A Family for A Bai

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20

When we pray big things of a sovereign God, it should come as no surprise when His answer exceeds our expectations. Little did I know as I was praying over and writing the blog post yesterday how many people were going to join in praying and advocating for a home for A Bai. I didn’t expect a generous donor to offer $1000 towards the adoption costs of the family who chose to make A Bai their own. I certainly didn’t anticipate that four families would come forward to say that they were praying about adopting A Bai and making her their own daughter. It blew me away when one of those families messaged me this morning and said that they felt certain that God meant A Bai to be theirs, and they had already applied to their agency for pre-approval to begin the formal adoption process! Can I get a “Hallelujah!!!”? We are doing a serious happy dance, knowing that finally, A Bai will have a mommy and daddy of her very own. What a fantastic answer to many, many prayers.

Until the family receives pre-approval, they want to stay anonymous. Certainly, we don’t want to steal their thunder. :) Would you please join us in praying that God would open and close the appropriate door so that A Bai can be in the family He has for her? It is still in the initial stages, and if God has another plan for her, He could make that apparent. When the time comes, we will delight in sharing with you the rest of A Bai’s story. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for happy endings. :)

A final thought- if you were praying about adopting A Bai, please remember that we have many other sweet children who need a mommy and daddy of their own. Keep checking here on Homes for the Lonely…you never know if the next child we post about might be yours.

“I Love You, Because Jesus Loves You!”

After my last post, many of you inquired about A Bai, the little girl who constantly asks me when I am going to bring her a mother, and who gazed into my eyes and said, “I love you, because Jesus loves you!” A Bai’s story is long and heart-rending, but I pray that after you hear it, many of you will be moved to advocate for this little girl, storm the gates of heaven on her behalf, or even (hopefully) adopt her. :)

When A Bai first came to the orphanage, I think most of the volunteers went home and cried. I know I did. Her history was beyond imagination. From a small, poor village in the countryside, A Bai’s father had been out of the picture for a while. Her pregnant mother apparently tried to give birth alone in their shack, with only A Bai there to help. Both the mother and the wee baby died in childbirth. No one knew about the death, so for three months A Bai lived in the hovel with her dead mother and sibling, scrounging through the neighborhood for food. Finally the stench became so horrendous that a neighbor came to investigate, only to find the remains of A Bai’s family and a barely recognizable young girl.

Can you imagine the safe haven the orphanage must have been after such a nightmarish summer? Can you fathom the comfort of having hot bowls of food prepared for you, instead of having to dig through the trash heap for it? Can you feel how wonderful it must have been to go to bed clean and comfortable?

God had still more in store for A Bai.

Three days after she arrived, a young single lady came to the orphanage, intent on fostering an 8 year old girl we knew was there. When one of the kids ran out and told us about A Bai’s arrival, I thought  “She’s going to go home with that new girl, not the 8 year old.” Sure enough, God arranged for this broken little girl to go home that day into a loving, Christian environment where she could begin to heal.

We had no idea at the time that A Bai had a special need, attributing her slightly different facial structure to her being a village girl, and perhaps a minority. At the hospital, while doing the necessary medical check-ups for someone who had been in her condition, a doctor who just “happened” to have studied in Canada and was an expert on the subject approached the foster mother and said, “Did you realize that little girl has Williams Syndrome?”

Through that contact whom God so graciously provided, we learned that some of the symptoms of Williams Syndrom explained not only A Bai’s distinctive look; but also her gregarious personality (she has never met a stranger); quickness to make attachments but slowness to form long-term bonds; impressive long-term memory; difficulty with short-term memory and learning; love of music and single-track mind.

As important as being in a loving home was to A Bai’s healing, I believe the real key was her love and acceptance of Jesus Christ as her Savior. That is one on-fire little girl! With her outgoing personality and joy of making new friends, she has evangelized everyone from taxi drivers to waiters to friends on the playground. Her philosophy of “I love you, because Jesus loves you!” is a driving force in how she relates to almost everyone.

It shows, too. She is such a kind, sweet, affectionate little girl, always ready with a warm hug and an “I love you!” or “I missed you!”

A Bai’s foster family called her Hylah, which means “Hallelujah.” They loved her dearly and their tender care in introducing her to Jesus did much to train her into the precious girl she is today. Unfortunately, after nineteen months, their family dynamics changed, and they could no longer keep her. Try as we might, we could find no one who was able to foster her in their place, so she had to go back to the orphanage.

