Monday, July 18, 2011

Some stories about the children we help...

Jin Cheng came to our care center in 2009. She will be eleven in October. When she was small, her father mistreated her and her mother. Her mother worked hard as a farmer but her father never did any work.

Once when her mother gave her a piece of pork to eat, her father got angry. She was just a worthless little girl that he never wanted. Why give her good food? He took the meat away from her, poured hot water on her head and broke her mothers’ legs. Both Jin Cheng and her mother went to the hospital for about a month. There is a place on her head where hair will not grow because of the burn and she is very self-conscious about this placing showing.

After her mother came home from the hospital, some kind of complication caused her death. Jin Cheng’s father decided to sell Jin Cheng. Her grandmother was approaching their apartment to visit when she saw him stuffing Jin Cheng in a large plastic bag and putting her in the car. She ran up and stopped him. She took Jin Cheng to live with her. She was kind to the little girl but her grandfather gambled and took every bit of money he could from her and her grandmother. If any relative gave either of them money, he took it to gamble. They were, of course, very poor.

Today, Jin Cheng is a happy and well-adjusted little girl. She loves her friends and enjoys sports. She is improving all the time in her personal life as well as in school. Jin Cheng feels safe and is happy living at our care center. She has made some friends and is learning many things. Here, she has a chance to learn about Jesus. She says she never wants to see her father again. If she hadn’t come to our care center, what kind of life would she be living? It hurts to imagine that. Changing lives—that is what China Mission is doing one at a time.

Yin Fei is a girl and was born in April 8, 1999. She came to the care center in September, 2010 and was in fifth grade. I came to the care center in November, 2010.  Here is the original information sheet on Yin Fei:

Yinfei's father died because of a snake bite in 2008. Her mother is handicapped with her legs and hands and she seems to have a low level of intelligence. Yinfei has a younger sister (9-year-old) and a younger brother (4-year-old). Four persons lived together in a poor and old house. Her mother isn't able to work. Now, yinfei's aunt (the wife of her uncle) who is about 50 years old takes care of all this family. She helps them work and cook for them. Besides, the aunt has a grandson to take care. Yinfei' uncle died 5-6 years ago. Life is very hard for all the family.

When Yinfei and other new girls came to live at the care center, they shared the same dorm room and were taken care of by a female worker who was in her thirties. The worker was a believer and shared the light with these new girls regularly.

This March, this female worker quit and left here. The girls in the dorm cried the day she left. They still miss the worker very much.

Because of the seed the female worker planted, Yin Fei has accepted Him. She has faith in Him. I remember one Sunday a few months ago, some of the workers, along with Mark were going to take His supper. Some girls in that dorm wanted to join us. We said yes, though we rarely did that. Mark knew some of them had been taught and kind of accepted, (and are “wet”) but still he asked how many of them clearly knew what their beliefs meant and what the supper means and if they are really clear about that so they can take the supper. Two girls said yes and took the supper and Yin Fei was one of them.

A week or so ago, while the children were still here, one Friday evening while most of the kids went to watch movies as usually, Yin Fei and a few other girls in her dorm chose to sing songs of praise to Him. I joined in with them. I could feel Yin Fei’s sincerity for Him.

Yin Fei behaves quite well and studies hard. She often gets good grades in school. She shows much interest in her education and she reads a lot. (Does she read the Book? Well, I’ve no idea. I gave her a Good Book, but haven’t asked her how often she reads it).

She is outgoing and happy. She wants to go to high school and college. She gets along very well with others. I think she is an excellent girl, but she often says she is not good at anything. She would say “Oh, I will not do well in this exam and I know it.” When I was playing ping pong with her, she said, “I am not good at it. I feel I can’t do anything well.” Words like that show her lack of confidence. But when she says that, she doesn’t appear upset or really unconfident. She studies hard and gets good grades, but she said she will not do well. She is not bad at playing ping pong either. I told her “Never say that, be confident, you are smart, you can do many things well!” She just smiles. She is always happy.
(Pictures of the next little girl will not be accepted by the blog - they are in Word and not compatible.)

