What does it mean to be an Orphan Warrior?
Michelle C. has an incredible heart for helping children, and she has already helped many Waiting Children find their forever homes through hosting. Take a moment to read how she has found what has worked for her in advocacy and how that makes her heart full.
What inspired you to take the first step towards hosting?
Before we signed up to host a child last summer, we had never really even considered the option. But the night before the summer hosting deadline, an urgent email appeared in our box with the picture of a 10-year-old boy with similar needs to the son we had adopted two years before. He was about to lose his opportunity to spend a month in the United States, where he could both experience the real, raw love of family for possibly the first time in his life and have a family advocate for him and tell his story! We had just completed our last surgery on the hand of our son, and we knew what a manageable need this 10-year-old boy had. We also knew that, without a family to tell his story, he was at risk of being another “older boy with special needs” medical file and aging out of the international adoption system. We researched hosting and decided that, although we weren’t in a season where we could adopt because of my husband’s very busy military travel schedule, we could absolutely serve this deserving kiddo in this season by hosting and sharing his story. We emailed our agency that night and completed the paperwork the next day!
What drew you to advocating for this cause, specifically?
Our son and the children we left behind when we visited his orphanage in China.
After peering into the eyes of all of these children, most of them boys with special needs, all sleeping two to a bed and cared for by nannies who clearly loved them but couldn’t provide the kind of one-on-one care and unconditional love of a family that every superhero deserves, our eyes are open. Our hearts are breaking. And we can no longer just ignore the fact that thousands of incredible children, precious angels as amazing and deserving as the one we are honored to call ours, are growing up without parents, mostly because of their ages and their medical needs.
Every child deserves a family. And after getting the honor and privilege of being a mother to my son who was born with a “special” need, we’ve learned that these children, the ones deemed “special” with needs that might look scary on paper, are really the most incredible of all. And it doesn’t take perfect families to give them homes. It takes the perfect love of a perfect God poured into the lives of imperfect people with available hearts and hands. Our family’s mission is to change their story by telling it, sharing it, and by calling out others who can be part of God’s redemption story in these deserving angels’ lives.
What do you enjoy most about advocacy?
Selfishly, I love the month I get to physically spend with each of these children as we host. All of them are so special and so amazing, and throughout our month together, it is so much fun to just unwrap this little gift that is their personalities and their hearts. Both hosting sessions, our family walked into the experience praying we might be able to provide our host children with the gift of a forever family. And both times we bawled at farewell, knowing that these children gave us a gift far greater than we could have ever offered them. This month we have loving on them and learning from them is truly the highlight of our family’s entire year. Documenting their personalities and telling their stories is just a side benefit of being in their presence.
How has advocacy helped you grow in your personal life?
Advocating for these children, especially for the ones with special and medical needs, has changed our family’s life. These incredible kiddos have just turned our family’s world upside down, and they have taught us more about life and love and how to live with abandon than any adult in our arenas!
They’ve taught us that special needs aren’t scary and that accessories like sparkly extra chromosomes are actually superpowers in disguise. They’ve taught our children how to not run from the broken and abandoned and ignored and neglected, but how to run to them.
Our 7-year-old boy now calls his “best friend” a 7-year-old girl with Down syndrome living in an orphanage in China. Our 10-year-old boy announced last month that when he gets old enough, he wants to be the first to adopt. These children have opened our eyes to a life far beyond ourselves and given us a glimpse of God’s heart. They’ve given us far more than we could have ever offered to them.
What makes you continue to advocate for orphans in need?
There are countless orphaned and abandoned children filling the orphanages of China, all of them having varying degrees of needs, from very minor needs to extensive needs that require more care. After looking into the eyes of these beautiful children and getting the honor of loving them up close, we know the secret — these “special needs” are just “super” needs in disguise. These kids are truly the forgotten treasures of the world. They just need families to hand them their capes and teach them to fly. We advocate because on paper, the needs of these children look scary. But when you fall in love with the heart of a child, you realize that the needs aren’t actually scary at all. Our heart is to change the orphan’s story for as many of these kids as we can. To open eyes and hearts and homes to these angels who are some of the most amazing of all. One of the best ways we’ve found to do this is by bringing them into our home, loving on them with everything we have, taking them into our communities and telling their stories. Because when orphan statistics become real, parent-less faces, you can no longer just ignore the crisis happening on someone else’s watch.
