Summer Camp 2013 has come to an end. Although goodbyes have been said, there are stories waiting to be told. This year Rena (one of our volunteers) shared her personal thoughts about working with orphans and running from love. I highly encourage you to get your box of Kleenex before you start reading.For the past three summers, I’ve attended Bring Me Hope summer camps for orphans in China. Going to camp has left me with some of the sweetest memories and some of the deepest sorrow my heart has ever known. Getting to know and love some of the orphans I’ve met has had such a deep impact on my heart.
For the first two summers, I went enthusiastically to meet with these children who have experienced much suffering and abuse. Many have attachment disorders, which keep them from forming deeper bonds with those around them for fear of being hurt again. They run from good and from love because they are self-protecting. Most of them have no idea how to receive love because they’ve been abandoned and mistreated. They run from the very thing they need because they are afraid.
Summer after summer, I meet these children. I have attempted to purse them with as much love and faithfulness as possible. I have made it my goal to bring them hope, show them love and tell them they have value. I have formed deep connections with many of the children. I’ve placed them on a bus on a Friday afternoon and have waived goodbye to them with tears streaming down my face and theirs.
This summer, I realized something. The children and I are not so different. I’ve been hurt. I run from love and I lack hope. I understand them. I know what it’s like to keep locked inside because more heartbreak seems unbearable. During a volunteer meeting Kelly, one of our camp directors read a description of attachment disorder to us. For the first time, I realized that I’m prone to the same. I was never orphaned but I’ve been neglected and mistreated and I carry those scars with me and sometimes they ooze with pain. Self-protecting has also been my tendency and this year I’ve done it more than I’ve desired to. Earlier during my week at camp this year, I communicated with Kelly that I thought it best not to connect too deeply with the children because the tearing when we said goodbye would just hurt them more. I didn’t want to hurt them more. I wanted to bring them a little hope not more pain. In some way, this thought made sense but I was not opening my heart as wide as I possibly could to these children and that is not love. I was acting and thinking in my own wisdom, which failed me. Here is a description of love that Kelly’s kids recited from memory. Here is my rock when my own wisdom fails me.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b]6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
“Love does not keep locked inside. It is not afraid for “perfect love cast out fear.”. Love endures forever. It is the only thing that makes any sense. If we are acting in love and laying down our lives for the sake of others we will gain more love and hope will rise. Self-protection makes sense but self-protection is not love. I’ve been guilty of trying to protect myself from good. I understand, but thankfully my week at camp did not end in self-protection but with love, the patient kind that waits.
I waived goodbye to one of my little boys. He hugged others as he began to weep. I drew near and hugged him. He lost more control of his emotions with that hug and his self-protection was crumbling. I could finally see hope rise in his heart. I hope love continues to bear fruit in his heart. I hope the love he received he will pour out on others. And I hope that love would fall right back on him. My time at Bring Me Hope has been a journey. I’ve learned what love really means. I’ve seen it in the faces of each of the orphans. I see the Father in them. My heart both rejoices in them and mourns with them. I see the Father more now than I ever have. Caring for the unloved, the orphan has healed my heart from self-protection. I see this pure and blameless religion washing over me. I’m so thankful for the wonderful opportunity to have gone to China for the third time this summer. I went in brokenness and came back whole. Thank you Father and thank you little broken beauties. I’ll never stop loving you. I’ll never give up hoping for you. If you desire a family, I’ll hope that with you and mourn that with you.
Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) -Rena