Category Archives: Camp

Love & Defend Orphans

Volunteer on short-term Christian mission trips to provide orphans and orphanages with love, hope and long-term advocacy.

One of the most common questions we get about our our mission trips to China is, “What does a week look like?”  We decided to share with you a glimpse of what YOU could do for a week, to change an orphan’s life.  Whether you are planning on volunteering or sponsoring an orphan, here is a week at Bring Me Hope camp.

 Day 1: “The kids are coming”

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This is one of the most exciting parts of camp.  Seeing the little faces peering out of the bus as they pull up to your camp location.  One by one these kids, both excited and nervous, exit the vehicle and are paired with you.  Their little hands slide into yours and you make your way back to your lodging, preparing for the rest of the week.

Happy Kid at Camp

Day 2-4: “We are family”

Congratulations, you and your Chinese translator are now proud parents for the week with your amazing and beautiful child.  Your responsibilities will consist of making sure they are bathed, dressed, fed and physically taken care of throughout the day…this of course includes a bedtime story and tucking them in.Kids with VolunteerSleepy Boys

Throughout the day you and your camp group will take your children out to experience firsts.  These include swimming, eating ice cream, learning songs, coloring, crafting, playing games and of course your nightly dance parties.  While this is fun and an incredible experience, it’s the in-between moments that change lives…the times of comforting your child when they are sad, the times of carrying them around when they are too tired to walk and moments of just listening and loving them in the midst of the days events.  This is what brings healing and shows your child what it means to be loved and valued.Funny Glasses holding hands pool pushup sign swimming sword

Day 5: “Goodbye is the hardest part”

This is by far one of the hardest days emotionally.  It’s when you have to let go and know your child has to leave and return to the orphanage.  It’s the day when you read aloud the letters you write to each other…it’s your last hugs…it’s the final moment you get to say to them “Wo Ai Ni,” I love you and will never forget you.  Their belongings are packed up, tears are shed and you watch YOUR child drive away.  You are now left with memories and a passion to do something about this.  Your job is just starting…and you are responsible to make that child’s voice heard, advocating for their needs!

For another awesome picture of camp, check out our documentary, Hannah’s Story and also don’t forget to check out our website to sponsor an orphan or volunteer in China. www.bringmehope.org

For the kids!

Caitlyn & Bring Me Hope Team

Blind and Beauty

“I’ve never met a person who was ugly, unless they wanted to be. I’ve never seen my wife’s face, but I’ve listened to the sound of her smile.”
– Tom Sullivan
“During the last week of camp I met a little boy named “Timothy.” He was blind. His face, where his eye sockets should have been, was flat and kinda empty, and on one side the eye was missing completely. When I first met him, it was really hard for me to look at him…I was disappointed with myself that I couldn’t love him instantly the way I had with all the other kids. I remember emailing a friend one night and expressing how sad I was about this little boy – I felt like he didn’t just have a minor disability but that his disability actually defined him. Eyes are so key to a persons’ soul, and to hardly even have eye sockets just seemed so unfair. 
 
On the first day i went up to Timothy and his caregiver to see how they was doing. She was sitting their crying. Tears streaming down her face. Timothy couldn’t really engage in the art activity that we were doing so she had her iPod out and was letting him listen to her music. She was clearly overcome at the intensity of his disability too. 

As the week went on. I got to know Timothy a bit. He was a pretty passive kid, in his own world a lot of the time, obviously had not received much education or one on one attention. He seemed very oblivious and quite removed from the real world. But still, I fell in love with him. I started teaching him guitar and just kinda interacting more with him – figuring out ways to include him and make his surroundings come alive to him. I ran his hand over the contours of my face and through the length of my hair. I started to explain about how my skin was a different color to his…but then i stopped – does color even exist to him?  We connected through touch and he could tell instantly when it was my hand he was holding and when it was someone else’s. 

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Then on Thursday – this was the highlight of my entire summer – we took him to the ocean. At first he didn’t want to go in, he kept saying he was scared, and so his caregivers just let him play in the sand. But I really wanted to try taking him in. I knew he would love it once he got in, its just that he didn’t know what the ocean was – and how would he? He’d never been there before, he couldn’t see it and I’m sure the sounds of crashing waves weren’t the most inviting.
 
