/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
This story is about a girl named Tun Tun. Today, she is thirteen years old, she lives in China and she loves to do school work and play with her best friend, Ping. Three years ago, Tun Tun changed my life. Because of her impact on me, I’m compelled to share her story.
While I was on a yearlong mission trip called the World Race, my team and I spent March 2011 in China working with special needs children. In a tiny room at a welfare center, I saw Jesus lived out in a ten year old girl. This post is for Tun Tun, and for each child who shares her gripping circumstance.
In China, we see a vibrant, cultural nation, but I also experienced the unsavory elements that their government tries to sweep under the rug – the parts that no one wants to hear about. Though I was a Christian missionary, I was in a country where I couldn’t pray in public, evangelize, or speak the name of Jesus. My team and I lived in the melancholy city of Hengyang, where every street corner was covered in grime and soot. Completing the dismal and gloomy atmosphere was an ever-present fog that blanketed the sky and refused to lift.
Every morning, the cold chill of winter met us as we left our hotel and began the 45-minute walk to our ministry site. Continuously dodging motorbikes and impatient taxi drivers, we felt like small pieces in an epic board game, surviving and advancing by hopscotching to the next base.
Normally I was quiet during our walk to ministry – praying silently and pensively. Yet no amount of mental preparation could make me completely ready for those long and heart-wrenching days. While working with the special needs children, I quickly learned that in this Communist country, every life is only valued by how much it can materially contribute – in terms of money, resources, or fame – to the country. Since special needs children generally can’t contribute as much as a “normal” child, they are tossed aside and literally forgotten.
Over the course of that month, our whole team worked in different housing complexes reserved for those that the government deemed to be the trash of society. Most of my team worked directly with International China Concern (ICC), a humanitarian organization that took in special needs children and either cared for them for life or identified loving families to adopt them. However, as for me and two other teammates, we instead worked in the government-owned and operated welfare center, where special needs children were sent first, prior to ICC intervention.
The welfare center building projects a majestic appearance, but is overwhelmingly foreboding and heartless. Here, couples drop off their “damaged” kids and are free to try to have a new, healthier version. Because the children live on the second floor of the building, the climb up the staircase offers visitors a brief moment to steel themselves for the grim sights waiting ahead of them.
In the room where I worked, 14 children live together in squalid conditions, and each one of them is desperate for attention. Without any light in the room, without any calming images, and without any sweet melodies to lift their spirits, all they have is this dark and damp excuse for a dwelling space. The ailments represented in the room include cerebral palsy, autism, trauma, and Down’s syndrome. You won’t see them running around and playing as children normally do. Instead, they spend their days sitting on their beds, moaning or crying, searching for someone to rescue them from this life.
Although I witnessed some horrific things in the welfare center, there was one glimmering ray of sunshine, a young girl that was a tangible manifestation of hope. Whenever I walked into that sour-smelling room, my gaze would seek her out, my favorite little girl. At the time, Tun Tun was ten years old and had cerebral palsy throughout her entire body, which gave her very little control of her limbs. She could stand up on her own, but needed assistance to maneuver throughout the room on her wobbly legs. Her arms were as stiff and inflexible as tree limbs, and her fingers were shaped like tiny branches – thin and bony.
Every morning, after walking briskly over to Tun Tun’s corner, she would give me a sweet, slobbery kiss and wrap her awkwardly formed arms around my neck. I would crouch down to her level and she’d whisper, “baby”, in my ear, pointing to the nursery in the next room, where she loved visiting one of the newborns.
Before my knees could even grow tired from squatting down to her level, she would push herself up and start walking awkwardly across the room to the door. Knowing what she wanted, I would take her arms and assist her as if she were a precious marionette doll. Slowly, we’d sway to the nursery, and once there she would hurry over to the first crib and peer through the wooden bars, looking lovingly at the baby. She’d stretch out her hand and gently stroke the baby’s face. If the baby was crying, she would sweetly sing until it stopped.
Like clockwork, after we visited the nursery, Tun Tun would wait patiently on her bed to eat. When the limited amount of food was being dropped off, she would ardently scan the room for the children who weren’t strong enough to reach the food bowls and frantically point at them, notifying the caregivers that they had not eaten yet. This was before she had eaten herself. She had to make sure they were fed, even if that meant sacrificing her own meal.
In this story, the role of Jesus was played by this ten-year-old orphan with cerebral palsy.
Even though she was living in this prison of an existence, she still chose to love others before herself. Tun Tun reached for hope when everything seemed hopeless.
In the midst of the terrible things that I witnessed in that month, this little girl changed my life. She reminded me of how Jesus pursues us – even as He dies on the cross, He still looks after his sheep. In the midst of hell itself, Tun Tun looked past herself to love another life. I myself have never loved like her, but she’s shown me that it is possible, and she’s pointed me back to the well of this love, our Creator.
“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. He said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’.” Luke 23:39-43
Check out a video about Tun Tun here: The Story of Tun Tun
Have questions about today’s post or supporting Tun Tun? Feel free to reach out to our guest contributor below.
Meet our Guest Contributor:
“I am coming to you from the top level of an old home built in the 1940s – complete with glass doorknobs, arched breezeways and a grand ‘ol porch in the bustling city of Nashville, TN. I’ve traveled to almost 20 countries before the age of 25, helped lay the communications groundwork for two non-profits and currently work on the marketing team for a bunch of lawyers. I find joy in the simplest things: the glow of white Christmas tree lights, anything within walking distance of my house, sitting around a bonfire with friends or spending a Saturday exploring a new town.
I believe that everyone has a story to share and I want to encourage people that life doesn’t have to be days full of rigid schedules and the feeling that you’ve ‘missed it’. It can be colorful and promising; full of surprises and sweet aromas of the coming seasons. I enjoy writing about life change, travels, food and day-to-day happenings.”
Photo provided by nihaolyon.com