Mei Feng is a girl born on March 23, 2001. The information sheet on her, according to Mark, states: “Father died of disease in April, 2005. Her Mother who was mentally ill, left after that. Her grandfather who is 87 years old died November, 2010.” It was Mark’s friend’s friend that told Mark the situation of this girl.

She came to live in the care center in February, 2011. She was shy and even didn’t know how to speak in mandarin. Instead, she spoke in her local dialect and she couldn’t be understood. But she is now outgoing and she talks fluently in mandarin! Whenever a class is over and before another class begins, she runs back to the care center and tries to find us to talk to her. She likes holding the workers’ hands.

For all the blessings she has now, there is something that is in her way of having a might-be bright future. She is 10 years old and in the second grade. When her relative sent her here, her relative said she should be in second grade. When I got to know her well, I was so surprised that she is extremely, unbelievably poor in Chinese and math. She almost doesn’t know how to read or write any Chinese characters and doesn’t know basic arithmetic! I feel painful when I am teaching her basic Chinese and basic arithmetic sometimes. Not because I am complaining, but because most of the time she learns in school (and she sits in a classroom and can’t learn anything I guess, because what the teachers are teaching are too hard for her to understand!). Even I want to help her, this process takes a very long and it will go slowly. We know that small kids love playing after spending most of the time in school. This girl naturally wants to talk or play with other children or the workers, so even though I have tried to find every chance to teach her new words, the time for me to help her with her study is limited. What's more, some other kids want to talk to me and this makes it harder. She is not the only one who is terrible at study and that makes my trying to help Zhang Mei Feng with her study much harder.

Both of Zhang Mei Feng's parents died. According to Zhang Mei Feng, her dad often beat her when she was at home. And according to director Lu, before she came to live in the care center, sometimes she went to school and sometimes she didn't for whatever reason. I guess it was because nobody cared for her. I can't imagine how much pressure this little girl will have when she is in class knowing nothing and being looked down upon or made fun of by her classmates and being not considered good by her teachers. The good thing is that she seems always joyful in the care center, but I absolutely think school has put a shadow somewhere inside her mind and heart that has a bad influence on her. I have taught her some words, but it goes slowly because of the reasons I mentioned above. Homework is much too hard for her because she should be in first grade, not in second grade. "But I am already so big, how can I be in second grade?" she says. She feels embarrassed to be in first grade as a ten year old girl. She is a little bigger than those who are in first grade.

When this girl came to the care center this March, I was in another care center. It was after she had been there for over a week and had settled down that I came here and got to know her gradually. When I told Lu that I think this girl should be in first grade, Lu said when her relative sent her here, her relative said she should be in second grade and it was done like that to please her. Actually I don't know if it's a good idea for her to be in first grade. I wish she could be in first grade, but considering the pressure of being in the same grade with those that are three, or at least two years younger, she may be very unhappy. I asked Mei Feng again if she wanted to go back to first grade this September after I explained to her why she should be in first grade and she said ok. But I don’t really know if she really meant it or not.

I talked to director Lu about my idea, and he said “she would be ok wherever we put her because she will learn something even if she keeps going up to third grade when the new semester begins. Actually I am not confident about my idea of putting Mei Feng back to first grade. I prefer to let her go back to first grade, but I have to consider other factors and I just don’t have one hundred percent confidence about that. Your advice and suggestions are welcomed. Choice matters because it will influence a person’s life a lot. I am very clear about that. And this is China. In our schools there are no special or extra tutors who will help students like Mei Feng.

……..The other night

I had some conversations with Mei Feng again, and she told me that before she came here, she was often late for school in her hometown. Her teachers often scolded her. Her classmates disliked her because she wore dirty clothes and smelled. She told me, “I was always dressed dirty. I didn’t have clean clothes. Sometimes I went to school, but after two days I might not go to school, and then after another two days I went to school again but they often scolded me. Finally I didn’t go to school at all.”

……..The other day

She got to know and believe in Jesus here. As a small girl, she will say words like “Jesus loves us” as she is taught when she has an opportunity to say it. She has such a sad past life, but she is so joyful every day. You may say, “That’s just a kid”, but it’s also a good quality for an adult to live like that, to smile even during times of trouble. She is grateful for a better life. I know that for a fact.

