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

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