I have been trying to write this post in my head for a month now. Words seem terribly inadequate, but today I want to share a small piece of how my heart was changed in China. Being invited into the amazing work that He is doing was overwhelming. Working in the orphanages alongside nannies to care for precious children was so, so special. Witnessing Him use people to do His work who don’t know Him yet was indescribable.
When I arrived at the orphanage, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. And although it was heartbreaking to see the significant medical needs of some of the children, I felt privileged to care for them in any way I could. Boy or girl, it didn’t matter. It also didn’t matter if they couldn’t respond to me or, in some cases, that they wouldn’t be on this earth much longer. They were simply children. Children who needed someone to love them and hold them. To tell them they were precious and they mattered. To pray over them, even though doing that brought me to tears more than once. As an adoptive mama, it is easy for me to study the medical diagnoses of a child. It just comes with the territory of special needs adoptions. But in the days I spent in the orphanage, that need slipped away for me. Sure, some of the children’s medical conditions were obvious. But sometimes they weren’t. And it wasn’t important anyway, because they were all His children. Children who simply needed someone to love them.
It was freeing to hold a special one year old girl and know that her medical need didn’t define who she was. She was left in a bumbo chair and given little attention, except during feeding time. There were many other children in the room, and she was a quiet observer who didn’t demand anything. Her head was so large from hydrocephalus that she could barely hold it up, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that when I cradled her in my arms and looked into her eyes, I saw her. The beautiful daughter He intended her to be. I fell in love with her. When I tickled her, she threw her head back in laughter. She let me see into her world for just a few moments, what an honor to love her back in the simple ways I know. It seems so inadequate for all she gave to me. I can only hope I showed her the kind of love He’d be proud of.
I met another precious boy, 18 months old and blinded from glaucoma, who stole my heart too. He was delayed in all ways because of his blindness. I don’t think the nannies quite knew how to help him. God drew me to him. I held him and sang to him. I patted all over his back, arms, legs, chest, and belly. As he soaked in the sensory input, he just giggled. I tickled and kissed him. And he giggled more. He let me into his world too and I saw him. I could see how he’d thrive in a family if given a chance. I experienced all of the love bursting out of him that a mama would be so blessed to have. His infectious laughter gave me way more than I could ever give to him.
And then there was my sweet PZ. She was one of the 12 angels in the baby room, where I spent most of my time in the orphanage. She was a beautiful 3-month-old and perfect in every way. I held her. I fed her. I rocked her to sleep over and over. I looked into her eyes and prayed for her family to find her. I sang. She smiled and cooed and giggled at me. I prayed some more. I cried. I loved her as a mother loves her child, even if only for a few days. I don’t know why God drew me to her, but He did. I didn’t find out until the end of our trip that she had spina bifida. And you know what? It didn’t matter. I loved her. And she was a daughter too. I still think about her every day. I think about how the nannies propped her up in her crib with a boppy and how happy she was to sit there and just watch all the activity. I think of her slowed breathing as she fell asleep in my arms. I pray that her family finds her. My sweet PZ will always have a place in my heart that I didn’t even know existed.
The nannies and orphanage workers were amazing, and I fell in love with them too. I spent most of my time with the baby room nannies. Through the few English words that they knew, and the few Mandarin words that I knew, we connected. We tried to have Mandarglish conversations. We laughed. We shared knowing glances. We took pictures. A lot of pictures. It was beautiful. In those few days that I was allowed into their world, I felt like we became sisters. They gave me hope. I have so much respect for the women who selflessly give everyday to the children. They do the very best they can with a tough situation. Even though the children are not their own, they treat them like their own.
My heart was forever changed during our trip. I fell in love over and over again. The Father cemented my heart’s desire for orphan care even more – I know it will be my life’s passion. I’m excited to watch that unfold and to see what that looks like in my life. It was a life changing experience and I am so thankful for His invitation. If you feel led, I would love to encourage you in any way I can to pray about joining a similar trip. My dear friend, Kelly, is leading another trip in October back to the same orphanage. I promise it will bless you much more than you can imagine. Click HERE to find out more.