Shine Like Stars 2011


Photos and stories from our camps in Xi’an, Xin Zheng, and Yantai

July 2011 – We kicked things off in Beijing at the Staff Summit!


Yantai Camp – Week 1 – A New Family!


The first week of Shine Like Stars summer camp began with the birth of an extra special family group. The first boy who bounded off the bus was Andrew, a little guy with a limp who came to camp last year. Andrew smiled big when he recognized Uncle Mike and laughed as he was on the receiving end of a huge bear hug. He waved to his buddy from last year, and was introduced to his translator and his new American buddy, Adam. Back home in Minnesota, Adam is a good friend of Andrew’s soon-to-be-parents. Andrew smiled wide and immediately loved his buddy just because he knew he would see him soon in America.

Nine more kids filed off the bus. Then, through the bus windows, we could see a familiar repaired-cleft lip smile. One moment she was slowly standing from the two-hour bus ride, the next running down the stairs faster than any of the other orphans.
A year ago Da Mei left camp as an orphan, seen by her big sisters at camp and no one else in the world. Now, the same big sisters ushered her forward as she joined the same family group, knowing that her American buddy, Adam, was her new big brother—her forever big brother.

On Tuesday we had the best waterpark time on record at Yantai! Andrew and Da Mei were leaders, diving right into the fun knowing exactly why they were here. We also brought the kids to KFC for ice cream. When Andrew and Da Mei were here last, our family snapped photos, enraptured with two orphans who sat by themselves and ate ice cream and French fries like they were kings and queens. Now, as they sat together, everyone could see that Andrew and Da Mei were part of a real family.

On goodbye day, everyone was sad, but there wasn’t a hopeless spirit like other years when we say goodbye. We’re only saying goodbye for now. Even for the kids that aren’t coming to America within a year—nine of the orphans are available for adoption, and our volunteers know that the best way for them to know the good news of peace is to know the peace of a family, where, watching and feeling a mother and father’s love day by day, they can know their true Father.

The Mahoney Family, staff at the Yantai camp

Xin Zheng – Week 1 – A Surprise Arrival!


On Thursday night the Sias staff took a train down from Beijing to Zheng Zhou. From there we took a little bread box bus to XinZheng, where Sias University is located. We arrived late and were slightly taken aback by the complete emptiness of the rooms. We were grateful to be staying a new building, however this meant we were responsible to find/buy everything needed to house 88 people in 14 rooms. Friday morning found us back in Zheng Zhou with a shopping list three pages long, including 88 pillows, 88 blankets, 88 mattress pads. We visited seven different stores and haggled for nearly three hours. Finally, success! We headed back to the university with our van piled high! The rest of Friday and Saturday were spent in a whirlwind of similar shopping experiences and other camp preparation.

Sunday morning we woke up to a surprise phone call. “The kids are on their way!”. What? We were not expecting them until Monday afternoon. We were not even close to ready for the kids to come yet. However, we managed to throw together all their rooms in 30 minutes and were all able to come out to welcome 23 excited faces. After many hugs and introductions, some of the staff took the kids for a hike up the mountain, while the rest of us stayed behind to piece together some semblance of a schedule. I had a million things running through my mind that needed to be done, so when our camp director, James, suggested we take time to lift the situation up, I felt a little annoyed. “Doesn’t He want us to have things ready for camp?”. A moment later, the need became clear when James’ wife, Charissa, started joyfully thanking Him because this meant we had more time with the kids! This is what I love about our team here. When some of us loose perspective, there is someone wiser who sees what He is doing! Thank you, Father, for giving more time with Your children!

Lacey Scott, staff at the Xin Zheng camp


Xi’an – Week 1 – Off to a Great Start

We have a great group of not only kids, but translators and volunteers. I love watching them become such close family groups, hearing the kids call them by endearing names like Mama and Papa, or Grandpa and Grandma. One little rambunctious little guy, who has captured the hearts of many here, became so attached so quickly that he snuck out of the room he was sharing with his translator buddy and other children early in the morning and found the room of his foreign buddy. As soon as the door opened, we were told, he ran through and jumped right into the bed.


We used the scarves made by friends back home in the States this week as a camp prize!! Each week, we give the kids awards for something they are good at. “Best eater” “Best Smile” “Best Runner” things like that. So this week, each child got a certificate that had their name and what their family group felt they excelled in, as well as a handmade hug! It was so much fun to see their faces when I placed it around their neck!

Carm Hepworth, staff at the Xi’an camp

Yantai – Week 2


Xin Zheng – Week 2 – Love Acts


[It’s] love that makes every day and every week of Bring Me Hope camp happen. It’s Love that causes people to travel 10,000 miles to be with a kid. Love doesn’t just sit around and do nothing – Love ACTS. Love causes us to play games of basketball in 90 degree weather with 80% humidity. Love leads us to cuddle, sing, and pray for Chinese orphans to sleep when we feel completely exhausted. Love doesn’t just ask you to sit back and watch the world unfold around you. No, Love demands that you run straight to the heart of the world and unfold it yourself. Love may not be glamorous and it may not be easy. It can break your heart. But man, lemme tell ya- it’s life changing.

Jenessa Petersen, Xin Zheng volunteer

Xi’an – Week 2 – A Mom for the First Time

We had a group of kids well known to camp, with all but two kids having been to camp at least once if not twice before. It is so good to be able to keep in touch with these kids from year to year and to watch them change.


At 12 years old, Icey has already had to go through so much and her emotions can often be hard to discern. However, I knew from the look in her eyes that she did in fact remember me. I knew that she would be matched with a mom and her daughter who were only at camp for a week. In her time here, I saw a difference that was unmistakable. In both years before, she had a jie jie (big sister). For the first time ever at camp, she had a mom as well as a sister. I could see how happy she was to be part of a real family, and how much she wanted to make it more than for just a week.

