China Journey 2018 Video

The long awaited moment is here!! My 2018 China Journey video. It was so hard to put 6 months into just 13 mins and 33 seconds but when it was done, I just knew. Thank you to so many for having an interest in it! I successfully made half a room of people cry on Sunday, so have tissues handy.
Wow I love love love these kids. 

– JMF

Reintegration is a word that hurts.

On January 31st, 2018, I flew from my home to a country I felt was my second home. Only when I arrived and pulled my suitcases into my room and saw the morning sunrise, I was stunned to see a different China than the one I’d left. Northern China was not Central China. I was no longer home. The accents were different, the cuisine as well and so were all the people. The whole first month I cried because for the first time China didn’t feel like home.

Six weeks later, I was bouncing around in the back of a van giggling and thinking I never wanted to leave. The unfamiliar became my place I lived, the different became normal. The orphans became my dearly beloveds and my coworkers became my family.

China once again became my home, but it took a lot of accepting that this wouldn’t be exactly the same, but instead a new place where God would use me to bring beautiful things into a hard land.

6 months after calling China home, I would tearfully hug everyone at the end of my stay, break my heart with every whispered goodbye to the kids, then fly home and be with my family. I’d work through a little reintegration, “hey toilet paper goes in the toilet, also stop speaking Chinese to white people”, and … just be home, I thought.

Reintegration is a word that hurts.

Only when I got home, everything and everyone was foreign. My parents and dog were the same. Everything else was different. Or everything was the same, and I was different? The sky was blue, no one spoke Chinese and everything felt like panic.

Home was now foreign. The beach wouldn’t even feel like home for a good 6 weeks.

Reintegration has been one of the hardest, most confusing and bewildering times in my life. I’ve felt as though the rug has been ripped out from under me, and nothing is safe.

But location and culture weren’t the only things that had changed….I came back to a different America, I came back to a different work schedule and no 60 orphans to love and be with daily. Every Sunday I cry because the hymns aren’t in Chinese. I envisioned myself coming home victorious and have instead walked around the past 7 weeks completely and utterly broken: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

It doesn’t feel dignified or glamorous to type that. It feels too humbling. I don’t like it.

I left China as China JMF, landed in the USA as American Jean Marie, and feel like I lost myself somewhere over Russia. I don’t know who I am anymore or what to do.

At 3 weeks I said “Goodness, I thought I’d be better at this than I am…Who am I? Why is the sky blue. The rain isn’t acid. You don’t need your passport., you aren’t going into Beijing. Do I take pictures today? Why is it so quiet in the night? Where are my people? Why isn’t anything in Chinese? You’re in America now.” <– a short list of things I repeat to myself hundreds of times per day to orient myself…” (read the rest of that post HERE).

Bring up orphans and China and I’m at home. Bring up the surf report and I’m okay.
Walk past 300 options of yogurt or walk through Whole Foods and I want to scream.

Reintegration has been so so hard. Not feeling like I belong anywhere has been harder. 

For the first time in my life, I’ve turned into an introvert who finds safe places in a corner at parties where I don’t have to talk and someone who googles at 2am whether culture shock can present as mild PTSD and if it’s okay to never be yourself ever again.

I told my friend’s Mama a few days ago in tears: “I feel like everyone else is still running their lives and the world keeps spinning and wow, I just need to stand still for a minute.” 

The only reason I can think of that God would allow me to feel this full agonizing brunt of these hardest days of being in my country but not being a part of it is this: if I ever adopt, now I will know “in a small part” how an orphan feels coming “home” for the first time.

God, let that be the reason.  

This is a small view into the grief that an orphan feels coming “home”.

So much of an orphan’s life is made up of loss. Coming to a place that you expect to feel like home and your beloved people love you so very much but yet deeply aching for what you left behind you. Yes, this feels like grief. Yes, God will make it feel like home. Yes, this seems like loss. Yes, let them hold you in a million hugs and just sit still and make it every day. Yes, it will take time and so so so much grace for yourself.

So I’m hoping upon hope that all these terrible reintegration days will one day mean I’m holding a son or daughter in my arms and grieving with them and remembering these days and be able to weep and mourn with them for all they’ve lost.

