This Picture


This picture... I don't know what it is... It captures every ounce of my attention every time I look at it.

I have so many of my JiaBei laughing, giggling, smiling and plain-old messing!

But theres just something about this one.

Photo: Lacey Scott

It has been a while since I've done an update, just want to quickly share a few things. Things are getting easier being 'home'. I'm now sort of ok with it. I still think about China all the time and miss my kids a lot.

Today we presented out time in China at church. It was a really great sharing experience, we even managed to get a few tears during the video which we played at the end. You can check out my video below to the song Albertine by Brooke Fraser.


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On a further note, today is my little boy from last year - XiaoFeng/Ian's 9 BIRTHDAY!! His family in America are throwing him his first birthday party!! 
A year ago today I was mourning the fact that he was alone on his birthday, and now a year on, by the power of God - he now has a family to celebrate with!! Praise God!!


Heart for the kids - by Steph Maxwell (part 2)


(read part 1 first)

After a weekend of sleep and renewed energy, Week 2 arrives in similar style, albeit with slightly heavier hearts as we know what the end of the week will bring; but that is pushed to the side as the bus drives up the driveway with all the wonderful kids from the state orphanage. There are slightly less children this week, most families only have one. As the kids are getting off the bus, a happy little shout rings out – it turns out that one of the boys had been here last year, and has been paired up again with his buddy from last year, talk about joyful reunions. As my name is called, I turn to find a little brown face with wary eyes looking at me and my translator Linda. I have to get the little girl’s name repeated to me a couple of times before I pick up on it, but once I hear it properly, wow, what a gorgeous name for my gorgeous little girl – Yin Cai (pronounced Yin Tsai)

It takes her a little bit of time to warm to me, preferring to hold Linda’s hand, but once we get upstairs and put away her meagre belongings, my silly faces and my crazy hat break down any barriers between us. She tells us she’s 12 years old, but later says she’s 6; I’m still not sure exactly how old she is, though definitely closer to 6. She adores my camera – I have so many wonderful pictures taken by her, and she enjoys it so much that I feel not even the slightest apprehension at giving it to her.

During the week I am constantly bowled over by my little girl’s compassion for others – she only has to hear somebody else crying and she seeks out the person in pain, and tries to help; whether that be by holding hands or stroking hair, she just wants to make everything ok. She has so little in her life and yet tries to do so much for all those around her. Milk teas feature prominently again this week; her face lights up every time we walk towards the shop.

I get to hear a small part of her story this week – only a little, but after I hear it, I’m not sure that I want to know more. She tells Linda that policemen rescued her from the ‘bad men’. Linda and I look at one another and both turn our faces away to try and hide our sadness from her. She says no more about it for the whole week.

It turns out our beautiful Yin Cai is a star performer with confidence by the bucketload – she is always the first to hop up in assembly, singing all the songs, doing all the dances with perfect timing, no fear whatsoever. Talent show time comes around and all she wants to do is sing ‘Beautiful Day’ (with me vainly attempting to remember basic guitar chords to accompany her). It’s also her suggestion that we ask her two little roommates to join in our talent show act, she whispers to Linda ‘as they haven’t got anything planned’; so our family groups are more and more intertwined, just one more expression of love from a special little girl.

Letter reading is much harder than last week; Yin Cai is loving the letter I have written to her, telling her she is special and beautiful and wonderful, until the closing lines, where I have to say goodbye. Once she hears that word, that one simple, powerful, dreadful, awful word, the walls around her that have been crumbling all this week come crashing down. She turns to me and starts bawling her little eyes out, and just can’t stop. I pick her up into my arms, and we sit there together, both crying from the depths of our souls. Time seems to stop, and to this day, I have no idea of how long we sat there. We both eventually calm down, silence punctuated by occasional sobs or hiccups, and she takes my hand. We make our way to her memory book, and she sticks all the photos she can find into it, trying to keep the memories with her. Linda has had to leave the room during all this, the sadness too much for her to bear.

After she sits on the bus, and it is waiting to leave, I stand by the side and wave. She keeps her eyes fixed on mine, and I blow her a kiss. As I watch, she takes her tiny hands from her sides, and forms a perfect heart with her fingers. My heart stops, and my mouth trembles. The bus pulls away and we are left standing in the dust, longing for our families, our children.



All three of these little girls have taken up permanent residence in not just a corner, but in the whole of my heart. I can only hope that their happy memories will stay with them always, and they will know that they have a jie jie in Ireland who will always think of them and love them.

