We drove 3 hours south to visit Emily's original orphanage, Baotou Social Welfare Institute. This is where Emily was abandoned and spent the first 6 months of her life before she was transferred to Harmony House. This was the day that I so looked forward to for many months. I knew it would be hard and beautiful. Turned out it was harder than expected. We have been praying about this day for so long. We prayed for God to reveal Himself to us through this experience. Show us truth, Lord, no matter how ugly it is. Break our hearts, Lord. Break them the way yours breaks. He did. In a big way. The scales fell off my eyes yesterday. God broke my heart a couple years ago for the orphan but yesterday He brought my faith to a new level. My world view, my perspective on life has been completely wrecked. I have to admit, I live a life of selfishness. Sure, we love The Lord. We give and serve. But not to the point of true sacrifice. Yesterday shed light on my small world that I think is so big. Life is so much bigger than our little bubble. Love is so much more than caring for our loved ones. It's so much more than giving 10% of our extravagant salaries. Love is bigger than all that I've ever known. Yesterday, I thanked God for His grace. I thanked Him that He loves me and sends me and uses me despite my self-centered flesh. He reveals His love to me in ways that are unimaginable. Yesterday was proof of this.
We drove up to the orphanage where we were greeted by a very kind lady who is the director over international adoptions in China. She would be giving us the tour. We were told ahead of time we had only 30 minutes to visit. There was the gate. The looming, large, black gate. The gate that Emily was abandoned in front of. The gate where a police officer found her at only 5 days old. It was an awful feeling seeing that gate. I thought about her birth mother. As Americans we think the typical mentality in China is one where people don't love children. We believe the Chinese think of orphans as "throw aways" and sometimes this IS the case. But the more likely truth is that Emily's mom loved her and didn't have the resources to care for her. Perhaps she knew how very sick she was. Her cerebral palsy was so evident at birth and perhaps she knew how sick her heart was as well. I grieved at this gate. I grieved for the loss her birth mother may have felt. The loss she may still be feeling. I can't imagine the pain.
We walk through the gate and up to the orphanage. It is many stories high and houses hundreds of children. We were only allowed to view a few rooms. We probably visited a total of 30 children. We met the nanny who cared for Emily when she was a baby. We saw the crib she slept in for the first 6 months of her life. We thanked the nanny for her care.
There was a newborn crying when we walked into that room. I asked if I could hold him and I did. He stopped crying immediately. He was less than a month old. I held him and rocked him and kissed him and talked to him. I prayed over him. The director told me she hopes I would come back to adopt this child. I can honestly say that paperwork and formality are the only things that kept me from walking out of there with him and the others I'm about to tell you about.
Some of them I wanted to hold but they wouldn't let me. One child who was 2 had severe hydrocephalus and his brain was continuing to swell. He never leaves his crib. He lays there 24 hours a day. I didn't care that he looked completely deformed. I wanted to hold him and love him. But they wouldn't let me. "He has no brain" they kept saying. He had a brain. He had a soul. I know he heard my tender voice as I rubbed his back.
Then the baby in the crib next to him... "May I hold him?" No. They were just waiting for him to die too. There aren't any resources for these 2 to have surgery. There's nothing they can do. They just wait. Wait to die. Because no one is fighting for them.
We go to the next room. The special needs are too many to name. There is a down syndrome baby who I begin talking to and praying over. He calls me "Mama" and wraps his arms around my neck. There is no smile. But heartfelt warmth in his eyes from the touch I wasn't afraid to offer. I clung to this child and he clung to me. I sobbed. They had to pry him from me. I sobbed harder. There are too many moments like this to write about.
We go to another room where children are eating noodles. One boy is deaf and latches on to Brady. They say he's brilliant but just can't hear. No one has adopted him. There is a little girl with an extremely deformed face and head. I kneel beside her and tell her, "Wo ai ni." That means, "I love you." She smiles. The boy in the wheelchair. I touch his hand and say hello. He smiles and continues eating his noodles.
We have been informed by Lifeline that Baotou is one of the best orphanages in China. It was clear that the nannies cared for the children but the thought of this being one of the better orphanages is heart-wrenching.
As we were leaving, the director asked us to please encourage people to come adopt these children. Through my tears, I responded, "We promise to fight for these children." I cried and cried. There were few words to share when we left. I will never forget these children. Ever.
God brought us here, not for us to feel sorry for anyone, but to convict our hearts on a deeper level. The love we so comfortably give to our children and friends within our circles... it's not enough. God calls each of us to "carry our cross" and "give up our lives in order to gain eternal life". If you don't know where to start, join a group traveling on a mission trip. There are some wonderful organizations who send those who want to travel to serve and love on "the least of these". Bring your children. I believe Brady was changed by this. It was scary for him and uncomfortable. And we believe that's a great thing. We plan to return to China in the future and spend more time with orphans and proclaiming the gospel here.
I can truly say that after the experiences we have had here, we love the Chinese people. They can be rude and prideful, selfish and obnoxious. But the truth is that a lot of this is cultural and they are mostly gracious to us one on one. They are Christ's image-bearers who just need the love of Christ to realize their need for grace. And I have a longing, especially after Thursday's visit, to love on this population by being an advocate for their orphans, for these children of God. I have a longing to make Christ's truth revealed to the people of this run down yet beautiful country.
Dear Jesus, please send hands and feet. Send your believers to rescue these precious image-bearers. Convict hearts to trust that you will provide in all things. Reveal the truth that fear is not of you. Let these precious children know your hope and someday soar on wings like eagles!
"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)
|The crib where Emily spent the first 6 months of her life|
|Emily's finding spot - abandoned outside this gate|