Friday, January 16, 2015

Loving the Least of These

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the children from the orphanage in Shantou. And, inevitably, Audio Adrenaline’s song “Kings and Queens” rings through my head as I pray about my experience there and for those children. “Will we leave behind the innocent to grieve?” “These could be our daughters and our sons” "When we love the least of these” “These are the lives that world has forgotten. Waiting for our hearts and homes to open.” “If not us, who will be like Jesus to the least of these?”... “When we love the least of these”. Who are “the least of these”? To me, it’s the children in the Shantou Social Welfare Institute (SWI, aka, orphanage). My trip to China has forever changed my perspective-about orphan care, about international adoption. It has forever changed my life. Todd and I knew we would adopt again. Soon. We talked about beginning the adoption process again this time last year. I prayed for God to show us the right time. The right agency. The right path. Never in a million years did I think He would take me to China. We imagined we would adopt another African American child, maybe an infant, but maybe a little older. We thought for sure we would adopt domestically. International adoption was not on our radar AT ALL. But then, God called me to China. And introduced me to so many amazing children. “The least of these”. The ones “the world has forgotten”. The ones who are “waiting for our hearts and our homes to open”. The ones who “could be our daughters and our sons”. He introduced me to several children who stole my heart. But there was one special boy who God placed heavily upon my heart. A boy who desperately needs a home. Soon. Or he will be forgotten forever. In less than two years, he will be 14. And when that happens, he’s no longer adoptable. What will happen to him then? Where will he go? He’s 12 now. He has Down syndrome. His American name is “Zack.” He was nicknamed “The Mayor” by another team that visited the orphanage earlier this year. He was a leader. He was full of joy and so eager to learn. He was so desperate for a family. He told me and my teammates (several times) that he “hungers for a mother, father, and three brothers.” How incredibly heart-wrenching. But it wasn’t until I returned home that I realized what God really wanted for me. For our family. You see, I originally went to China with the intentions of sharing my professional knowledge with the orphanage staff, but I knew. Deep down, I knew that there was a possibility, that God may have a different plan in mind. So I prayed. I prayed that if it was God’s will for me to adopt one of these children that he would show me the child he intended to be our daughter or son. I pictured a little toddler or a child who would run up to me with open arms and give me a big ole hug. A little toddler who sought me out, who would choose me, so I wouldn’t have to choose, but that didn’t happen. Not a single cute, cuddly little child ran up to me. After returning home, I prayed about the trip. Everyday. What did God want from me? Why did he send me on that mission trip? Then one morning, God whispered to me during prayer, “Adopt the Mayor.” I’m sorry, God. I don’t think I heard you correctly. You want us to adopt a 12 year old boy? What about our 3 year old daughter? No way. I must not have heard you correctly. What about the little three-year old boy with Downs. He was cute and cuddly. We could adopt him. But every day, Zack’s picture stared back at me. The one we made together during the craft time while we were there. And I soon realized that, indeed, God did answer that prayer in China. A child did seek me out. He wasn’t a cute, cuddly little toddler. He wasn’t running up to me giving me hugs. He was a 12 year old boy. But he definitely sought me out. He pulled me by the hand and motioned for me to sit next to him. He wanted to be my partner at the park. He saved me a seat on the bus. He retrieved a chair and strategically placed it next to his and led me to that seat. He requested me to sing “Wheels on the Bus” umpteen times. He most definitely sought me out. Each and every day. He chose me. “Yes,” said God, “Adopt the Mayor.” Okay. Even if you convince me, Todd will NEVER go for this. How do I even bring it up? And every day, as I prayed, it all came back to Zack. I also prayed that God would shut a door. If I was hearing him wrong. If I was taking the wrong path. And so I decided to begin researching agencies and cost and emailed America World to find out more information about these boys. Turns out the three-year-old has been matched with a family. What wonderful news! But, a door was shut. Once again, back to Zack. In church a few weeks ago, the Gospel reading was from Matthew 25:31-46. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). But what shouted out to me were verses 44-45, “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” When I was in China, I saw Jesus. I stared right into the face of Jesus in every one of those children I met. Hungry. Thirsty. In need of clothing. Sick and in prison. A stranger in need of a home. I fed him. Held him. Rocked him. Held his hand. Sang to him. And in the end, it comes down to this…how do you say “no” to Jesus? When you saw him and you know you did. How do you say, “No God, I know you need food, clothing, and shelter, but I will NOT give those things to you?” So I told Todd, “I think we’re supposed to adopt Zack.” His response? “No.” I asked him to pray about it, specifically about Zack. “Okay, I thought, “Maybe this was God shutting a door.” But two days later he changed his mind. So here we are. If not us, who will be like Jesus to the least of these? To Zack? If not us, who? Maybe nobody. So we made a decision. We will love the least of these. We will give him food, clothing, and shelter. We will do this for Jesus. We will try to adopt Zack as our son. And so begins our journey. We are just in the beginning phase right now. We are currently reviewing his file and won't be officially "matched" with him until after our home study is completed. We would like to invite you to be a part of our journey. We will be posting updates along the way. Follow our journey by jumping over to our old blog and be sure to enter your email address if you want to get the updates by email. We are so excited to see how this story will unfold and to share God's amazing work and miracles with you.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Through the Eyes of a Speech-Language Pathologist

I was originally inspired to go on this trip because I was told “people like you are needed”, meaning medical professionals, therapists, etc. I thought, “maybe I can make a difference with how the nannies interact with the children; maybe I can give them some education about children with special needs in general or about a specific child; maybe they will realize the potential of some of the children if I can teach them how to work with the children to encourage their communication, maybe I can teach them how to teach the children signs or even how to use a communication device. We’ll get iPads donated so that the kids who need them can use them to communicate” I came equipped with my iPad and ProLoQuo2Go software (which is a voice output communication app that a non-verbal child can use to communicate). I was ready to make a difference. Although deep down inside, I knew. I knew that God had a different plan for me on this trip. I mean, how was I supposed to teach communication in the presence of a huge communication barrier (ahem…I don’t speak Chinese and they don’t speak English!) But on the first day in the orphanage, while feeding some of the older kids who were non-verbal, I started teaching a few of the kids to sign “more”. One of the kids picked up on it immediately. I was so excited. Then, wham!, reality struck me down, as the nanny took the bowl of porridge out of my hands and motioned for me to move over so she could feed the child. Turns out I was going too slow. It then hit me that as I sat there taking my time feeding these kids, talking to them, and trying to teach them a way to communicate, that the nannies don’t have time to do that. Their goal during mealtime is to get these kids fed, as quickly as possible because there are many kids to be fed and a limited number of adults to feed them. There’s no time to slow down and wait for them to learn a communication skill. After the second day there, I realized that there weren't many opportunities for the kids to communicate anyway. They appeared to have pretty regimented schedule, including feeding and toileting. It appeared that they were fed two meals a day (at least that’s all we saw-lunch was around 10:30 and dinner around 4:30). They were served a ginormous bowl of porridge at each meal. As I watched them shovel one heaping spoonful of porridge after another into the kids’ mouths, I realized that the kids have no need to communicate that they want more. They get it, whether they want it or not, and when the bowl is empty, they are all done. And to communicate “all done”. Well, that did not appear to be an option either. They made those kids eat every last bite. Not in a mean way. It was necessary. They have to eat. And this was their opportunity. As for requesting favorite toys or other items, this wasn’t possible either. And the bathroom, they had no need to request this either. Their needs were met on a schedule and that’s all they knew. If they wanted to communicate something, I’m not sure they would be responded to anyway. Not because the nannies don’t care, but because they are understaffed and one person can only do so much. They may have wanted to communicate: “I’m wet.” or “I want to be picked up/held/rocked.” But even if they could say that, they most likely would not have gotten a response. It’s difficult to teach a child to communicate when there is no "reward". Why bother, right? By mid-week, I realized that I wasn’t going to be doing ANY actual speech related work. What the heck was I doing there then? I became frustrated, confused, discouraged (okay, maybe jetlag played a part in those emotions, too). Through prayer and tears (lots of tears), I started to rethink my purpose in being there (like it’s my place to figure it out, anyway, right?). I decided that maybe there was a family that could