And build a home they will grow to love and know they’re loved without a doubt.

I never expected coming home to be so alienating or so unbelievably heartbreaking.

But I’m held in a hundred hugs and sustained by the One Who is our home no matter where we go and One Day will lead us to a place that we’ve always longed for.

{and if you see me, hugs will always feel like home, and I’d love one}

With love always,
– JMF

3 Weeks Home in the USA

Today I ran into a dear friend that I grew up with and after hugging her 10x’s, I turned to her with tear filled eyes and said “Do you want to adopt Baby Zach?” Just saying it felt like death *breathe* to life, to agony, to life again and simultaneously felt like the BEST gift I could imagine for Shi Wenli. She’s one of the best champion Mamas I know.

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I’ve been home and goodness, I thought I’d be better at this than I am. Every day for half a year, children would scream in joy and throw themselves into my arms and suddenly I’m so extremely far away from them in a very American world and I can’t hold any of them. It feels agonizing and steals my breath away.

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My family is dear and full of love and my friends are so kind and full of hugs, but every time someone asks me “How are you?” or “How was China?” or “Are you glad to be home?” …. Wowwwwww, I don’t know and wowww I need a debrief (and probably counseling (DON’T WE ALL HAHA) and wowww, wait did I answer the question yet?

Should I share the shocking hard? Should I share a simple good story? Should I joke for the hundredth time about eating donkey? Do I explain for the 50th time about the new policy? Did I mention everything feels like panic?

Who am I. Why is the sky blue. The rain isn’t acid. You don’t need your passport, you aren’t going into Beijing. Do I take pictures today? Why is it so quiet in the night? Where are my people? Why isn’t anything in Chinese? You’re in America now. <— a short list of things I repeat to myself hundreds of times per day to orient myself.

Maybe I didn’t prepare enough to leave, but how could I? You’re supposed to know how to be home. It isn’t supposed to feel foreign and confusing. If home is where your people are, then I’m split into 60 pieces across the world, and don’t have a clue where to land or whether to be China JMF or American Jean Marie.

I forgot…how much leaving China…feels so much like grief. 

Jesus, be our Home, and be our safety no matter where we go, and bring our sweet little kids their own families and forever homes.

-JMF

Week 21-25: the God Who calls –

It has been 6 months. Half a year. 25 weeks. 176 days. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-8

It has been 25 full weeks. 25 full weeks in China. 

6 months, mountaintops and valleys.
6 months: joy and sorrow, tears and laughter, hello’s and goodbye’s.
6 months building deep relationships and earning the trust of 56 Chinese orphans.

Tomorrow I get on a plane and fly the 16 hours home and I find myself constantly in tears. Today I whispered over Shi Wenli “how will I ever leave you? how could I ever leave any of you?” and yet I’m going back to my house in my land where I grew up.

Yes, I want to take them all in my suitcase. It breaks me that I’ll be away from them.
It breaks me that they know how to do goodbyes so well. It breaks me that they know someone they loved walked away from them for various reasons. It breaks me that they don’t all have families who will never walk away from them. It breaks me that I’m leaving. 
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The way things change….

The first month I was here, I thought I couldn’t do it. I cried more days than not. I questioned every decision I thought led me here and thought “What in the world did you just do??” 2 weeks later, I was bouncing around in the back of a Shepherd’s Field van on the floor giggling and thinking “I never want to leave.” How quickly things change. 

Month 3 or 4 I had a conversation with my boss and friend in a taxi on the way back from WalMart that went along the lines of “If I wanted to extend my stay, could I?” It was a definite yes. I knew I had the means to do it if I watched my funds, and I absolutely wanted to! I cried a little bit talking about why, and she got it, she 100% got it. 

I began hemming around decisions my parents asked me “oh, yep, maybe, we’ll see” and didn’t make any plans for the Autumn. I looked at changing my flights so many times, and I talked with many friends about staying. Most of all, I prayed deeply that the God Who called me here would make it plain to me if I should stay.
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Not my will but Yours….

What followed was 2 straight months of debilitating sickness that rendered me a shadow of the person who bounced around campus singing and hugging the kids. Not all of them were life threatening, but some were pretty darn close. Breathing is important to life! 

