This was my 5th trip to China in 8 years.
3 times to adopt and 2 for mission trips.
This was my 3rd time to this orphanage.
A part of my heart is in this vast and very different land.
It holds the start of life for my 3 youngest children.
For this, I will always be incredibly thankful and feel a sense of servitude towards it’s people.
There are things I love about it and I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this culture.
The people of this country have never been anything but kind and gratuitous towards our family.
The relationships we have developed are dear to my heart.
This is why I go back each time.
But there are things about this place that I will never understand and I just have to accept them as a different way of life.
My heart hurts when I leave but I am always so glad to come home to “our way” of life.
As I return to upper-middle class suburbia, I want to forget what I have seen and what I have learned.
Because it is hard stuff.
Heartbreakingly hard stuff.
I want to pretend all is well and my biggest worry of the day is that I forgot to sign a permission slip for school or that I have to take the dog to the vet because his ear is infected again.
I complain when the dishwasher has to be unloaded yet again and the mound of clean laundry has to be folded.
Shame on me.
I live a charmed life.
I can’t forget.
I can’t forget the overwhelming horrible smell of the kids in the orphanage.
Bless their hearts, they are just so very dirty.
They have no clean clothes.
I can’t forget the scars, sores and scabs that cover their frighteningly thin little bodies.
Medical attention is very rare for them.
The rows of beds and cribs that hold little souls that God created.
Little people that go to bed hungry each night.
Children that long for love.
Children that will NEVER experience a family.
The overworked and understaffed nannies do the best they can.
I adore these women.
There are just too many kids and too many with special needs.
Severe special needs.
They are there…forgotten by the world.
When we arrived last Friday we were only allowed a 1 hour visit.
Honestly, I wanted to run from there after 1 minute.
The condition of the children since our last visit had deteriorated significantly.
Three years ago when we visited after getting Lulu, there were some kids that were bad-off, but there were many with mild special needs or no needs at all.
Thankfully these were all adopted.
Two years ago there were less healthy seeming children but still plenty you knew would get adopted.
This time, oh my. Some of these children actually frightened me with the severity of their needs.
It seemed almost like a mental institute.
Most of them looking like Holocaust victims.
They took my breath away and I wanted to go home.
Why was I here? How in the world could I help these kids?
How could I even show them love when they flinched anytime you touched them?
I am embarrassed to say that some of them frightened me by their appearance to the point I didn’t want to touch them.
But I was there and I couldn’t go home for another 9 days.
So I put on my big girl panties and prayed God would lead me through it.
And true to His nature, He did.
Children that first day that seemed lifeless and that I truly wondered if they were alive, by the end of our stay were smiling, or eating small bites, or even laughing. We even got many of them to do a simple craft or two.
We took them outside to feel the air.
To blow bubbles, or try to kick a beach ball.
To receive a sticker on their shirts that made them smile from ear to ear.
We held little dirty hands and helped them walk.
We pushed a wheelchair.
We sang songs.
We stretched stiff and weak little legs and arms.
And we built relationships.
With the nannies, the new director, the kids and some of the local church people.
One day 15 volunteers from the church showed up to help us. They said they were ashamed that that we had come from across the world to show these kids love, when they were in their own backyard and didn’t do a thing.
We pray God will continue to move in their hearts and that they will visit and work with the kids more often.
The last day is always very hard.
As we start out on our walk to the orphanage, we know we are going to have to say goodbye.
Goodbye to our friends the nannies and the staff.
Even though we don’t speak the same language we have become dear friends.
And goodbye to the kids is nothing but heart wrenching.
The babies we have held and fallen in love with and smothered with kisses and hugs have to remain there.
Placing them back in their cribs after whispering one last “I love you” and “Jesus loves you” and praying God shows them mercy and that He brings them a family…well, it is almost more than I can take.
My heart hurts as if I am leaving my own children behind.
Will some of these babies even live?
My little Minnie the down syndrome baby from last time that I held and loved did not make it.
