Heartache Meets Hope
Our plane surfed on the fluffy white clouds right over New York City. T-minus 30 minutes until I’d be back on American soil.
I ran my fingers over my ipod, searching for final sentiments to end my 3-month trip. That’s when I heard these words:
“Joy will come like the harvest, reaping for the tears that were sewn. I know, joy will run to the farthest place, surely as you are God. Joy will come, believe.”
(Joy Will Come in the Morning, The Desperation Band)
A smile crept on my face as I stared out the window and thought of how those words applied to the hundreds of children I’d left behind in China. But, as the lyrics went on, I realized that song was also for me.
Most of my summer had been full of laughter, light-heartedness, and dreams come true. But, the final chapters of my trip were unexpectedly heavy.
A spontaneous God-ordained trip to one particular orphanage was mostly to blame.
A light breeze welcomed us to the new city as we walked along dirt paths, beside well-lived-in homes, and friendly smiles. Wildflowers grew every 10 steps, and I took the liberty to pick a few for some girls I knew who had been adopted from this place.
Walking into the welfare center that afternoon was the beginning of a distinct memory that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I have visited many orphanages in different parts of the world, but none have ever given me such a distinct sense of hopelessness.
Children were literally lying on filthy mats on the floor, very close to death. Their bodies were thin from malnutrition, and their muscles were too weak even to sit up. Their legs were fixed apart, from years of sitting on chairs and thick make-shift diapers. Any efforts to interact with them were often futile, so all that could be done was to hold them in our arms.
There was one who smiled when I picked her up and had a look of comfort on her face. Most of the rest were unresponsive.
Flies swarmed lifeless infants and toddlers in their cribs. My heart dropped as I thought of a few days ago when I refused to purchase anything from a bakery that had flies around it. And yet, here were children, living human beings, with souls and longings and feelings, with flies swarming them like horses.
Everything in me wanted to leave that place, and everything in me wanted to stay. It was the most uncomfortable place my heart has ever been, so disturbed by the state of these children. I know the statistics of this orphanage, and a good number of those children will die. How could I stay and watch? And yet, how could I leave?
We held little ones, fed them bottles in our arms, sat them up in their chairs when their weak extremities would slip out, and talked with them.
The babies in the next room over looked so ill as well. The children I have seen elsewhere looked so well fed and strong in comparison to these little ones. They looked so weak and were lined up in an assembly line of cribs, awaiting the next time one of the carers had a minute to give them attention.
One little girl, who was almost 3 years old, was the healthiest one there. She was happy and loved interacting with us. Her cute overbite and smile charmed us as she sat on my lap and drew in my notebook, probably for the first time ever. She was a ray of sunshine in that dark place.
Our time spent at the orphanage left me feeling grieved in the deepest part of my soul, but it wasn’t until I lay in bed late that night when the tears came. I told the Lord about the dying little ones and how the flies surrounded the babies’ faces, attracted to the spit and vomit that no one bothered to clean off of them. And, I wept harder than I had in a long time.
To be honest, I haven’t felt the same since that day. My heart feels like it’s torn, and I know it will take time to heal. It’s been amazing to be home again, though I do miss the presence of my puppy Abby, who was always a comfort to me when my heart hurt this bad.
Watching the sunrise over the ocean the other morning, I prayed for the kids I saw in that orphanage. I asked God what He wanted to show me by taking me there, and I felt as though he answered, “Myself.”
“But God, what part of you is there?”
I sensed Him reply, “There is my heart.”
I’m not sure why in the midst of such a light-hearted summer I was given the chance to see the very heartbeat of God. I know He loves abandoned children so much, and He wants us to do the same.
I feel deeply stirred to go and share about these children with the world and advocate for them.
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.” ~Psalm 30: 5,11
The author, Kristen, is a 20-something, orphan-loving girl who desires to be faithful to God’s call and love those things that stir up His heart. She wrote this piece following her 5th trip with a missions agency to serve the fatherless.