benefit from my observations, not just though a mommy’s eyes, but though a speech-language pathologists eyes—looking for those little things, the things that let you know that, Hey! This kid CAN do something. Despite all of his challenges, he has strengths! He has potential! When placed in a loving family, in an environment where his mind and body are stimulated, he can be taught to communicate (or even to walk)! So I observed. I played with the kids. I made mental notes about what they CAN do. And hopefully by sharing these little observations, a potential forever family can be reassured that while the child they are considering has many limitations, he also has much potential. While I didn’t get to do a lot related to my profession, I do know that God had a plan for me on this trip (more on that in a future blog post). I also have some thoughts about how I think I could be of more value (as a speech-language pathologist) if I go on another trip in the future, and how other medical professionals may be able to help when they go. 1.) One thing I noticed with the nannies was that while they were not lacking in love for the children, there was a definite lack of understanding—about disabilities in general, about what the children were capable of despite their diagnosis, about how to encourage independence, about how to stimulate the children’s development—social, cognitive, language, and motor. Most of the children we met have so much potential. They just need an environment that stimulates their minds and their bodies. Many of the children we met had some sort of special needs ranging from mild physical deformities to Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. The more “severe” of these children were not deemed “adoptable” so they were mostly ignored. I believe that all of the kids can thrive in the right environment and with the right parents. I wish I could have done more education with the staff. Although the conditions there are much different than the ones we live in. What’s realistic for us may not be realistic for them. I think it would be helpful to develop a handout with about five strategies for encouraging communication skills-something very basic and practical for their environment-that can be translated into Chinese for the nannies. Then, when I (or other SLPs) go in the future, they can review this with the nannies, with the help of the guide and model the strategies for them while working with the kids. I think this would be helpful. It would be awesome for other professionals to do this, as well, pertaining to their areas of expertise. I will say, I think you have to go first to really see what it’s like there in order to make it practical to their needs. 2.) Another thing I noticed was the lack of developmentally appropriate toys. There was only one room that actually had some great toys in it and not all of the kids even got to play in there. There were puzzles, cars, and books, and pretend play items like food and bowls and spoons in this room. However, the rooms where the kids were for most of the day had no toys. The therapy rooms had toys that were old and not developmentally appropriate for all of the kids. I think that when future teams go, it would be helpful for them to purchase toys that encourage development to take to the orphanage. And perhaps instead of just giving all of the toys to the director, we could actually take those toys into the rooms with the kids and model how to play with them and how to stimulate the children’s development. Based on what I saw, I think the following types of toys are needed: Cause and Effect Toys (ones that don’t require batteries) although, it would be great to have some that light up, make music, etc., too. - Jack-in-the-box - Ball and hammer - Push and spin toy - Pop-up toys - Visual Tracking ball tower-- - Push and go toys Wooden puzzles Rattles and teething rings Pacifiers Sorting and stacking toys: Stacking rings, Shape sorters 3.) While I made mental notes about what the kids that I played with CAN do, I think it would be even more helpful to WRITE IT DOWN! It would be helpful to know who is “paper-ready” and spend time with each of these kids. To actually write down notes about what each child CAN do to help a potential family understand the child a little bit more. So, again, while I didn’t get to do much related to being a SLP, I do think that I am off to a good start with how to better help in the future. Baby steps! And hopefully, if you are a medical professional and you are considering going on a mission trip with AWAA, you will find my experience helpful.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Day 8: Our Last Day at the Orphanage