If you let me tell only ONE child’s story, only one, I would choose Mei Feng to show people that Agape Foundation is really doing something to help poor orphans.

(These stories are written by Max, our worker in Tiendeng).   You can feel his love and concern for these little girls.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Snakes, Bimbo and Desert Heat

We have had several weeks of days 100 degrees or more with no rain.  The ground is literally cracking open.  Grass is quickly turning brown and plants look a bit wilted.  The golf course is the only thing that's being watered.   A three-foot long snake slithered across in front of me in the grass in the park the other day.   I wasn't prepared to see it with the grass cut very low.   He was heading very fast so I really didn't feel any threat although I am probably as fearful of snakes as I am of some people.   I take my MACE with me when I use the bathhouses or go for walks alone.  I just feel it's the best thing to do to protect myself from some weirdo that decides to find a victim in a park.  I think snakes are out looking for water.  I don't know how the poor squirrels and other creatures make it during droughts. 

Due to the hail storm the middle of June, roofers fill the RV park with their campers and trucks.  The park is almost full.  I forgot to tell you about the weirdest little camper ever.  Check out these pictures:  

Workers apparently follow storms and replace roofs after a hailstorm.  We certainly have a lot of workers occupying the park camp grounds right now.  With these temperatures, I don't know how people live in the tents and Nimrod campers, but we have a few here all the time.  We can hardly stand the heat to walk to the car to go somewhere.  RV's are usually occupied by old people.  I tell people that owners of RV's have money (to buy some of the really nice ones we see) but they are so old they have lost part of their brains.  Why would they leave a beautiful home to stay in a motor home that sits in the hot sun in an RV park?    I guess there are campers anywhere from $15,000 to $250,000 parked here.  I told Ron you could stay in a lot of Holiday Inns and have room service for what they pay to camp.  We do it for a different reason (having to travel all the time to raise funds).  I understand Ron's reasoning but not the others.

There are boaters out on the lake and golfers out even in these temperatures but for the most part, people just stay inside.  If I had a home somewhere, I'd just pack it up and go home or drive to a cooler part of the country.  I surely would not come to Texas in the middle of summer. 

We have a wild looking camper next to us now with a younger couple.  A big boat is parked in front of their camper but so far, the boat has not been taken out on the lake.  The girl is a classic "bimbo" with bleached blond hair, short skirts and spike high heels.  She went out to her car this morning in a short terry cloth wrap and her spike heels.  Everyone else has on shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops but not her!  She's different from the rest of us. Most other campers are old and can hardly make it up the steps of their campers much less wear high heels.    If they are still next door, I don't know if Ron will be ready to leave here next week or not!  Ha Ha  

Since we came back from China, we can't sleep past 4:45 a.m.   We get up about 5:00 check our email before going for a walk around the lake.  It is daylight (barely) about 6 a.m. and we head out to get in a walk before the heat is too unbearable.  It is still about 85 degrees that early in the morning. 

Jetlag and the heat has zapped us the past 10 days.  We thought our one night stop over in Detroit would help but this time it's taken us longer than ever to get back straight.  By 6 p.m. we can hardly stay awake and pushing ourselves to keep going, we try to stay up until 9 p.m.   I am asleep by the time my head hits the pillow.  I sleep 7-8 hours but go through the same routine the next night.   Maybe I'm in a pattern now and it will be this way the rest of my life!!

We have been busy trying to catch up our computer work, get repairs done on the RV and car because of the hail damage and take care of many other things in this area before we begin traveling again.

I will continue my post next week.  It's 8:15 p.m. and I'm winding down again.  I feel like a toy that's been wound up and now on the last movement before stopping.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Two Busy Weeks in China

We arrived at the John Connor Brown Christian Care Center about noon on Sunday, June 26th. The Directors’ seminar began the afternoon session at 2 p.m. About 5 p.m. we broke for dinner and then the worship service (family meeting) was held afterwards. We began again at 8:10 Monday morning. The seminar ended about noon on Tuesday. A few of us met the Department of Education officials for lunch on Tuesday. We want to bring additional children to this care center but the school is reluctant to accept more children. We asked the Department of Education officials to look into it and consider the problem.