Carm Hepworth, staff at the Xi’an camp




Yantai – Week 3 – An Adventure Story!


Week 3 at Yantai is an adventure story, but one where the Father was the author! The night before the week began, a bus full of folks from Bring Me Hope’s Continue Home, having been kicked out of their apartment, joined our camp. Most of our volunteers, meanwhile, were stranded in the Beijing airport due to a huge rainstorm. When our kids arrived Monday morning, we only had two American volunteers!

It was Tuesday before the volunteers finally came, and Wednesday when our friend Brenda arrived with her son Isaac who was adopted from China. Finally, our camp was full of people—dads, daughters, mothers, and sons! Morgan came to China with her father and had eyes full of delight through all of camp, from the KFC trip to goodbye day. She chased her dad’s buddy Steven around with a smile on her face every day and joined in every activity with the kids. All week we could see the hearts of all the teenage girl volunteers being transformed, because they were here with their families. Every person’s heart was touched by Xiao, who, despite a skin condition, did everything with a smile.


On Thursday, the kids had a victory parade, and the next morning, before we said goodbye, we smeared cake over each other’s faces. There were tears, but there was also happiness—these volunteers knew they were called for such a time as this. The only thing they wished was that they could stay longer.


Not only did we raise 1,000 RMB to take care of Xiao’s condition, but all but one of this week’s orphans are available for adoption. There is hope!

The Mahoney family, staff at the Yantai camp

Xin Zheng – Week 3 – His Children

I’m sitting on the roof of a six-story building, surrounded by freshly washed blankets I’ve just hung out to dry. The city is thick with its normal smog and the air is heavy with humidity. I feel a thunderstorm coming. Hopefully it will hold off for another hour until all this bedding is dry. Inside the building I hear our three and a half faithful washing machines dutifully cleaning 40 children’s bathing suits, swimming caps and towels. I say three and a half washers because one machine is only faithful to wash and not to spin dry. Still it’s better than hand washing!


I’ve come up to the roof not only to keep an eye out for rain clouds, but also to reflect on some of what I’ve been experiencing these past few weeks. Updates are difficult to write, not only because of time constraints, but because of the voice inside my head continually telling me no one will really understand what is happening here. How can I convey how touching a hug from Bao Bao is, when none of you know he is a little boy with Downs Syndrome from an abusive orphanage?


Who can understand why I cried when AnAn left, except someone who saw the bond we developed this week? What can I make you feel the same anger I have when I see Yan and know nobody wants her because she was born with legs that cannot walk?


It’s difficult knowing the things I experience in my “China World” will never translate back into the language of ordinary life. At the same time I know you all understand what it means to love and be loved. Thank you for remembering our team as He teaches us how to best love these children. I am remembering you in your callings. Thank you for being a part of The Body, brothers and sisters.

Lacey Scott, staff at the Xin Zheng camp

Xi’an – Week 3 – And the fun continues…


The kids are here! Another week is starting, and we once again have a bunch of awesome family groups! It has again been raining, so we are finding other things to do besides outdoor things. We are also using the wet to our advantage! There have been relay races, balloon fights, and plenty of dumping water over each others heads!

Pottery continues to be a big hit each week and it’s so much fun to watch the creativity of the kids come out. Some of the kids are just naturals, while others just enjoy being able to get dirty!


Our volunteers are doing such a great job of getting involved! We have even had one graciously accept a leading role in our nighttime assembly play. The purple princess dress looked ever so pretty on him! It was so cute to see the look on the kid’s faces and hear the sound of surprise when he stepped out from behind the curtain! He was such a good sport.

Carm Hepworth, staff at the Xi’an camp


Xin Zheng – Week 4 – Camp Video

Xi’an – Week 4 – Another Heart Changed

We are sitting here as a large group of staff, along with two volunteers that are ‘honorary’ staff members, passing around the memory books to be signed, as if they were year books. In a few short hours, our camp will be over! OVER!

This week it was wonderful to watch the oldest girl at camp. She was very frightened and upset when she first arrived. As the bus pulled away she tried to run after it to go home, and continued to repeat her desire to leave. When we all went in to have our first assembly, she stayed outside the room quietly sniffling and bemoaning her situation. It was not until half way through our fun and games that she wondered into the room and we saw a glimpse of her first smile. As the week wore on, she became more excepting of her surroundings and ventured to try new things and join in on the group activities.

Carm Hepworth, staff at the Xi’an camp

Yantai – Week 4 – Proclaim His Great Works!

“Our Father has done it! We are debriefing after a four-week adventure that rocked our world. We’re exhausted after the most fun we’ve ever had in our lives and all the crazy things that happened we couldn’t have foreseen. Typhoons invaded, motorcycles crashed, idols were removed, cake fights went on, fried bugs were eaten.


It’s time for us to proclaim the wonderful things He has done. This summer:

– A volunteer’s life was changed when he met his new sister for the first time
– All the volunteers plan to come back next year…with their families
– Seven families expressed a new desire to pursue adoption…six of whom want to adopt specific kids from camp
– Twelve people were buried with Him in water and raised with Him through faith.
– One hundred and six Chinese orphans’ lives were changed forever.

We don’t say goodbye to the kids or our Chinese friends, we say “see you soon.” Even though sometimes it feels like leaving a family member behind, we know this is right because He sends us home with a burden to tell people that which we’ve seen, that which we’ve heard, that which we’ve seen with our eyes. And even though it feels like an ending, we know that He has more plans, more beginnings, and even more grace. And we remind each other that the best is yet to come.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in making this summer the miracle it’s been.

The Mahoney family, staff at the Yantai camp


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