Since the day I entered an orphanage in Shenzhen, China, in 2013, and exited leaving 599 of 600 deserving children behind, my life has never been the same.
God used Superman’s home for the first two and a half years of his life to wreck my heart, and the child who left in my arms to completely change my life.
For the last five-plus years, my heart has wanted nothing more in this world than to change the Chinese orphan story.
It’s my mission.
It’s my passion.
And for the last nearly three years, it’s been the main purpose of the blog God inspired me to start when I had nothing but a laptop and a whole lot of words to use to fight the battle of my life.
But for the last two months, advocating and blogging have taken a back seat to real life — the kind that lately, has been hard and heavy and just plain grueling for so many precious people in our worlds.
One sweet friend lost her soldier in combat.
(A massive THANK YOU to the more than 75 people (!!!) who have now sent love and cards and gift cards and even toys and matching outfits for this sweet family who is now two months into a life without their soldier. Your outrageously generous love has so many days brought this girl to tears.)
Another lost her father in a tragic drowning over Christmas break.
One family we love faces new medical diagnoses and financial hardships just months after losing their child in a car accident last year.
Super-Spouse and I have spent hours on the phone for the last two months with friends facing family brokenness and marital crisis, severe poverty and impending divorce. We’ve walked beside mama after mama facing crises with their children, spent endless hours on our knees for friends imprisoned by addiction, depression, self-harm and more.
We’ve held the hands and faces of friends facing the hardest of diagnoses.
We’ve been privileged to encourage and pray for adoptive mamas in the trenches of the hardest of days, and we’ve asked all of you in this Orphan Warrior community to fight on your knees for a girl YOU advocated for who came home last year … a beautiful pre-teen with the voice of an angel who learned English in less than 10 months … and who today, is lying in a hospital bed with damage to her cerebellum and a newly-installed trach because, after entering the emergency room and arresting three times, breathing is not something she can do well now on her own.
(Dana Ting Campbell, you are a fighter, and we will never stop praying for and uplifting you and that beautiful family God gave you. Believing in a BIG GOD to do bigger things than any of us can even ask or imagine!)
On top of that, we’ve been battling what feels like an eternal cycle of both respiratory and G.I. viruses in this science lab of walking petri dishes that started with Superhero 1 puking his guts out on Christmas day and ended with Superman scaring us with the body ache-fever-chills combo that we thought might actually be the flu.
At one point last month, my help-meet was exchanging one set of vomit-soaked sheets for another while running puke-painted stove pots through the oven on sanitary mode while I gave breathing treatments between vomit sessions to the boy who sadly caught both viruses at one time. (Thankfully, our laundry detergent, being the helpful, sanitizing soul that it is, decided to assist in the house sterilization process, because in the middle of this midnight madness, it somehow leaped from its place atop the washing machine and kindly spilled two gallons of blue liquid all over the laundry room floor, at which point my sweet, usually serene sweetheart yelled, “Come on, now, Murphy! Now you’re just kicking us in the teeth!”)
Which means that pouring into my “ministry” has taken a back seat to pouring into the lives of the sick, hurting and healing people in our world. (Which is why I’ve been pretty MIA from Facebook and written exactly one blog in the entirety of 2019.)
On New Year’s Day, after a month of hardships for such precious people in our lives, Superhero 1 and I decided to reclaim 2019 for Jesus.
For 12 (turtle-paced) miles, we thanked God for the 12 months of last year and prayed specifically over the 12 months of this one. We praised Him for all the blessings He bestowed on us in 2018, and every mile, we spent time in silence listening for what He might have for us for the coordinating month of this coming year (January, mile 1. February, mile 2, etc.).
And when we crossed that finish line at mile 12, both of us felt invigorated by a God who had spoken to us and listened to us and breathed new LIFE into us (quite LITERALLY!) as we dedicated the first moments of our new year to Him.
And what God impressed upon my heart more than anything else on every one of those 12 miles that day was this: MINISTRY IS THE PERSON RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.
Ministry is not just my big dreams to change the orphan story.
It’s not just what I do in a formal way under my neat and tidy label as an “advocate.”
It’s not just one category of ANYTHING God has called me to do.
