It was April of 2013 when Christopher and I boarded a plane to go to China and work in a special needs orphanage. I had never traveled overseas before and I was a new bride. I was both nervous and excited to take this trip.
We landed in Beijing after a grueling day of travel, tired, hungry and unsure of what to expect. I had gone through a two year training program through our church and had received so much information on living in a foreign country. But nothing could truly have prepared me completely for this experience.
After meeting our taxi driver, we were driven to Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village, located in LangFang China. Everything was different…the smells, the sights, the sounds. Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village is on a well-kept lot with a brick wall surrounding it. Beautiful flowers crept up the wall and adorned the gates.
Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village is an orphanage for special needs kids. Some of the kids had needs that were serious and required constant attention, while others were minor yet also needed loving attention.
Our task consisted mainly of loving children.
Children come to SFCV from various other orphanages where they may not receive any love or attention. Some of them had been kept in their cribs and never touched or spoken to. It’s amazing what cuddling a child and talking to her can do for her development. We held children, fed them, played with them, and told them stories.
We bonded with them.
Meet Rose. A ten month old with Thalassemia, a condition that creates a need for blood transfusions every 6 months. Rose smiled at everyone and melted my heart. I would often find myself in the house where she lived and would spend hours playing with her. And then there was Nekka, a sweet little girl who was considered special needs due to having a missing part of her ear lobe. She ran after us and begged us to stay when we would leave for the day. She would raise her arms, begging to be held.
So I looked into adoption. What would it require to come back to China and take one of these precious children home as our own? Love isn’t enough to adopt a child. Countries have stipulations on income, age, other children in the home. China required a couple to be married for 2 years (we had only been married for 4 months at the time) and to both be 30 years old (I was 21).
Even though we left these children in China, we left with the prayer on our hearts that they would soon be found by their forever families who would love and cherish them.
When Things Don’t Go As Planned
We went to China prepared to love children, to spend all day every day playing with them, helping around the orphanage, and doing whatever we could to be a blessing in their lives. While we did all of those things, we also spent time quarantined in our room too sick to interact with anyone, especially the children.
It was difficult. Here we were in a foreign country, far away from anything familiar, and spending 4 weeks in a small bedroom. We prayed and read, played games and watched the limited movies that were available, and still we were bored and restless. It took a great amount of effort and the grace of God to not devolve into a self-pity party.
Thankfully, the sickness passed and we were free to move about and interact with the children. At the end of our trip we were able to take a trip to the Great Wall and a few other landmarks. It was a special time to see a different part of the world and understand a bit of the culture.
It’s been two and a half years since we were in China. I often find myself thinking back to those days. Once in a while I am confronted with a smell that transports me back and I remember the little ones that we had the privilege to love on. I wonder if they are now being loved by their own families and whether or not we made an impact in their lives. I still think about their silly stories and their sweet faces and the terrible Chinese noodles. And I find myself wondering if we will ever go back and, if we do, if we’ll come back holding the hand of a new-to-our-family child.
Time will tell. We will continue to pray that we accomplish God’s will for our lives. Adoption is a beautiful service to an orphan and one that aptly depicts the relationship we have with our God. We are open to it for our family and would be excited to welcome another child into our home.
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless…in their affliction…” James 1:27
Have you ever had the privilege of serving in an orphanage? What are your thoughts on adoption? Feel free to share my story!