Here in Beijing, China, my community stretches far beyond my living space and coworkers and extends into different groups and spheres. We have ties to Expats from all over the world and have access to the entire Little Flower community, comprised of children within the Baby Home, their staff and Ayis (nannies), and the Group Homes, or Foster Home program. This diverse group has opened my eyes to a variety of cultural differences that have allowed for a deeper understanding of how greatly history can impact a society’s people and how there are many methods of doing the same things well. It has only been through experience and viewing events first-hand, that I have been able to get past my “American goggles of ignorance” and learn a few (MANY) things.
Remembering three short years ago sitting at my desk in Pensacola, when working with Little Flower was just a dream, I had seen a picture posted of an older toddler getting adopted and tearfully saying goodbye to his foster mother. Naively, I could not understand this relationship through my computer screen and settled on my first notion that I gathered from my limited experience, and can recall thinking, “She should be happy he has a home, not sad!” I even shake my head as I write this, knowing, after spending now 20 months amidst these foster families, just how off-base I was back then. It has been during this time shared with them that the Lord has shattered my misconceptions and I have presently concluded: The foster parents of Little Flower are nothing short of modern-day saints.
Brent and Serena Johnson, the owners and founders of Little Flower, prayerfully hand-selected six couples, whose own children had grown, to leave their jobs and hometowns and move to an outskirt of Beijing to temporarily raise children who are handicapped or suffering with other health problems. The children’s ages range anywhere from 2-18 years old and each couple is given as many as five children at a time. I shall repeat this to add emphasis, the parents willing leave their homes and raise five children with special needs as if they were their own flesh and blood. They must do the standard routines of all parents: feed, clothe, bathe, change diapers, read bedtime stories, reprimand, etc. In addition, they must cater to each child’s unique medical need an
These realizations have been most apparent to me as I have witnessed the parting of children from their foster families. You watch as the little girl clings to the one she has called MaMa for the past three years and see tears streaming down her face. You feel the deep sadness as they take their last family photo and hug their siblings for dear life. These foster parents have said countless goodbyes to their children and have hearts as immense as an ocean. What’s more is that once a child leaves their home, they are almost immediately replaced by another child of a differing need. But time and time again I see these same parents who had wept at their goodbyes, laughing with joy as they hold their new son or daughter.
These are the faces of people who understand the dignity of life, who understand what it means to sacrifice, and what it means to love. Please pray for each and every Group Home parent, their marriage, and for the continual grace they must exude daily in service of their children. I praise God that I have had the opportunity to view their beauty and be challenged, when the time comes, to be a better wife and mother.