Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
I Corinthians 13:13
What. An. Amazing. Trip!! Southside is partnering with Visiting Orphans in China to connect with an orphanage there that we can love on and serve long term. We just took our first trip there, to an orphanage in the Shaanxi province, to meet them and begin a relationship and love on some precious kids! It was incredible. The travel was insane and full of delays, but it was so worth every minute and God was truly taking care of us. When we finally got to Beijing, we had missed most of our sightseeing day and in order to get to The Great Wall we had to hop off the plane and race straight there! We found this written on the wall :)
The next day we flew into Xi'an in the Shaanxi province and drove to the orphanage city. We went straight to the orphanage to meet the staff. They gave us a huge welcome complete with lots of speeches and Chinese tea and thanked us over and over for coming. :) This is a glimpse of what the city looked like from our hotel window.
The orphanage staff was nervous about our visit at first. They had never had foreigners come to the orphanage and they weren't sure of our motives. But eventually they were saying "welcome back again and again and again." :) I think it was a good beginning to a relationship with them, and hopefully next time they will be more relaxed and less uptight. While they were very welcoming, at the same time they were very cautious and hesitant. They wouldn't let us take pictures of the kids, which was really disappointing! I'm hoping maybe for next time! They did let us take pictures with the staff and of the building so we can share what it looks like, and let me tell you--this place is unbelievable. It is so nice, and the children are well-cared for. I really wasn't expecting that. We had no idea what to expect, so I think I was more preparing myself for the worst. But this orphanage is one of the best. It is only 3 years old and in very good condition, and they have plans to build more. They seem to be doing a lot of things right! They are loving in their care of the kids and they have a "foster family" situation for some of the kids in a separate building where they have a paid mom and dad the kids go home to in the evenings. (Although their funding for this is about to get taken away.) Processing all of this was challenging because part of me felt like they didn't have any needs we could possibly meet! In praying through it though, I know that even if all of their physical needs are met, they still need to be shown the love of Jesus, and those precious kids still need extra people to love on them and hold them and give them individual attention. Three or four nannies can only do so much for a room full of 20 toddlers! Some pictures of the orphanage--
Our team outside the orphanage--
We had three days to spend with the kids in the orphanage. It was SO much fun to love on them and get down in the floor with them and hold them. Oh my heart. :) We didn't see many older kids while we were there, so we mostly spent time with the little ones....babies through toddlers. They were PRECIOUS!! Most of them had some sort of special need--from cleft lip/palate to down syndrome and others that I couldn't identify. In the tiny babies room we would help by clipping fingernails, putting on lotion, giving medicine, feeding bottles, comforting, singing to them, holding them, folding diapers.....I loved it. In the toddler rooms we would mostly just play with them and hold them and talk to them, help take them outside for fresh air, or blow bubbles for them. They loved the bubbles! A lot of times they would be afraid of us at first because they didn't know us and we looked so different! So we would have to be slow and make friends before we could get very close. :) But once they knew us it was great. Certain ones wanted to be held and wouldn't let go! They would just run up to you with their arms held up high. There was one sweet girl who I picked up and she layed her head down on my chest and wouldn't move the whole time I was there. She just soaked it up. Melt me. I wish China wasn't so far away!! Our second afternoon there, Julie and I went with our guide Lulu and 2 of the ladies from the orphanage to take them shopping for some things they needed. We ended up being able to buy them 99 new pairs of shoes, 25 walkers, and 100 new cloth diapers. That shopping trip was very long and HOT and tiring, but it was really amazing to be able to bless them in that way and get them some things they needed. The nannies have been making most everything they have by hand (including adorable little knitted shoes!) so they said they were really grateful to be able to buy new things they didn't have to spend hours making themselves. Southside family--you were a huge part of that with your giving!! We wouldn't have been able to get them as much without that financial support. These are the ladies we went shopping with--
And the little shoes we got--
Here is our team with the two directors and some of the other staff and nannies--
Us with some of the other nannies. They were so much fun!--
Our terrific guide Lulu!!--
She was so great! She did an amazing job translating for us. She thanked us so many times for coming, and she loved getting to go to the orphanage just as much as we did. She also thanked us several times for letting her be a part of our team devotion times. She was so interested in what we believe and why we were there. She asked us so many questions....she was so hungry for it! I so hope she can be our guide on our next trip. :)
The gift bags we packed for the nannies--
The bookmarks doubled as great gift tags! Southside, once again this wouldn't have been nearly the blessing it was without all the donations you provided. We had a great time dividing everything up into bags and giving them to the nannies to thank them for all they do. :) The bookmarks were so special. The GA's made them for us, and they say "Children are a precious gift. Thank you for helping them!"
Julie and me :)--
Julie is the Visiting Orphans mission trip coordinator for China, and she led our trip and taught me everything she knows. :) She is fabulous. I'll stop there because I could go on for days about how much fun we had...
Personally for me, this trip was a game-changer. It was seriously a challenge for me to say I would do this! I was scared and nervous and I didn't want to leave my family and travel to the other side of the world. I'm not adventurous like that. :) It was just obedience. While we were flying (I hate flying!!) I was reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker and this sentence popped off the page at me- "Obedience isn't a lack of fear. It's just doing it scared." So true for me!! When you get to the point where you are literally at the end of yourself and you have to trust God with everything- to lead you , to guide you, to give you strength to get through the day when you have no idea where more strength could possibly come from, to help you face your fears. Where you are literally at the end of yourself, and God takes over. That is life-changing. A new level of trust develops in my Savior and my relationship with Him is so much closer. Thank you Jesus. :)
A good foundation has been laid and a healthy relationship has been started with this orphanage, and now the best thing we can do is take more people back there to love on these kids in person. We need you! God's kingdom comes through His people! Through relationships, through loving them in person, through conversations with guides like Lulu who are hungry and have no one to share with them.
GO. BE. LOVE!!!