Yearly Archives: 2016

Celebrating 2016 and Anticipating 2017


It’s what we’re about.

Magnifying the good. Whether we’re walking alongside families here or children and caregivers on the other side of the world, we want to focus on the future and the hope that is written all over it and encourage others to do the same.

In 2016, we blessed 13 adoptive families through grants so they could get the counsel and support they need as they grow their families through adoption. We also started a new grant specific to families adopting children domestically, the Avery Madison grant, and awarded our first 2 grants to families building their families through domestic adoption. We cared for over 100 couples at Together Called and many more throughout the year. Our board became further trained and equipped so we can better care for those families. We took a team of 14 to an orphanage in China to train caregivers to help them see the importance of relationship and use opportunities to build relationships with children and each other. And, we have loved hard. We’ve loved our team well. We’ve loved the One who called us to this work. And, we’ve sought to love well all those He has placed before us.

2016 was a good year.

And, 2017 is filled with hope and anticipation of more beautiful things.

Art for Ayis

I had an idea.

I was up early this morning, making a list and checking it twice. But, this list wasn’t a Christmas list; it was the list of gifts we are taking to China when we leave on January 6th. We’re heading to South China on this trip, to an orphanage in Guangdong province that has never had a team there before.

It’s considered a small orphanage with about 150 children in their care. And, while they are not new to adoption, they haven’t placed many kids until now. But, they’re partners with a good agency now and are on board with making children paper ready, even kids they thought were too old or too sick or too something. And, we get to go in and encourage them in what they are doing.

As I was counting out the gifts for ayis and the ladies who work in the office and the directors and the foster moms, I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be neat to give them something from a child adopted from China? Something that sends the message that children adopted from China are okay and that what they do to serve those kids now matters…wouldn’t that be great?

I’ve come to discover that good ideas don’t always come at convenient times. And, today is hardly a convenient day as mamas everywhere are scurrying around to Target for stocking stuffers and making cookies for class parties and using up all their Scotch tape wrapping boxes. But, some things are worth some inconvenience. This might be one of those things.

Here’s what we need:

a piece of artwork on card stock, an index card, or watercolor paper no larger than 5″x8″
a printed photo of the artist with his or her name written on the back, the year he or she was adopted and from where (e.g., “Sam Smith, adopted from Guangzhou in 2010”)

Mail no later than December 31st for an arrival of no later than January 4th to:

The Sparrow Fund Art for Ayis
124 3rd Ave
Phoenixville PA 19460

Questions? Email us. Help us bless these people and magnify the good.


Want to do more? You can.
Order a few of the supplies from our wish list for us to take with us.
Order an Oh Happy Day shirt and wear it with us on the first day we serve on Monday, January 9th.
Sign up to pray for the team HERE.
Find out a bit more about joining a future team.


Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

Gift ideas for the 2017 world traveler

Want a few little suggestions of what very well may be perfect additions to put under the tree for someone who is heading to China with us 🙂 or somewhere else around the world in 2017? Here are a few of our personal favorites to get you started.


screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-11-52-06-amAfter using packing cubes, you may never go back. They aren’t much money and work so well for organizing your packing as well as allowing you to pack way more than you think will fit in your luggage which is always important. This blue set is a good option as it comes with some pretty spiffy extras.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 5.25.55 PMA luggage scale is a must have because that 50 lb. international luggage weight limit comes fast and the 44 lb. limit for a domestic flight in China comes even faster. At least one luggage scale for someone on a team of travelers is essential for packing and repacking in China. Here are two of our favorites–this one from EatSmart or this one from Balanzza.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-3-04-22-pmWe love Timbuk2 bags in general. And, this Q laptop backpack is our favorite China carry-on bag. It’s great on the flight, at the pearl market, and at the orphanage. All that several times over, and it will still look essentially brand new.



China travelers need a passport holder, preferably one that can hold an envelope of crisp, brand-new-looking $100 bills without them having to be folded. This one from Ideawin for cards, passport, pen, travel documents, and even phone is awesome. It zips shut, has the wristlet thing, and comes in some pretty fun colors.

Yes, these tags are obnoxiously bright. But, that’s the point. Baggage claim is way easier with a couple obnoxiously bright luggage tags. These colors and the grippy texture are perfect.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 6.07.21 PMWhen traveling to China, you really only need a plug adapter (not an electric converter) for your computer, phone, iPad, and camera charger. They can handle the voltage and just need the right type of plug. Trust us when we say travelers shouldn’t bother with bringing a hair dryer and/or flat iron to use with a converter. It’ll probably be destroyed within a day or two because the voltage is just too much (and you don’t want to burn your hotel down or anything).
We know this TRTL travel pillow is kind of odd. But, what travel pillow doesn’t look a bit odd? And, when you are on a flight for 13 odd hours, odd is just fine. Whatever works. And, this one does. We should be getting freebies from this company for how many we’ve promoted and sold. We like that it is cozy and that it isn’t some big fluffy thing that you wear around the airport or have to tie onto your bag that can and will get filthy.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-58-43-pmNothing is better in a stocking than more stockings. And, these
Yaktrax cabin socks are nice ones. Put them in your carryon for when you want to get a bit more comfortable on that forever long flight.





screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-3-07-54-pmAlways a welcome stocking stuffer. A Starbucks gift card is great for the airport before departing and when you only have one more flight to go before home. That decaf caramel macchiato or green tea latte just tastes even sweeter then.