With her world once again changing drastically, A Bai’s only request of the orphanage was that they please not cut her hair. She had worked so hard to grow it out, and at least wanted control over that small part of her life.

At this point, A Bai has two goals in life- to worship Jesus, and to have a mommy and daddy. Repeatedly she has asked me, “When will you bring me a mommy? Will you be my mommy?” All I can do is redirect her focus to Jesus as we pray together for His will, and that He will give A Bai peace and joy where He has her for this time.

Her little heart is so malleable to His Word. When she comes to me with a problem she’s having with one of the other orphans, I remind her that she is the big sister there, and she needs to show Jesus’ love to them, even when they are not loving her. She readily agrees, and immediately goes over to try to hug them or play with them again.

At Orphan Camp, she was crying because someone she’d hoped would come didn’t. When I reminded her that God had given her many other blessings that day, and could she name some of them for me, she promptly answered “Jesus!” After heartily affirming her choice, I asked what else she was thankful for. Again she answered “Jesus!”

Really, that’s enough, isn’t it?

This week, I asked A Bai “If you could tell people anything you wanted to, what would you say?”

“Thank you,” she replied.

“Thank you for what, sweetie?”

“Thank you for finding me a mommy.”

Bless her sweet heart. Her faith is so strong; she is just sure that God is going to bring her a mommy and daddy. I pray she is right.

A Bai’s birthdate is listed as December, 2003, though I think she’s probably a couple of years older than that. Aside from a preliminary diagnosis of Williams Syndrome (which cannot be confirmed in China unless DNA is available from both parents), testing has revealed no other medical issues. Because she was fostered for so many months in an American household, her English is quite conversant. With her loving nature and friendly personality, I know she will be a joyful addition to any family who chooses to adopt her.

A Bai’s “I love you, because Jesus loves you!” shows her heart towards others around her, as well as towards her Savior. The question is- Will you love A Bai because Jesus loves her?

Update- A generous donor has offered to contribute $1000 towards the adoption agency fee of the individuals who adopt this child.This is just a reminder not to let finances be a deciding factor. If God means for this little girl to be in your family, He will provide!

A Different Plan

Whipping wind and driving rain from Typhoon T8 impeding our travel. A sold-out train, delaying our journey 2 1/2 hours. Electricity at the orphanage knocked out, wrapping us in a muggy blanket of dusk as the torrential rains fell outside. A  young lady, far from home, with a fever spiking at 103.4. Two others with the beginnings of a stomach flu. Arriving home, completely drenched, after only half a day spent loving the children instead of the desired three. This was not what we had planned.

It is, however, what God planned. One thing ten years in China has taught me repeatedly is that “the mind of man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” So instead of writing the post I had envisaged, full of trips to the swimming hole, special lunch excursions with the older kids to KFC and other highlights from our days there, let me write about the time our loving, gracious God ordained for us. There were certainly many sweet moments therein.

Due first to our travel delay, and then to the lovely lunch the orphanage had prepared for us (they’re very proud of their local specialties, especially chicken, and enjoy treating us to them when they can), we didn’t reach the children until early afternoon. Many of them were napping, but the ones who weren’t were absolutely ecstatic to see us, and swarmed us with sticky welcomes.

One thing I noticed immediately was that, although there were only four of us instead of the usual 10-20, the kids all still wanted the same amount of affection. They crave it, and are so hungry for it that they don’t care how many children they have to share a lap with, so long as they have their softly spoken words of endearment and loving touch.

Si Xi, a little girl with Down Syndrome, didn’t care if she got her spot on a lap, as long as she could at least have a foot. I’m afraid she got rather addicted to horsey rides, and my legs got a great work-out!

Our afternoon was filled with praise music, and it was exciting to see how the children responded to it. Rambunctiousness calmed, play gentled, guardedness dropped. With simple songs, like Chinese renditions of “This is the Day” and “Jesus Loves Me,” the children joined in, begging to sing them again and again. A Feng is usually quiet and closely guarded, much as you see here…

…but when the singing began, he actually laughed and clapped! It was such a treat to get to see that.

Another treat was to have my talented young friend, Lacy, accompany the singing on her violin.

The children had never seen anything like it, and were mesmerized by the sweet sounds of hymns on her fiddle.