All of us took a bus to Nanning in the afternoon and connected with trains heading in various directions. Our train left at 8:30 p.m. heading to Shaoyang (on our way to Longhui to visit the North Canton Christian Care Center).

While waiting for the train, Lily, our translator, told us she saw a prisoner being led by a police officer. When we boarded our train, Lily came to our cabin and told us that the prisoner was in the cabin between us. She was a little nervous about it until one of the police officers took one of the beds in her cabin. She learned that the man had murdered someone and escaped. They caught the man in Nanning and were transporting him back to Beijing.

There is often family violence when murder is involved. Wives are usually the victims. Sometimes, someone gets violent under the influence of alcohol but if that had been the case this time, I seriously doubt he would have been able to escape and make it to Nanning, a very long distance from Beijing. A person who murders will probably be shot in a few days or weeks. They probably had someone identify him as the right person and then he would be imprisoned for a short time. They make the family pay for the bullet that is used to execute him, and they harvest all of the organs for transplant to patients. This may be upsetting to us who are used to a more complex justice system, but it is certainly a deterrent to crime. We might do well to make a condemned person’s time short rather than taxpayers supporting a prisoner for almost a lifetime while going through appeals.

Government officials met us in Shaoyang and took us to lunch and then drove us to visit the care center (NCCC). We need to do repairs to the roof and paint the buildings but we requested more cooperation from the government before we do all of the improvements that need to be done. A younger group of government men are now in charge and we are hopeful they will be more cooperative than the last group of officials. We could not stay long because they were driving us back to Shaoyang (an hours’ drive) for us to take a train to Wuhan. Most of the children were in school. There were a few first graders there because they did not have final exams. A few teenagers had completed their exams and were in their rooms.

From Shaoyang, we took a three-hour bus ride to Changsha and then a high speed train to Wuhan. The high speed train was only for 1 hour and 45 minutes, traveling at 335 km per hour. It was not much more expensive than the slow trains. It was air-conditioned and had comfortable seats. The ride was very smooth.

The next day we have lunch with Jerry Hua (director at Jackson Family Christian Care Center) and his wife. Wuhan is actually their hometown and they were visiting there a few days before going back to the orphanage at Zigong, Sichuan. They had planned a dinner meeting that night for us to meet a very wealthy man they know. They expected that he would fund an orphanage for us in Wuhan but our meeting did to turn out that way. The man was very supportive of our work and offered assistance with government connections should we decide to build an orphanage there, but there was no offer of funds.

We had breakfast the next morning with Michael O’Brien. Michael, a missionary from the U.S., has lived in Wuhan for about 13 years. He agreed to help us out in Beijing with the transition of new ministers. David Langley wants to leave the work there at the end of July. We will be in search of a new minister for the Beijing congregation. We are also hopeful that Michael can help us with new employees for the care centers in the future.

Sadly, we said goodbye to Ronald after breakfast that morning. He went back to his hotel for a train ride back to Nanning the next day. We took an afternoon high speed train to Shanghai. Ron had meetings with several people on Saturday. We were finished with our business and there were seats available on the return flight from Shanghai to Detroit the next day. We left Shanghai early Sunday morning and arrived back in Dallas about noon on Monday.

We had some excellent meals. I skipped some of the meats but the vegetables are always wonderful. Although we did a lot of walking to catch trains, subways and planes, I am sure I did not lose any weight.

We are tired but it is good to be home so we can rest. The trip went very well. We feel that it was successful in every way as we intended. We will be in Lewisville, TX for about two weeks and then we will begin our travels again.

Our car and RV were damaged by hail two nights before we left for China. We have never experienced such a storm. We had severe winds, lightening and heavy rain for more than an hour with hailstones about the size of golf balls. When we went to bed that night, bad weather was not predicted in our county. An insurance adjuster just estimated about $1,000 worth of damage to the RV. The car has dimples all over it from the constant beating of the hailstones and the mirror was broken on one side. The chrome is also damaged.