What has become made very clear is that although I longed to live here longer term like so many of my wonderful coworkers did, that China was not life-sustaining for me. 

In fact, it has given my body and my health a serious run for its money, hahaha. 

Not even a trip to Shaanxi was feasible since I only recovered with 3 weeks left in my stay, and so much to do in that time. When I was well I thought “I can do it. I can fight it. I can stay.” and when I was sick, I knew. God would sustain me to make it, but I needed to go home.

God doesn’t call us to ruin ourselves physically to make His will work better. 

His answers come in different ways than I would want, but I know that He knows that it would take something as strong as my health failing to lead me out of China. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-23

The God Who leads us on….

When I got back from Australia with 6 weeks left, I made an “Onward Home” playlist that I have been playing occasionally to remind me of the joy of going home. I was doing pretty well until a few days ago when it all hit me, and the deeper agony of “see you later”s is crushing me. I keep texting SF friends “how did you do thiiiiissss?”, and I think the answer is you just love as hard as you always have, take a million selfies, and get on the plane knowing you gave your heart and soul to the children at Shepherd’s Field. 

It SHOULD be bittersweet. It SHOULD be hard to say goodbye, and wonderful to say hello to your family back home. It SHOULD feel like you should be reunited one day because that is how family dreams. “See you again soon” isn’t an empty promise. We mean it.
We mean it because we can’t imagine a life without them anymore. They’ve become our family, they’ve become our siblings, they’ve become impossible to live without. They’ve become children I love deeply and long to see adopted into forever families!

A few weeks ago a friend & coworker asked me how I was processing going home, and I was so thankful to talk with her about it, and I want to share the words I’ve felt deeply for weeks:

God has been faithful to call me to China and is now calling me to come Home. He has shown me that even though some people can live long term in China, I am not one of those people and that is okay. It doesn’t lessen or take away the beauty of the season of these 6 months in China or how God has used me here (thank you Katy for that). It is good that I’m able to go back in joy, knowing that God is perfect in all His ways and perfect in His timing, and my time here has perfectly come up. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-24The God Who calls us continues to call us, continues to lead us, through EVERY SEASON.

…. He is calling me home. 

You take me in, You lead me out…

One of the songs I’ve loved singing while here in China is “Mountain to Valley” and part of it says “You take me in, You lead me out, what a journey walking with You, God.” 

That truth has greatly impacted my realization that God has led me here, and now is leading me home! Seasons don’t have to be permanent nor does one ending lessen my love or commitment or presence. This has been a beautiful and hard season, in a land I love so deeply, and now it is ending, but because all of God’s ways are perfect, it’s the perfect time for it to end. God knows that my prayers and advocating for these kids will go on. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-45My time here in China has cost me deeply. 

It has cost me physically. It has cost me deeply emotionally. It has cost me mentally.
It has cost me blood, sweat, tears, breath and family reunions. It has cost me more than I thought it ever could. It has cost me things I didn’t want to give up. 

And God was in it

And it was worth it18.7.19 SVCF campus-84

It has been an adventure, and it has been an honor and privilege to get to know these children, to build relationships, to earn trust and to leave knowing I left my whole heart and soul and love and life and on the line for these Chinese orphans who live so vibrantly. It seems impossible that 6 months flew by so so quickly. What an amazing season. I’m SO grateful and thankful to have lived & served here, in the good and the hard. I’m so thankful to have made it to the end without going home, that is such a gift! And I’m deeply thankful to be seeing my family again so very soon. I’m coming back!!!
I really am rather fond of the US of A, and I’ve missed my loved ones sooooo much!!
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I have seen Him. 

I have seen His face in the faces of orphans. I crossed oceans in His name and served for His glorious name, and don’t think I could ever get over all the ways He’s faithfully cared for me, provided for me, answered our deepest life-saving prayers for the kids, and shown Himself through creation and through the world’s “least of these”. 

I have SEEN Him, I have known Him more, and I have deeply trusted Him with my life.
He has been tangibly present, breath-giving, life-sustaining, ever-good, always kind. 

Oh, how His love provides for me! Oh, how His love leads me on in joy!
Oh, how His plans cannot be thwarted, and oh, how He reigns in victory!
His name, which nothing can stand against! His kingdom, which spreads to the nations!
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“Love lead me on, love lead me through, take me back Home, back Home to You. 
Love lead me on, love tried & true.” 

