A Letter to Joshua

Little Joshua (Beloved Cung Van Ni),

Though you were given the name Joshua by hospital staff, your mother’s name for you is Cung Van Ni; a name of special meaning regarding God’s power. I hope you grow to realize that God has a special plan for your life; a plan that involves all who love you.

On the eve of your mother’s court hearing, I imagine you are enjoying your daily routine, whatever that may be in your context … is there a family dog you chase around the house on wobbly legs while giddy laughs escape you? Do you build with blocks or race cars around the living room with your foster father? Do your meals consist solely of traditional American food or are your foster parents incorporating Chin and Burmese cuisine in your diet? Do you fuss over bath time and try your best to delay preparing for bed? Do you enjoy being read to by your foster mother before she puts you to sleep?

For much of the past year you have been sheltered from the circumstances affecting your future. Little do you know of the custody battle that is waging for you, between your birth mom and foster family.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29, 2011, is a big day for your mother, Nunu Sung. A trial will begin and a Judge will determine whether to separate you from her, permanently, and allow your foster family to adopt you. There is a very good chance Judge Austin will rule in favor of your foster family. If this happens, your mother’s heart will be broken. If this happens you will lose a piece of your heart as well. Right now you are too young to understand the words I write to you, but one day, when you are older, you will come to learn of your birth mom and all the sacrifices she made for you. From someone who witnessed her unyielding devotion to you, I want to share a bit about your mother so that you will know how much she loves you and how hard she fought to keep you.

There are some who will say that your mother is unfit to raise a child because she committed an unspeakable act against you. To this I will say that while there is no excuse for the decision she made the night of your birth, please know that it was the greatest mistake of her life; one made from a place of significant fear, shame and feeling utterly alone. Unimaginable life events brought her to a place of feeling completely overwhelmed with the prospect of having a child outside of marriage. (I hope that one day your foster family will share her story and hardships with you, that you may know of the adversity she endured and overcame in her young life.) The customs and mores of your people, the Hakha Chin, weighed heavily on her. Speaking little English and having little understanding of the services and support available to unwed women in America (a concept non-existent in Burma), she did not know where to turn for help. In her weakness and confusion she made a terrible mistake; a mistake that has altered the course of her life, and yours, forever.

I honestly cannot imagine the anguish she felt the night you were born. This may not sound logical or be easy to understand, but please hear me, dear Joshua, when I say it was not your mother’s intent to harm you. She placed you where she did because she knew that someone would find you; and to God’s providence, you were found. I believe, Joshua, that at the time of your birth your mother thought she wasn’t strong enough to raise you alone. However, from what I know of your mother’s life and story, she has reserves of untapped strength within her.

What I want you to know, dear sweet Joshua (beloved Cung Van Ni), is that your mother quickly realized the gravity of her mistake. She admitted her wrongdoing and devoted much of her time, energy and resources over the past two years to the goal of regaining custody of you.

Sweetest Joshua (beloved Cung Van Ni), I have watched your mother sacrifice all that she has for you—gladly and willingly. The hours she would spend preparing meals for you that you would come to know the flavors and tastes of your culture. The time she spent speaking to you in her native Chin language that you would come to understand the sounds and dialect of your people. It was not always easy for your mother to keep her weekly appointments with you. Your mother worked third shift at a factory often putting in many long hours, but her commitment was to you. She rose, often with just a few hours of sleep to ensure she kept her time with you–her number one priority. At the time your mother did not have a driver’s license. She went through great effort to arrange transportation to and from her visits with you. But greatest of all, she would spend most of what she earned to provide what she could for your needs as a growing boy. Like a faithful parent, her needs often took a back seat to yours. These sacrifices she willingly made. These sacrifices she lovingly made because they were for you, her son.

Beloved Cung Van Ni, I have listened, through your mother’s broken English (and translation help from your Aunt Ngun), to your mom share the ways in which you were growing—growing big and strong. Together we watched videos of your silliness and achieved milestones from her visits with you. I have seen the beam of pride in her eyes while looking through photos of you; your mother would often point out the features you share in common. Sweet Joshua, what I want you to know is that your mother cherished every second of your visits together. They were the highlight of her week and the source of her strength and resolve to continue fighting for you. There are some who are saying that a bond never formed between you and your mother. To this I will say do not believe this, Cung Van Ni. I have seen the proof with my own eyes, through photos and videos, of the love you shared. Then, as now, you are your mother’s heartbeat. This truth will never change.

From what I know of your foster family, they are Christian and attend church. I believe they are a praying people who read the Bible as they have sent scriptures to your mother on a few occasions. No doubt, given such demonstrations of faith you will grow up in a home learning of God—of His goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, grace and forgiveness. What I want you to know, beloved Cung Van Ni, is that God used this mistake and the consequences produced, to draw your mother to Him, to forgive her, to love her and to grow her into a better person. Your mother is a different person today; she is a better person, a stronger person, and she is dedicated to you—her actions over the past two years clearly demonstrate her commitment to you, her son.

While I may not agree with their actions, I believe the foster family caring for you is acting from a place of love. They love you. They want what is best for you. I cannot fault them for that. They have their reasons for wanting to adopt you. There will come a time when you will begin to ask many questions. What I hope is that they tell you about your mother and speak of her determined efforts to love you and care for you and raise you. I hope they are honest with you regarding all the details of her life, her mistake, her trial and the reason for their decisions and actions at this time against your mother’s plea agreement. Most of all, I hope they allow your mom to be a part of your life, because what I want you to know, dearest Joshua, is your mother never waived her parental rights. Never. She wanted to raise you. She fought for two long years to retain custody of you.

Your mother will always love you, beloved Cung Van Ni; you are her heartbeat.

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