We were given extra time with the kids this morning! Yay! Originally we were supposed to do a party, gift exchange and meeting with the staff this morning, but they decided to push it back to the afternoon and let us hang with the kids this morning. We are so grateful for the extra time we were given to spend with the kids. We got to do the exercises with the kids one last time. This had to be one of my favorite activities all week. I wish I could have a copy of the music they played. After exercises, I spent time in a room with the toddlers and played with “little bit”, the three year old with Down syndrome, whom I adore! I was in my special little guy’s room for feeding, but he went down for a nap, so I didn’t get to play with him or hold him today. He was so sweet while he slept. Like a little angel! At lunch we were given a list of kids with pictures and information—date of birth, medical condition, etc. of the kids that are “paper ready”. We had requested this so that we can make sure to advocate for the kids on this list. My little guy wasn’t on there. We asked about him and the assistant director told us that they think “he is not very good--no one would want to adopt him.” It broke my heart and took all I had not to cry. One of my teammates spoke up and told her that there are families who would be willing to adopt a child with these kinds of delays and that with the right therapies, he could thrive. She told her that he was my favorites and that I loved him. I could not speak because I was fighting back tears. All I could do was nod to agree. She agreed to start preparing the paperwork on him today and thanked us for loving him so much. Perhaps this was my purpose in coming on this trip? To advocate for this child who would not be known if I hadn’t fallen in love with him. Now I pray that the right family for him steps up. I admit, I was beginning to think that Todd and I were supposed to be the ones to adopt him. I prayed about it all evening and cried! I told God that if he wanted me to do this, I would, but that he would probably have to do some work convincing Todd. Shortly after this prayer, I felt a sense of peace and a release from this responsibility. After today, I believe that my role may have just been to love him enough so the staff at the orphanage could see that he was worthy of love, too and convince them to put him on "the list." (Although, technically, Lyn ultimately convinced them, I was too sappy to speak!) After lunch, we met with several of the nannies and staff. They repeatedly expressed their gratitude to us for visiting the orphanage and for loving on the children. They also told us that we were the most beautiful group that’s visited (I’m sure they tell everyone that!) I tell you what, if you need a self-esteem boost, come to China. All week they talked about how beautiful we are and everywhere we’ve been people want to take their pictures with us. We feel like celebrities here! We also expressed our gratitude to them for allowing us into their home and letting us take pictures of the children so we can share their stories and hopefully help find a forever family for them. They then presented us with gifts. They gave us each a tea set and some local tea to take home (the evening before the assistant director gave us a lesson in making tea and shared with us some of the culture on tea in China. It was very interesting!). And remember the craft we did with the older kids a couple of days ago? They put the child’s picture in the center of the flower, framed the picture, and presented that to us as a gift to take home. We were so touched by the gifts! We also presented them with the gifts we brought for them. It’s so hard to believe that today was our last day at the orphanage. I’m going to miss those kids and will think about them often. I will wonder if my little guy is being held. I will wonder if any of the kids have found homes yet. I will continue to pray for them and advocate for them as much as I can. We head back to Beijing tomorrow. Then back to the US on Sunday. I have so enjoyed my time here, with the kids and in getting to know the other team members. I have a feeling China may see me again one day…another mission trip? An adoption? I don’t know. Only time will tell!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Day 7: Baking Cookies

When we arrived this morning, we played with the older kids and made cookies with them—snicker doodles. They were a hit! They don’t bake much here in China. Jennifer went shopping with Wendy (our guide) and someone from the orphanage yesterday to get the ingredients. They had to go to a bakery to get everything because they don’t sell baking ingredients at the regular grocery store. Also, their ovens were the size of a microwave, so we had to bake just a few at time. The assistant director loved learning how to make the cookies and said they will do it every day now!  It was a somewhat of a challenge to convert the measurements to the metric system measurement, but luckily Kim and Jennifer were the ones making the dough, so I didn’t have to do that math. That could have been a disaster had I had to that! I just got to help cut out shapes and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the cookies. The nannies also wanted to sprinkle a green tea powder on some of the cookies. It was pretty good. Who knew? While playing with the big kids, the 12 year old, nicknamed “The Mayor”, took my hand and led me to a chair and told me to sit. He then went and got another chair and sat down beside me. He kept asking me to sing “wheels on the bus” again. Apparently, he loved that song! Soon, there were many kids around us wanting to sing. He didn’t appear