– JM

Continue to keep in touch on my Instagram (on the right in the sidebar), because I’m doing a special introduction project on there about these sweet and precious orphans!

Week 13-20: This one brief holy moment.

It was May 19th. Moody Bible Men’s Choir was visiting China and stopped by for a few days to visit SFCV and gave a short concert on a Saturday morning for the kids.

Isaac ran over and clambered up into my lap, and I hugged him tightly, unwilling to let him go. Tomorrow he would meet his new family and I longed to get every bit of love into him that I could. I pulled Leonard {Ling Daiwei} up next to me in his chair, so excited for him to hear some real live music since the kid loves good music. I amped them up “Time for the concert! This is so exciting! Yay!”.

I watched Daiwei’s face closely to see how he’d react to an all men’s acapella choir singing….his face looked like a thundercloud for the first song. I think it was too much? Then the second song started, and his face burst into sunbeams. Tears filled my eyes.

He understood.

The three of us sat there, our own little joyful club. Isaac entwined in my arms, Daiwei with his ever changing expressions on his face, and me watching and listening to it all.

It was in the middle of a rousing rendition of “He’s Never Failed Me Yet”….
“I know God is able, to deliver in time of storm.
I know that He’ll keep you, safe from all earthly harm.

Trust and never doubt, Jesus will surely bring you out, 
He’s never failed me yet, He’s never failed me yet.” 

… that I looked down. Daiwei had been waving his arms triumphantly with the music, and was now resting one arm over the side of his wheelchair, and Isaac was holding his hand. Isaac saw his hand was empty and slid his own in to be a friend. 

I gasped.

Brothers. 

I put my head down between the two of them and sobbed.
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They held hands for 10 minutes while I absolutely lost it. 

all I could think is……this one brief holy moment.

The video I took in those seconds, you can see it all over my face, the “whole world in my eyes”, the moment it all made sense and meant so much that it did. Suddenly all the months of hard work fostering 55 kids and hugs and goodbyes and hurts and prayers worries and heart wrenching stories and a million other things melted down into this one brief holy moment when I saw “strangers” be brothers and friends.

“He’s never failed me yet….”, nor does He ever have any intention or promise to.
He will always be Himself. He will always be unchanging Love, always be kind King, always be merciful and good, always be steadfast in every season, always be our Savior.
The God Who became little and small to be our Brother, the Brother who bought us one dark day with nail scarred hands, the second Adam who walked out of the grave, and the Father to the Fatherless to the millions of orphans worldwide.

To bring together orphans into families and boys into brothers and us to Himself.

Brothers: Leonard {Ling Daiwei} and Isaac {Dang Mengyang}. All my heart. 
Leonard Ling Daiwei 灵带伟 18.6.13-5

No, He hasn’t failed me and He never will. 

These words have been coming back to me over the months since May 19th. They were with me the day after when I sobbed behind my camera bittersweet tears of Isaac meeting his family and leaving. They have been with me every time since that I have seen Daiwei and seen his face light up with a million smiles.

I was reminded of how quickly it all can change and how months together can become your “brief holy moment” when a child is transferred back to their home orphanage. I was in Australia when I got a text that made my knees buckle and tears stream down my face. Maya was recalled back to her home orphanage. I was heartbroken and crushed. I would not be back in time to say goodbye to sweet Maya. Others cried over her at her going away party for me.

Maya, who taught me more about the Gospel than anyone I’ve ever met. 
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Suddenly all the pictures and videos and long back-aching moments bent over her seemed even MORE worth it….they became holy moments spent serving one of the sweetest, bravest and most tender among us.

She is receiving such good care back at her orphanage and several of our eating therapists have been able to visit her caretakers to teach them how to specially care for Maya. I was surprised and incredibly thankful, and then I thought of how just like our God and Father that is. How tenderly He cares for the littlest and least of these.

I know that He’ll keep you, safe from all earthly harm….”

oh, how He loves us.

The weeks have rushed by so swiftly and now I have just 5 weeks left. It has been awfully rough being in China due to being so sick, and yet it shatters my heart to leave these precious and vivacious kids who I so long to see grow up and have families.

