Great Sorrow, Unspeakable Joy
When you visit children in orphanages, the one comment you are most likely to get from friends, family, and strangers alike is, “How do you DO that? I could never bear to see them like that then leave them. It would tear me up!” Well, here is the reality. It DOES tear you up. I can’t bear it. Sometimes I have sat on the plane hiding tears all the way back home. Other nights I have stayed up late, pouring over the photos of “my kids” and aching to hold them again.
So why do I go back for more? Simple, two reasons (okay, a lot more but this is a blog post….short and sweet). Number one, this never has been and never will be about ME. That would miss the point entirely. Is it really too much for me to hold a child for a few days, shed a few tears, and sacrifice a few Starbucks so that the child can know what it feels like to be loved? Number two, there is far more joy, deep fulfillment, and worlds of blessing that far outweigh even the greatest sorrows.
Mei-Mei and “Max”* taught me that. You see, both of them lived in the same beautiful children’s village founded by a wonderful family committed to helping the most needy orphans in China. Mei-Mei lived with an incredibly complicated heart condition. Max had a far less serious heart condition. But both of them stole my heart forever. Whenever I visited Mei-Mei in the clinic where she had to reside due to her fragility, the pain of watching her waste away, one blue little finger at a time, was almost unbearable. I would hold her, sing to her and play with her and swallow my own tears until I would head back to my room again. Inevitably, I would detour after those difficult visits to sneak in a visit with Max. It never failed, he would always run into my arms, babble incomprehensible Mandarin loudly, grab my arm and drag me around his children’s home. I could usually expect a kiss right smack on the lips and a rousing rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” in Mandarin and English both, usually more shouting than actual singing.
But it always worked. The wounds I would carry out the door with me while holding and loving a child that was slowly passing away, were covered over and soothed by laughing and playing with a child whose life was just beginning to heal. Mei-Mei did pass away. The picture of her here is the last one I ever took of her. I still believe the bright light in the picture just might be her own personal angel, come to rescue her from her suffering and take her home.
The last time I visited Max in China, before he came home to his forever family, we walked hand-in-hand through the zoo. This is why I go back again and again. How could I not? If I can hold one more Mei-Mei in her last days on earth, and also have the incredible privilege of a Max wanting to hold MY hand, there is not a sorrow that cannot be healed by the incredible joy of knowing these children.
*Max’s name was changed to protect his privacy as well as that of his adoptive family.
How Can I Travel to Visit Children in Orphanages?
for more info on upcoming trips to volunteer in orphanages around the world.
How Can I Sponsor a Child Like Mei-Mei and Max?
One of our longest running partners and favorite organizations in China that offers child sponsorship is the Shepherd’s Field Childrens’ Village. You can click on the image below to visit their website and sponsor one of their most amazing kids!