to want to share the attention because he got up took his chair and moved it to the other end of the room. He then came and took my hand and motioned for me to get up. He picked up my chair and led me to the other side of the room next to his. And we sat. Again, he requested “Wheels on the Bus”. Love this kid! He is something else! At one point I was holding the three year old with Down syndrome (I don’t know his name, so I refer to him as “little bit” because he’s the only little one who’s always grouped with the big kids) and Lyn was trying to take our picture. The Mayor did not like that at all. He came over and photo bombed us! Little bit did not care for this, so he began pushing him away and pulling on his ear. The Mayor was so patient with him. He didn’t get angry or even push back. He just let him do it. Afterward, he pointed to little bit and tugged on his own ear, as if to tell on him. It was cute. Another time, little bit fell down and he went over to him to help him up. There appears to be a real connection between all of the boys. They all get along so well and are very kind to each other. I couldn’t help but think about the blogpost about him from a former team member that I had read just this morning. He’s 12. They “age out” at 14 here. At that time, they cannot be adopted any longer. That’s less than two years. He needs a family so badly! I hope and pray that someone will read my blog or Lara’s blog and see him and consider adopting him. He would be such an amazing addition to a family, I think. He has so many strengths and potential. He has been cooperative, well-behaved, and has such an easy-going demeanor every time we’ve seen him. He smiles a lot! He has a lot of leadership qualities. He appears to be smart and eager to learn. He’s always asking about the English words for things. This morning, as our picture was being taken, he pointed at the camera and said “Camera?” as if asking if that was the correct word. I think with the proper education, he could really thrive. He would be really good with younger kids, too, I think. Please won’t you share his story with everyone you know in hopes that someone might be willing to adopt him? After lunch, I spent the whole afternoon with my little guy with cleft lip/palate and Down syndrome. I was so excited to see him in the therapy room when I walked in. I haven't gotten to spend time with him all week since Monday. I learned he is two years old. He's tiny. I thought he was one. This little guy has my heart. He's the only one that I get emotional over. He's the one I am going to have a hard time leaving. How do I return to my life knowing what I know about this child. I am broken-hearted for this baby. He is not "paper ready", meaning he isn't even up for adoption. He probably won't ever be unless someone specifically requests him. There's so much that I can't even process, that I can't write. Tomorrow is our last day at the orphanage. We learned today that we will only be going in the morning. We are going to try and see about staying through the afternoon. I doubt I will get to love on him tomorrow because of all the activities planned for the morning. This baby needs prayers. Prayers for survival. For a family. For him to know he is loved. Here we are together.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Day 6: Field Trip

We took the group of older kids to the park today. It was so great seeing their faces. They were so excited! We were each paired with a child to take care of while at the park. My buddy was a bit naughty. He was supposed to hold my hand while walking around, but he refused and ran ahead quite often. I had to chase him down a few times, all the while trying to tell him to stop, come back, wait, etc., only he didn’t understand my English. He was a cutie though and I got a little workout! The 12 year old from yesterday (the one who wants three brothers) found me and my teammate who was paired with him said that he wanted to be my partner. He came up to me and took my hand. My buddy got a little jealous and was trying to push his hand away. I told them they could each hold a hand. Of course, that didn’t last long with my little guy. He took off shortly thereafter. He didn’t want to hold my hand, but he didn’t want anyone else holding it either! Later, the 12 year old saved me a place on the bus. So stinking sweet! The park was by the ocean, so we got to see that, too. Quite different than I was expecting. There were a lot of oil rigs and boats. There was an amusement park area at this park, too, and the kids got to ride the carousel. They were so excited! After walking around for a bit, we found a shady spot under some palm trees and we all sat and rested. The kids sang songs and did some little dances. They also asked us to sing more songs. They wanted us to sing something that was popular in America. We failed at this task, as we couldn’t think of any songs we all knew the words to. We were able to take some pictures today, so I captured so of the sweet moments and a couple of selfies with my buddies!
This is me and my buddy.
This is the boy who wants three brothers!
This is one of my favorites! A little 3-year old with Down syndrome.