God brought all of us volunteers to China, and He has worked in each one of us over the past weeks, changing our lives, breaking us, rebuilding us, making us new. We lift up each one of our children to Him, praying that they will feel His love all their days.

I write this story so that we will never forget these amazing, wonderful, beautiful, special children who deserve so much more than they have.



A very good friend of mine pointed a particular Bible verse out to me, and it seems appropriate that it should finish this story for now:
‘For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure’Philippians 2:13

Heart for the kids - by Steph Maxwell (part 1)


The bus arrives, full of clamouring children. Wheelchairs are unbundled from the under-coach storage, children are passed through the door like parcels being unpacked. Somebody is reading out a list of names of children, volunteers and translators. Everyone is listening eagerly for their name, wanting the first glimpse of their children for the week, hungry for every memory in this week that is too short.

Kids arriving!


As they make their way off the bus, some of the kids are crying, some are laughing, but most just look a little overwhelmed by all the strangeness around them. I hang back a little, not sure of all that’s going on. Another name is called, suddenly I hear mine. My first little girl is handed off the bus, a beautiful, precious little girl; my translator April picks her up and we move a little away from the bustling crowd. April asks her name, but no response, I think she’s probably just feeling nervous or shy or anxious. I hear my name called again so I leave April with the girl with no name and head back into the crowd next to the bus. My next child is handed off the bus, she needs a chair to get around; we take one of the ones that were unloaded earlier. We make our way back over to April and see her holding hands with a now smiling little girl. Her name is Wen Jia and she’s been to camp before – some of the staff already know her, I am told a few times that we’re going to have fun this week, she’s a crazy one J. April tells me that the little girl in the chair’s name is Meng-ting (e pronounced like uh); she seems so excited to be around all these people. These two beautiful wonderful little girls have already stolen my heart and I know there’s no way it will ever be the same again.

(best picture of them i can find right now!)

As the fuss dies down and the bus leaves, we turn to make our way inside, a complete family group now. The first day passes in a kind of blur, getting used to everybody’s schedules, adapting to this strange but amazing place in which I find myself, even getting used to the fact that there is one lift for 80 people, about a fifth of whom are in wheelchairs (a game develops during the week to see how many people can fit into the designated 13 person lift; it turns out that the magic number at which the lift breaks is 22 adults who should have known better!).

Swimming is a wonderful exciting experience, Wen Jia’s lifejacket is so big, she has to look out the armholes to be able to see, Meng-ting just wants to splash and move about, have some freedom from the chair for a couple of hours. There’s no nervousness left in me, it all just feels completely natural, and the first moment that I am called jie jie is one of the best in my life. These little girls who took my heart only a matter of hours earlier trust me enough to call me big sister.



Assembly is crazy, funny, wonderful and all the kids love it. Those that are able jump to their feet, dancing, singing, smiling, laughing. Already God is touching their spirits, lifting them up. Storytime entrances them all, sitting there enthralled by a tale whose meaning will hopefully one day become clear to them.

The next few days pass by far too quickly; we are all trying not to think about Friday when they will have to leave us. Filling their hearts with love and showing them they are special and cared for and wonderful is all that is on my mind. Each day brings new laughter, games, amazing times; my heart breaks so often I cannot believe it still beats. Even a simple thing like being able to buy them milk teas after lunch brings me so much joy that I can hardly bear it.

Our talent show is a truly Irish affair – we have taught them Irish dancing, and one of the girls plays the tin whistle to huge applause. The face paint goes down a treat with the girls, especially once they see themselves in the mirror. Even the translators are asking to join in; there are a lot of Irish flags painted on cheeks that night.

Friday rolls around, and I can see on everybody’s faces that they have all been altered this week too. Breakfast is a somewhat subdued affair, although we all try to keep up the façade so that our kids might not feel so sad. Letter reading brings tears, emotional outbursts and sadness from practically everybody. Finally comes pack-up time, putting all the gifts we brought them into their bags; ‘just don’t think about later on’ my head keeps saying, ‘just enjoy this moment, show them you love them unconditionally with all your heart, and through that, show them God’s love, for they are so wonderfully loved and don’t even know it’.



Wen Jia is running around like a mad thing when the bus finally does arrive; she seems to slow down as she sees it, but I don’t know how much or even if she fully understands that she has to leave. I carry Meng-ting up the stairs and the two girls sit together on the bus, quiet now, possibly realising that camp is coming to an end. I had told myself all day that I wasn’t going to cry but at this point my resolve breaks into a million pieces. The tears stream freely down my face as I make my way off the bus. We wave and wave again and blow kisses until the bus is out of sight, and then the group of volunteers and translators each turn to one another, unwilling or unable to believe that our perfect families have been torn apart.

