His file says it happened in the local hospital’s garden.
A place of life.
A place of growth.
A place of new beginnings.
Ironically, a place of hope.
That’s where Superhero 4’s biological mother, a woman who I believe loved him and cherished him but who, for one reason or another, didn't feel as if she could provide for him or care for him, carefully dressed him in a blue cotton coat and blue pants and wrapped him in a rosy quilt.
The kind doting mothers use to swaddle.
The kind loving caretakers use to protect their babies from the cold.
And then, there in the garden, in a beautiful place where she was sure he would be found, gave him his last kiss.
Gazed one last time upon his face.
And then, likely because of his medical needs, her access to medical care or the number of children already in her family, risked five years of prison time and abandoned him, praying his finder would lead him to a better life.
As with all abandoned children in China, the local police station conducted a search for the mother and other relatives of the abandoned child and, after placing the mandatory search and find ad in the local newspaper, sent this tiny boy to the local children’s welfare institute, where the workers there officially gave him his new last name … the same last name as every child in the orphanage.
The one that labels him as “orphan.”
The one that, if he remains unadopted, stays with him for LIFE ... and, at age 14, when he becomes unadoptable, identifies him for his entire society as “unlucky.” “Unwanted.” “Unloved.”
(Note: This policy of using surnames to identify orphans was supposed to end in China by the end of 2012. However, our little man, born in 2013, still has an orphanage surname, as do others we know. We are hopeful that this new policy will actually be enforced nationwide moving forward!)
The one that ensures that, without a new name, without a new story ending, without a new FAMILY, he will live forever on the fringes of a society that largely has not yet fully embraced orphans and those with special needs.
Superhero 4’s story is the story of thousands of sweet superheroes in China — superheroes just like him who are born with imperfections, birth defects and medical needs that birth mothers feel financially, emotionally or physically unable to provide for.
Approximately 100,000 Chinese newborns are abandoned by their parents each year, according to the 2010 China Children Welfare Policy Report — nearly all of these with disabilities or disease, according to the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption.
The punishment for abandoning a child in China is five years in jail … but only if the circumstances are “flagrant.” One Chinese lawyer described that as circumstances that could lead only to death.
Like the children who are now our friends’ sons and daughters who were discovered in trash cans and beside dumpsters.
Like the ones who were never supposed to live.
The desperation that these sweet birth mothers must feel to abandon the most beautiful of angels is impossible for me to comprehend. And my heart … it can’t even process how and why THESE angels are the ones abandoned.
After adopting one-going-on-two of these precious superheroes and hosting two more, we KNOW their value! We KNOW their worth! We know that their special needs are just super needs in disguise! And we know what JOYS and TREASURES and GEMS these sweet superheroes are!
And the thought that THESE children, THESE superheroes, are being abandoned at a rate of 100,000 children per year — it breaks my heart.
It compels me to action.
And it reminds me why THESE CHILDREN need OUR VOICE. And why THESE birth mothers need our SUPPORT.
Friends, we NEED an Operation Orphan Warrior camp to rise up! To GO to China! To SERVE inside! And to CHANGE THIS STIGMA that is still present in a large portion of very traditional Chinese society! To provide much-needed resources! To change this abandonment story!
Underground Chinese Church, one of the fastest growing bodies of Christ in the world, we’re calling on YOU! WE NEED YOU to help change the PERSPECTIVE about these beautiful angels from the INSIDE OUT!
My two dear friends who work with and inside orphanages in China tell me that the social stigma for those with special needs is real. That, even though the one-child policy has now been relaxed to two children (making it less necessary that the “one child” a couple keeps is perfect in every way so he can support both his parents and grandparents in their older age), the cultural ideal for “perfection” is still alive. Deformities are still seen in many families as “bad luck.” Abandonment in many circles is socially acceptable, and the value placed on “imperfect” life is sometimes very small.
When we were in China bringing home Superman, who has a hand deformity, among other things, a woman approached our translator and asked us why we Americans would want “a broken child.”
Chinese taxi drivers refused to pick up the daughter of our dear friends when they traveled to China to bring her home. Because she couldn’t walk and sat in a wheelchair. And they didn’t want her in their cab.
Even those who WORK with special needs children inside orphanages are sometimes questioned in Chinese society for their choices. (This special needs teacher’s own mother complained to a newspaper that he would never find a girlfriend with his profession and passion for special needs children. Although he loved these children and even raised one as his own, he said he was happy when that child was adopted out to an American family who could provide for him the medical treatment and acceptance he needed.)
One friend who works closely with medical needs orphans told me that she has seen doctors on multiple occasions turn away orphans for critical surgeries because they believed working on them would bring bad luck.
Another friend told me that the stigma for those who have any special needs was so widespread that she attended a support group in her area for people with autism, and at the end, a woman came up and hugged her.
“She looked at me and explained that maybe in my country people with mental illness are supported and accepted, but here it is not so. So it meant so much to have a person just come out and support,” she told my friend.
But the slowly improving social stigma surrounding those with special or medical needs is not the only obstacle.
China’s education system, city structure and facilities do not tend to accommodate those with special needs. And the healthcare costs for those with medical needs can be prohibitive, especially for rural families and those without access to good medical facilities.
Which is another reason these sweet superheroes are the ones left behind. Their parents often cannot afford their care, and they worry that these superheroes will grow up in a society that does not accommodate them.
In a country where there are more than 13 million abortions a year, it would be easy for these mothers to instead abort these special needs angels.
But they don’t.
Instead, they love them enough to give birth to them. To wrap them in rosy blankets. To leave them in gardens. To pray for better lives.
Lives where they can RECEIVE the medical care they need.
Lives where they can be ACCEPTED and LOVED and EMBRACED inside families who will not reject them as "unlucky" or "cursed."
Lives where they can be seen as VALUABLE. CHERISHED. TREASURED.
Orphan warriors, Chinese Church, we need those to CHANGE THIS STIGMA! To change this abandonment story! To work INSIDE this culture to help change the perception of these angels our family loves so much!
We do it by running TO them.
We do it by SERVING them.
We do it by PARTNERING with them to provide medical care and advocacy and education and services these mothers need to keep and raise their special superheroes.
Partnering with and equipping birth mothers to keep their families in tact should be one of our very top priorities!
And as we provide medical services and education and advocacy and finances to ensure that these families can afford the care needed to raise their special superheroes, we can simultaneously send the powerful message that these superheroes are VALUABLE by GOING.
To bring home.
To make these angels who have already been abandoned sons and daughters.
I believe with all my heart that it is in running TO these sweet superheroes that we can help change the mindset ABOUT them!
Until our warriors on the ground can erase the stigma and change the culture — can convey the BEAUTY and the VALUE and the WORTH of these superheroes with special needs that are really super needs in disguise — adoptive families can change the story! Can change the tide! Can change the mindset! Can change the perception!
Adoptive families who run to THESE angels could even help change the abandonment story!
And in the meantime, they change the ORPHAN story.
These superheroes who have already been abandoned don't have any time for us to waste. We didn't change their story before it began.
While we ask God how we can turn the perception and the tide and prevent future special superheroes from being left behind, these angels remain in orphanages and foster homes as victims. These special superheroes remain as casualties. And these superheroes age out at 14 … and live in a place with a name that identifies them as “orphan” forever.
Let’s RUN to them!
Let’s FIGHT for them!
And let’s send a message with our hearts and with our lives that THESE superheroes are some of the most valuable of all.
Until there are no more abandoned superheroes wrapped in rosy blankets waiting for a family to love.