Miss A Lian, never one to shirk her part, provided accompaniment of a different sort. Not sure how sweet her music was, but she sure is! :)

Some other unexpected blessings that were part of God’s design for our time-

A Bai, an eleven year old girl who constantly asks with longing when I am going to bring her a mama looked at me and said, “I love you, because Jesus loves you!” What a wise little girl. There’s a sermon in that statement.

Knowing that we must be tired, the nannies brought each of us a piping bowl of peanut soup to nourish us. For the Cantonese, nothing is quite as refreshing on a steamy day as a nice, big bowl of hot soup. Certainly, their kindness was most refreshing. :)

We found a clean, rodent-free hotel room just a 20 minute walk from the orphanage and right across the street from Pizza Hut. Perfect location. The staff was most helpful, as well, even coming to fix our toilet with a mop, and then mopping the floor with it afterwards.

Thank goodness for house shoes.

So, did the trip go as we had hoped and arranged? No. But God had a different plan, one that I choose to believe by faith was better. I am encouraged even in writing this to be reminded of the many kindnesses He showered upon us. What else can we expect of our gracious God, who is good, and does good?

I want to credit my friend Alyssa with most of the photos in this post. She was right in the mix, playing with kids, changing diapers, helping with baths and many other things…but as with most people who stay behind the camera, you’ll just have to take my word for it. :)

Orphan Camp

Every year, we try to have Orphan Camp, a day when the kids and the orphanage staff can come for fun outdoor time, special treats, and lots of love. After much preparation, yesterday was the big day! Kiddos and staff arrived at the Fountains (a community center founded by friends here) in a large coach, eager for the good times they knew were in store.

To give an overview of the whole day would be a little dry and impersonal, and the children would get lost in the details. As you know, we’re all about helping you get to know the kids on a more personal level. So rather than outline the whole day, I’m going to give you a few glimpses into individual children’s enjoyment of the time.

As quickly as the kids could get their shoes off, they plunged into the water, clothes and all. A Bai could swim like a fish, and had a rather unique style of entering the wading pool. Running full tilt, she leaped off the side, spread full out, and landed a belly flop right in the middle of the water, drenching everyone around with a glorious splash. Much more confident in the water than the other children, she swam circles around them (literally), and encouraged them to join in her frolicking. Definitely, A Bai was the life of the pool party!

Though they also loved the pool, Jin Qiu and Dong Dong were much more into the water toys.

Squirting water hoses full blast at anyone within range, throwing water balloons, splashing, and blazing away with their water guns, they were definitely all boy in their enjoyment of water weaponry.

Other children were a bit more sedate in their pool play. Xiao An is blind, a recent arrival at the orphanage, and very tentative about experiencing new situations. Cathy discovered that he was much surer of his footing when he could wrap his arms around her waist and slowly follow her around. Right into the wading pool they went, so Xiao An could enjoy the watery coolness on the hot day.

Some of the younger kids found the water mat more to their liking than the pool. Zhu Zhu was fascinated by the various water spouts. As soon as she would push one of the spouts down to stop the water, another would pop up, and she’d turn to contemplate that one. She never did succeed at making all of the water stay down, but she gave it her best shot!

A Lian also loved the water mat, and was as cute as could be, playing with the water spouting from it. Rather than leave her comfy seat, she elected to have her yogurt snack right where she sat. What could be more fun than that?

Just as an aside, isn’t she one of the most gorgeous kids you’ve ever seen? Look at that face…it’s just crying out to be kissed!

Ready to warm up after their wet fun, the nannies and the big kids headed out to the field to jump in the Zorb, a gigantic, inflated ball. A Bai, Jin Qiu and Xiao Mei could really get that thing rolling across the grass. For the most part, they stayed on their feet, but occasionally the momentum would cause them to lose their footing, and they would tumble around in the ball like so many ping pong balls, giggling and shouting the whole time.

A Feng also thoroughly enjoyed the green space, but in a much less rambunctious way. Something in A Feng is always searching for freedom, and being cooped up in four walls is hard for him to bear. His favorite part of the whole day was having a great big open field to wander around in, under my dad’s watchful eye. No walls, no one making him go here or there, we could see him visibly relax as he enjoyed the feeling of grass under his feet and the sunshine on his face.