Bathrooms in China often have sinks but no soap. This mini container has teeny tissue-like sheets of soap that are perfect for such situations when using hand sanitizer just isn’t what you want.

This is also a handy stocking stuffer for the China traveler–travel sized, concentrated laundry soap. Then you can wash clothes to rewear what you need to and spot clean the spots you get from eating with chopsticks.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-16-15-pmEvery China traveler needs something to bring order to plug adapters, iPad chargers, phone charges, headphones, etc. There are lots of them out there. But, this one from Bagsmart looks like a good one with its bold colors so you can spot it easily in the depth of your suitcase or carryon.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-21-50-pmA toiletry bag is essential, and we prefer hanging ones to keep them from sitting in icky water on a bathroom counter. Grab this inexpensive one from NeatPack in a fun color.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-53-24-pmSometimes you just get tired of drinking bottled water and room temperature Coke. Having a couple of these Crystal Light liquid things in your bag for such occasions makes staying hydrated a bit more tolerable.



Melatonin is your friend. And, it will make a good stocking stuffer that someone thanks you for later.






screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-30-55-pmAmylee Weeks is a talented designer. This journal is one of her designs, and we love it for a travel journal. Check out what the inside pages look like. They are inspiring but leave plenty of room for thoughts and doodles as you go and go deeper.





Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 7.21.57 PMOkay, so these are super expensive. we know. And, likely nobody’s buying these noise-canceling headphones as a gift since they have a high price tag. But, we had to share them because they are LIFE CHANGING. Seriously. If you have $250 to spare, get these. The plane ride and train rides and bus rides and long taxi rides are entirely different with these babies. You’re welcome.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-37-20-pmPlease don’t buy this for your China trip. It’s a post-China trip need. Every hotel room has an electric kettle to heat and clean water (no tea needed, just hot water). And, after China, you’re going to want one of your own. this one by Oster is great and the blue light is so nice in the wee hours of the morning.





A very special gift is a sterling silver charm like this one from Jiayin Designs with a special word or phrase to wear before, during, and after your China trip. You do have to think ahead to give the gift of this charm–they take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to arrive. But, they are so unique and will be sure to become an heirloom.

Don’t forget the gift idea of books about China travel, culture, adoption, etc…..

Be sure to check these out:

These links are Amazon affiliate links. What that is an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Use the links in this post at no cost to you and know that when you shop using them, we’ll get a small kick back to support what we do. 

Nesel Pack Sensory-Friendly Backpack {GIVEAWAY}

There are some words to describe our kids that seem to pop up often among our families: wiggle worm, jumping bean, monkey, crazy man, wild lady. You get the idea. We’re the parents sitting down in tiny plastic chairs at a conference who hears from the teacher that she feels like she has to take dramamine in order to teach our child.

Here’s the thing: it may not simply be disobedience (or to aggravate you). Simply put, all our thoughts and actions are traced to sensations that we transmit and make sense of within our brains. Our brains are always working to process internal and external stimuli and then tell our bodies how to respond. The way each of our brains are uniquely wired drives what this looks like for each one of us. When children experience hard starts and trauma that affect their developing brains, their responses might look a bit different than what we’d call typical. What all that means in very simple terms is that all that fidgeting and bouncing around and hyperactivity might not be resolved with typical correction. Instead, we need to study our kiddos and seek to provide them with the right balance of sensory tools and strategies to help them regulate and help us tolerate their need for it as well as connecting correction.

We’re always looking for good tools for our toolboxes–fidget foot bands, chewy jewelry, wiggle seats, and all sorts of fidgets. We discovered a tool recently that quickly has become one of our favorites–the Nesel Pack. It’s a backpack specifically designed for kiddos with sensory processing difficulties. It has several features such as clips on the straps to attach your favorite tools, specially designed straps to mimic a compression vest and a hip belt that offers more compression, a security strap, pouches on the inside to add weight if desired, and an ID tag in the front to let your child customize the bag in one of five fun colors. We think it’s pretty awesome outfitted with some of those favorite fidgets from our favorite sensory store with the best service from folks who are on the same team–as you can see.


