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.

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 LDS Church when she was 19 and then served a mission in South Africa.  She then went to Brigham Young University 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 on 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.


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 are 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.