This whole season in China has been so incredibly worth it, filled with victories and joy, hugs and tears, friendships and laughter, jokes and memories. I’ve been blessed to serve.

It has meant something in these orphans lives as I’ve captured their lives in photos and built their files, memories of a past and hope for a future. It has meant something for Jesus and His Kingdom. It has meant something: a million somethings to my heart.

It has seemed like so little and it has been beyond what I could handle. It has been agonizing and good. It has been brief. It has been long. It has been quiet and faithful.
It has been full of doing many “small things with great love” {Mother Teresa}. Many unseen moments of ministry. Many moments too deep for words or pictures.

It has been one brief holy moment in China.

and I’m so thankful to have been here through it all.

-JM

Week 4-12: The Good in the Hard

Quick explanation for being so faraway: I haven’t known how to get ALL the things done, so I simply haven’t. On the “recovery weekends” after such busy weeks, blogging is at the very bottom of that list, underneath things like “get laundry done”, “take a shower”, “sleep” ,”meal prep”, “answer e-mails” “yay, a walk outside” and “don’t be dead”. Somehow we all turn into pseudo-parents when we get here. We’re excited to go to bed at 9pm and love showers and love having clean laundry and get really excited about weekends. So forgive me for being absent….Instagram is the place you’ll learn the most about my daily life! (just click the pictures or link in the sidebar to your right). 

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“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection,
not in books alone but in every leaf of Springtime.” {Martin Luther} 

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Spring has come to Northern China at long last. Even though Wintery days still crop up, green is covering the trees, puff balls of flowering trees are floating in the air and blossoms are bursting from all the trees that looked so very dead just a few months ago. Blue sky days have been appearing, along with Spring rains (plus fireworks), gentle breezes to blustery winds, and grass starting to grow. The world coming alive again. 30705194_10216127771970329_631693198506328064_o

I moved to China in the Winter on purpose. I wanted to see Spring come to China. I didn’t realize how hard that Winter would be, and now that Spring is here, I don’t know how to fully explain all it means to me. It continues to feed my soul with beauty and lift my heart with praise to our Creator who deeply loves beauty and gives beautiful gifts. 30728271_10216127772370339_3041541164369969152_o

The days are long, the weekends are short, yet I’m almost halfway through my stay, and I can’t imagine leaving. I long to see orphans become sons and daughters in person, I long to see all that God will do here, and I long to love on these children as they grow up.

Yes, it’s hard work. It’s so MUCH work, it’s hard work, it’s exhausting work. And it’s GOOD WORK. It’s work that is building a child’s future, it’s work that is sustaining a child’s life. My work in photography….it is work that is retaining memories in the hope that a Mother or Father will look on these pictures and see their son or daughter. It is work that is capturing all the things any proud parent would: the moment he learned to rollerblade after weeks of practice, the moment she smiled, the moment he took his first steps, the days after his surgery, the smiles on the playground, and the grumpy haircuts too. The naps, the lunches, the bottles, the ayis’ kisses, the moments that make up childhood life. 

It’s invaluable. It’s connection giving. It’s my job. It exhausts me. It’s worth it.

Something I’ve been thinking about heavily is this:
“Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t where He has called you to be.” 
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I know without a doubt that God has called me here, and that only He could have made a way for me to return, only He could write such a story for me. At 4 weeks, I wondered what on earth I’d done to my life and wondered if it would ever get easier. At 6 weeks I was bumping around in the back of a van and thinking I never want to leave!

So I learn to look at the hours and hours and yet more hours of work and see it all as GOOD because it isn’t for my glory at all, it’s my calling by the Father to the Fatherless. It’s for another’s good: it’s work building and shaping an orphan’s future and memories and the best tangible gift I could give them. So I get up in the morning tired and go to bed tired and do the very best I can, all in the name of love, to show the world how lovely they are. What an honor. What a gift. What a privilege. 30728605_10216127772690347_2446272887716315136_o

Along with watching Spring come to China, and feeling at a loss for words to adequately explain…I haven’t known how to fully express how wonderful, sweet, energetic, smart and amazing these kids are here at Shepherd’s Field.