And, because we love it so much and want to introduce it to as many people as we can, we are offering a giveaway for one Nesel Pack of your very own (valued at $99!) to put under your Christmas tree this year. Enter through one or all of the ways in the Rafflecopter giveaway below and we’ll announce a winner next week. And, if you don’t win, just order one of these bags and stuff your kiddos stocking with all the fidgets to go with them for a Merry Christmas for your kiddo and you both.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Gospel in My Living Room

In her book Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis wrote, “Adoption is the gospel in my living room.”  I know I have posted that before, but I’m realizing how wrong it feels out of context.  The full quote doesn’t sound as nice, but there’s a reason Katie wrote every word of:

In an effort to be real, I will tell you: It was hard. . .  [Adoption is] the greatest blessing I have ever experienced.  Adoption is also difficult and painful.  Adoption is the gospel in my living room.  And sometimes, it’s just hard. (72)

I haven’t talked about the hard side of adoption here that much, mostly because I want to protect my siblings.  I don’t want others, people who can’t understand how hard their road to family was, to judge them.  Because of that I’m not sharing specifics.  But I’ve been avoiding posting about the grit of adoption, and I feel like I need to face it.

Adoption is like the gospel, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what we want it to.  When we think of the gospel, we like to think of nice things–forgiveness, healing, life.  Crowds of people with enough bread and fish to eat, men raised from the dead, women healed, children sitting happily in Jesus’ lap.

And that’s all very cozy, but there’s more to it than that.  Some parts of the gospel are not so pleasant, and some parts are downright nasty.  The gospel is rough; it is blood, and sweat, and tears.

The gospel is stains, and scars, and grime under my finger nails.  Redemption is my lungs constricted with sobs, and dust clinging to my sweaty palms.  Adoption is jumping ship and walking on the water, and realizing the waves are tall and the wind is strong, and feeling my faith flicker like a candle caught in a draft.

Adoption is not running to the pain–adoption is bringing the pain home with me, into the stronghold that was my only safe place.

It took me so long to fully understand how every adoption has and always will start with tragedy and heart-tearing sacrifice.  I can look into a child’s eyes–wrap my fingers around five smaller ones–and whisper yes, because someone looked into the same wounded face, answered no, and opened her hands.  My joy and my gain is, and must be, tainted by their grief and loss.

Adoption is a kind of warfare; against pain and shame, and injustice and abandonment.

“Adoption is redemption.  It is costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.”  –Derek Loux

Adoption will cost you.  It will hurt you.  In a way, it will kill you.

Adoption will leave you on your knees, breathless; staring into Jesus’ face, that shines with radiant light.


Hanna Rothfuss

Hanna Rothfuss

My name is Hanna Rothfuss.  I am 14 and in eighth grade.  I have lived in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska for my whole life.  My interests are reading and writing, mainly about fantasy and orphan care–often adoption.  I have four siblings, two of which are adopted.  I’m a homeschooler and a child of God.  I pray that all my writing is encouraging, empowering, and brings glory to Him.

You can read more of Hanna’s writing on her blog: Taking My Time.

OH HAPPY DAY {holiday edition}


picmonkey-collage-3-2Our most perfect design ever.

Inspired by the Chinese boys hosted in the Philadelphia area who sang this song over and over everyday after hearing it on their first Sunday in America.

They sang the words. Now, we’re wearing them.
Remembering the boys and all the boys and girls they represent as we do.

 All proceeds from sales of this shirt will go towards funding our orphan care initiatives.
our orphanage trips. supplies and gifts. new programs.


Shirts come in adult and youth sizes. The adult shirts are our favorite shirt ever— a super, super soft tri-blend. The youth sizes are a cotton/poly blend that is really comfy for even the most sensitive kiddos. We are currently offering soft holly berry red, evergreen, snowflake blue, and silver bells grey. Youth sizes are currently offered in holly berry red, evergreen, and silver bells grey.

How to get some for yourself:

  • Complete the short form HERE with your name, mailing address, how many shirts you want in what sizes/colors, and all that good stuff.
  • Pay for them ($20 per shirt plus shipping) via sending money to through your PayPal account (FYI – it’s the account for The Sparrow Fund, not a personal account…promise) or by donating via clicking the donate button on this website.
  • Share, tweet, and text using hashtag #ohhappyday to help us spread the word about these super cute first day of school or birthday or adoption day or casual Friday shirts (this one is optional, of course, but most appreciated).

A Beautiful Girl


They told me she was introverted, easygoing, compliant. They told me that she gets sad sometimes but that she is easily comforted when her nanny, who clearly cares for her well, explains right and wrong. They told me that she can write her Chinese characters quite well, that her receptive knowledge is good, that her expression is okay. They told me she is good at math compared to other children in her class. And, they told me she really likes music and dancing and that she is remarkably talented.

I nodded my head and smiled. I believed them. Sure, I’m sure she enjoys music and likes to dance. And, it was endearing to hear her nanny say that she was talented in dancing…so sweet.

