Tonight’s service at tenth church opened my eyes. I’d gone to church tonight not sure of what to expect as – it has been months since I have gone regularly, and really this was only my second week back. I was , slowing finding my way back to God. And really, I hadn’t expected much.
What I saw and heard tonight is forever seared into my memory. The speaker was David Gotts, the founder and Executive Director of International China Concern.
Nearly 17 years ago, armed only with a backpack and a desire to make some sort of difference, he found himself in China. At the behest of a friend, he was invited into one of China’s state-run orphanages. What he witnessed changed his life.
Walking into the orphanage, he was greeted not by, tears, laughter, or the sounds of children. Instead he was greeted by shattering silence. Children on stone cold floors, multiple babies jammed into a single crib. Children and babies who no longer cried, because they had learned no one would come even if they did. Handicapped children, tied to potty chairs in open latrines for hours at a time. And what he saw last, rooms where children were left to die. Because the orphanage saw more abandoned and orphaned children than they could handle, the weakest, the sickest of them all were gathered into a room, without food and water, and simply left to die.
The speaker told us, that he went home that night – and that night, and for 8 months after that wrestled over what he saw in the orphanages. The doubts, the resistance”not – me, but someone else, I’m not equipped” and so forth. At the end of that time, he became convinced of two truths that yes, he was inadequate, but God had also called him and not “someone else” to be that. And it was out of his experiences at the orphanage, that International China Concern was born.
He told us he wished he could put us all on a plane to China, take us to those orphanages so we could see what those state-run orphanages looked like. To be truthful, I thought I was immune – I have seen images of much suffering, starvation, violence. The needs of this world are so great, and sadly, I have become desensitized to so much. But I was not prepared for what I saw in the short video clip. Children, many of them disabled, half-clothed, neglected, malnourished, left to die within the confines of state-run orphanages. No words can adequately convey what I saw and heard in that video. I was shocked by my own reaction; I felt sick to my stomach, and I could not hold back the tears. And neither could the guy in front of me.
In many ways, it is simply easier to forget, and to walk away, than to remember. There is so much need, so much that is broken in this world, victims of illness, poverty, natural disaster, abuse. It is overwhelming. And yet, sometimes you simply cannot turn a deaf ear. Yes, it would be easier to sit back, and say “not me – that’s for someone else.” I know, I do it often enough. The harder questions is “why not me?”