Double the classes: Double the fun

playdoughsmileMy Chinese is still a bit rocky, but I totally understood the argument that was taking place in the halls of the orphanage on Tuesday – my first full day at the orphanage.

“She can teach art to blind kids.  My class wants art too!”

I wanted to burst out laughing at the sweet Chinese teacher who was going to bat for her kids to have art.  She and I have become good friends over the year (I taught a different class with her last semester) and now that she has moved classrooms she was advocating for me to move with her.

Only the Father could grant me so much favor and allow doors to open for me to love on the kids at the orphanage.  Teaching the three classes last semester was one of the greatest joys of my life….so I am stepping out in faith knowing 8 classes this semester will be even better.  But, I must admit (blind kids or not) I am feeling in over my head.  One of my new classes is a group of foster kids and their moms as well as community parents and their special needs children.  The special education director introduced me to the class with a smile saying, “Tammy speaks awful Chinese but she is great with our kids.”  That is a note of confidence to start a class with.  I was sweating as I looked into the eyes of the adults in the room.  It is one thing to mix up my words with a group of kids….adults make me nervous!  I soon forgot my older audience as we started playing with playdough!

The game has changed.  I now have an official printout of my class schedule just like the other teachers.  I have been invited into the break/office space the other teachers share and I am getting to know ALL of the kids at the Children’s Home.  At this rate, I joked with my husband that I will know every special needs child in our city of 2 million people!

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You know what I am learning through all of this…again.  I really love kids with disabilities!  They are the best and I am so thankful that G.d is stretching me to love more fully and deeply.  But I can’t do this alone.  Double the classes means I need double the creativity and double the energy.  I already see how G.d is providing for me to do this work through a supportive husband who is taking over the homeschooling on Tuesdays.  I also am more thankful than ever for the supplies that were brought to us this spring/summer and all of the supplies and gifts given to us while we were in the States.   The older  kids loved making paperbag puppets with googley eyes this week!

Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days I could use some extra pr@yers as I strive to love the kids well and ultimately show them a deeper more eternal love.

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Pizza Party Good-bye

There are moments when you know you have come a long way (and that there is so much further to go…Amen?!)    I had one of those moments as I talked to one of the teachers at the orphanage.  They had planned a pizza party for our last Friday class together as a way to say good-bye for the summer.  My heart was so warmed!

I have been hoping for deep life-giving relationships with the workers at the children’s home.  I volunteered at the orphanage for a year in the past and never really was able to build relationships with fellow workers.  I still am in awe over the open doors and how favored my time at the children’s home has been since our return almost a year ago.

 

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They bought all the ingredients for the pizza and set it up in the orphanage “apartment.”  One of the classrooms is set up like a home, full kitchen, living room and bedroom, to teach the kids what a home is like.  Both of my classes crammed into the tiny apartment and with remarkable attention watched as I mixed the dough and made pizza for them.  I looked up from kneading the dough to their sweet faces starring at me – it felt like we were a family.  I love them all so much, at times I feel like I could just burst.

 

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We were using the common oven you can find in these parts; they are the size of a toaster oven.  There was a lot of waiting as we baked the dough, put on the toppings, baked again.  The pizzas were very small so we went through this process four times.  The kids waited patiently and entertained themselves by looking at photos of themselves as I took them.

One Chinese teacher carried the first pizza over her head and exclaimed to the kids – “Your American pizza party!”  It made me laugh as I took in our small square treat.  They had decided to top the pizzas with Chinese hotdog (it is like spam in my opinion) mutton, carrot, onion and tomato.  I did put my foot down and told them I would bring the pizza sauce.  “No, ketchup is not what we use in the States as Pizza sauce!”  HaHa.   So “American pizza” is a term I would use loosely when describing what we ate…but the kids sure did enjoy it.  The beauty of these kids, they are honest.  So I know they weren’t pretending to like it!

 

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The second pizza was cut into tiny squares and carried up and down the hallway of the orphanage to be shared by the kids who are not in my classes.  It was so fun to hear the excited exclamations over eating pizza…and in between meal time at that!  We also had a steady stream of nannies coming to take a peek at the recipe which led to us planning a shopping trip over the weekend so I could introduce them to the import store where you can buy mozzarella cheese.  Relationship building at its best and I think I might just have started to become a part-time cheese supplier.  Who knew?