Lunch and snack times were favorites with all of the kids. I thought of calling Orphan Camp “The All-You Can Eat Yogurt and Ice Cream Buffet,” but that seemed a bit lengthy. :) We DID have rice boxes and noodle bowls, and the kids scarfed them down with abandon. But by far their favorite treats were the dairy ones. A Feng (pictured above) ate six yogurts over the course of the day, opening his mouth for the next spoonful of the sweet treat as soon as he’d swallowed the last. Zhong Zhong, in addition to his yogurts, at six bowls of ice cream, frequently smiling and clapping his hands between bites.

So much fun and activity made the little kids extra sleepy by nap time. Trying to give them as many new experiences as possible, we let some of them lie in the grass. A Yu luxuriated on her soft green bed, enjoying the sensation of the blades on her skin.

Babies like A Hui and Xiao Li, we took inside to the playroom, where they ignored the toys and promptly zonked out on the carpet.

One big highlight of the day for A Bai and Xiao Mei was their very own shopping trip. The Fountains has a thrift store, where second hand clothing, accessories, and other things can be bought at very reasonable prices. A Bai and Xiao Mei got a free pass; anything they wanted, they could have. Both of the girls made a beeline for the accessories and toys, picking out bracelets, handbags and dolls. When I gently steered them towards the clothes, they definitely decided the more girlie, the better. Xiao Mei was drawn towards anything that shined or sparkled. Especially when it came to shoes, her tastes ran towards the extravagant. A small, red pair of traditional slippers with elaborate embroidery called her name, and nothing pleased her more than when she could finally cram her feet into them and hobble towards the hat selection. Both of the girls looked so feminine and pretty in their new finery. Don’t worry, we made sure they ended up with some practical things, as well!

There is much more to say about Orphan Camp, and we intend to post about different aspects of it in the coming days. Our goal was for the children and the orphanage staff to have a fun an memorable day full of new experiences, to feel the Lord’s love through us, and for the kids just to enjoy the freedom to laugh, run and play outside to their hearts’ content. God graciously and exceedingly blessed our day, and we’re so thankful. Maybe you’d like to join us next year?

A Voice

Orphans- sweet children with no mommy to kiss their skinned knees and rock them to sleep, no daddy to look up to and make them feel secure and cared for. Many people look at their plight with sympathy. Some well-meaning individuals try to number their ranks. Two hundred ten million, 145,000,000 or 168,000,000…the problem seems staggering.

We are not here to talk about a “problem.” We are here to talk about children, each one created in God’s image and precious in His sight. Each one has a name, a story, a unique personality, an eternal soul, and immense value, both to God and to us. We are here to be a voice for A Lian-

a smart, spunky three year old with Down Syndrome who captures hearts with her sparkling eyes and delighted giggle; A Bai- an eleven year old who loves Jesus, helps care for the other children, and longs desperately for a family of her own; Xixi- a precious four year old Downs boy who loves nothing better than cuddles, kisses, and falling asleep in someone’s arms; Gang Gang- a shy, sweet boy with sad brown eyes and a soft smile that warms as soon as someone holds him; Xiao Min- a giggly, joyful four year old who loves to play chase, swing, and have raspberries blown into his neck; and many others.

As a Christian, I believe that one reason God has me on this earth is to be His hands and feet for these little treasures. He admonishes me in James 1:27 with “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world,” and sobers me in Matt 25:45 when He says, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'” What a privilege it is, to be the hands and feet of Christ as we show His love to “the least of these”!

Jesus pictures salvation as a kind of adoption, saying in Ephesians 1:5 “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” He tell us in John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” What a sweet promise that is from the “Father to the fatherless.”

Few of the children with whom I work have any chance to be adopted outside of the realm of advocacy. Though the orphanage is willing and eager to do what they can to place them in homes, they have been told that certain special needs are “unadoptable,” and will not be placed on a list unless a family comes forward for that specific child. It seems that Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, chromosomal disorders, and other special needs are seen as undesirable, and it is thought that no family will want a child like this. My heart breaks when I look at these precious treasures. Undesirable? Surely not! What family would not be richly blessed to have a Xixi or an A Bai or a Gang Gang in it?

One outstanding promise from our compassionate God is found in Psalm 68:5-6a, “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely.” That is my desire for these children- that each of them would be placed in a godly home where Jesus is loved, His Word is taught, and they will be cherished, protected and cared for as He cares for us.

A voice for the orphans, to let the world know that these are not just numbers, but children with names, personalities, dreams. One by one, we’ll help you get to know them until we hope they are as vividly endearing to you as they are to us. As you do, by God’s grace, we look forward to seeing Him make a home for the lonely.