Reach out and Touch Someone

Touch is something we often take for granted. Hug a friend in greeting. Hold hands as we pray. Rock a little one to sleep. Lean against each other for warmth or support. As members of a family, or a friend group, we usually have as much physical affection as we want (some of us more than we want, although I’ve yet to reach that point :) ).

Cuddle Time

Orphans have the same need for touch that we do, but sadly far less access to it. Caregivers are busy keeping them fed, clean, and safe. Their hands are often too full to hold the small fingers reaching out to them. So whenever the children have the opportunity to cuddle, they take advantage of it.

Content to be Loved

I Love Jie Jie!

The closer they can snuggle, the more they can nestle against us, the better they like it.

Satisfied in her Arms

Don't let me go, okay?

Sometimes there aren’t enough laps to go around, so they make the most of the laps available.

Lap-full of Lovin'

Other times even therapy is welcomed, as long as loving arms are part of the package.

Helping HandI love therapy, if I get time with you!

Naptime is never quite as sweet as when it can be taken resting against a loved one.

Sweetly Sleeping Naptime Snuggles

And of course hugs and kisses are the very best things of all!

Hugs are the best! Kissing Tiny Toes

Thankfully, they always have their “brothers and sisters” at the orphanage to love and support them…

Friends Forever

…but we know that’s not the same as a family. As wonderful as friends are, they cannot replace the safe and loving arms of a mommy and daddy, which is what these children really want. Truly, it’s the same thing we want, which is why God promises in Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Safe and Sound

Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to open our hearts and arms to one more child, and touch their lives forever? Can we put aside the comfortable known, in order to embrace the sweet unknown that is these little lives?

Happy to be Held

I pray that one day each of these children would know the secure love and affection that comes from having a forever family. They will give just as much love (if not more) than they receive.

First John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” Will you love one of these little ones?

Egg-citing Day!

Since Orphan Camp is coming up next week, I figured I’d better go ahead and post about Easter so we can at least keep up with the big events. Way to stay on top of things,  Joy (haha)! :)

Easter has always been a simple, but fun holiday for us at the orphanage. Since the Good News is God’s focus for the holiday, we think it should be ours, as well. Though the kids are young, they’re never too young to hear this story. We have found Resurrection Eggs to be a very effective means of sharing Easter. Cathy did a fantastic job! Every egg has a small token of the resurrection story inside of it, such as a donkey to indicate his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, coins to show His betrayal, nails in the shape of a cross, and then an empty egg at the end to symbolize the empty tomb. The children were mesmerized by the story, and wanted to touch each piece. Xiao Man here was showing us that she knew how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. She’s such a smart girl. I just love her heart.

After the story time, we were ready for the Easter egg hunt. You have never seen excitement until you have seen the children go after those eggs! First we “hide” them outside (with varying degrees of difficulty)… …and then we set the children loose to find them. Every child gets to go, even if they can’t actively participate. Some of them like A Yu… …and A Buo, just enjoy the sun and breeze on their faces… …others, like Wu Fu (Five Blessings), stared in fascination at the proceeds… …while Gang Gang was a bit more hands-on in his play. AnAn couldn’t participate in quite the same way, because of his blindness, but he liked exploring the eggs with his hands and tasting the treats inside. Ah, the treats inside. My, how those children loved finding all that yummy candy! Xixi was feeling quite smug about his haul… …while A Bai celebrated every egg… …and Xiao Man was mostly interested in noshing candy.

Dong Dong, on the other hand, generously gave most of his candy away, and spent most of his time carefully arranging his colorful eggs. For at least half an hour, he was completely engrossed, making sure that every egg was un-nested… …taken apart… …and methodically arranged in rows. He was nothing if not thorough in his pursuit of order.

A couple of the children had no desire to hunt eggs at all, but were much more excited to be pushed around by their “big brothers” in their cars. The preferred speeds were fast… …and faster! :)

Out of all the children’s reactions and pictures, this one was the hardest won and most satisfying- Xiao Xiong (Little Hero) was left at the orphanage this winter, and has been (very understandably) grieving deeply ever since. Because he speaks a dialect that none of the orphanage staff, nor any of our volunteers speak or can identify, his frantic communication cannot be understood. Even when being cuddled or played with, he is almost always grave and solemn. You can imagine how excited we were to see his sweet, shy smile break out over his face as he broke open the egg and discovered the sweet treat inside.  Definitely the best surprise of the day!

Every holiday like Easter or Christmas, I think of all that Jesus sacrificed so that I can be adopted from my broken, grieving, hopeless life; made His child; and given joyous life eternal, filled with forgiveness, hope and peace. I look at children like Little Hero, with his hurting heart and deep need for love, and I see myself before Jesus made me His own. When all the trappings and traditions of these holidays are stripped away, there is His heart for adoption. Do you share His heart? Do you look at Little Hero, Dong Dong, Gang Gang, Xiao Man, and others, and see broken hearts worthy of love and redemption? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to help you learn more about the process of adopting one of these precious children as your own.

Christmas Fun

Sometimes we get so busy living life that we get rather behind on blogging about it. That has certainly been the case lately. You know it’s bad when the Christmas post is going up after Valentine’s Day! Please forgive me for depriving you of recent updates on these sweet and precious kiddos.

