"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
September 28, 2012
LDS Woman Leaves a Legacy after Starting an Orphanage in China
by Dian Thomas

In 2007 I was asked to start leading tours to China.  I had been there once in 1995, and I found the country to be on the move and extremely interesting.  Never did I think my path would lead me back to directing tours and visiting the country now thirteen times.

Before I lost weight, this would not have been something I could have done.  In 2003, I weighed more than 320 pounds. At that point I realized that if I wanted a life, I would have to do something about it.  I knew I would have to start eating right and find an activity that would support weight loss.  I turned to biking, which I loved as a child.

Dick Jensen, at Morris Murdock Travel in Salt Lake City, asked Greg Witt, a friend of mine, if he knew anyone who could lead a bike trip to China.  Knowing how much I was riding my bike and that I loved travel, he gave him my name. After losing more than 70 pounds through exercise and proper eating, I was soon leading tours to China.

One of the cities that we visit is Xi’an.  On one of the tours I was told that there was a church member in Xi’an who was from South Africa, and who had started an orphanage for medically challenged children.  This was to become a place that we would visit often.

When we arrived at the orphanage I met Amanda de Lange.  Yes, she did have a wonderful accent, but the thing I remember most was standing in amazement at what she had done in her life.  She joined the Church when she was 19 and then served a mission in South Africa.  She then went to BYU and got a degree in Family Living.

Amanda de Lange

Her journey took her to Taiwan and Xi’an to teach English.  It was in Xi’an that she volunteered at an orphanage.  Soon it was suggested that she open up her own orphanage.  That she did in 2005, taking on six small babies all by herself and opening up Starfish Foster Home. 

When I first visited her, the orphanage had grown to three apartments and 50 babies. By then she had several professional nannies, but even at that it was an unimaginable task.  She would go out to orphanages in the area and find medically challenged babies.  Many of them had heart problems, cleft palates, and spina bifida.

Sadly, in January 2012 she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and she died July 14, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Amanda was enveloped in love as she left. This was so fitting for a woman who selflessly shared her passion and energy, nurturing vulnerable orphans, restoring them to health, and preparing them for the loving arms of their new parents.

Amanda’s orphanage children say thank you.

While she was in the hospital, Amanda reflected: “168 babies, nearly 250 surgeries, and 81 adoptions – that pretty much sums up my life!” There is so much humility in that one phrase, and even more impact. Eighty-one Starfish are with their forever families, and so many more ready for their turn, thanks to Amanda and the incredible Starfish team and volunteers.

I attended the memorial on September 22, 2012, in Salt Lake City, to celebrate the life of this woman who set out and blessed the lives of so many.  Thank you, Amanda, for reaching out and touching my heart and life in so many ways.

Dian has been sharing her creative ideas for more than 30 years in books, on TV and in speeches. She now had a special offer to save 60% on five books and one DVD. Get Dian’s creative library for only $40.00. Save $60 and have more than 25 years of her amazing ideas. This package will be great for gifts, for fun, and for kids and grandchildren. You will never run out of ideas when you have this wonderful set of books. Take advantage of this limited offer at www.DianThomas.com.

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About Dian Thomas

Dian Thomas was blessed with the good fortune to be born near and raised in the remote, breathtaking Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah, where her father was the forest ranger. She took the skills she learned in the outdoors and turned them into a New York Times best-selling book, Roughing It Easy. Her appearance on the NBC's "Tonight" show with Johnny Carson boosted her into the national media scene, where she became a regular on NBC's "Today" show for eight years and then ABC's "Home Show" for six years. After more than 25 years of media exposure and 19 books, she now shares her practical insights and wisdom with audiences who want to savor life.

A former Relief Society president, Dian is currently serving as a visiting teacher. Visit her website at www.DianThomas.com

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