After eight years of waiting, a Dearing couple will travel to the other side of the earth to bring home the baby they've been praying for. On Jan. 4, Todd and Shari Upchurch received the official word from the Chinese Children Adoption International Agency that they have a baby daughter.
"I've waited so long. We've been trying all this time to have one of our own, and the Lord didn't choose to give us children," Mrs. Upchurch said. "Now, I am so excited to finally see her sweet little face."
The couple will travel to China in approximately four weeks to pick up their daughter, whom they've named Elizabeth, and stay two weeks to finalize the adoption.
Mr. Upchurch said he and his wife have been talking about adopting since before they were married in 1998. He said he has always felt a burden for orphan girls in China because of the country's "one-child policy" that reportedly cause many people to keep baby boys because they can grow up to work and help support the family. Mr. Upchurch said he has a special place in his heart for abandoned children also because he was abandoned as a child by his biological father and later adopted by his stepfather.
Mrs. Upchurch said she first became aware of international adoptions when she was young and saw the story of an Olympic athlete-orphan from Romania featured on television. She said at that time, she thought she would never have children on her own, but "I wanted to adopt 12." When she married, Mrs. Upchurch adopted her husband's two children from a previous marriage - Josh, who is now 19, and Danielle, now 20.
While most Americans were filing their taxes last April 15, Mr. and Mrs. Upchurch were sending in their application to the adoption agency. What followed was "mountains and mountains of paperwork," two home studies and finger printings.
"But it is so worth it, because we get our baby Elizabeth," Mrs. Upchurch said. "There is nothing secret about you after you've gone through the adoption process. And now it's the fun part."
The Upchurch's are enjoying every moment of "the fun part." They proudly share their news through an online journal of photos, feelings and facts as the events unfold. Mrs. Upchurch said she was pleasantly surprised when Josh produced a short video about his new little sister.
The spare bedroom in their house has already been changed to a nursery, complete with pink curtains, ribbons, and bows. Members of Cavalry Baptist Church, where Mr. Upchurch is pastor, have planned a baby shower, and many friends have donated infant clothes and toys.
Through their journey, the Upchurch's have befriended other families in the Central Savannah River Area who have adopted, or are adopting, international children. Mrs. Upchurch said they will have dinner with several of these families Saturday in Augusta, and she can't wait to "show off pictures" of Elizabeth.
Although everyone they know shares their excitement, Mrs. Upchurch said they have had a few questions as to why they chose international adoption. Her favorite question was if Elizabeth would speak English.
"Does any eight-month old baby speak English?" she said with a laugh.
After successfully home schooling both Danielle and Josh, the Upchurch's said they plan to home school Elizabeth also. Although they plan to teach her native culture, the couple said they are not going to focus on it.
"I'm not anti-China, but I'm not raising her as a Chinese daughter. I'm raising an American daughter," Mr. Upchurch said.
His wife has the same opinion, but from a different point of view.
"She's from the Guangdong Province, which is in south China, so she's still a Southern girl," she said with a laugh. "So she will be perfectly fine with grits and 'y'all.'"
The Upchurch family is keeping an online journal of their experience at www.youbelong.net/upchurchfamily