A Christmas Blessing – The Orphans of Shangrao

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9:00 AM. The gate of the school I teach at. Three teaching assistants, two boys who were invited by one of the teaching assistants, and a box full of toys. Also among the 12 Days of Christmas were three Chinese friends who arranged the transportation and the visit to the orphanage, two vehicles to haul us 6 kilometers, and myself.

We pulled up tot he gate of the orphanage. It looked like a school. A new school. The orphanage is only two years old. There is another older one in town too. But, being the foreigner, they wanted to show me the good stuff I guess. We exited the vehicles and unpacked the gifts. The manager of the orphanage met us outside. She is a woman of very few words. She smiles briefly, but it is a smile more of inconvenience, than a welcoming smile.

We enter the main entry hall. There is a 15 foot Christmas tree in the hall. No one is around. It is Saturday, so I guess it is supposed to be a quiet day. The manager yelled upstairs to the upper rooms and a boy came out. He looked to be in about grade 8, 9 or 10. Shy but friendly. He would follow us around.

We are escorted to another building on the grounds. The orphanage is still under construction. I am told that there are five “families” living there. Not actual families by the traditional sense. But, I guess it is the best an orphanage can do as families are considered. The orphanage has large apartments built. In each apartment is about 5-7 children and house parents. This is the family.

The first “house we go to has all toddlers and babies in it. There are about 5 of them. Some are sitting on plastic toilets with their bums hanging out of their crotchless pants. Some are in stroller chairs. The houses are nice, for an orphanage. There is a bedroom with cribs and beds. They all have warm blankets and pillows. There is a kitchen to prepare the meals. A small bedroom for the house mothers to have. The bathrooms are clean. There is a very small toilet for the kids to use. It is a western style toilet. And, there is a standard squat toilet for adults. Then there is a large room that is the living area. A TV is on for entertainment. A large foam play mat covers about a quarter of the room. There are a few toys, but not many. There is shelving in the room, but they are bare. Overall, it is a good living space. But, we were not there to inspect the orphanage. I was there for the kids. So, let me share with you my new kids in my life.

All of them are special needs. Many appear to have Down’s Syndrome. They was dressed warmly. And, they all seem in good spirits. They definitely eat well. Chubby. The toddlers in the first “house” were getting fed. We played with them for a while. It was a good way to start the day. He held them in our arms, played with them a little. And enjoyed ourselves.

We went on to other “houses” each time the kids would be a little older. We would play with them, laugh with them, and just enjoyed each other’s company. No one seemed out of sorts. Nothing appeared to be staged for us. Life is as good as it could be in an orphanage for special needs kids.

OK. So far, I have been very sterile with my descriptions. In all honesty, it was the best Christmas gift I could have received this year. These kids break your heart knowing they are special needs and given up by their natural parents. I am told, many are left at the gate and no information is really known about them. Some are placed in “foster” homes in the city. Much like in America. When they are seven years old they begin to go to school. It sounded like they are put in with a public school. This is good. And, when they are adults, the government provides them with factory work in special designed factories to deal with disabilities.

For me, I was prepared for the emotional rollercoaster I might endure with the visit. I went in with little to no expectations. I do not think the Chinese counterparts were ready to experience such things today. I know that none of us got through the day without shedding a tear or two. These kids just touched your heart. And, knowing that a parent could not keep them and raise them, it hurts to think of them in a place that is not a real family. I tell myself that they have each other as family now. And, they are alive. They have not been aborted. They have a chance for a future of some kind.

I have pictures, but they only tell part of the story of these remarkable young kids. The videos enhances that experience for you. But, it is one of those things that you have to experience for yourself to really appreciate the moment. I have been blessed my God’s will and plan while in China. I have encountered a group of deaf students. I have participated in a Chinese funeral, I have had the honor and privilege of working with some great young people. I have made many wonderful new friends. I have seen sights that others only see in print and film. And, through the 22 months I have been here, there are many cherished moments that have made me a better human being. Today was another one of those moments. I wish the words would find me so I can truly express the day to you. Know this. As I look upon the pictures and videos, I get teary eyed, but with a large smile on my face and a heart that aches for these children. I thank God for these miracles He provides me on this adventure. I am hoping to visit the older orphanage in the near future. My Chinese friends are trying to arrange that visit for me. I understand that things are not as nice there. Of course, my intention is not to evaluate the location. It is always about the kids and providing what I can to better someone else’s life.

I had a discussion with one of my Chinese friends tonight about my day. They said that I am a good person and care much about others. True. But, I hope that my actions have an impact upon others. In a land that has the number one rule that money is everything. It is God. It leads to happiness. I hope to change that perspective some. Charity and goodwill is tossed out the window. Family values and culture are being destroyed in the name of money. Possessions are more important than helping your friends and neighbors As I explained all this to my friend, I told him that I tried to grab the money. I tried to get possessions. I was all about things in my life. Yes, I have always had a giving heart and a loving hand for a friend in need. But, it was not until I realized that I only need money to get through life. It is not the driving factor in my life. People are the driving factor. Especially children. If I have enough money to live and save for retirement and emergencies, that is all I really need. The real joy in my life is people. Not money. So, I give of myself. I deplete my energies for others. This is my reward on earth. And, it is not to find my way into Heaven. I know my salvation is secured through Jesus Christ. I do it because it is the right thing to do as a human being. And, when I do these things in my life, every day can be a Merry Christmas.

There was one young boy that had a small growth on his nose. It looked like a rhino horn. He was so adorable. And older girl took a liking to me. She was so friendly. And, in the videos, you will find one of my favorite kids. He has such a brilliant smile. You can not keep yourself from smiling and chuckling to yourself when you see him. The toys were a big success. One boy liked the fire truck. It played some music when you hit a button. He would bob his head up and down to the music and smile so big. Each child seemed to find one toy they were drawn to. The only real needs they have there is cloth diapers. So, that is on my list of purchases for them. I hope to return often.

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