What would you tell someone who is afraid to take a chance on a child, by hosting or advocating on their behalf?
Loving a child you don’t get to make yours is hard. Saying goodbye is just brutal. But our tears are a small sacrifice for these children who will never again have to shed tears wishing and waiting for a forever family.
Anyone worth loving is worth crying over. It’s worth these tears. It’s worth these first difficult moments. And it’s worth this heartache for one child to know for the first in his life that he is absolutely, unconditionally, loved.
If you could tell all of the children that need advocates one thing to hold on to, what would it be?
Jesus. When earthly parents seem hard to come by, the Father of the fatherless is always there. And He has sent an entire army of orphan warriors to fight on your behalf.
What are your favorite ways to advocate?
We love advocating through hosting. Hosting gives us an opportunity to love these children in real and tangible ways while we simultaneously share their personalities and their stories. These sweet kids — they make it so very easy to just share their beauty. All we have to do is document it as we get the privilege of witnessing it and enjoying it.
What creative activities, campaigns, or outreach efforts have you made or come across that have helped you in advocating?
There are so many resources, Facebook groups, fellow advocates, etc. The adoption and advocacy community is such a wonderful, encouraging, close and tight-knit group of people. They have given us our best ideas! Some of our favorite ways to advocate are just by writing about our own experiences — with our host children, with our Chinese-born son. We recently launched a campaign we call Operation Orphan Warrior — a call to run to the 600,000 mostly special needs and older children who still fill the orphanages and foster homes of China. To fight for them. To tell their stories. And to partner with families to provide for them homes.
What are some easy ways that people can step up to help in advocating for these children?
Host these children. Love these children. Share these children. Tell their stories. Not everyone can adopt, but everyone can do something. We can still go to them. We can still take mission trips and long-term trips to visit them. To love on them. To offer medical care for them. And to financially partner with well-established organizations like Love Without Boundaries to care for them.
We can be the ones who set up Orphan Warrior Camp One in the place that STOPS this crisis before it begins — in country, where we desperately need people to partner with birth mothers and offer resources and provide medical care so that families feel that abandonment isn’t their only option after birthing a child with medical needs.
We can be the one to set up the camp that changes the tide. That removes the stigma and starts transforming the way this country views and accepts children with special and medical needs. We can fight the decades-long war to change the culture so that we eliminate the need for orphanages in a country where 90 to 98 percent of the 600,000 children who reside in them have special needs. And, from our place at our computers, we can simply share these children’s stories.
Our winter host child’s family found her because one of our family friends shared her picture on her professional Facebook page. That family contacted us, met Joy, fell in love, and today, they are completing the paperwork to bring her home. Changing the orphan story is sometimes as simple as just SHARING it.
Are there any bits of advice you would like to pass on to other advocates or people wanting to help?
Do what you can with what you have where you are at. The first two years after we returned with our son from China, advocating for children looked like serving ours. The best way we could love orphans in that season was focusing on bonding, attaching with and getting the medical care we needed for ours. In that season, loving our boy and telling his adoption story were the best ways we could invest in changing the orphan story. Now, 14 casts and 10 surgeries later, we’re again in a season where advocating looks more intentional. It looks like hosting. It looks like blogging. It looks like sharing the stories of the 600,000 children still waiting to experience the love of forever families. No matter what season you are in, you can share the orphan story. Sharing it really does change it.
Great Wall China Adoption is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas. Since 1996, Great Wall has placed more than 8,000 children with forever families. Between the headquarters located in Austin, Texas and the sister office in Beijing, China, we work on behalf of families each day to be experts at exceeding China’s requirements and adoptive families’ expectations by staying updated on aspects of China adoption.