In a special new series Parenting: Bliss And Blister presented by Harvest Kidz and CityFamilies, five unique sets of parents share intimately about their parenting journeys through different circumstances. In the first instalment, Ivan Yeo and Lin Xiuzhen share the story of how they came to adopt their daughter Zara.
Parenting is a joy, but it also brings with it many challenges and sometimes, sorrows. “The reason we called this series Bliss And Blister is because as parents, we experience many blissful moments, but we also have moments that we feel the ‘blister’,” explains Eileen Toh, the pastor overseeing City Harvest Church’s Harvest Kidz who is also part of the CityFamilies team. “Sometimes, the blister doesn’t go away.”
“To treat a blister, you will need a plaster,” adds her husband Johann Sim, a pastoral care worker in CHC. “We hope that the topics we talk about will give you encouragement and comfort, as you hear other parents talk about their journey.”
In the first episode, CHC members Ivan Yeo and Lin Xiuzhen speak about the path they took to decide to adopt, the process of adoption, and their ups and downs as parents to 4-year-old Zara.
THE CHILD GOD GAVE
Six years ago, Ivan and Xiuzhen were not thinking seriously about parenthood. “We were not ready to start a family—natural or adopted—as both my parents-in-law were battling cancer, so we were in and out of hospitals almost every other day,” recalls Xiuzhen. “So we were not really trying because we were not mentally and emotionally prepared to have a child.”
The couple also found that they were not in top medical condition to naturally conceive, she adds, “So it was more a leave-it-to-God-and-His-plans-for-us kind of situation. We weren’t exactly very passionate about babies at that time.”
God truly had a plan for them. In 2014 they went on a mission trip to Iloilo in the Philippines, where they encountered a little girl who won their heart. In 2015, Ivan’s mother, who was very ill at the time, expressed that she would be supportive if they chose to adopt a child. Sadly, both of Ivan’s parents passed away that year. In 2016, Xiuzhen went back to Iloilo, where she met the little girl again, and this time, the idea of adoption was seeded in both their hearts.
After going through all the necessary preparation, God brought Ivan and Xiuzhen a little baby girl from Malaysia—baby Zara.
“It has always been a very open thing,” Xiuzhen shares. “Everyone knows about the adoption and we are very proud of Zara. We don’t want her to feel that there is something to be ashamed of.”
Since Zara was very young, Xiuzhen had told her daughter many times that that she did not come from Mummy’s tummy. She recalls that Zara would demand, “But I want to come from Mummy’s tummy.”
“When she grew a little older—I think she was around 1—I said to her that she didn’t come from Mummy’s tummy but from an angel. Immediately, her eyes lit up and she said, ‘So I came from Papa’s tummy?’” (laughs) Evidently, Zara thinks of her Papa as an angel.
Watching Zara grow day-by-day has brought a deep joy to Ivan and Xiuzhen. Zara is an easy child, they say, and she happens to be very much like them. “I’m a bit stubborn, so sometimes when she’s stubborn, I feel like, ‘Why are you so like me?’” says Xiuzhen, laughing. Zara also mirrors Ivan in her playful ways.
“Actually, it’s all a gift from God,” Ivan shares. “When we adopted Zara, we didn’t set parameters or have any expectation of her. We just want her to be herself. In this process, we realized that we don’t need to put in so much effort: Zara really blends into our family very naturally. Her strengths and her character are a real match with us.”
LEARNING TO BE STEWARDS
Their parenting journey has taught Ivan and Xiuzhen many things and given them many revelations. “I think we each have grown a lot ,” Xiuzhen says. “To become a mother to a child, to grow in love and also in patience. It has been such a joy and privilege to watch her grow up from an infant to now attending play school. Every single day has been a day to cherish. We think about her every day. Every decision and plan that we make now includes our child.”
Through adopting Zara, Xiuzhen realized the significance of what it means when the Bible says Christians are adopted into God’s very own family. “I was thinking about how I can better explain to Zara the word ‘adoption’. That’s when I felt God revealed to me that as Gentiles, we are really His adopted people, and without Him adopting us into the family, we will never be able to be a part of God’s family,” she says.
“God adopted us because He loves us so much. It is not because you are not loved, that’s why you are put up for adoption— you’re adopted because you’re loved. In the same way, I feel that Zara is so loved by God that God actually prepared us to adopt her. God loves her so much.”
To Ivan, adopting Zara meant taking up a new responsibility: to look after a life that he has been entrusted, to protect and to love. His revelation through this journey is that all things belong to God.
“Being here on earth, we’re just stewards of God’s plans,” he shares. “Whatever we have now actually belongs to God. My revelation from this whole journey is that Zara has been given to us really to steward and to make sure she grows up in the fear of the Lord. We need to help her maximize her potential, her gifting, and calling in God’s Kingdom. So, with that mindset, we have become big-hearted and generous. We are not doing this just for the sake of doing, but we are doing unto God.”
With this same mindset of stewardship, Ivan and Xiuzhen say that they would support Zara if she wants to look for her birth parents one day. “If that is something that she feels that she wants to do, then I think we are also okay to go through the journey with her,” says Xiuzhen.
Wouldn’t they feel insecure? “Really, we’re just stewards, right?” Ivan pointed out. “We try our best and ultimately, we wish her well and we want her to grow up to be the best she can be. I think we can just trust that she will be led by God, that God is the One that leads her to wherever He has planned for her.”
A CALLING TO ADOPT
The decision to adopt is not an easy one to make. Having been on this journey, the Yeos are happy to help other prospective parents looking to adopt. For this reason, they were featured in video interviews with Touch Community Services for its adoption workshop. They even spent time meeting other prospective parents and shared their journey.
Xiuzhen finds that the struggles prospective parents have are mostly mental barriers, concerns as to whether they could love the child as their own, or whether they could deal with the comments and remarks they hear from their circle of friends and relatives.
“There has to be a revelation,” Xiuzhen says, “I think couples thinking of adopting should take time to pray because I feel that it is a calling to adopt.”
“Also, the Bible tells us that if God gives you a vision, He will bring the provision,” reminds Ivan. “There is nothing more satisfying than watching a child grow up and realize his or her fullest potential. After all that is said and done, after all the heartaches and disappointments that have happened in the day, when you come home and they run towards you and give you a warm hug, everything else just fades away. We can make a difference in these precious lives that are given to us.”
There is always the possibility that Ivan and Xiuzhen may one day have a biological child. “We will tell Zara that we are one family, and our love for her will be the same,” says Xiuzhen. “In fact, I felt that I have given her my best, so much so that I don’t think I can outdo myself!”
Watch Ivan and Xiuzhen’s story here
Parenting: Bliss And Blister is a five-episode weekly video series by HarvestKidz and CityFamilies, featuring parents who walk a unique journey and share their insights.