And, then they asked if I’d like her to show us.

This little girl hasn’t had her papers submitted yet. She has Down Syndrome, they told me, as if when I heard the words I’d agree that she would not be wanted.

She has Down Syndrome. And, she is beautiful and marvelous in every way. And, oh, how I hope that someone has room in their family for her. If you think you might, let us know. We’d love to talk to you about how to make that happen.


Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey and the October orphanage trip on Kelly’s blog.

Serving the Servants

We didn’t come simply to hold babies.


We didn’t come simply to play with cute toddlers with pigtails.


We didn’t come simply to pat older children on the back and sing EIEIO.


We didn’t come simply to assess waiting children so that when their papers pop up somewhere, we’re ready to help find families for them. All of that is good, very good.

We desired to do even more. We came for this. We came to serve those who serve. everyday. those who are paid little to do the most significant work. who are simply called “working staff” and are often criticized for not doing enough while they work in a system that often doesn’t support much more. We came to bless them.



It took much less time than we anticipated for curiosity and uncertainty to become eagerness to be vulnerable and pleasure to become honored guests of ours.







As children toddled around us and looked on, we washed the hands that serve. We spoke to each woman as we did, in words many of them did not understand and yet somehow understood.

You work so hard at what you do. You are so good with the children. Look how much she wants to be close to you. You are so important to her and to this place. We are so thankful for you. 

We saw a lot of smiles, more than we had ever seen there before. And, everything just seemed somehow brighter and lighter. What had felt like them and us just felt more like we, all women honoring each other and serving together for big big things…a spirit that was contagious.

Their smiles and sense of honor must be contagious too because all of us can’t stop smiling and feel like we were the ones served.


Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey and the October orphanage trip on Kelly’s blog.

Glimpses from Oh Happy Day Day 2016

While we sported our shirts on the first happy day serving, you did too.

oh-happy-day-day-pics-2-1 oh-happy-day-day-pics-3-1-2oh-happy-day-day-pics-5-2oh-happy-day-day-pics-1-1oh-happy-day-day-pics-2oh-happy-day-day-pics-6-2oh-happy-day-day-pics-9-214695390_10154664843786468_7314150540871744420_n14708207_10209723539338034_8575924647306744366_noh-happy-day-day-pics-2

Even some furry friends wore their colors for us.


As we finished out our first happy day, it sure did encourage all of us to see your pictures and read your words cheering us on.

Oh Happy Day Day 2016 was a big international success.


So much a success that we’re celebrating again on January 9th when we have our first day at another orphanage in Guangzhou!

Head over here and order your Oh Happy Day shirt to support our programs and so that you’re all ready for the next Oh Happy Day Day.

OH HAPPY DAY Day {October 24th}

It’s officially countdown time. One week from Wednesday our team of students, doctors, teachers, advocates, and lay people will meet up in Chicago and get on a plane for a very long time. We will have one full day in Beijing and then a travel day to Xian before we drive another few hours by van to the city where we are serving. On Monday the 23rd, we will load into a white van with a driver who can only say “Hello? Hello? Hello? Howareyou?” in English. We’ll wind through busy streets where Mercedes drive beside old bikes pulling trailers of vegetables we don’t recognize, all of them honking at each other to make themselves known. We’ll take deep breaths as we pull up to a big accordion gate where we will be waved through. And, there we will start Day 1 at the orphanage.

We’re almost there.

There will be 15 of us in that van behind our driver friend wearing OH HAPPY DAY shirts. But, our team is so many more than that. There are literally hundreds of people a part of this team–financial donors, doll makers, art supply buyers, parents who sent pictures of their children to show the staff who cared for them, children who participated in sticker drives so that we could cover little fingers and hands with kitty cats and smiley faces, women who donated hand scrubs and instadry nail polishes. The 15 in that van are just the ones who actually get to GO.

As we enter into those gates on Monday the 24th, we want to do it as a Team with a capital T not just as our little team. We’re setting something up so that we can do that–something we have declared OH HAPPY DAY Day.


On Monday the 24th, our team will be donning our blue OH HAPPY DAY shirts as we go. We’re asking that you join us in your OH HAPPY DAY shirt. Think of us, pray for us, be one of us as you wear it. Maybe even share a selfie with #ohhappyday to give us that reminder that you’re with us as we go. We’ll be hopping online as a team looking for those pics to encourage us at the end of our first day. We’d love to see yours among them.

Need a shirt still? Order yours HERE, making sure to give us your first and second choice of colors since we’re getting a bit low in stock.

Want another way to come with us? Sign up to pray for us HERE. We’ll send out some prompts this week to get you started. Want to go even deeper? Order a guided prayer kit that will guide you through 5 different activities to help you engage with God in creative ways specifically focusing on the needs of China’s orphans.