Beijing’s expat community is mourning the January 6 passing of Agape Family Life House director Keith Wyse, whose legacy of helping orphan Chinese children with special needs is sure to long live on.
The 58-year-old Ohio born expat’s work at Agape Family Life House – situated in Langfang between Beijing and Tianjin – was mostly dedicated to helping forsaken youngsters stricken with a bone weakening condition called osteogenesis imperfecta (leaving victims colloquially known as “children of glass” because of their frail demeanor and brittle bones).
Keith is survived by his wife and Agape co-director Cheryl and family back in the States.
In a recent Facebook post friend Naomi Jean called Keith a “humble, funny, wise, resourceful, kindhearted Mr Fix It.” That sentiment certainly seems to encompass his eclectic skills and the wide sweep of his life – from which work as a mechanic in the Ohio beginning in the late 1970s, to the mission work he embarked upon in China in 2001.
Those seemingly different facets of his life frequently converged, according to Jean, who wrote on Facebook about first meeting Keith, tools in hand, as he worked away at building a child’s bathroom at an orphanage. She latter accompanied him to the rumble strewn site of what would become Beijing’s Bread of Life Bakery, detailing his hopes to make the business wheelchair accessible and a place for orphans to learn practical skills.
In a 2010 article about Bread of Life in our sister magazine Agenda, Cheryl recalled how she and Keith “adopted four girls from China back when we lived in Ohio. Knowing that there were so many orphaned children in need of help – medical help mostly – made us eager to do more research. In the adoption of our twins, we learned a lot about the brittle bones disease – they both have it.”
She went on to say, “My husband had wanted to move to China right after our first adoption. I told him that I wasn’t going anywhere with a baby girl. It took about seven years for me to realize that maybe he was right. We did a mission trip to China in 2001, and realized that we had been called to help orphaned children in China.”
We at TBJ plan to conduct a new interview with Cheryl Wyse about her husband’s legacy soon.
People magazine profiled the couple in 2013, shortly after their return to Ridgeville Corners Ohio. The story detailed how Keith and Cheryl laudably raised their adopted Chinese daughters “Rachelle, 15, who has endured more than 75 bone breaks while maintaining a straight-A average (along with twin Rebekah), to seven-year-old Lydia and four-year-old Esther, both abandoned as babies.” MSN also made a video about Bread of Life that you can view here.
In the past few days, a crowdfund has been set up to help the Wyse family cover the expenses of Keith’s passing and overcome other financial hurdles. For more information on how to lend a hand, click here.