So, it's been a long journey for me over the last few years. It's hard to pinpoint where everything started. Was it when I read Kisses from Katie and thought, "Wow, it would be really awesome to go to Africa!"? Was it when I read blog posts from many different blogs and gradually became aware of the orphan crisis around the world - when I was moved to tears over children who were the weight of tiny babies, neglected in cribs? Who knows...but it resulted in several trips to Bulgaria and my moving indefinitely to South Africa.
Learning about orrphans and neglected/abandoned/vulnerable children worldwide changed me. I didn't know I could feel so deeply about someone on the other side of the world that I had never met. I remember one night I saw my little niece's picture - before I even knew her or her mother (my friend-to-be) and thought of her growing up in a mental institution. I cried over my computer that night over the fact that no one wanted her and her time was running out to be adopted.
I read story after story like hers (although I connected with her the most deeply, for some reason). It's enough to wreck the world of a young 20-something who can't really do much to help, at least in the way of traveling overseas and snatching everyone up to come home and live with her. There was suffering going on every minute of every day, and what could I do to stop it? Very little - it would be like trying to empty the ocean with an eyedropper.
I traveled to Bulgaria. I saw children with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) who had heads the size of watermelons, relegated to their cribs to live out their short lives. I was mobbed by a crowd of preschoolers who just wanted someone to pay attention to them. I saw malnourished children and lonely orphanages. I saw people who probably didn't care, and a lot of people who did care but didn't know how to make things better or even have a good understanding of what that would mean. (Yes! We have a great orphanage! We take good care of the kids! We have all these resources! Yes, but you still aren't a family.) I walked the grounds of an orphanage infamous for its gross abuse and neglect of children. A friend and I circled it and prayed. I could sense spiritual oppression. The weight of the situation shook me as I gazed on stories upon stories of massive, Cold War era concrete block, and thought of all the little lives trapped inside - lives precious in the sight of God.
I wasn't old enough to adopt children from overseas. Now I'm old enough and I'm still not in a situation where I'm able to do so. Even if I could take several children and give them a family, the sheer overwhelming nature of the crisis felt like it was swallowing me up. Yes, adoption changes the world of each child. But what about all the others?
I've seen more since then. I've seen how, often, children struggle to transition into families, and I grieve for what their early lives did to them. I've seen mothers give babies up, make empty promises, and I've battled anger and unforgiveness. I've visited a group home and seen a once flourishing little girl who has forgotten how to talk and been deemed "unadoptable" - seen how she sits in a wheelchair all day and can only receive visits once a month because it "spoils" her.
I've wondered - is it better to not break through that barrier, sometimes? Is it worse to open her eyes to love if it hurts worse afterwards? Is there a better solution? Can anything be done?
Knowing is a burden. When you know, you care, and when you care, you hurt. I wrestled with this hurt for several years - the hurt, and my general helplessness.
And I'm learning to trust. It's a gradual process. Living overseas and working at the baby home helps tremendously to combat the choking feeling of everyone is suffering and I can't do anything! But still...orphan care is wrought with suffering. Although I grieve over the orphans across the globe, the ones I don't know, the ones who are neglected and not fat and happy and well-loved and generally headed for families, like our babies are...the cases close to home hurt too.
I texted my friend on a particularly rough day at the baby home. There had been unexpected developments in the case of a little one who was as dear to me as my own child. I couldn't handle this, emotionally.
How do you do this? How are you so tough?
You don't need to be tough. You just need to trust that God is sovereign.
Very simple, and a truth I already knew, but one she knew I needed to hear again. And I realized - there aren't only two options when it comes to suffering in orphan care: be tough and emotionally capable of handling this, or fall apart over the pain of it all.
I was never meant to bear the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I don't need to be tough enough and capable enough and clever enough to come up with a solution to rescue every child in need.
I don't need to be a constant emotional wreck when I look at the grief and horror in the world, because it's not my job to fix it.
That's not saying that grief doesn't have a time and a place. I look back, and know I would cry over those situations all over again.
But world, your weight of sin and death and pain is not mine to bear. I have a God who is working out His perfect plan. I have a God who has called me to lay down my life to care for others, and I will joyfully do it...whatever it looks like over the years to come. I will not stem the tide of grief in this hard world. I am one small person. But I will trust my God. I will fulfill the small piece of work He has for me. And I will follow Him where He leads.