ICC’s 25th Anniversary Feature: The Long Journey of Love
During this celebratory 25th anniversary year in ICC, I have found myself reflecting on all that has taken place since I walked through a government welfare centre in China all those years ago.
I remember so clearly holding babies in my arms, certain that many, if not most, would die within a few short weeks. The pain and confusion that I felt in those moments was overwhelming, but it wasn’t the only thing I felt. I also felt the pain of a God whose love for those children dwarfed anything I could experience. This knowledge of God’s love for China’s abandoned children with disabilities, led me to see that I was being called to come alongside these children, and to love them with the love that I knew God has for me. It was because of love that ICC began, and today 25 years later, love remains at the heart of who ICC is and all that we do.
Love was When…
In the beginning of our work, love felt easy to express. There were so many simple ways in which we could love. I would move from crib to crib holding each baby. I would change their diapers and feed them. I would pull a child on to my lap and hold them quietly, reassuring him or her of God’s love, and my love.
Love seemed to be like plant food for a plant. It was the fertiliser that brought new life. An abandoned child, like a closed-up flower bud, would begin to unfurl as the love being shared infused their heart. The sad, depressed, withdrawn child would tentatively and slowly respond, and over weeks and months we would see smiles emerge and laughter erupt at the silly faces we would pull.
As time went on and ICC grew, I found myself pushed back from the frontlines of holding children, and instead facilitating more and more volunteers and staff as they shared their love. While I missed being with the children so much, I got to see how others poured their love into the children that we serve.
I have watched as some of the most amazing people on the planet came to China, following a call that God had put on their lives. Nurses, therapists and teachers came with their own particular and very useful skills. They would use those skills to the children’s benefit, but each one knew that it was the love behind their skills that wrought the transformation we wanted to see.
True Love is When…
But the process of seeing broken hearts mended is a slow, even life-long one. The impacts of abandonment, and for some, years of neglect living in a government welfare centre has left a deep brokenness. Cute babies and toddlers, despite all that ICC has done, still have to face the pain of why they were abandoned as they grow. Teenagers struggle with the impacts of abuse they suffered before coming to ICC.
It is loving beyond the ‘cute’ baby stage, and continuing to love when brokenness makes our ICC teenagers challenging and difficult that is a deeper, truer kind of love. It is this kind of love that I see expressed over and over; the love that refuses to give up on someone; the love that knows the worth of a person when they can’t see it in themselves. To love like this is costly…and painful.
Henri Nouwen writes,
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.
If you were to sit with one of ICC’s long-term staff members and read them this quote, they would nod their head and you would see that they know that this is the kind of love that we in ICC are called to give to those that have faced the pain of abandonment.
How can we love like this? We are able to love in this way because it is the way in which we, ourselves, are loved.
In the life of Jesus, we see how God’s son entered into a broken world, and into our places of pain. He shared in our brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. He cried with those who mourned, comforted the lonely and wept with those who knew sorrow. Ultimately, he made himself weak, vulnerable and powerless as he hung upon a cross. And hanging there on the cross, he laid down his life so that we might gain access to a love beyond our comprehension.
For those of us who consider ourselves to be followers of Christ, it should come as no surprise then that we are called to walk this same kind of path of love. Every Christ-follower is called to ‘go’ into the broken world in which we live and to love those we encounter.
Your Part in ICC’s Next Chapter
Twenty-five years of ICC’s story has now been written. It is a wonderful story of love and the transformation that comes about when we love in this costly way. You can read this story in ICC’s new book China’s Oasis. If you do pick up a copy, then I hope that it will inspire you to see how God can use you to effect transformation in the lives of China’s abandoned children with disabilities.
As I look to the future, I am excited at how God is leading us to grow the work that we do. There are some exciting plans taking shape that will allow ICC to share this amazing kind of love beyond the walls of our existing work, potentially impacting the lives of hundreds more children. I believe, that there is a place for YOU, as we seek to write the next chapters of ICC’s story. There is a place for you in ICC to come and pour out your love and God’s love so that those living in pain, fear, confusion and darkness can begin to experience the way love wants to transform them.
Thank you for walking with ICC over the last 25 years. I am so profoundly grateful for the prayers you have prayed and the support you have given. Please join us on this long journey of love and help even more abandoned children with disabilities experience love, hope
Founder, International China Concern