Today marks my final blog post from China. Tomorrow morning after breakfast we will board a train bound for Hong Kong. The team is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong by 2 p.m. allowing a few hours for shopping in the markets before we head back to the USA. We’ll stay the night at the YMCA again and board our plane at 11:45 a.m. Saturday (Hong Kong time). The flight takes about 12 hours. We have a 2 hour layover in San Francisco and land in Austin at 4:10 pm Saturday.
Last night’s dinner and meeting with the I.C.C. staff was amazing. We were given a history of the Hengyang project. Many improvements, renovations and upgrades have been made since I.C.C. took over in 2004. Initially ALL the children from infants to teens were housed in one room! It was survival of the fittest. Many children were closed off in the restrooms and left to die. Only the loudest, strongest, meanest children who could fend for themselves were given food. All of the boys and girls were together which created many disciplinary problems. The mortality rate was 85%. One of the first changes initiated by I.C.C. was to remove the babies and separate the boys and girls. They also began to monitor feeding times ensuring all children were fed. Gradually the therapy center, nurse’s station, girl’s group home flats and kindergarten program were added. Within a few short months the mortality rate dropped to 20%. There are numerous success stories. One orphaned teenager now works for I.C.C. Many children have been adopted. One little girl, the first wheel chair bound child ever, goes daily to the public school for classes. She is a model student. Children who started as emaciated, withdrawn, hopeless cases from the welfare centre are now well fed, smiling, social children who speak and feed themselves. The international staff members come from Australia, Great Britain and Canada. At the end of the meeting we were given the opportunity to lay hands on and pray over the permanent staff, what a blessing to be able to minister to those who have sacrificed so much to work with the forgotten children of China.
On our last day at the orphanage we were granted permission to take photos. Lauren had her camera snapping beautiful shots of smiling orphans by themselves as well as with our team members. We cannot publish the photos on any social networking sites, but we are permitted to share with family and friends. Sadly, it looks like another baby from the Welfare Centre will pass soon. The baby we call Him Him, obviously is not thriving. He refuses formula and any water we can get him to swallow comes from a medicine dropper. When I walked in this morning I knew right away he’d taken a turn for the worse. He has had a fever the entire two weeks, but today it was much worse and his breathing was shallow. I carried him down to the nurse on the I.C.C. side and she confirmed my worst fears, Him Him doesn’t have much longer. All we can do for him now is love him. I cried, prayed, sang, rocked and just cuddled him for as long as I could this morning. Soon he will be with Jesus where his body will no longer be crippled or ravaged by disease, but letting go is very difficult. We made sure to snap photos of him so that he will not be forgotten.
The orphanage was chaotic today. A group of Chinese university students stopped by for a morning visit. This is a very good thing as it raises awareness in the community. Unfortunately though they bring hard candy to distribute amongst the children. Most of our kiddos cannot eat hard candy so there were a few behavioral issues. Some of the River Stone team members raised more funds than were required for the trip. As a team, we are donating the excess to I.C.C. We have approximately $2000 which will be used to purchase therapeutic equipment. From what we have learned that amount almost equals their annual therapy budget. Isn’t God amazing!?! We also have purchased gifts to leave with the carers who are with the children daily. In the Welfare Centre giving is a bit more difficult, but we have left some funds with an I.C.C. staff member who spends most of her time there. She intends to purchase durable toys and nutritious snacks for the children. It is hard for us to leave these children as we have all become rather attached. I had prepared myself for the pain and heartache of broken, abandoned children, but I never expected to fall in love and grow so attached.
We are bringing home information so that we can advocate for adoptions from the orphanage. We also learned that there is a child sponsorship program. Many of the children have individual sponsors and all of those funds go directly to care of that particular child. Sponsors receive regular updates/photos of their child. Though our time in China is coming to an end, we know that China will forever remain in our hearts.