WEEK TWO: (written during and right after week 2)
It is currently Sunday and the new kids arrive tomorrow. I am eagerly anticipating what God has in store for this next week and what all He is going to do. I am also not quite so eagerly anticipating the exhaustion to come this week. I am realizing, though, that the tiredness and the frustrations that these weeks present simply push me to a greater dependence on the Lord. On my weakest days towards the end of the week, I learn to lean on Him and depend on strength from Him for every single moment. It’s rather a beautiful state to be in because don’t we all want a greater dependence on the Lord?
There are moments when I feel like I can’t do it anymore or when I feel like the last thing I want to do is go help get my kid dressed for the day, but through prayer and through strength from God’s word in the morning, I am able to move forward.
We hiked up a beautiful mountain to see a view of Chongqing. It was very steep and difficult, but the view was totally worth it. I was reminded (as God knew that I need to be) about just how powerful God is. Looking over the view of the city and seeing all the beautiful Chongqing mountains from such a high point was really breathtaking and I just thought about how big God must be to create things like that. This gave me the strength and reminder I needed to gear up for the coming week. The three pictures below are from this hike.
The above picture is of my roomate, Summerlyn, and me. She was so sweet, and I was so blessed to have her as a friend to lean on these two weeks.
On Sunday morning after week one was over, all the volunteers met in one of the hotel rooms and sang worship songs, prayed, and read the Bible together. It was truly such a beautiful picture of the Church. There was no big building, no pastor, no band, no window decor, but simply a group of people in love with Jesus, praising Him for who He is and what He is doing in us and through us in China. It was so special to sit there and sing such worshipful lyrics to God in the middle of a city in China, where the number of Christians is probably countable on one or two hands and where it’s dangerous to even text about the name of Jesus. This was honestly one of my favorite parts of this trip. We all so desperately needed God’s strength and those times just singing together and praying to Him definitely gave us that strength.
This is the English name I gave to my little boy for week two. He was 9 years old and had severe down syndrome. He never spoke in full sentences, and rarely spoke one word. He smiled a lot, laughed a lot, hugged a lot, and ran a LOT. He loved to be held and kissed and would jump into my arms with the biggest smile on his face. From day one, I was in love with his happy and sweet spirit. As the week continued, his behavioral issues become more apparent, and although I still loved him very much, things were not easy. Taking care of him the entire day was a very difficult task. I had to constantly keep a strong grip on him to prevent him from sprinting away or kicking me or spitting in my face. None of these things were done spitefully or to “be mean”, but rather because he found them quite hilarious and could not mentally grasp the idea of something being “wrong”. Anytime my translator would tell him he could not do something (in a very stern voice, while squeezing his arm), he would simply continue to smile. He would never react to any form of discipline, but would simply continue to do that thing with a smile on his face. He would try to hug me and kiss me while I was trying to sternly get the message to him that he could not do something. While in hindsight it is pretty humorous, it caused much frustration and a great need for patience on my end. I was constantly praying in my head that the Lord would give me patience to love this boy well and strength to physically control him. Neither of these were easy tasks, but boy oh boy did I learn a lot through this week with James…
It took me till about day 3 to realize that I am no different than James. Yeah, maybe I am mentally more “there” and maybe I have a higher IQ and can understand things more clearly. But really? I am just like James. I remember a specific moment in my hotel room, crying out to God to help me understand how to best handle this child, and I just felt a strong conviction that changed my perspective for the week. I started realizing that I do the same dumb mistakes and sinful things over and over and over again. I realized that I go against God over and over and over again and sometimes even with a big smile on my face. I may know deep down that something is wrong, but I have convinced myself it is okay. Yet, God has nothing but grace, patience, and love for me despite my sinfulness. He even sent his son to die on the cross for me. As numb as my heart can become to that statement, I realized how profound that really is all over again this week. After finding this perspective, I was able to pray that God would help me to love on James no matter how frustrating it was when he wouldn’t listen to me. I prayed that God would give me patience with this little boy, just like God has patience with me. It all goes back to the verse that says “We love because He first loved us”. This verse took on a whole new meaning for me this week.
Now, don’t get me wrong. After realizing this, it wasn’t all smiles and happiness from that point on. The week continued to be extremely difficult, but I was able to have peace knowing that God would give me strength and love for this boy just like He has love for me.
