I never really took the time to share about my trip to China in 2012. I blogged a bit leading up to the trip, but never really shared all about the things we did! I thought I would write about that today. The memories are still so fresh in my mind, and I know that won't always be the case.
We spent the first few days sightseeing in Hong Kong and Guilin. Such beautiful cities! We had a great time, and we really enjoyed each others company. On Saturday afternoon, we traveled from Guilin to Yangshuo. I have never seen such beautiful landscapes in all of my life. The mountain range there is so unique. When we arrived in Yangshuo, we met up with the International China Concern staff. Shane, my cousin, was scheduled to be the guest speaker at the ICC staff retreat. We spent the next several days getting to know the ICC staff and enjoying the retreat. On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to travel to Hengyang where one of the ICC projects are.
Getting to Hengyang was quite the adventure. The ICC staff took care of all the arrangements for us, thankfully. The first time I traveled to China, it was completely catered to Westerners. However, this time, it was much more of an authentic experience. We hired a driver to make the 7 hour trip. We packed ourselves a lunch, knowing that food on the back roads of China would probably not be what we wanted. HAHA! We really enjoyed the potty breaks. HAHA! We got over our fear of the squatty potty pretty quickly. It actually was quite a pleasant ride. There was so much to look at, the 7 hours flew by!
We arrived in Hengyang around dinner time, and checked into our hotel. Now that was quite a cultural shock. The room was $15 US dollars a night. Does that tell you anything? I still giggle thinking about it. They didn't even have an elevator. The room was big, it had a/c, and internet access - so in the grand scheme of things, it was just fine. It was in a super convenient location, right next door to a large department store, very similar to a Walmart. Of course, Walmart doesn't carry live chickens, snakes, and frogs in the meat department, but whatever. LOL. They had Snickers and Lays, I was happy.
The next morning we went to the welfare center to see the work that ICC does. I have been involved in the Chinese adoption world for some time. I have read a ton, and researched it extensively. There was no way to prepare myself for that visit. I knew there was disabled children living there, but I didn't understand how severely disabled these children would be. Not to mention the disabled adults living there. It was shocking.
ICC has really done an amazing job making a better life for these children and the adults. You could see the love there. I will share in another post exactly what ICC has done. It deserves a post all on it's own.
We only had a day and a half there, before it was time to go. It was difficult to leave, but at the same time, it was almost like I couldn't get away fast enough. I know that sounds terrible. It took me a while to process all that I saw and experienced. I can tell you, I left changed. The faces of those precious lives are forever ingrained in my mind. I long to be back there. Julianna longs to be back, too. She connected with those kids. She jumped in with every ounce of her being. She served those children with no hesitations. She didn't care that it was dirty. She didn't care that she was out of her comfort zone. She didn't see their physical defects. Not once did she ask me about their disabilities. She just wanted to love on them. And boy did she! She was 7 years old then. 7. The maturity she showed those days in Hengyang still blows my mind. God is going to do something huge in her life, I just know it.
We left Hengyang on Friday with a quick stop over back in Hong Kong, before we journeyed to Singapore. I have to say that Singapore is one of the most beautiful, manicured places, I have ever been. It was like a different world after being in Hengyang. Plus, it is always summer there! 365 days a year - SUMMER. Can you imagine? Glorious.
So this turned out longer than I expected. I even left out a ton! It truly was an amazing trip. I really had a great time with my group. God really used this trip to open doors for us with ICC. We will be traveling back to Hengyang in October. This time, we get to stay two weeks, not two days!
I love to see God bring beauty from ashes. Adoption may not have been His plan for us, but orphan care sure is... I am so thankful!