The China Sessions: 3 "Eric" -

Day 2 at the Orphanage was suuucch a full day. 

In the morning, our team got a tour of the classrooms, and our throng of children just got bigger and bigger.
Like the stuff of storybooks, the children added into our train of giggling, tickling, laughing, hugging
and happy group, until we were led into a huge room with beautiful windows on the 5th floor. 

The children danced for us (which I did NOT make it through any of them without bawling),
most of us cried through them actually. So precious and so so much promise.
And then the nannies cranked up the music and we had one, huge, super long, ginormous dance party.
They played some of the most heartbreaking American songs, haha. We were all like "oh nooo."
every time another sad song would come on. We'd get over one, and start crying over the next!
And dancing some more. 

We will forever love Justin Bieber's song, "Baby", but that's a story for another time. ;)

Eventually, things quieted down (somewhat), and we had time for connecting one on one. 
There are currently about 40 selfies on my iPod, because these kids know their way around technology. ;) 

and this is where this story really starts .... 

This sweet boy in a wheelchair and I had a semi understandable conversation as I tried my Mandarin
and he tried his English. For awhile, he just sat and looked at me. And I looked back. 

I'd smile and touch his hand, and as my friend Anna says "Smiles are powerful.". Smiles need no language. 
He has no idea the memories we made together still make me cry with the power they hold. 

(my buddy with his drawing later on in the week)

Gary (our Beloved Translator) called all the kids into playing "Duck Duck Goose", so we all piled
into a huge circle while he taught the kids the rules (at least we think that was what was happening). ;) 

I walked over and scooted in, and looked back, expecting my wheelchair bound buddy to be right behind me.

But he wasn't. 

He was back where I was, with a nanny with one staying hand on the back of his wheelchair.
He watched what was going on with a calm yet curious expression. 

I looked back at the circle, already squished together without breathing room,
and back at him, all the way over by the windows. He was literally the only kid out.

I don't fault the sweet nanny at all, I'm sure she was keeping him out because of thinking about the
kids tripping on the back of his wheels as they rushed by in excitement. It wasn't meant to hurt. 

But all I could think of "Well this simply won't do." If he wasn't going to play, I wasn't either. 

I motioned at the Nanny: "Bring him here.", and kept saying "Sit next to me, sit next to me!"
until the nanny wheeled him closer, and he slid from his wheelchair, and dragged his body to my side:
Arms strong. Legs useless in bent form behind him. Cerebral palsy. I knew it. It hurt to see it. 

I softly shoved room for him next to me, and held him close under my right arm. 

(Photo by Martha/from AWAA) I'm on the far right in grey, with my buddy next to me on my right. 

The game started and played out for 20 minutes with cheering, slipping and sliding in baseball
fashion (that floor was SLICK), roars of laughter, clapping and tons of joy. 

I'd glance down at him, and noticed he couldn't clap,
because he was propping himself up on his arms. So I clapped for him. 

He did not cheer. He looked at the floor. He scratched the wood with his fingernail. 

I tucked his feet closer so no one would trip or step on him. 

Child after child after child rushed past in a blur, cheering and calling and teasing and whirling. 

Suddenly I wondered if I'd done the right thing, because what if if hurt him more to be in IN IT, but couldn't run?  

With a breath-stealing gasp of pain, I thought how he would never run. 

How his heart must long to run with strong steps, even a clumsily fast stride!

I looked over at MaryLee and just shook my head (as we did hundreds of times),
 as tears filled my eyes and found their way down my cheeks. 

I wanted him to be able to run. I wanted him to be like the other kids.
I wanted him to know what it felt like to run fast.

So I determined that if I was picked, that either he would run with me, or I wouldn't run. 

Child after child picked themselves up and slipped and giggled and rushed and sat down triumphantly. 

And then Grace stood behind me, and tapped my left shoulder. 

I got up slowly, like I was drawing out the attention "Oooooohhh". She'd awakened a bear. 
All the children giggled in anticipation, seeing my face. Then I bent down. 

"Do you want to run with me?" I whispered in his ear. Only for him to hear. 
He nodded once: YES. A firm nod. 

So I bent and lifted him like the prince he was. Left arm across his chest, right arm under his dangling legs. 
I hoped I wasn't hurting him. I held him with the gentlest of fairy touches. But secure in my arms.
Right in front of me, so he would BE me, first, in front. Right in the action of chasing Grace. 

And we ran. 

Slowly at first, prayers spilling over "Please God, this floor is slippery, don't let us wipe out.", 
and then around the bend, Grace holding back a little....screaming just for the effect....

I wanted him to have a CHASE. I didn't want to catch her right away.
So just a few yards short of her goal, we put on a burst of speed,
and his left shoe brushed gently on the back of her jacket. 

We'd won. 

Grace turned with a knowing smile and a made-up wail of despair. 
Roars went up from the crowd, the nannies clapping and videoing the whole thing, 
but I only had ears for his response. We slid in together, and I settled him under my right arm again. 

I bent in low, cheek to cheek. 

Out of breath I whispered in his ear for only him to know: "We were FAST." He laughed. 
I whispered again "We caught her. We WON." He nodded, and said "YEAH!"! 

Tears. He ran. We won. 

The Team told me later that his face was wreathed in the biggest smile and on his face was PURE JOY.
They wished I could have seen it. His whole face was lit up and I could feel his laughter in my arms. 

When I think about that story, I cry for all those reasons the story holds, and I also cry for two other reasons. 

First, I immediately think of Hebrews 12: 1-2

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us lay aside every weight (and wheelchair), and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us RUN with endurance the race that is set before us, 

looking unto JESUS, the Author and Finisher of our faith, 
who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame,
 and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

I want to run this race of life with as much steadiness and joy as the moment we chased Grace. 

Second, I think of how glad he was to be in my arms
He was content for me to carry him. He was so happy just being with me

Running the race with me. 

I think of my Heavenly Father, and how He stoops down to us and tenderly lifts us up in His arms,
and with the gentlest of touches, we feel the burst of exhilarating air in our faces, 
the love of "underneath (us) are the everlasting arms" (Deut 33:27),
 the steadiness of His unfailing heart towards us, and we LOOK to Jesus,
 and our faces are wreathed in the biggest of smiles and the purest of joy. 

For we are running the race HE has set before us, that He has run before us
We are looking ahead and know that we will WIN THIS RACE. 

We are knowing that at the End, we will run up with flushed faces of excitement and breathless happiness...

... ready for the wonder of it all, and know that we have been kept safely in the shadow of the Most High ...

that we have run well and run steady and run true and run looking at Him....

that we without hesitation when He leans down and whispers "Will you run this race with Me?" 
that we look to Jesus beyond all the hurt and hindrances, all the wheelchairs and feeble legs, 
and run with a JOY that makes a room and world full of people cheer with wonder. 

When I think of the end of that chase, all I can think of is the soundtrack from Chariots of Fire. 
My own little "Eric Liddell". How the memory of him will encourage my heart always. 
Please join me in my prayers that he will have a forever home someday. He means so much! 

"God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." ~ Eric Liddell 
(Missionary to China from 1925 to 1943)

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

"Do you want to run with me?"