How do you advocate well when the rest of the world can’t possibly know all a moment means? How do you explain the wonder of one happy bite of a puff and how a video of the sweet girl eating that puff will reduce you to the happiest tears while standing in a Chinese restaurant? I tend to move towards the “it can’t be overstated deeply enough”, and it’s overwhelming to know how to tackle it, so we sit together and share stories and laugh and cry and “aww” and rejoice with each other here on campus. But I long for you to know, to really know how much it means and how much they mean to me, to us. 

Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village is a dream come true for any orphan. And yet. Everyone here longs so deeply for these kids to be adopted into forever families. 

Like Ella (Song Yuxuan), with her precious face and gentle eyes, loving, cuddly & sweet.
Ella Song Yuxuan 宋宇轩 18.3.19-1

Brody (Hu Minpeng), an intense learner and full of never-ending poses & smiles.
Brody Hu Minpeng 胡闽鹏 ChineseNewYear 18.2.15-1

Charissa (Ling Deting), incredibly smart and caring, full of spunk and laughter.
Charissa Ling Deting 灵德婷 18.3.26-4

Flynn (Zhao Angpen), brave and curious, full of mischievous joy and sweetness!
Flynn Zhao Angpeng 赵安朋 18.2.28-4

Francis (Dang Guanxin), courageous and smart, & the best sound mimic I’ve ever heard.
Francis Dang Guanxin 党关心 HopeRanch 18.3.15-3

Hanna (Song Yicai), who stole my heart the moment I saw her, full of joy and light.
Hanna Song Yicai 宋怡彩 18.2.13-4

Hector (Dang Guobu), one of the best, uncomplaining, kindest & fun boys I’ve ever met.
Hector Dang Guobu 党国部 EasterEggHunt 18.4.3-7

Leonard (Ling Daiwei), my pal & treasured friend, joyful, special, great encourager.
Leonard Ling Daiwei 灵带伟 18.2.28-3

Isaac (Dang Mengyang), tenderhearted, full of hugs & energy, adventurous & sweet.
Isaac Dang Mengyang 党孟洋18.3.11-4

Jean Marie (Kong Huangbei), full of sweetness, loves the outdoors, snuggles & kisses.
Jean Marie Kong Huangbei 孔黄贝 18.2.14-12

Lael (Zhang Youqing), those cheeks! precious one full of curiosity and inquisitive looks.
Lael Zhang Youqing 张又晴 18.3.19-14

Levi (Han Qiannan), sensitive & tenderhearted, full of the best laughter and hugs!
Levi Han Qiannan 韩乾南 18.3.5-5

Matthew (Zhu Wenlian), dearest little guy who loves to “just be” with you, gentle, joyful!
Matthew Zhu Wenliang 朱文梁 18.3.26-1

Maya (Dang Guan), teaches me what the Gospel is. Brave, strong, beautiful, courageous.
Maya Dang Guan Ai 党关爱 therapy 18.4.9-2

Olive (Zhang Rongxuan), tiny warrior, full of the best soft coo’s, mighty, beloved.
Olive Zhang Rongxuan 张荣轩 Therapy 18.3.6-3

Oscar (Shi Yitie), one of my best little pals, with the best smile ever, full of laughter.
Oscar Shi Yitie 石毅铁 18.3.4-2

Russell James (Song Xiping), the real life Russell from UP, shy, darling, loves cuddles!
Russell James Song Xiping 宋熙平 18.3.20-6

Rocco (Zhu Jingfen), contemplative, runs to give you hugs, sweet, adventurous, smart. Rocco Zhu Jingfen 朱景奋 18.4.8-1

Samuel (Dang Liming), excited to play with his friends!, oh those dimples!, a helper.
Samuel Dang Liming 党利明 therapy 18.4.10-8

Simeon (Shi Wenjia), loves to tease, playful, curious, smiles with his whole face!
Simeon Shi Wenjia 石文佳18.2.13-1

Wes (Ling Wudao), a great teacher of the long-haul friendship, smart, loves Pooh Bear!
Wes Ling Wudao 灵婺道 18.3.5-13

Zack (Shi Wenli), sweetest boy, steady, gentle, giver of love, full of light and joy!
Zack Shi Wenli 施文黎 18.3.5-10….. and this is only half of our incredible and precious kids!!
Feeling moved to tears and smiles? Me too!! Every day, every week. They’re incredible.