My little friend really liked having his picture taken! He stopped at almost every statue we passed and posed for a picture. He also liked looking at the pictures. He was a lot of fun!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Day 5: Second day with the kids

When we arrived at the orphanage this morning, we did the exercises and games outside with the older kids again. So much fun! After that, we split into groups and went into the rooms to play. I was in a room with toddlers this morning, where I met two more favorites—a little girl with Down syndrome and a little boy with Down syndrome. They are both about two or three years old. I played with the little boy a lot. He was very cute and playful. He loved playing with cars! The little girl was doing some great pretend play—pretending to cook and feed her “Snoopy” toy. At lunch time, I helped feed some of the same kids I met yesterday. There was a little boy with CP and another little boy who we were told was blind. Both of these boys appeared to be older—seven or eight and were non-verbal. After lunch, I sang to them and they seemed to love it. I held the one with CP and rocked him. Because he’s older, I don’t think he gets much cuddle time. He really seemed to enjoy it and need it. He just looked at me and smiled. He held my hand and didn’t want to let go when it was time for me to leave. We ate lunch at the orphanage again today—fried rice! Yum! One of my favorites so far! After lunch we went back to the hotel and decided to walk around and see the city bit. We went into a couple of small stores (sort of like convenience stores). They had all kinds of interesting, different snacks. I bought Oreos. Ha! Thought I would stick to what I know.
We didn’t stay out long because the city was a bit…um…wild, you could say. We went back to the hotel to rest. I was able to take a nap. Yay for sleep! Now I will be able to stay up a little later (hopefully) and perhaps sleep a little later (fingers crossed)! When we returned to orphanage in the afternoon, we got to do a craft with the older kids. We paired up with a buddy and painted flowers from our hand prints. We painted their hand and made the petals, then painted our own hand to make the leaves. My partner was 12 and he had Down syndrome. He appeared to be pretty smart. He even knew some English. He said “Hello. How are you?” He also asked about how to say different body parts in English, pointing to his mouth, eyes, nose, etc. He wanted to know my name, too. He was very social! He then told me (in Chinese, the director interpreted) that he “hungers for a family…he wants a mommy and three brothers.” He repeated that he wanted three brothers two or three times. He was very adamant about that part! He also tried to teach me some martial arts! It was very fun! After painting, we went outside with this same group of kids and played some games—the Chinese versions of “London bridges” and “Duck, Duck, Goose” and a game called “Eagles and chicks.” We had so much fun playing with the older kids. The nannies are so great with these kids and have so much enthusiasm! For dinner, we, once again fed babies and toddlers. My little guy did not like me! The nanny had to take over. But on the bright side, I got to hold a tiny baby instead. My favorite little guy (the one with Downs and Cleft lip/palate) was in this room. I hadn’t seen him all day. He was in the crib already. I guess he was going to sleep because I asked if I could hold one of the babies…I was going to get him if they would have let me, but they pointed to the other baby and said I could hold her. Some of my team members did have the chance to see him and play with him this morning and said he was very interactive. The little baby I held had some physical deformities with her hands and feet. She was 13 months old and tiny! I was told that she was premature. She was so sweet and smiled at me when I went to pick her up. I just held her and cuddled her and she laid her head on me. It was precious! We had dinner at the orphanage again tonight. Pork, greens, and more shrimp. Oh, the shrimp! With those eyes staring back at me! While the food has been delicious, I am beginning to miss American food a bit. A cheeseburger and fries would be divine right now! But it looks like we will be eating lunch and dinner at the orphanage for the rest of the week. Tomorrow morning, we are taking some of the older kids to the park. This will be a treat for them because the only time they get out of the orphanage is when a group comes to visit because they don’t have enough staff to chaperone them all on a typical day. The park is near the ocean, we are told. I am looking forward to this outing! And Thursday, we were asked to teach the kids how to make “biscuits”, which are really cookies…at first we thought we were making real biscuits. Oh the disappointment they would have had if they received a biscuit rather than a cookie. Good thing Jennifer thought to ask! And for your viewing pleasure…come along with us on a ride in the van! Traffic jams and crazy driving!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day 4: Meet the Kids!