What a great way to end the semester.  I hate to see it come to an end; it feels like we just got things rolling.   I have high hopes that the 6 weeks we have off won’t set us back, but I will be able to pick up the relationships right where we left off come the fall.

Hmmm….maybe we will have to start the fall semester with me planning a cookie party for them at my apartment?  Already planning and dreaming for next semester!

Happily Ever After

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He was one of my first students.  A tiny five year old who we all recognized as having potential – I mean look at those bright eyes!  He was younger than the rest of the class but was allowed to join us because of his natural artistic ability.  As I got to know him, I also was learning as an orphanage volunteer, about the world of adoption, and about kids with special needs – specifically boys.

I wondered why he wasn’t being adopted.  I was told he was un-adoptable.  My heart broke for him.

Two years later the orphanage director decided to give him a chance and began the process of preparing his paperwork.

It will be a sleepless night that I will never forget.  I got the email saying his paperwork would be done at the end of the summer.  I tossed and turned through the night as the grave reality hit me.  A seven year old boy finally given a chance, but how often do you hear of a family able and willing to take a chance on an older special needs boy.

Last night, I tossed and turned again.  It will be a sleepless night that I will always remember.  This time it was not prayer of anguish on behalf of a boy without a family, rather I was awake excitedly saying a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving.  I knew in the morning there would be less one orphan – and not just any orphan – my favorite student now has a family!!  Last night, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep giving thanks for what was coming.

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Can I just type that one more time….just so you understand the depth of my excitement, utter joy and unbelievable relief?!

HE HAS A FAMILY.

He was chosen.  He was adopted.  It is forever.

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Let me introduce you to Luke (his new english name!)  He is an amazing artist who is so very smart.   While living this past year with his foster family,who now is his forever family, he learned English and caught up to his peers at the international school.  Watching him roll and tumble with his brothers and running around at school, you seriously would have thought he has been there forever.  Now forever is possible.

Luke is the poster child of older adoption.

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I know you have heard the horror stories….and older adoption can be difficult, but today I want to tell you a story that has an incredibly happy ending.  This guy dove into family life and never looked back.  His mom exclaimed to me a few months after having him with them, “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is it supposed to be this easy?”

I stood in a governmental office taking photos of a family as they pressed their thumbs into a well of red ink.  They read the document they were signing out-loud to their boys.  “This means we will never abandon you.  We will treat you like a biological son.  We will give you a good education.”   Luke asked, “What does abandon mean?”  His mom pulled him into a hug and replied, “It means we will never leave you.  You will always be with our family.”

 

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You can not see my tears through the photos I took.  But they are there.  I couldn’t hold them back.  Just one or two slipping from the corner of my eye as I captured the grin of a boy who now has a last name and a family who has been blessed immeasurably by another son.  It will be a moment this art teacher treasures in her heart…right up there with my wedding day, the births and adoption days of my own four children.

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I think I might just carry this photo around in my art bag from now on as a reminder that there is hope.

When I returned to China to teach at the orphanage, I fell in love again – with a different seven year old boy named Renny.  I thought of him this morning as I took pictures of Luke.

There is hope.

Maybe you are a part of the hope that needs to be extended to Renny.   He is cute as a button, loves learning and has mild CP.  In China he isn’t allowed to go to public school because of his disability.  He needs a family so that he can have hope and a future.  His adoption paperwork is completed and waits to be chosen.  You can contact Annie Hamlin with Lifeline Children’s Services and ask to view Renny’s file to consider adopting him. Click here to email her.

Maybe Renny isn’t a match for your family, but God is calling you to be hope for one of the other 1393 boys who are right now on the waiting list to be adopted from China.  That isn’t counting the girls who wait…..in total there are about 1831 children currently waiting on the shared list which means anyone can adopt them.  (Did you catch that?! 1393 boys and 438 girls.  That is a sad statistic for a different blog post!)  There are even more children who wait in orphanages without paperwork and even more who are assigned to specific agencies.  It is staggering….but not hopeless.

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Happy family day to the Tompkins family!  Thank you for being willing to step out in faith and for giving this art teacher hope!  Look at the grin on that boy’s face.  Nothing else needs to be said!