My wonderful friend, Elizabeth, has graciously agreed to write a post and choose pictures so that you can see Christmas at the orphanage through eyes other than mine. Elizabeth and her husband XieLi have been volunteering at the orphanage for more than a year now, and are fostering one of our little treasures, Eva. Take it away, Elizabeth-

The orphanage Christmas party is one of the highlights of the year. And I mean for the volunteers—though I hope it is for the kids too!

At the beginning of December, we helped the kids put up the tree.

The kids always love this activity, though some of them would rather just play with the shiny balls than hang anything on the tree!

The day of the Christmas party, we started by gathering all the kids and orphanage workers into the main room and telling the gospel through the Christmas story. It’s a special time to share a cultural activity with a deep meaning. Then Joy presented the orphanage staff with some gifts that had been prepared for them. We want this to be a special day for them too!

Next, the gifts were brought out and distributed to the kids. The kids each had a buddy who sat with them to help and admire and cuddle. Pretty paper and boxes are a big hit with every kid, and these guys were no different! But I’ve never met any other kids who got quite so excited about receiving clothes and shoes. It was heartwarming to see them laughing and playing with their new treasures, and giving hugs to the volunteers who helped them open them.

As I watched them enjoying Christmas, I thought about just how powerful incarnation really is. Immanuel, God with us, “became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory…” We know God’s love because Jesus came to live it for us. I am so thankful for the opportunity to incarnate the love of God to these precious kids in a small way. And I pray that one day each of them can know it even more fully through a forever family!

Happy Day

Orphanage Day is a highlight of our week, but more importantly, it’s a highlight of the children’s week. When our van drives into the courtyard, they are waiting eagerly- calling out “JieJie! GeGe! (Big sister! Big brother!)” running to give us hugs, taking us by the hands and pulling us up the stairs for a day of love and fun.

My, how these children love to be loved! Whether they’re being tickled….

…playing ball…

…doing therapy…

…playing together with toys…

…or just being held…

(which is maybe their favorite part)

…these sweethearts thoroughly enjoy every moment of one-on-one attention.

Look at their happy faces…

…gaze into their eyes…

…bask in their shining smiles…

…and imagine what it would be like for each of them to have a family of their own and receive this kind of love and personal attention every day.

Each one of these darling children is waiting for a family.

Created in God’s image, each one of them is valuable and precious is His sight.

Are they precious in ours?

Please continue to pray fervently with us that the God who puts the lonely into families would provide a family for each one of these orphans- homes where Jesus is loved and His Word is taught.

What a day that will be for these children, when they have a home of their own and every day is better than Orphanage Day! :)

Xiao Qiang- Sweet, Spunky and Soulful

Children who come to the orphanage tend to be in four distinct categories. One group is infants with obvious special needs or illnesses. Another tragic cross-section is older children whose needs have either become too significant for their parents to handle, or who have outgrown their usefulness to bosses who have used them for financial gain. Quite a number of children, especially boys, come in between 6-12 months, when it becomes obvious that their motor skills development is not consistent with other children their age. Then there are the children who are abandoned due to socioeconomic reasons, or who are truly orphans. Of course, I’m not condoning any of these as reasons for abandoning a precious child, but I think the observation is helpful in understanding their pasts.

Xiao Qiang is in the third group. When he came, he was probably 8-10 months old, and had low muscle tone, which made it difficult for him to be as active as babies that age usually are.

Instantly, he captured my heart. When I held him, his beautiful, soulful eyes searched my face, and he’d smile softly when our gazes met.

Can I just say that I absolutely love this boy? He has the sweetest personality, and is one of the spunkiest, most motivated kids I’ve ever met.

Because of his low muscle tone, everything is harder for him, and we have to do therapy with him to build up strength and dexterity. Most kids at best endure physical therapy sessions, and many resist them with all their might. Not Xiao Qiang- he throws himself into each session with single-minded determination and zeal.

Eagerly responding to encouragement and cheers, he celebrates each sit-up, squat, and stand-up by clapping his hands and grinning. He practically begs for physical therapy sessions, and his hard work is paying off in a big way.

Whereas before it was difficult for him even to roll over, he can now get into a sitting position by himself, and rise to a standing position with very little support. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more resolved, purposeful kid than Xiao Qiang.

Don’t be fooled by his resolute nature, though. This boy is a real ham!

He will not hesitate to use his sparkling smile and shining eyes to garner admirers.

Nor is he reluctant to show off just a bit when he has a captive audience.

When he has the opportunity to play, he’s all boy.

Digging in the dirt is the best!

I think my favorite part about Xiao Qiang is how much he loves to cuddle.

He’ll just lay his head down on us, pat us softly, and gaze into our eyes…

…until he drifts off to sleep.

How could anybody not love this kid??? He’s just crying out for someone to take him home and love him forever.

Xiao Qiang was born around January 2010, and has been diagnosed by the orphanage as having cerebral palsy. He seems very bright- responding to commands in English and in Chinese, mimicking others readily, and showing initiative in his therapy. He truly is a delightful little boy, and would be a sweet, happy addition to any family.

Would you please prayerfully consider whether you could love this precious boy enough to make him your son? Help us spread the word about Xiao Qiang, so that he can have a family of his very own!

 

 

 

 

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.