I'll be honest and admit that this post intimidates me. My heart is pounding even now. There are parts of this that I am not worthy to write. My words and my heart are inadequate, but He can use anything and anyone. I am asking Him to use this and receive the glory. Let me back up. Before coming to China, I was reading a blog posted by this really great girl, Mallary, never dreaming that she would be a short train ride away, and that I would get to meet her and be her friend. She and her husband, Chip, and son, Pilgrim, live in Siping. They are going stateside this summer, and Jacob and I really wanted to visit them before they left. So, being the fun, hospitable people that they are, they allowed us to come and invade their space three weeks before they leave. Our team leader purchased the train tickets for us, and we set off for the first train ride for the kids, not including the light rail. They were so excited.
We finally got a taxi, and missed our first train ride, so we exchanged our tickets, and got the kids drinks at the station and ate breakfast. They love the juices here that have small jello like cubes in them.
Xavier became enthralled with this kid's spider man mask, and he was kind enough to let him play with it.
We were split up into different cars, so there are no pics of Eph on the train because E and X sat with me, and I had the phone. It took less than 40 minutes to get there, and we then took another taxi to Chip and Mallary's hotel. Yep, they live in a hotel, which was cool for us since we got a room on the same floor. It reminds me more of an old dormitory. After settling in for a few minutes, we walked to grab lunch at a fake KFC. On the way there, Eden took a picture in front of a Korean restaurant called the Garden of Eden.
We grabbed our lunch, and headed for a picnic. I spied these cute bicycle things, and apparently you can rent them for a couple of hours and ride around in them. How fun!
Xavier kept stealing the ball from under Pilgrim's stroller.
I wish I had more pics of us and our friends, but here they are! Mallary gave the kids bubbles leftover from Pilgrim's birthday.
Never a dull moment with these two.
After the picnic, we walked back to the hotel to put the kids down for a nap before heading to the orphanage.
Here we go. I tried to prepare the kids for what they would see, and asked Mallary to help me. She did a great job. I found myself so focused on how my kids might feel and what they would think that I neglected to prepare my own heart. The place was clean with kind caretakers, but I walked into the room and was overcome.
I had been involved in orphanage outreach in Côte d'Ivoire when I was in high school, but that had been so long ago. It brought back a lot of memories for me. Ephraim lived in a foster home, so his situation was very different. When I stepped into the room, I tried to look out for my kids, but honestly wasn't sure what to do at first. After sitting down, Mallary brought me the little girl that you see here with Jacob, and placed her in my lap. She is six years old with feet smaller than Xavier. She smiled when anyone held her and played with her. If she was put down for a moment, she would inch her way over and move her head till picked up again. Eden looked unsure what to do, so I helped her hold this little boy in her lap. It was overwhelming, but I was proud of all of my kids, and yet, ashamed of myself. I, being a nurse, noticed all the potential health concerns and germs my kids were being exposed to. I struggled in my heart with this, with the knowledge that Father loves my kids more than I do, and that each one of the children here is just as precious as my own kids. I remembered to be anxious for nothing, and present my requests to Him. I also felt overwhelmed at the depth of care that these kids need, the heartache of grief and loss, the lack of mother and father figure, yet He is the greatest Father of all, the All Sufficient One.
This is my favorite picture, my tender warrior. His activity and energy can sometimes disguise the gentle tender heart of my son. He held this little girl a long time while she cried. I could hear the congestion in her lungs as she sobbed, so it was pretty obvious that she was sick. She cried, but she didn't try to leave his lap, and he just held her. What a heart.
Xavier was oblivious, and mostly played with a little red ball.
At one point, Mallary was holding two crying ones. Let me tell you friends, we are not amazing people because we went here one day for and hour and a half. My friend, Mallary comes here weekly on her own time, and sometimes brings her students. She knows the names of the kids, and loves them. She brings her own son with her without giving it another thought. She is friends with the caretakers, and her heart is so big. She will miss these kids deeply.
I will admit that time here made me love my husband more. He sat down, and dug in immediately, holding and playing with kids with the biggest smile on his face. The sweet one in stripes rolled toward him and laid her head on his lap till he held her.
This older boy was like a big brother. He noticed another one rolling toward Jacob, picked her up, and put her in Jacob's lap.
It seems fitting that after this, I forgot to take any more pictures. Time here reminded me that in eternity, the last shall be first. How glorious that will be.
When our time there was up, we headed back. Ephraim was in a taxi with Jacob and teammate, Erin who taught Eph a few words in Chinese. He wound up saying "Hello, dog meat," to the taxi driver, who thankfully had a sense of humor. They were in hysterics for about 5 minutes. We had a delicious bbq supper prepared by Mallary, then Jacob stayed to bathe Xavier while Eden, Ephraim, and I headed with Mallary, Pilgrim, and Erin to a local Chinese fellowship. The kids didn't understand the music, but were very quiet and well behaved. On the way back, we stopped to see a man hacking away at a sheep in front of a dog meat restaurant. He wanted a picture with Eph, who didn't mind, and wound up dripping sheep's blood on his shirt. We bought shampoo, oreos, and mangosteens on the way back, and got the kids cleaned up and in bed quickly. Mallary and I then headed for a walk around the town. What a treasure it is to share your heart with a loving sister. She encouraged and challenged me. The next day, after team time, we had yummy local food, including Siping's famous potato balls. Scrumptious! The kids had another nap, then Mallary and I had one last walk, where we stopped at an outside table to lift one another up. Then, it was time to head home. It was nice to arrive to the comfort of home. There is much to contemplate, so much on my heart.
"Pure and genuine r in the sight of G the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." J 1:27
Showers of Blessing:
Fun train ride with the kids
Warm sunny picnic with friends while getting weeped on by willow trees
A challenged heart
Tenderhearted kids and husband
Treasured time with friends
Yummy potato balls
Soy milk machine from Mallary
Precious children I was privileged to spend time with
Being unworthy but blessed anyway, what marvelous Grace!