Written October 25, 2007
It’s been a year since I left for China. Making the final decision to go was one the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I had been praying for God to show me what the next step in my life was, where I should go or what I should do. I remember the moment just like it was yesterday, I was praying about what I should do and it popped in my head, “China.” I had been thinking about going on an orphanage mission trip for a long time, 6 years to be exact. It’s interesting how God plants a seed in your soul and waits for the right time to reveal His will.
One year ago today, I walked down the jet way to board the plane in Dallas, my eyes were watering and my mind was spinning. I sat in my seat (luckily away from the others in the group) and sobbed and it was the ugly cry! What a way to start a vacation, huh? People told me the trip would change my life and I would never be the same. That scared me, what exactly did that mean. I had no idea what to expect from this experience, I was terrified. As I was sitting on the plane about to leave for Tokyo, I questioned my decision to travel to a third world country with complete strangers, to experience things that would break me and possibly make me question everything I’ve ever believed.
After two days and four flights (Houston to Dallas to Tokyo to Beijing to Jinjiang), we finally arrived in Jinjiang. Jinjiang is in the Fuhouz province in South China. Kids and nannies from the orphanage welcomed us. It was the warmest welcome I’ve ever received. The local television station was filming our arrival, the newspaper was taking photos, and people were interviewing us through interpreters. It was really fun, I felt like Jessica Simpson, too bad I looked like a dog from all the travel.
The first night in Jinjiang was a surreal experience. I was extremely tired from the travel and just wanted a hot shower and a bed. However, the “welcome committee” had other plans for us, they took us out for a traditional Cantonese dinner. We were served pig tongue, lotus flower, fish belly soup, and sea worms covered in a gray gelatin. The sea worms are considered a delicacy in South China. During dinner my nose started to bleed, probably from all the time spent on airplanes. I tried to be as discrete as possible. As I headed for the bathroom, but they caught me! While I was in the bathroom trying to stop the nosebleed, I felt like I stepped out of my skin and was watching all this happen to someone else. How did I get here? I was in South China with complete strangers, looking at myself in a foggy, dark bathroom mirror, while the local women were outside the bathroom door talking loudly in Cantonese about my nosebleed.
My first few days in the orphanage were good. We had been informed of the things we might see – kids with special needs and no treatment; babies laying in beds with no mattresses for hours; babies playing with their own hands because they have nothing else to play with; 3-5 kids sharing one bowl of congee with one spoon. I was mentally prepared, or I thought I was. I anticipated that my heart would be touched, but the affects would not be dramatic or long-term.
On the second day at the orphanage we took the older kids out for a day trip to the ocean, McDonalds (not my choice), shopping, and to the park. The kids were anxiously waiting for us on the bus. As we turned the corner and the kids saw us, they starting yelling “Hello, Hello, Hello.” The entire bus was alive and bouncing. The pure excitement and joy was intoxicating. Our leader told us to get on the bus as quickly as possible and find a kid to sit with and spend the day with. We didn’t have a lot of time to think about which kid we were going to pick. I got on the bus and went straight to a 4-year-old girl I’ll call Emma.
The bus was very crowded and loud. Emma sat on my lap and we both quietly looked out the window and watched rural China pass by. It was fascinating. Occasionally, Emma would turn around and give me the biggest smile. It was the kind of smile that is straight from the heart; I will never forget it. We couldn’t communicate, she’s fluent in Cantonese but the smile said it all. After the 3rd or 4th giant smile, everything in my heart and soul changed. It was a defining moment for me that I’ll never forget. I felt as if God was telling me I would be back to China to adopt. I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is so me and I know what I was born to do.” I had thought about China adoption in the past, but it was only an idea or thought. There was nothing random about sitting with Emma on the bus that day. I love a song that Steven Curtis Chapman sings. It reminds me of Emma and how she changed my life. Here are a few lyrics….
"I saw the face of Jesus in a little orphan girl. She was standing in the corner, on the other side of the world. And I heard the voice of Jesus, gently whisper to my heart; didn’t you say you wanted to find me? Well here I am; here you are…”
Emma is just one of the children who touched my heart. There are so many children, stories, and experiences that will be with me for the rest of my life. I kept a journal while I was in China. I have not opened it since I’ve been home. I can’t, maybe someday.
The first month home was the hardest. I couldn’t stop thinking about the orphanage. It's a unidentified building on a busy street. If you walk by you would have no idea what’s inside but what is inside are the greatest kids in the world. They don’t have parents, digital television, toys, snacks, choices but they love and long to be loved. They are so appreciative of the smallest things, even an animal cracker. They look out for each other, and they’re faces sometimes resemble the hurt and pain inside their hearts. Truly, these children are amazing! Going to China was the most powerful and emotional thing I’ve ever done.
For he who is the least among you, is the greatest.-Luke 9:48