December 21, 2015
by Jeana Robbins for The Talon
It has been eight years since the publication of her book, “Saving Levi” hit shelves, but the emotional attachments MSJC student Lisa Misraje holds for the story of the small orphan boy, critically burned and desperately in need of an advocate transcends any literary title. The story of “Saving Levi” is the story of Lisa’s time in China, where she spent eight and a half years working in orphanages, advocating for orphan prevention, and raising a family of six children. Although she now lives in Menifee, California, the Business major dreams of the work she is capable of doing once she obtains her Masters in Non-Profit Organization. As Lisa’s book ramps up to become a full feature movie, the entrepreneur, advocate, and mother took some time to introduce the Talon to her rambunctious family, including her charismatic son Levi and the family’s goofy Old English Sheep Dog, Bogie.
How long were you in China and why?
Eight and a half years! I went to China thinking I would be back to my life in the U.S. in about four months, but I didn’t come back for eight and a half years. It became my home. When we first went there we were part of the team for the Philip Hayden Foundation, Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village. There were only 12 babies at that time as it was a small struggling orphanage. We came along side to help the owners grow it into one of the most beautiful orphanages in all of China. Now they take care of about 100 babies. They have visitors come from all over the world. There is even a hotel on the land, and a medical facility!
Who is Levi?
Levi is just one of my six children. To the rest of the kids, he is no different than anyone else. He has such a heart and is extremely compassionate. But he is all boy and gets in trouble like you can’t believe. Levi is sneaky and he is funny. He is the most thankful child for anything; he’s just a happy boy.
How did you save Levi?
In March of 2002, I walked into this small little farm hospital, and off in the corner was this little baby covered in white lotion. There was absolutely nobody there to take care of him. It grabbed my heart as it would have grabbed anyone’s heart. I thought that if this little boy was going to die, he would not die alone. And my mantra was “the best of the best.” If there was a better burn hospital, a better doctor, surgeon, anything, we were going to get there. He was set up for anybody to just fall in love. I didn’t expect him to live.
What has China taught you about yourself as an individual?
China taught me that failure really is the best teacher. Landing in China I made so many mistakes and failures. It was those moments where I learned and grew the most. Also, before I landed in China I had this fear of death. Returning from China I realized that if I died today it was okay because I had already lived my dream life.
What has China taught you about yourself as a mother?
As a mother, China taught me to be flexible and live in the moments. My children are my treasures and each moment with them is a gift. Landing in China really relieved me of a lot of the cultural pressures; fears and competitions moms have here in the U.S. We were too busy saving lives to focus on those things.
Finally, how has your time in China impacted your future?
In China people value and respect foreigners with an education. They work hard and sacrifice much to get a degree. After returning to the U.S. as a single mother of six, I realized that certain doors were closed for me without having my degree.
I hope to be able to finish my degree and either start another non-profit or work for one. I am no spring chicken and time is not on my side. One of my professors here heard me say that, and her response was awesome. She said, “Lisa, you are going to be 53 with or without a degree, so why not be 53 with a degree.” My secret wish is that I will be able to get my masters and maybe even a PhD.
MSJC is a great school and I am so thankful for my professors, financial aid and staff here at MSJC. I really do not think I could have landed in a better piece of space than this. My returning to college has been a very good thing for my children, and I pray they will each go for their dreams at any age, no matter their limitations.
Q&A with Levi
What was it like coming to live in America?
It’s Fun! I get to play sports like basketball.
Was the adjustment hard?
Kind of and then kind of not. It was crazy being in a whole new place that I had never lived in.
I’ve heard that you read the book recently for the first time; did you learn anything you didn’t expect?
No, not really, I knew most things. I didn’t know there were so many people involved with helping me when I was a baby. It makes me feel special.
Lisa Misraje is pictured with Levi (center) and four of her other children.