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The Snuggle Mama

The first installment in a series about ordinary people bringing glory to God

Kelly Degan

The Snuggle Mama

In his book No Little People, Francis Schaeffer wrote that “in God's sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God's place for us, at each moment.” For four years during the 1990s WORLD annually ran a set of features with specific examples of Christians who were doing God-glorifying things out of love and obedience but without recognition. We continue that tradition in this new series on people who glorify God by serving others without getting any money or publicity in the process. —Marvin Olasky

The 5-year-old Chinese girl in the two pictures looked sad, like someone had pointed a camera at her without telling her to smile. But as Kelly Degan thumbed through the adoption file, she already loved Jia Bing as her own daughter.

Degan professed faith in Christ at a marketing conference when she was 24. She never considered adoption until her husband Mike, who was himself adopted, proposed the idea to her. When the family settled in Waterford, Va., with their three biological daughters, the time seemed right.

The Degans brought Jia home from China two years ago, within months of receiving the pictures. Their first month together was like a honeymoon. The Degans’ teenage daughters showed off their sister, and Jia wanted to please her new family. “Then it got very, very real,” Degan said.

One of Jia’s first English phrases was, “I snuggle Mama.” Several times a day, for hours at a time, Jia wanted to cuddle with Degan. It became worse at bedtime because Jia had spent her entire life around others, she could not sleep alone. Degan went to bed with her at 7:30 p.m., and Jia would either grip her arm or lie close the entire night. During the next 13 months, Degan read through 54 classic books on her Kindle.

“I just had to submit to whatever the Lord had for me that day,” Degan said. “There were nights dinner didn’t get made and days laundry didn’t get done … but that was okay because she was the focus.” But the rest of the Degan family suffered. Kelly Degan had to give up evenings alone with her husband, and she often neglected one-on-one time with her other daughters. “It was surprising to me, when I emerged from that year of going to bed early, how different everything was in our house,” she said.

The Degans plan to adopt in January another Chinese girl, 5-year-old Jinny Ying. Degan tells her husband and children to let her know if she starts to ignore them again: “[My older daughters] are excited and nervous because … they know those first few months are going to be difficult.”

Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette Rikki is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD contributor.

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