And I am ok with that.
I know she is in the loving arms of Jesus and she doesn’t have to suffer the fate of life in an orphanage with multiple health problems.
The nannies come and dry our tears and hug us tight promising to take good care of them while crying themselves.
It really is quite a scene!
Then come the big kids.
Some of them realize we are leaving and they see us crying and wipe our tears.
Some cry also.
We just hug them tight knowing most of these kids will never find families.
We look at how far they have come in a week and how much more alive they are.
We pray the local church volunteers do come to continue nurturing these precious children and give them hope.
We drag out the actual leaving part.
Giving more hugs and kisses.
Crying on each others shoulders.
We are ALL a big fat mess by the end.
But we must go.
Our time there is done for now.
Back at home we can’t imagine life like this really exists.
We don’t want to imagine children living like this.
But they do.
And as hard as it is, I will go back.
Yes, I would much rather spend several thousands of dollars on a nice relaxing vacation to the Carribean where the water is crystal blue, fun little drinks with umbrellas are offered often, and the hotel staff waits on me as I read a cheesy love story and work on my tan.
But I do know now how these forgotten live.
I can’t ignore it.
I have to somehow figure out how to reenter this life and live here in it without forgetting that life, their life.
And as dreamy as the Carribean sounds, I know the sickly, dirty, helpless kids across the world will fill my soul with a lasting joy that will outshine any brilliant sea.
You see love is never wasted.
Don’t ever be afraid to share it.
It will always bring about good.
To my dear friends at Chenzhou CWI:
I will hold you in my heart and think of you often.
I will love you from across the world and pray God’s love for you.
Thank you for enriching my life beyond words
Until next time…
Charlie and Ben the 2 babies I took on as my own and wanted to bring home. So smart and adorable. Charlie was missing his arm from just below his elbow and little Ben had just had surgery to correct anal atresia.
I sobbed as I laid these boys in their cribs and said goodbye.
The top 2 photos are of my Angelina 2 years ago and the picture below is now. Her lip was repaired but not her palate. She loved Julia but did not like me so much. Made me sad as I held her and shared thousands of kisses with her 2 years ago. She is very shy and timid and very afraid. Breaks my heart.
My sweet Minnie who is now in the arms of Jesus.
A much healthier, happier and more alive Sadie 2 years ago.
Sadie and Sam 2 years ago.
The decline in their appearance, attitudes and health were shocking.
They were such happy and plump and active babies.
Sadie could barely sit up now with assistance from a Bumbo seat and she was so thin.
Sam could not sit up at all. Just laid on the ground and rolled.
These 4 kids sit in these chairs and on these plastic potties ALL DAY LONG! Against the wall. We got them out and onto the floor mats for some play time a few days. So absolutely heartbreaking!
More of the ones that sit against the wall on the plastic potties. Their heads hang and their eyes are expressionless.
John is blind and never leaves this chair. Notice the wood on the tray is thinning in places where he chews on it. It is the only thing he has to do.
This poor child NEVER left this chair the entire time we were there.
Eating crumbs off the floor. Never came off her plastic pot.
These 2 precious little ones didn't really know what was going on. So sad. They just laid there.
Craft time...putting Cheerios onto a pipe cleaner
Daisy. She is 10 and has Down Syndrome. She is very bright and very high functioning. Love her!
Sweet Ray. He needs a home. Nothing but a huge cuddle bug.
The is one of the kids that truly took my breath away that first day. He was sitting on a bench all balled up and so pitiful looking. I saw my brave 17 year old daughter talking to him so I got the courage up to approach him. They put him in a wheelchair per our request to get him more comfortable. He loved being pushed outside and loved the bubbles in his face. He laughed and smiled. He and I played a game of "pointing which direction to take the wheelchair" and by the end of the week he did it all on his own.
Some of the nannies and the director and our teammate Jenny who is from China.
The rows of beds for the babies. My sweet Lulu slept in one of these. Can't even think about that fact too much.