I was going to post last night, but was so tired, so I went to bed early. I knew I'd be up at 3 or 4 anyway, so figured I'd just post then. It's 4 in the morning on Tuesday here as I type this. Yesterday, we met the kids! Wow! It's really hard to put into words. Overwhelming, to say the least. I don't have any pictures to post because we have a designate photographer, Kim. She is blogging, too, so I highly recommend you visit her blog. Also, another team member and her 13 year old daughter are blogging. Here are links to their blogs. Kim's blog is here Lyn's blog is here Why am up so early??? I haven't been able to sleep past 4 since I've been here. But I'm managing. It's definitely God's strength that's holding me up, because I feel fine during the day. I do hit a wall at about 7 though. Luckily we are able to just be in our rooms and rest after our devotional meeting each night. I figured since I can't sleep right now, I might as well be productive and update the blog. There's so much to tell, so this may be long! Yesterday was lots of fun, meeting the kids. When we arrived, the older kids were exercising outside and they invited us to join in. It was so cute and fun. The nannies led a little exercise routine and then we had a relay race. The big kids really participated well. Several of those kids have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and some other disabilities that weren't so identifiable. But they all had such BIG personalities. They were so excited to see us, waving, smiling, and saying "hello" in English! After exercising, we were given a little tour of a part of the orphanage and then broke into groups and went into our individual rooms to play with the kids. The first room, I was in is where I met the little guy I talk about below. He's already a favorite. When playtime was over, we went to different rooms and helped feed the toddlers and older babies lunch. After they ate, we were escorted to another room and fed another huge meal at the orphanage. It was all food that the area is "famous" for. After lunch, we went back to the hotel for a rest, while everyone at the orphanage napped. Did you know that the Chinese take naps in the afternoon for about 2 hours--all of them, not just the kids? This is a tradition I think I could get used to. Although, of course I wasn't able to sleep. Too much excitement from the first morning with the kids. That afternoon, when we returned the kids and staff had prepared a few little performances for us to welcome us! It was the CUTEST thing ever!! Then, we were asked to perform! YIKES! We quickly decided to sing children's songs with gestures--Head, Shoulder, Knees, and Toes and Wheels on the Bus. We also invited the children up to participate. It was lots of fun and I think they enjoyed it. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing with the kids and again helping to feed them dinner. We ate dinner at the orphanage again last night. The Chinese are such gracious hosts! I woke up at 3:00 this morning thinking about the children we met yesterday, specifically this one little guy, he’s probably about a year old. Hoping I could play with him again tomorrow. I believe he’s pretty low on the list of kids that they deem to be “adoptable”. He has a severe cleft lip/palate and Down syndrome and pretty much sat in a chair with no interaction (other than the attention I gave him). Psalm 139:14 popped into my head as I thought about him. I think I will tell him that he "is fearfully and wonderfully made" tomorrow and then next day and every day I am there and pray that he understands. Then Audio Adrenaline’s song “kings and queens” popped into my head, next. If you don’t know it, click here to hear it. Its a beautiful song. I heard if for the first time a couple of weeks ago and downloaded it immediately. I knew the words were about these children we were going to be meeting. As I laid here and thought about these words and how this little boy (and all of these children) is truly “one of the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), I started to cry. I believe God has just broken my heart for him and all of these kids. I feel so helpless because I’m only here for a few days. But "I know my God won't let them be defeated". I have to believe that and pray that our team and the teams to follow can advocate for these children so that they can find families. They need to be held, talked to, played with every day! They need mommies and daddies. They need to know they are LOVED by Jesus and worthy of love! At dinner last night, we had a deep conversation with the director of adoption at the orphanage, which she initiated. She asked many questions about why Americans want to adopt from China and especially why they would adopt a child with special needs. Wouldn’t be a burden? Wouldn’t it be difficult? Would they want to send the children back? And then the big question…Does it have to do with religion? We have to be careful what we say about religion here, but were told if asked directly at the orphanage that we could answer with discretion. She was trying to understand why so many Americans adopt and told us that the Chinese don't because in their culture there is "high expectation" from the children and they want their children to be perfect. Two of the women on the team have adopted children from China, both have one child with cleft lip/palate and could answer the questions from a personal point of view. She was very pleased with our answers and appeared to be amazed at our willingness to love these children. I believe it was also helpful that she was able to see pictures of the two families with the adopted children. She was happy to see that "they look so healthy and happy". I pray that we can help them understand that these children are wanted and are adoptable despite their disabilities and that people who are open to adopting a child with special needs see past the disability and instead see their abilities and the fact that they are God's children, whom he created and loves so very much. "I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works and my soul knows it very well."(Psalm 149:14) "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height for the Lord has rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) Please continue to pray for the team. Pray for SLEEP! Pray for us to continue to remain healthy. Pray for these children!