While in China, David and I visited Kate’s orphanage. I chose purposely not to write about the visit because I felt like I needed more time to ponder it in my heart. This morning I woke up with that place on my mind. And I need to write… I need others to know… I need others to care.
When we arrived in Kate’s city, we were flabbergasted at the conditions. I literally felt like I was in a movie about a war torn area, not in the place that my daughter had spent her first 2 years. The pictures that I took tell the story of poverty that we rarely see in America, but is quite the norm in the outskirts of China’s huge cities. As we got closer to the orphanage, I began to comprehend why so many special needs children are abandoned here. My heart did not want to understand…it wanted to go on thinking that something was wrong with these people…that they were cruel and did not care about their children. It is so much easier to think that, then to realize that in many cases these children are abandoned as a matter of survival for their parents…and not only for their parents, but for the children themselves. What do you do with a child that is not healthy when you are barely able to provide for yourself. These people love their children. It is apparent when you adopt one and smiles and stares surround you everywhere you go. A good many people seem very happy that another one has a home. I began to understand all of this despite my best efforts not to…because there is pain in accepting that the woman who gave life to your child may not have desired to turn her back on her. She probably had all the God-given motherly instincts, but no resources to fulfill them. She very well may have given Kate up to save her life. Oh how I pray for Kate’s birth parents. I wish I could know them. I wish I could help them.
We pulled into the orphanage parking lot in the middle of the main city. We were greeted by several workers who were very excited to see Kate. They asked her several questions and when she replied they laughed. She would not let any of them hold her and the “glazed” look in her eyes had returned…the one that makes her look very unsure of what is going on around her. She gets that look when her heart is hiding and scared. She clung to us, but I am still unsure what to think of that. How can you spend the first two years of your life with a certain group of people and not be so very happy to see them again after only 4 days of being away? At the time, we felt excited that she had attached so quickly to us, but looking back I am unsure of what to think of her reaction to being back in the only “home” that she knew. It scares me to pursue this line of thinking. I wish I knew what a day in the life of these orphans looked like. I wish that I had video or pictures of Kate’s life before us. I wish I could read details of how the workers are taught to interact with the children.
We entered a courtyard that seemed quite pleasant and made our way into the building. Everything seemed very clean and orderly. We got a glance in the kitchen where workers were already preparing food for the day and at a room that the children used for learning and eating. Then we were lead upstairs to Kate’s “room”. Bear with me as I try to convey what we saw. I don’t know quite how to write on paper what my heart feels, but I know that God is calling me to take someone into this room. As we entered, we saw 5 or 6 chairs lined up in front of probably 20 beds and cribs. In the chairs were children ready to greet Kate. They were excited to see her and gave her candy. What caught my attention instantly were the babies (I love babies)… there were 3 or 4 infants lying in cribs in this room. These babies were completely quiet…no movement…no cooing…no crying…nothing…and their eyes were wide open. They weren’t sleeping…they were just silent. It struck me as eerie. I asked to touch the babies and was given permission. I wanted to pray for each of these children and to touch them with a tiny bit of love. As I touched these babies they got agitated…a couple even started crying. These infants were not used to human contact. The nannies at the orphanage all seemed very nice and loving and the children were well groomed and taken care of physically, but something was missing in that room. Mommies were missing…the kind that respond instantly to their child’s cries so that the baby knows to communicate this way gets its needs met…the kind that will stay up all night if necessary to comfort their baby…the kind that go to the ends of the earth to heal the hurts of their children…the kind that make a child feel safe and loved and free to grow up unafraid. Daddies were missing…the kind that use their strength to defend their child and his or her needs…the kind that come home after a long day of providing for the family, but still have a little energy left to play a game or wrestle…the kind that wake up in the middle of the night just to kiss their babies face one more time. This was missing in this room. This was missing for 2 years of my daughters life. This was missing for the rest of these children who were not going home to learn a new way of life.
I have begun reading about the effects that institutionalized life has on children, even from birth. Most people do not realize the importance of the infant years. We automatically cuddle and love and respond to our babies. We love nothing more than to hold them, to feed them, to kiss them. My daughter did not even know how to kiss or what a kiss was. We have had to teach her that very simple act of love. My Kate had spent 2 years without kisses! This should NOT be!!! As I read, I find out that God wired us to begin learning to trust from birth. The infant and toddler years are CRUCIAL in the forming of a child’s brain and his or her ability to handle life and to trust. If an infant is cuddled and loved and fed and changed…if a baby knows that when they cry someone who loves them will respond…then their brain begins to develop a connection with their caretaker and trust is born. They don’t even know that they are an individual…they think that they are a part of the caretaker…which is why we know what seperation anxiety is…because up until that point a child has no fear of abandonment. Orphans are different. Orphanages run on strict schedules, not on the cries of a baby. Babies learn that their cries are not usually answered…they learn not to cry…and as they grow, they only learn to survive. My Kate is a survivor. She is terrified when she is out of control…when she has to put her well being in the hands of another. She fights us. She screams, she hits, she bites, she pinches (we stifle laughs most of the time at her sassy attempts to hurt us because she is so serious about it, but you can tell she doesn’t really want to hurt us). She doesn’t trust, because trust might mean danger. Her brain is telling her that she is alone…and she doesn’t want to be alone.
There is so much more that I could write or explain. I would love to take up more of your time to share what I am learning about the similarities of physical adoption in this world and our spiritual adoption in Christ. I am learning so much, so quickly about why we struggle spiritually even after becoming new creatures and adopted sons and daughters of the Most High. I see so much of me as a Christian in Kate and her battles with trust. Maybe I will expound more later on all of that, but right now I want to plead with you. I want to ask you not to turn your back, ignore, or be too busy for the call of God. If He is pricking your heart, through our story, through circumstances, through His Word, please do not be passive about it. So many children out there need you. First and foremost, they need love, but they also need resources and prayers. You may not think that you could love a child that was born to someone else or you may be afraid that you don’t have the money or the time to spend on this process or you may feel very comfortable in your “safe” life and wonder why you would ever “mess it up” when you would only be helping one child any way. I promise you that I have had ALL of the same thoughts. This journey was not simple. It was one that stretched us and challenged us at every step. It was one that took days and nights on our knees and in His Word. It was one that consumed a year and a half of our life and is still consuming. Would I change it for anything? NO! I have run away from hard things for a long time and I am now realizing that life only becomes great through hard things. The Kingdom is built through those willing to walk through hard things. Heaven is FULL of people who did hard things. Things that required every ounce of strength and faith that they had. Things that showed the glory of God and His Presence on this earth. We are a culture of comfort and ease, but God is a God who shows up STRONG in the most difficult moments…and it drives you to your face in worship. That is the only place on this earth worth being. If there is a desire in your heart to help, don’t let it go…don’t ignore or forget it. Keeping seeking, keep knocking, keep trying to understand what it is that God is calling you to. Don’t get to the end of your life and wonder what you left on the table…
Now I have begun to realize why Satan fought us so hard throughout this journey…why some days it seemed easier to just forget it and go on with our “American dream” life. He knew that Kate was not the only one to be redeemed in this process…she isn’t the only one to be healed…she isn’t the only one to be freed. God is healing me…He is healing David…He is healing Jordan and Nathan. We are all seeing deeper into His amazingness. How bout you? Say YES.