This is my little boy, James.
This is the beautiful scenery behind our hotel, where we would walk after breakfast. Well, more accuratley speaking, this is where I would be walking, and he would start running away, and I would end up chasing him down :)
James loved to be held!
This is a picture of our little handshake. He made it up somehow and did it with me one day, and it was adorable.
This is him trying to kiss me on the cheek :)
Claire was my translator for week 2, and I would be greatly remiss if I did not share how much she impacted me this week. She lives in Beijing, where she goes to college, and she has divorced parents. She shared with me from the beginning that she was a Christian and that her faith was what had brought her to this camp and frankly what had brought her this far in life at all. She grew up in her grandmother’s house because of her parents’ rough situation and divorce. She told me that she never really felt like she had a family or that she was loved. She shared that she felt drawn to these orphans because she never really had the love of a supportive family either and she knew the pain of being alone. I asked her if she would share how she came to know Jesus, and her story was truly amazing. She said she had heard about God at some point in her life and that He was her father, but she didn't believe it was true. Living a very hard childhood because her parents were separated, she moved in with her grandma and she never felt very loved. She became suicidal at one point and decided that before she killed herself that she would try praying to God. She asked Him for a miracle to reveal that He existed. The next day, she saw some sweet potatoes on the side of the road and was thinking how much she just really wanted some sweet potatoes and would do anything for them. When she got to her grandmother's house, she had for no reason bought her a bunch of sweet potatoes. She said she knew that was God. And so she found a church and she heard about Jesus and the gospel and was amazed and fell in love with Him. She was even baptized, and went to the states to talk about being a Christian in China last year at some conference. I was so inspired by her faith, despite her circumstances, and God really blessed me through her.
She handled the entirety of our difficult week with such grace and beauty and love. We were able to encourage each other each day to lean on the Lord for strength. It was such a cool thing to be talking about the love of Jesus with a 21 year old Chinese girl and being so inspired by her story. I asked her if it was hard being a Christian and China. She nodded her head somberly, but then smiled and said that it was worth it. She knew the love of the Father and she is willing to suffer for the name of Jesus. Claire is brave. She is trusting and brave, and I am so thankful that I had the chance to meet her. (below are three pictures with her)
When the day came that he had to leave, I didn’t think I was going to cry as I had the week before. I didn’t feel very emotional in the morning, but as soon as the bus drove away with my little James in it and as I saw him waving goodbye, I lost it. It is impossible to watch these kids drive away and not think about the life they are going back to in the orphanage. Again, I had to trust God and commit myself to be praying for him, specifically that he would be adopted. He needs the love of a family and ultimately he needs to know the love of Christ. I don’t know what his future holds, but God does and all I can do is advocate for his adoption, pray for him consistently, and trust God with his life. I loved that little boy. He tired me out, he hit me, he kicked me, and he spit on me, but he changed my heart forever. There’s something really beautiful about the opportunity to love someone so fiercely that can’t necessarily give you anything in return. I am so blessed and thankful that God gave me the opportunity to be his family for a week and to love him with all I had.
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that these two weeks were some of the hardest of my life. They really were. However, it also wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I grew more and was blessed more in these two weeks than probably any others in my life.
These weeks weren’t about me. And in all honesty and vulnerability, I think I am used to my weeks pretty much revolving around me. It is all about what I need to get done, where I need to go, how I want to look, etc. These weeks were not this way. It was a learning process for me, but it really was so beautiful. China will always have a big piece of my heart, specifically the Chinese orphans. I thank God that He has put them on my heart, and I hope that I never stop being burdened with the thought of these parentless children. I don’t want to come back to my happy, easy, privileged life and forget the hurt I saw in these kids. I want to advocate for their adoption, pray for them, and learn to trust God more each day. I want to come home and be different than when I left. Maybe it won’t be a super dramatic change, but my heart will look different. I hope that my heart will be more consumed with the Holy Spirit than ever and that I would let that direct my actions each day, rather than my own selfish desires.
Thank you, Lord, for teaching me so much from this trip. Thank you for pushing me and challenging me to the point of being in tears, wondering how I can get through a single day. Thank you for bringing me to the end of myself because that’s exactly where I need to be.