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Sister Ma took a huge leap of faith when she began fostering Ming-ming. Ma had no experience dealing with an 8 year old boy with cerebral palsy who could not sit up, scoot around or feed himself.
Sister Ma’s husband was not a believer and not at all supportive of her caring for Ming-ming. Until then, foster parents in her northeastern Chinese city had all been foreigners. Everyone thought it odd that foreigners would care for disabled children with whom they had no relationship.
They thought it even odder that one of their fellow Chinese would do so.
But Sister Ma would not be deterred. She showed love to little Ming-ming that he had never experienced in the orphanage. Her husband had recently retired, and he spent most of his days gambling and drinking. But Ming-ming became emotionally attached to his new foster father. When Mr. Ma would go out, Ming-ming became sad and waited by the door for his new dad to come home. Ming-ming lit up when Mr. Ma returned and showered him with affection.
Within a few months of living with his new family, Ming-ming had learned to stand, walk and feed himself. Mr. Ma was deeply moved by the love his wife was showing to this needy little boy. He began to walk around their apartment complex carrying Ming-ming on his shoulders. He stopped going out to gamble and drink. Their marriage improved. Even Mr. Ma’s mother, who previously had ben cold and critical of her daughter-in-law, warmed up to her and her new treasure.
In the Mas’ city, it’s typical for strangers in the courtyard or on the bus to ask personal questions about anything that they don’t understand. They asked Sister Ma why she was caring for this boy with whom she had no previous relationship. This turned out to be an opportunity for her to share the gospel wherever she went. She even brought young Ming-ming to her home village, where many attended church simply to meet the young boy about whom they had heard so much.
Over the past three years, the number of handicapped children being fostered in this city has grown from five to 20. More and more of the foster parents are Chinese, and all of them so far are Christians.
Beth is a physician working with ReachGlobal in this city and has helped connect many of the children to their new foster parents. She knows that the parents of China’s 5 million disabled children have little access to special education, therapy or other forms of care. There are no Mandarin language websites with information on how to deal with seizures or other aspects of raising children with special health care needs.
The foster program in which Beth participates holds regular activities for foster parent support as well as to encourage community involvement, including an annual 5- and 10-K charity race. Since the first race in 2010, the number of runners has grown from 30 to 225. In this city, anything unusual draws a crowd, and there are few sights more unusual than a group of children with disabilities together outside. Fun activities on the sidelines of the race include face painting and a bake sale. Local churches see this as an outreach opportunity and the good news is intentionally shared by many Chinese believers during these events.
Another Christian group in the city recently held a family support meeting for parents of children with cerebral palsy. These children were not orphaned and live with their families. Beth was asked to be one of the presenters, and she invited Ma and Ming-ming to participate as well. When Sister Ma shared her story, one of the other mothers exclaimed, “You’re so wonderful, choosing to care for this child voluntarily!”
“You’re the one who is wonderful, because you chose to keep your child and did not abandon her,” was Sister Ma’s heartfelt response.
And so a whole group of people gained a new perspective on their special-needs children.
Pray that more parents with children at high risk of being placed in an orphanage can receive the support they need to persevere.
One of the big needs in this part of China is for physical and occupational therapists to help these children and their parents. There is also a need for people willing to work with the orphans in that city. If you are interested in serving, there are several opportunities to serve these children:
* All names in this story have been changed to protect privacy