The best tangible gift you could give to these orphans? Sponsorship. Prayers. And advocating for their adoptions! On the other side of the world, it might seem like so little. To Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village’s kids? It’s HUGE. Please contact me if you’d love to know more! 

– JM

Week 1-3: His Love provides for me

Hello dear friends! 

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Well what a ride these first 3 weeks have been, let me tell you. It feels more like 3 years, to be honest. To give you an explanation first off, I’ve been locked out of my e-mail accounts since I got here and only just last week have I tentatively gotten access into one of them, thankfully the one that allows me to blog here!! Seriously SO thankful it was this one, because I was aching to write to you all and share what’s been going on!

Since landing in China 3 weeks and 1 day ago, it has been some of the busiest, most pressurized and hardest 3 weeks of my life, haha. I know some of you have been picking up on that and sending the sweetest messages and hopefully following along on my journey through Instagram! (check out the sweet feed on the right of this page!) There have been so many firsts, including going through my very first earthquake, just a baby 4.3 one, “suddenly, I am on a boat! this is unexpected!”; it’s been a whirlwind of events to put it mildly.

I hit the ground running and have been shooting SO MANY pictures/editing/delivering/running all over campus/memorizing 55 kids’ names and faces!/learning a whole new workplace/schedule/town and not until 6 days ago did I actually do anything normal like laundry or write an e-mail or sit down with no immediate work deadline (oh wait, that was today). For all my photographer friends: it was like shooting a wedding and delivering it in one week instead of 3 months. HAhahaha. SO CRAZY, to say the least! Holiday weeks are busy times here, especially Chinese New Year festivities! The work load is heavy but Kingdom-filled, and I’m grateful to be needed even though it’s a lot!

A quick art picture with my parka on and laundry strapped to my back. (2.17.18)27993603_10215614947710043_2178580867688122792_oI landed in China expecting an immediate emotional connection of “I’m Home”, and although so many things here are the same, so many more seem different. I didn’t immediately FEEL “Home” for the first time in China, and wow, it tripped me up so badly. For the first few weeks, I vaulted from “this is so amazing here!” to “what on earth have you done, moving to another country for 6 months, you are CRAZY.” hahaha. Oh my.

According to a fellow American friend I met here who also lives in China, this….is normal. But I didn’t know it was normal. So I spent a lot of time freaking out. (surprise, surprise) China is really big (again. shocker), so if you think Shaanxi is Alabama, and Hebei is New York, (both 13.5 hours from each other) add in the different cultures, food, landscapes, (not to mention people and my China kids) then you’ll have a better perspective of how thrown off I was to arrive here when I was expecting B-City.

And not until my dear friend Martha showed up VERY unexpectedly for a visit (the very best gift ever for all time), and I physically walked China’s lands with her again, and introduced her to some of the kids here and watched her love them did it actually feel as if this could be Home too. What I came to realize through many conversations about not comparing the two places is that God did an amazing work in B-City, and will do an amazing one here too. It doesn’t lessen the beauty or the emotional connection or the way B-City will always feel like Home to me. I was called here to Shepherd’s Field for an important reason, and I know Who called me, and I will wait to see and know how He will use me here. 20180209-DSC_4470A few days ago I sat holding the hand of one of SFCV’S little China warriors who hasn’t been feeling well, and as I was praying for her healing and singing over her, I was compelled to write this down. I had just turned on “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe, a song that has carried me through loneliness and loss, and as I sang along, I wrote this: “I am not alone. You will go before me, You will never leave me. The Jesus Who called me back to China and made a way for me across the seas is the same Jesus Who will walk with me every day into every room. He will continue to pour out His love through me because I go in His name. I am not alone.” 20180209-DSC_4518The SFCV staff and all the people here have been so welcoming, honest and kind. The walls in the Inn are covered with Scripture and encouragement and stories and I don’t think I’ll get it all read in 6 months, but there is so much here that is full of beauty, even in winter, even in loneliness, even in trials, even in fears, there is beauty here.