Such an outpouring of grief among this group of people brought together by a single idea, by the need to show God’s love to Chinese orphans, was incredible, and I saw so clearly at that moment that God’s plan all along had been to bring us to China, to serve, to do His will and to love these children.

As we sit in the corridor later on, crying, praying, singing quiet songs, everything seems so wrong but so right at the same time; that we should have been brought here to be poured out for these kids. They have taken root in corners of our hearts, and that love will never be destroyed. It really just brings home the message that God is great and powerful, and we need to trust in Him to bring us to where He has decided


Home

I've been 'home' now since Tuesday evening. 'Home' meaning back in Ireland. It wasn't without adventure, let me tell you that! Our flight to Beijing being changed without us being informed and having to come up with about 30,000 rmb instantly to pay for rescheduling! (that day is worth its own post soon!)
And then me coming home with an eye infection and ending up in hospital for a few hours the next day!

But its all good now. recovering physically from jet lag and emotionally from what I like to call 'China Withdrawal Symptoms'!!

I may be 'home' but my heart is still in China. 

one week left



The thought of being home in just one week is looming... I've been here for almost a month. And it feels like a lifetime, yet at the same time it has gone so fast. Its like I have been here forever. I really don't know how I will be able to return back to 'normal life'. I know I can do all things through He who gives me strength- but I'm
Gonna need A LOT of strength. 

Yesterday I quickly checked my college email to see if there was anything urgent I needed to deal with - and i was just overwhelmed with the seemingly uselessness of it all. Much of it things i would have been really excited for a month ago but compared to my life here it just seems unimportant. 

I feel like I live a double life- I have my deeply rewarding, fulfilling life spending the summer in china with orphans. 
And my life at home, playing the motions of life, going from one step to the next. Don't take me the wrong way - i have a great life back home. I'm involved in lots of great things - but being out here serving God everyday is just so much special.

-

We have had some amazing experiences here at the welfare centre. It is truly a blessing for us to be able to work here, to be allowed in. We have had the opportunity to not only work with the kids but also spend time with their carers and see them change too. 

This week we have brought the different sections of the welfare centre out to the zoo and local park. We bring them around to see all the animals which is lots of fun, and then we all sit down in a big circle on grass in the park and have a snack and play some games. Something interesting has happened at each of these times. We are a large group of people (30 +) so we naturally attract attention. But we also draw more people in as we have many kids with disabilities. Crowds gather around us. The first few days people just stopped and stared. But today they seemed to enjoy us being there and were smiling at our games and clapping along. 
These are people who never have experience of these types of disabilities. 

He can change peoples hearts when we dont even expect or plan to. 

Latest update



Finally back on my blog after no access for quite a while. I'm here in SMX with ICC right now. Just over half way through the program here, working hands on in the welfare centre. Its an amazing experience being right on the ground here.

This is from a few days ago:


Spend some time with one of the most down to earth guys I've ever met, who happens to be an orph'n. He's about 15, but seems much older. I met him last year at bring me hope camps. He is the big brother and father to many of the kids at the orph. He is perfectly normal, so can attend the local school. He showed some people from our team around the town today and I saw him in the lobby of the hotel. We talked for a while about our dreams and hopes for the future. He wants to join the army, as they will then pay for his education. His dream though is to either be free to travel the world or set up an organisation like ICC to work with orph's. What a great guy!! We played some cards in my hotel room after that. He's just a normal guy- who happens to be an orphn.

Our days are long! We're up at 7, for 7.30 'thought' meeting. After that it's off to the orph. for 8.30 and we stay till about 12. Then lunch time and break until we return from 3-5.30. We're all exhausted by the evening time!

Our days consist mainly of playing with the children. Our team is broken into different groups to work in different sections. There's a large play area outside with slides and stuff, just what you would expect to find in a playground at home! We also 'try' to do some music and arts activities! Try meaning they dont always work out!

I've been spending most of my time with a deaf boy called ShuiShui (handsome). He was at camp last year. Let me just say that he likes to get his own way!! He very funny though - and laughs at everything I do. There's something special about being able to make children laugh!
Best part is that he was adopted on monday!!! It's gonna be very quiet without him, but I'm excited that he will have a family!!

Please 'think' for physical strength for our team! Definitely needed!