Eve.
Since the birth had gone so easily for Caleb and Hidy, her doctors said she would be able to return to Shanghai in mid-January.
On Jan. 13, just days before her scheduled return to China, Hidy called Laura.
“I’ve been reading your Bible, and we have accepted Christ,” Hidy shared. “The Bible also says we must be baptized, and we can’t be baptized in China. We want to go back as new creations.”
So on Jan. 15, 150 people from the two churches surrounded their new family members from China to celebrate their becoming brothers and sisters in Christ. The couple flew home the next day on Caleb’s original due date.
Caleb is now 10 years old and the most responsible caretaker of the family pets. He loves the outdoors, reading, setting the table, playing basketball and singing the blessing.
His older siblings Blake, a college sophomore; Faith, a high school senior; and Libby, a ninth-grade volleyball player, love Caleb and often refer to him as their best friend. Hidy and Ryan now have a daughter, Zoe, and the two families enjoy keeping in touch with messages and FaceTime.
“Now I understand,” Hidy has said. “I accepted Christ because now I understand loving someone so much you are willing to give them up.”