I will never forget walking up those concrete steps carrying our son. How naive we were to think that we could walk into an orphanage and choose one child, and return home unchanged. Instead that moment in our lives opened our eyes to an ocean of a problem. An ocean of an orphan crisis, that has taken on the faces of the children we have left behind. Institutions filled with nameless and silent children, unwanted babies chosen at birth to die. When we walked out of that orphanage in Eastern Europe, I got knocked on my back by a tidal wave of crisis and emotions. You see, I thought I was prepared for this adoption. We were seasoned foster parents who had adopted three times already. We knew about abuse and neglect; and yet I was not prepared. And the truth is that I never will be prepared; nor do I want to be prepared to see, hear, and touch what I have seen in these orphanages. Because I should never be ready to look at an innocent child that is starving and flinches at my touch. I never want to sit holding the skin and bones of a 7-year-old-child-who-looks-like-an-infant and feel prepared.

Israel leaving the orphanage (January 2016)
Israel leaving the orphanage (January 2016)
Mom meeting Israel in the orphanage
Mom meeting Israel in the orphanage
5 year old boy weighing 10 pounds
5 year old boy weighing 10 pounds

There were many children that I saw and I prayed for death. And at the end of each day within the orphanages, I wondered who was this person I had become. I have never prayed for a child to die, but yet I found my soul weeping and begging for God’s reprieve. And the part I struggle with, is that the reprieve would have been mine. I would have been able to unload the burden of a 14-year-old twisted like a pretzel with a hole cut in his mattress to hold his contorted frame. I would have been able to forget about the pressure wounds glistening with bone and ligaments and how they contrasted with his soft, brown eyes framed by thick, black eyelashes. If death had offered reprieve, I would never have seen the 5-year-old infant who lay contracted like a strung bow with nostrils flaring and air gasps. I would not have noticed that her ragged breaths were the only sound in the room, nor the fact that the rest of the infant-sized children lay “sleeping” in a drug-fogged haze as drool slipped down their cheeks and pooled on their stained sheets. Had death visited, I would never have had to carry home an image of a shrunken, yellowing body of a 5-year-old. Eyes too large for his tiny frame, lips frothing as he labored to exist. I would not be sitting here now weeping as I type; weeping over the children I left dying in an orphanage. I could have rested in their reprieve from this life, instead of wondering if they were still in pain. Yes, I begged for their death because the weight of it all buckled me to my knees.

It made a difference for that one

Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?” The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish in the ocean.”

“I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?”

“The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”

“But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”