Ohio Family Hosts 3-Year-Old Burn Survivor, Adopts Him 8 Years Later

When Melissa and Tom learned from their church that a boy from China needed a host family after surviving a fire accident, the Browns eagerly volunteered.

Little did they know that this encounter would change their lives forever!

Joey Brown suffered severe burns at three years old and traveled from China to Ohio for reconstructive surgeries at the local children’s hospital.

Joey returned to China after the first round of treatment but needed to go back to the U.S. for two more surgeries. Originally, Joey was meant to stay in the U.S. for just six months, but the COVID-19 outbreak and international travel restrictions disrupted those plans until 2022.

Since his first trip to the U.S., Joey’s birth parents asked if an American family could adopt their son, worried that many in their Chinese culture would ostracize the 11-year-old.

Melissa recalls, “The disfigurement from his burns caused people to think his family was ‘unlucky’ and would make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to excel in school and in society.”

Despite initially declining adoption, the Browns revisited the idea in 2022 and ultimately decided to pursue the formal adoption of Joey.

“We had to wrestle with whether it was really in the best interest for him to have permanent separation from his family,” said Melissa. “It could be simple to say that he could have a better life here, but that would just be from the perspective that we have more opportunities here. Most people wouldn’t agree to be adopted out from their families just to have different or better opportunities.”

The process involved overcoming legal complexities, requiring an attorney with expertise in both immigration and adoption. Brown likened the search to finding a specialist in both cardio and neuroscience.

“We told the Lord that if this is what he wanted us to do, then he would have to make it happen, with both finding an attorney and providing the financial means to complete the adoption process,” Melissa reflected. “We found one attorney from Dayton that was able and willing to help us. And the Lord has provided the money as well.”

Indeed, Jesus provided everything that Joey and the family needed.

As they navigated the adoption process, Dr. Chao Liu, an assistant professor of psychology at Cedarville and a native of China, assisted in translating court documents and mediating between the Browns and Joey’s birth parents.

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Melissa shared, “I keep thinking of how the Lord protected Joey, and how the Lord has his hand on Joey’s life. When his parents decided to send him around the world, Joey had no idea what type of home life he could encounter. The Lord placed Joey in a family that cares deeply about him and wants what is best for him. This has nothing to do with us as parents, and everything to do with God’s providence in Joey’s life.”

In September, the Browns welcomed Joey as a new member of their family. They now have four children aged between 7 and 13.

Joey’s life has become a source of inspiration and blessing. He excels in school, has many friends, and stays connected with his birth family in China.

Melissa sees many similarities between Joey’s life and the life of Joseph from the Book of Genesis.

“When we chose the name Joey, the parallels between Joey’s life and the life of Joseph in the Bible were never on our radar,” Melissa reflected. “In the Bible, Joseph was removed from his family, but he was able to bless them years later. And just like Joseph, Joey will be fully immersed in a different culture. But in his heart, he will always be Chinese. He will always be Zexi Xu, his parents’ son. And our prayer is that he will be a blessing to his birth family in China.”

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