Sunday, August 17, 2014

What I really think of China

We’re on the train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou and on to Wuhan this morning. We woke up at 3 am, and I couldn’t sleep any more. Some of that is jet lag, some is because we fell asleep at 8pm after walking all day, and most is because my whole body is humming with the knowledge that we will meet Wu JinFang tomorrow. We’ll see for ourselves tonight the city where she has lived. As far as we know she’s always been in a foster family in Wuhan.

We don’t know if it has been the same family the whole time, or who sponsors the family if anyone. We don’t know if her family of origin drove hours from somewhere, or whether they left her right at the hospital where she needed emergency surgery or at the orphanage door or in a park. We don’t know if she was 1 or 2 or 3 days old at that point, and whether the malformation of her digestive system was the only thing that forced her family to relinquish her. Someday she may hope to know, so we’re going to ask all we can now in case she does.

We hope this is the beginning of our family’s relationship with China and that we are able to visit regularly. Jonathan took one look and decided we could just go ahead and move to Hong Kong.

On the 13-hour flight from Seattle to Hong Kong, I read Wish You Happy Forever by Jenny Bowen, the founder of Half the Sky. In it she talks about the efforts of her group and many sympathetic officials to reform the Chinese orphanage system and how their child welfare leadership in general deals with orphaned and abandoned children. It was fascinating and heartbreaking to read. Ultimately, things have improved by leaps and bounds for most of the children in care in China. I don’t think we, in the comfort of our wealth and hundred years of comfort, can really fathom the difference between needing foster care in the states and needing it in a developing country.

Bowen tells about adopting her second Chinese daughter and how she did not bond with either of them for a while. She looked at them warily. She would pinch, slap and bite them. Her feet were scarred from being held under hot water, and there were bruises and marks on her body. In those days, the children were left with a single nanny in cold rooms who would tend only their basic needs. While we have hopes that our daughter’s foster family was given the resources and screening to ensure this was not the treatment our daughter received, anything is possible. We hope she is neither a biting screaming terrified wreck nor compliant to the point of being catatonic. To be truthful, we hope these things both on a selfish level and out of concern for the wellbeing of this little girl.

Looking out the window of this train, it feels strange to come in to this enormous country and be given such a gift, and such a responsibility. I hope we live up to it, and that she grows to love and respect the culture and country that was willing to give it all to us. As a Christian, I am walking around vibrating and stunned to be given a treasure simply because I had already been given privilege. My thoughts swim in a soup of gratitude as I look out the window and long to treasure a child I’ve yet to meet.

There is no denying the Chinese government has problems. When people say that in the states, they quickly follow up with, “But hey, so do we.” Not like this. Both greed and domination have been given an opportunity to rule here. There is a category error in that equation and our daughter could so easily have fallen on the wrong side of it. Look at Putin, look at what he has done to his Russia and her needy children right in the midst of this modern age. “How can they just throw away their kids,” people say with a shake of their head. But they miss that this is in itself the most sophisticated level of caring, the ultimate understanding of what it means to take responsibility. Had some official here somewhere decided along the way to close the borders, call it pride, lie to save precious face, shut the orphanages and lock their troubles away to wither in the dark, Wu JinFang may never have survived and we would not even know to miss her.

In this broken wreck of a world, it’s not the despair that shocks me; it’s the kindnesses. Grace persists. Sacrifice continues. Gifts are given. And here I stand, covered in every way, able to do nothing but praise God for every tiny shining bit. 

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