I held his hand and explained that i was going to take him down into the water. He said, “姐姐我不要,我害怕,害怕” – “sister! I don’t want to go in, I’m scared.. scared”. But we went nice and slow and I explained all the sounds and textures and smells to him. When his feet first hit the water he was a little surprised and kinda hesitated but I kept reassuring him, and then, he decided to trust me. We went further in. His face showed a mixture of raw curiosity and deep peace. He seemed to be enjoying it. When he was in up to his waist he was still holding both of my hands, but visibly starting to relax. Then I put his hands in the water and rubbed them together,  he let out a little giggle and started saying 洗手洗手!”I can wash my hands!”  He put his hands up to his face and giggled further, exclaiming 姐姐!看看我!我在洗脸!”sister look at me! I’m washing my face!” it was the coolest thing – so innocent, so pure. 

We ventured in further. It was incredible. He was in awe of all that he was sensing. The way the waves gently lapped against his body, the saltiness on his lips, the all encompassing presence of water. When we were deep enough I told him to lift his legs up and that I was going to teach him how to float. He tried it immediately, trusting me fully, and relaxed onto his back. The look on his face was one that i’ll never forget. He was so delighted and kept doing his little giggle thing. He could have stayed there for hours. 

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I think it was then that I realized he didn’t need eyes to communicate delight. I didn’t need to be able to look into his eyes to understand what he was thinking/feeling, his voice and facial expression was plenty. It was also at that moment that I stopped defining him by his disability, but by his name – Timothy. He was no longer the little blind boy with no eyes. He was Timothy, the brave adventurer who I had the privilege of taking to the ocean for the first time, the innocent child who was so willing to trust, the young man who had no qualms expressing emotion and embracing freedom.
 
I hope that next time I see a little boy with no eyes I don’t have to wait a few days before I start seeing his heart. I hope that I will be able to remember that he is not defined by his physical features or lack there of, just as I am not. I now see that beauty is not only something seen with the eyes, but it is the delight that seeps out when you allow yourself and others to embrace  freedom.
Timothy, thank you for redefining beauty for me, and for revealing something of my own beauty to me.”  -Rach 
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We meet so many kids each year at camp that from the worlds view are “flawed” and “unlovable.”  These kids are more than a number, more than a face and more than their disability.  Timothy is like so many other children, is longing for someone to show him he is beautiful, he is loved, his life has purpose!  Through HIM, we see the beauty of this boy and so many other children!
For The Kids – Bring Me Hope
P.S. Below are all the videos from this week’s Yantai blog features!

Foreign Perspectives

Every year BMH camp brings around a new set of volunteers that are pumped to fly over to China and get camp started.  But some people don’t realize, there is another huge group of volunteers that make camp possible…our Chinese staff.  They are a group of amazing college students that make our communication with the kids possible but also add the extra energy and fun needed for our summer adventures.  It is amazing to be able to form a relationship with them, become part of a camp family and leave at the end of the week with a new friend.  Personally, some of our favorite memories with our translators were being able to bond over life experiences, learn about the culture differences, be parents together for the week and attempt to learn some Chinese (attempt being the key word).

How we would sum up camp life with our foreign volunteers, “The beginning of the week brought a bunch of confident university student eager to practice their English.  Five days later we were looking at a tight knit team of people who had been broken and transformed by these precious children.  Childen who needed constant diaper changes, who always pushed the boundaries, who didn’t act like other children we’d seen before…Children who needed love!”  Thank you to all of our foreign volunteer staff that help make camp possible!  pinkflowerphoto_0005

“I learnt this week that love is not about what you can receive in return, but what you can give. Love doesn’t have any expectations.” – Vivianpinkflowerphoto_0004

“Today at lunch, my little boy said “I would really love to become your son”. After I heard him say that, all the things I previously thought were important no longer seemed important. I no longer simply want to pursue academic achievement and a good job, I want to pursue a life of significance.” -Lunapinkflowerphoto_0003