There are sparrows that remind me that God sees me, there are magpies being raucous, reminding me of Colorado and to laugh, there are strong winds that rustle the bamboo to remind me we are not alone, and there is a greenhouse that feels like instant Florida when you step inside it. There is hot water, warm rooms at night!, and comfy beds to snuggle into. Children’s laughter rings out here and you only need to step into a house to be accosted by hugs and smiles. The sweet ayi’s laughter floats up to my room every morning as they get off shift and greet the day. And best of all: Spring is coming. 20180214-DSC_4991It has been hard here, not because this is a hard place, but perhaps because I threw myself headlong into this work in China and didn’t consider fully how much the Enemy does not like me being here. My friend Edwina said “talk about confirmation that you’re where God has called you to be!” which is by far the best perspective I could ask for.

Because it’s been one thing after another, non-stop. My prayer warriors have been getting hit up, day by day. My parents overloaded with texts. From e-mails to health issues to realizing “oh hey, everyone at SF isn’t just like you and that’s good and you all have to work together at your different jobs” which everyone probably realizes at some point in this kind of work and hey, JM, you’re in it.

I’ve also just discovered there’s someone here on staff who DOES like hugs, so she will be getting ALL my stored up hugs from now on. 😉 So guess what? China is nothing like Florida. More than you even knew.20180212-DSC_4747So in the midst of these trials, I did what I’ve learned to do, I cried out for rescue to my sovereign God and yes, I’m here to tell you: He was there, and He provided for me. Every step of the way, every day, every hard thing, every trial, every tired moment, He was beside me, He was behind me, He was before me, He was there, and His love provided for me. In more beautiful, astounding, tangible, needs-met ways than there are spaces here to say. The God I trust will not fail me nor will He ever fail me. He is my Jehovah Jireh, the God Who provides, and His love for me will take care of me all the days of my life. It’s a promise that will not end, and wow, it’s a powerful one.

Power is something I’ve been hearing 24/7 since I arrived in China; I’ll tell you how. Fireworks by day, fireworks by night. Gunpowder popping and exploding constantly. A nice little worship walk, it’s so peaceful out here…..*explosions 15 feet away and I can’t hear anything for the next 10 minutes, it’s fine*. “Chinese New Year”, I’ve said hundreds of times while rolling my eyes and sometimes pulling the pillow over my head at 2am. I love fireworks at night, even after 3 weeks of it, I still look up with a little smile on my face (it’s an everlasting wonder why). 20180215-DSC_5601You realize Who is the powerful one when all you feel is weak and needy. It’s not you, it’s the One Who hung the planets in space and who created everything from nothing. And that powerful Gospel love that God gives His people and gave me a China love and a love for orphans is the same love that fills these people working here. It burns inside me, in every room, for every child. It’s a powerful, explosive, cannot-be-contained love, and I want to be pouring out more of it every day, since more and more every day I am humbled at my little human love, spent so easily and quickly. I need Jesus love. I need long-term, showing up when it’s hard and continuing to spill out when I want to hold in-love.20180215-DSC_5706

Jesus, how I need you. 

28162303_10215596576690779_6184502002032579738_o6 days ago, I wrote these words: “God loves beauty and even on the really hard days, He is still giving us good things. I was so encouraged by these verses this morning, especially that line “He will not forsake His saints.” He will not allow us to fall, He upholds us by His righteous right hand, our steps do not slip because we are kept by Him.”

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For WITH YOU is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Oh, continue Your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart!” – Psalm 36:5-10

“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsake or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and His children become a blessing. For the Lord loves justice; He will not forsake His saints.” – Psalm 37:25-26, 28

He has not. He will not. Though my little place in China feels like I’ve moved to the dark side of the moon some days, there is a light here, all day, every day, and it won’t go out. It won’t flicker, it won’t fail, it won’t dim and it cannot be extinguished by famine or drought, neither harmed from arrows by day or terror by night. It will always burn, a comfort for us, steadfast, never changing, never failing, never losing ground, never covered up, never put out. It is fueled by a powerful victory that can never be undone.

For it is He. He is the Light of the World, and He is calling us to be at Home in Him. Abide. Dwell. At Peace. “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” – Psalm 46:5

Oh, how His love provides for me. 20180215-DSC_5622– JM