Today I saw the only home my 14 year old daughter has ever known--until now.
Today I looked into the eyes of many, many little ones who have never known a mother's love.
And my heart is stirred. Overcome by frustration that I cannot do more for these children. So incredibly saddened by their vast needs, and for that matter, the needs of orphans around the world.
It seems as if it's never enough. I take one, and then, on days like today, God gives me a glimpse of the millions more that are waiting.
Especially touching to me today, was that one of Johanna's very best friends is also about to age out. As it turns out, she DOES have a family, but she doesn't know it yet. When she saw me loving on Johanna, she pulled back from the group and began to cry. I asked her if she wanted a family and she emphatically said, "yes".She was watching Johanna's happiness and wishing for some of her own. I SO wanted to tell her that her Mommy and Daddy are coming soon, before her birthday, before it is too late! (in fact, it was breaking my heart that she doesn't know and must continue to suffer.)
Johanna didn't get sick at all on the long car-ride to the orphanage, for which I am thankful. She woke up early this morning and was READY to go visit her home of 14 years.
When we arrived at Zhongshan, Ms. Zhong and 3 of Johanna's friends were excitedly waiting for us.
The girl with the bunny is being adopted this MONDAY and we will get to meet her family! Both girls were happy that they would see each other again so soon.
This adorable girl is being adopted by our dear friends, the Buckelews. We traveled with Vicki and Todd back in December, when we adopted Gabbey and they adopted Ellie (our Ellie and their Ellie had such fun together!). Neither one of us knew, until recently, that we were both adopting girls from Zhongshan! Even more amazing, Johanna and this sweet girl slept next to each other in the same room and are friends! Isn't GOD amazing? He can orchestrate the very tiniest details and prove He exists just by doing so. I love the way this story is unfolding. Brent is praying that maybe he can time his travel to coinside with the Buckelews this fall.
The director of the orphanage was very happy that Johanna found a family and planned a LOVELY surprise birthday party for her!
These next three pictures tell a beautiful story.
One of the girls brought Johanna a gift: a GIANT stuffed bear. Lovely gesture, but I quietly pointed out a few minutes later that perhaps it wouldn't fit on the airplane?
Johanna thought for a moment, then decided to GIVE her gift away, to her little friend He Yu (Vicki's girl).
When she did, He Yu gave her the Mickey Mouse ears she was wearing. They traded gifts and seemed quite content.
I thought it was precious!
After the party, I requested information on some children whose parents haven't traveled for them yet. Then we walked to the cafeteria. On the way, we passed a playground with about 20 Down Syndrome children playing. Johanna gave out some lolipops we had brought and they loved them.
We then walked to the building that houses the older children. There are over 500 children at Zhongshan, including those in foster homes. Each bedroom on Johanna's floor had about 18 beds in it. The children sleep on the wooden bed with no mattress.
It was nap time, so when I stopped by one of the boys rooms, they all sat up and wanted their picture taken.
Next stop was Johanna's room! The girls were just as eager to have their pictures taken---and I was happy to oblige them! Johanna had the top bunk and climbed up to show me, and Gabbey wanted to join her!
I realize all of these pictures are not "healthy, pretty" children. But they ARE children. Each one has a story to tell and each one needs a family desparately. Yes, they are fed, clothed, kept warm and clean. But no orphanage can take the place of a FAMILY. In fact, it doesn't even begin to.
I know this, because my daughter spent 14 years in an orphanage, one of the "better" ones, and today, she left without ever hugging ONE ADULT. Not one. What does that tell you? It tells me she didn't attach to anyone except her peers. It tells me that while they are feeding the child's body, no one is feeding their HEART. It tells me that I'm SO thankful we got to her in time.
Ms. Zhong took us back to her office for a snack and a little visit, and then we headed to Johanna's school and finding spot. We didn't tell her what the finding spot was, as I'd like to wait to broach that subject with her, but I was able to get a picture to show her later.
I have more to say about Zhongshan, my impressions and such, but it's late, and I'm exhausted. I wanted to get the pictures up for those waiting to see them.