It’s loving the person right in front of me … the same way Jesus did.
Be that the orphan or the family of the orphan-no-more, the child needing advocacy or the child needing a bedtime story and a hug.
Which, if I can be honest, is sometimes HARD to view as “ministry.” Because it doesn’t LOOK like a definable classification of anything.
I like labels and boxes and tidy categories of things, so that I know who I am and I know where I fit and I stay in my lane where I think to myself I must be the most effective.
I love being able to sit down at 4 a.m. and write a physical blog and be a voice for superheroes-in-waiting who don’t have one and be able to do something tangible that feels like it is making a real difference for the superheroes God has broken my heart in half for.
I love being able to say at the end of a long writing session with lots of backspacing and praying and rewording and deleting, “THIS, God, is my ministry.”
A hard, definable, measurable ministry.
But what if God intended ministry to be so much messier than that?
What if I’m not just the girl who does the one thing He’s put on my heart but the girl who is called into the middle of messy, muddled, uncategorizable and chaotic life, too?
Because the thing is that every time I’ve sat down to blog this month, God has instead put another need on my heart.
Another sweet friend who needed a listening ear.
Another boy crawling onto my lap for a 4 a.m. snuggle.
Another adoptive mama who truly just needed me to drop the blog and instead drop to my knees in intercession for some hard, hard things happening in their home and in their lives.
Another superhero with another recurring nightmare that he saw his first mama in his dreams … and he woke up before she could turn around and show him her face.
If I can just be straight-up honest, the sad truth is that I too often put productivity before PEOPLE. And that’s just not the heart of our always-available, up-for-interruptions, into-the-slower-rhythms-of-life loving God.
My “ministry” to write about and advocate for orphans can’t come before my ministry to LOVE ON the ones already in my home.
My “ministry” to blog about the need for families to take that risky fork in the road can’t come before my willingness to set aside a blog and walk beside those families who are DOING it when that road is bumpy and hard.
My “ministry” to be a voice for those who’ve lost so much can’t come before my privilege as a Christian sister to walk beside those in my own life experiencing grave loss.
My best “ministry” on any given day might actually be to wake up early not to blog, not to advocate, not to post any sort of formal ministry-ish thing, but with white space on my calendar to say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
With lattes to those who need some morning encouragement.
With meals for those who have suffered so much.
With lunchbox love notes for the little and big people in my home.
With tangible, practical, in-the-weeds, Jesus kind of love … the love that says mamas who need last-minute baby holding and two more minutes of tear-filled conversation and a respite from the ones who are sometimes so hard to love can find it HERE.
It’s not glamorous. It doesn’t come with a title. It doesn’t fit in a neat and tidy category, and it doesn’t come with data or results or Facebook measures of success in the eyes of the ministry world.
It might not even feel like meaningful “ministry” at all.
But at THIS, the intersection of REAL LIFE and BIG DREAMS, I’m starting to recognize that my most precious and meaningful ministry may just be loving the person right in front of me.
Many times, that means the left-behind superheroes-in-waiting who’ve stolen my heart and still haunt my dreams.
The ones who have no voice.
The ones still waiting for their forevers to begin.
But many times, that’s actually my husband.
My Orphan Warrior community.
The precious people God puts daily in my life.
All of them are equally valuable in His eyes.
But to do that well, I need sleep and I need margin — something that isn’t happening right now in my home.
So I’ll be pulling back a bit from the blog — not because my passion for these sweet superheroes has diminished, but because God has made it clear that the ones who have already come home, both in my family and others, need more of me in this specific season.
I’ll still be blogging about twice a month, and I’ll still share important advocacy info and fun stories on the Facebook page (laughter is sweet redemption for the crazy and the chaos of boymom life) occasionally as I can.
But instead of posting daily, I’ll be praying.
Instead of sharing online daily, I’ll be sharing more face-to-face.
And I’ll remember as I fight in new ways and old for these superheroes still waiting for their forevers to begin in China that at the intersection of REAL LIFE and BIG DREAMS, MINISTRY — be it the face on the listserve who needs a voice or the voice already home who needs to see my FACE — IS THE PERSON RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.