“I learnt so much looking after my buddies this week. When I saw them being thankful for seemingly insignificant things, I suddenly realized that I haven’t ever really thanked my parents before. When camp is over, I’m going to be intentional about expressing my love and thanks to my own family.” Heysonpinkflowerphoto_0006

“Before I came to this camp I was afraid of kids with disabilities. But after this week I see that they just need more love, they need us.” -Reaganpinkflowerphoto_0007

“This summer camp changed me a lot, I feel like I learnt the definition of love for the first time.” – Olivia pinkflowerphoto_0002For The Kids,

Bring Me Hope

 

Running From Love

Summer Camp 2013 has come to an end.  Although goodbyes have been said, there are stories waiting to be told.  This year Rena (one of our volunteers) shared her personal thoughts about working with orphans and running from love.  I highly encourage you to get your box of Kleenex before you start reading.lokasari_pinkflower2013_0028For the past three summers, I’ve attended Bring Me Hope summer camps for orphans in China.  Going to camp has left me with some of the sweetest memories and some of the deepest sorrow my heart has ever known.  Getting to know and love some of the orphans I’ve met has had such a deep impact on my heart.

For the first two summers, I went enthusiastically to meet with these children who have experienced much suffering and abuse.  Many have attachment disorders, which keep them from forming deeper bonds with those around them for fear of being hurt again.  They run from good and from love because they are self-protecting.  Most of them have no idea how to receive love because they’ve been abandoned and mistreated.  They run from the very thing they need because they are afraid.

Summer after summer, I meet these children. I have attempted to purse them with as much love and faithfulness as possible.  I have made it my goal to bring them hope, show them love and tell them they have value. I have formed deep connections with many of the children. I’ve placed them on a bus on a Friday afternoon and have waived goodbye to them with tears streaming down my face and theirs.

This summer, I realized something.  The children and I are not so different.  I’ve been hurt. I run from love and I lack hope.  I understand them.  I know what it’s like to keep locked inside because more heartbreak seems unbearable. During a volunteer meeting Kelly, one of our camp directors read a description of attachment disorder to us.  For the first time, I realized that I’m prone to the same.  I was never orphaned but I’ve been neglected and mistreated and I carry those scars with me and sometimes they ooze with pain.  Self-protecting has also been my tendency and this year I’ve done it more than I’ve desired to. lokasari_pinkflower2013_0027Earlier during my week at camp this year, I communicated with Kelly that I thought it best not to connect too deeply with the children because the tearing when we said goodbye would just hurt them more.  I didn’t want to hurt them more.  I wanted to bring them a little hope not more pain.  In some way, this thought made sense but I was not opening my heart as wide as I possibly could to these children and that is not love.  I was acting and thinking in my own wisdom, which failed me.  Here is a description of love that Kelly’s kids recited from memory.  Here is my rock when my own wisdom fails me.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b]6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 

 “Love does not keep locked inside.  It is not afraid for “perfect love cast out fear.”.  Love endures forever.  It is the only thing that makes any sense.  If we are acting in love and laying down our lives for the sake of others we will gain more love and hope will rise. Self-protection makes sense but self-protection is not love.  I’ve been guilty of trying to protect myself from good.  I understand, but thankfully my week at camp did not end in self-protection but with love, the patient kind that waits.

I waived goodbye to one of my little boys.  He hugged others as he began to weep. I drew near and hugged him.  He lost more control of his emotions with that hug and his self-protection was crumbling. I could finally see hope rise in his heart.  I hope love continues to bear fruit in his heart. I hope the love he received he will pour out on others. And I hope that love would fall right back on him.  lokasari_pinkflower2013_0026My time at Bring Me Hope has been a journey.  I’ve learned what love really means.  I’ve seen it in the faces of each of the orphans.  I see the Father in them.  My heart both rejoices in them and mourns with them.  I see the Father more now than I ever have.  Caring for the unloved, the orphan has healed my heart from self-protection. I see this pure and blameless religion washing over me.  I’m so thankful for the wonderful opportunity to have gone to China for the third time this summer.  I went in brokenness and came back whole.  Thank you Father and thank you little broken beauties.  I’ll never stop loving you.  I’ll never give up hoping for you.  If you desire a family, I’ll hope that with you and mourn that with you.

 Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) -Rena

Past Camper to Future Volunteer

This week I was contacted by a young woman interested in volunteering for Bring Me Hope 2014.  As we continued to talk, I squealed with joy when I found out this girl, Anna, was one of our past campers!  There is something about reconnecting down the road with a kid that came to camp that makes life so real!2013BringMeHopeSummer_0045v

“My name is Anna Coiner. I attended Camp Bring Me Hope when I was in the orphanage in Jiangxi Fu Zhou . When we heard that we were going to Camp Bring Me Hope, we were all very excited. When we got to Camp Bring Me Hope, we did lots of fun activities. We went to the bowling place and played games, that was our first time went bowling.  We colored  our shirts and made key chains.  It was so much fun.  When we finished designing our shirts we all put the shirts on and take picture of us all together.  We also went to the river to swim.  I also remember that David Bolt jumped to the water because he saw snake but when he jumped in it was not snake it was just stick we all laughed.  I really loved the volunteers.  They were so kind to us.  I felt loved by them. We all really liked when the volunteers said “Good Night”  to us in English.  We also played musical chairs, it was an awesome game.  When Camp Bring Me Hope was almost over, we were all very sad.  We all were crying because we didn’t want to leave Bring Me Hope. 2013BringMeHopeSummer_0046 2013BringMeHopeSummer_0047

The next year, a couple kids that attended Bring Me Hope at they got adopted by an American family.  I was the last one to get adopted by an American family.  My family loves me and is taking care of me now.  I have been America for 6 years. Now I want to volunteer for Camp Bring Me Hope. I want to help the orphans just like when I was an orphan at Camp Bring Me Hope. I want to tell them about my story when I was in the  orphanage and then I got adopted by an American family.  I want to tell them all the fun things we did.”  Anna Coiner
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And here is Anna today…I already love this girl!

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Thank you Anna for contacting me and sharing your story!  We hope to see you next summer as a volunteer at Bring Me Hope Camp 2014 (woot woot, which will also be our 10 year aniversary)!

New Shoes │Taiyuan Recap

Today is story time from camp Taiyuan.

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pinkflowerphoto_0049 pinkflowerphoto_0050About a week ago we had a little girl named Suzi join us.  Suzi was a kind & warm hearted girl who loved her camp family to pieces.  One day Ciara, her Irish volunteer, brought her to the store and went straight to the shoe section.  Suzi’s shoes were “in bits” and didn’t fit her anymore, so it was Ciaras intention to surprise her by buying a new pair.  As they were looking at shoes, little Suzi began to cry and explained she didn’t have money and could never buy a new pair.  It took her awhile to finally understand that Ciara was buying the shoes and that she didn’t have to pay her back.  Ciara said, “She finally realized that I was going to give her a gift and her eyes got so big!  She couldn’t believe that someone would buy her new shoes!”  The rest of the day was all smiles from Suzi as she happily received the simple gift of new shoes.pinkflowerphoto_0052 pinkflowerphoto_0053 pinkflowerphoto_0054

One of our favorite parts of camp is giving out camp awards. Every night the ‘Award Fairy’ comes to our Assembly Hall (the Award Fairy is played by our crazy-fun staff member Keri) and each night new campers receive awards such as, “Most Generous” or “Biggest Smile.” We wish everyone could have the opportunity to see these orphans nearly burst with pride when their names get called to receive an award. They come up to the front of the stage and everyone cheers and claps for them as they hold up their awards. One of our little campers who joined us last year brought her award from last year which she keeps in a special folder because she is still so proud; even a year later!pinkflowerphoto_0055 pinkflowerphoto_0056 pinkflowerphoto_0057

This week we sent a few of our volunteers to ride back to the orphanage with the kids. They said as they looked around on the bus, so many of the kids had opened their memory books to the page of the ‘family photo’ and were just staring at the picture. Many of the kids looked at the picture and cried as they drove back to the orphanage. This really touched our hearts because we put a lot of time and effort into making the memory books, but we didn’t know how important they really were to the kids. These orphans cherish their memory books and many of them keep them in special places to keep them safe.pinkflowerphoto_0058

