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?

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! :)

Orphan Camp 2013- A Sea of Smiling Faces

Orphan Camp is highlight of our year, for orphans and volunteers alike. It’s a chance for the children to hang out in the fresh air with people who love them, and do all the things that they like most. After years of experience, we’ve found that simple activities and a relatively unstructured time work best.

The pinnacle of many of the children’s time is the water fight and accompanying pool games. Those kiddos love to get wet!

Zhong Zhong just wanted to get his toes in the water…

…while Xiao Ming, prefer to relax and enjoy the coolness.

Xixi preferred to have his adoring fans wet him down while he giggled with glee.

But Dong Dong and Jin Qiu were much more active in their water games. Dong Dong went at it with his usual zestful gusto. He zeroed in on a target, took careful aim…

…and shouted in victory when his spray hit its mark-

Jin Qiu preferred to broadcast his attack and shower whoever got in his way.

Digging in the sandbox was another popular pass time. Oh, the glorious fun of playing in the dirt and getting absolutely covered! I think this was Gang Gang’s favorite activity.

He sat happily engaged by the hour- digging, piling, and making important phone calls… :)

A Yong loved the sandbox, as well. I don’t know when I’ve seen him more focused and determined in an activity than he was in transferring sand from one bucket to the other. He did a great job!

Sliding in various forms appealed to many of the children. The combination of the exhilaration of whizzing downward, while still being safe and secure in their friend’s arms was irresistible. Yuan Yuan took A Buo for a ride, which A Buo thoroughly enjoyed.

Zhong Zhong was a bit more tentative about braving the slide. However, with Luke spotting him at the bottom…

…and Angel and Shelley’s support…

…he made it!

By the way, is this not one of the sweetest little boys you’ve ever seen? God has done a lot of healing for him to be able to smile and trust this readily. What a precious little love!

A Feng, with his love of open spaces, preferred sledding down the hillside with Jim.

Look at that laughing boy; what a joy!

However, A Feng’s very favorite thing, the activity that he ran, beaming from the bus to do the moment he arrived, was to roam around in the wide-open field.

Something in this sweet boy just longs passionately for the sky overhead and grass beneath his feet. One volunteer’s full-time task was to do nothing but follow him around from a safe distance and let him enjoy his freedom. All of us who saw it cried with joy just a bit, I think. Such a simple pleasure meant so much to this young man.

Speaking of joy, Xiao Man was pretty cute twirling her ribbon streamers-

What a darling little girl this one is!

Food is another central theme of our Orphan Camp. We try to have the children’s favorites, and plenty of them. Fangbian mian (convenient noodles, or what Americans might call Ramen noodles) are the macaroni and cheese of Chinese children. They inhale it! Nothing says fun for Xiao Ming like Stephanie feeding him noodles by the forkful. Look at those eager eyes! :)

Yoghurt is another favorite. A Feng could eat 10 a day with no problem. We have to feed him lying down, because it helps him swallow. As soon as he sees a container of yoghurt, he assumes the position-

Lunchtime is a bonanza of meat and veggie rice boxes…

…and fresh fruit (a perennial favorite). I love Dong Dong’s face while he’s getting ready to eat his watermelon.

Of course, the ice cream is the crown jewel of the kids’ culinary adventure.

We had a treat this year, in that a number of our fabulous foster families were able to join in the festivities. These parents are doing such a wonderful job of loving and nurturing the children God has laid on their hearts for this time.

Eva Joy with her foster parents Elizabeth and Xie Li-

Laila with foster mom Joslynn-

Luke and Shelley-

Ruthie with Rachel and Caleb (not pictured)-

And Miss Summer with Hugh and Crickett (how did I end up with a picture of only her?)-

We were so glad that the foster families could enjoy the fun day with us, and that we all had a chance to visit with their delightful kids. Truly, these families have a special role to fulfill in these children’s lives, and we deeply appreciate them.

Oddly enough, I have still more pictures, but I’ve apparently reached my upload limit for this post. Either I’ll write one more post on this event, or I’ll leave it to your imagination. In any event, I hope you have gotten a taste of the children’s joy in the simple pleasures of the day, and perhaps caught the vision for how much more joy could be a part of their lives if they had a forever family of their very own.

Did  you delight, as we did, in the exuberant joy of DongDong’s water play-

Xiao Man’s sweet smile as she twirled her ribbon streamer-

Xiao Ming’s wide-eyed enjoyment of his fangbian mian-

Gang Gang’s sandbox revelry-

Xixi’s laughter as his friends splashed him in the pool-

And Zhong Zhong’s smile of success after his sliding adventure?

Please, pray that God would provide each of these orphans with forever families! They do so love to be loved. Would your or someone you know be willing to love them?

Hard not to, isn’t 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.