Although each week our little campers are carrying home lots of new things with smiles on their faces, our biggest hope is that they carry in their hearts the truth that they are special, important and very loved.  Camp is so important for these kids and in many cases is considered one of the highest points of their lives.  These are lives changed when you and I show love to these kids through volunteering at camp, sponsoring an orphan & standing alongside of them and advocating!  We want to thank you all for the difference you are making in the lives of these kids…who now can see that they are loved and have a hope that can carry them through.pinkflowerphoto_0059 pinkflowerphoto_0060 pinkflowerphoto_0061 pinkflowerphoto_0062 pinkflowerphoto_0063 pinkflowerphoto_0064 pinkflowerphoto_0065 pinkflowerphoto_0066 pinkflowerphoto_0067 pinkflowerphoto_0068 pinkflowerphoto_0069

For The Kids,

Bring Me Hope

Welcome to Yantai Camp│Week #1

We love featuring updates for everyone about camp life.  It is a great opportunity to share what HE is doing in the lives of orphans & volunteers and how you can change lives by sponsoring orphans and advocating for our camp kids!  Who knows…maybe it will inspire you to become part of the adventure and adopt a sweet little kid or volunteer at Bring Me Hope summer camp 2014?

We had a crazy week here at Yantai but I guess that’s to be expected with a new location, constant rain and daily power & water shortages 🙂  However, the great part of all of this is that the kids didn’t even notice the number of times our schedule was thrown out the window.  They were smiling and having the time of their life.  What a joy it was to see them squealing when we brought the ocean to them (the rain prohibited us from going to the ocean) and they got to “go fishing” in a blow up pool.  I think the comment that I heard the most throughout the week was, “Wow, I thought I was coming here to serve orphans and teach them life skills, but it’s the kids that are teaching me!”  We’re super thankful for all the opportunities He gave us this week to learn what it means to rely on His enduring strength and unshakable wisdom.

This is one of our favorite camp transformations and we can tell from the pictures not only that she is loved but His daughter…she is so beautiful and deserves to be treated like a princess!

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May (Chinese Camp Director) >“This beautiful girl is delayed and it is clear that she has received messages her whole life that she is not worthy of love.  The first day of camp she was constantly looking down with hunched shoulders and cowering in the corner.  It was amazing to watch the love of her translators bring about transformation to her whole body stance over the course of the week.  They didn’t let her disability disarm them but instead treated her like a princess.  They were true sisters to her.  They taught her how to look up and face the world and created a safe place so she could!”

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Nancy (Volunteer) > “It was amazing to see how the children changed from Monday to Friday.  Only He could bring that kind of transformation.  I hope that they will allow this transformation to carry them through this year!”IMG_86002

Graham (Chinese Staff) > “I learned how discipline can bring two people together.  I was afraid of disciplining Mike at first but then I took him aside and talked to him about bullying.  He didn’t take it well at the time but by the next day and throughout the week he would always initiate interactions with me and constantly come find me to chat or hang out.  These kids need LOVE – and it comes in many different forms.”IMG_35145

“She was crying all night and wouldn’t let me go.  I whispered to her, “You can fall asleep in my arms.”  She finally calmed down and went to sleep.”2

Kate (Volunteer) >“I had two buddies, they looked so similar I could have sworn they were twins. The first one I bonded with really quickly, the second child was  little resistant.  We were sitting outside McDonalds one day and I was teaching the first one how to kiss me on the cheek (she had never seen this done before) and then the second girl randomly came over and planted one on my cheek too!  What a privilege…teaching two little girls how to express love with a kiss on the cheek!  It was definitely a highlight for me!”

Thank you for reading and letting us share our heart for the orphans…what the world deems as broken is made beautiful by sharing Him and loving on these kids!  What a privilege it is to be part of their story!

P.S.  We are still taking “Orphan Sponsorships” to cover camp + kid costs!  If you would like to take part and see more lives changed like this past week at Yantai visit this link >http://bring-me-hope.myshopify.com/products/sponsor-an-orphan

For The Kids!

Bring Me Hope Foundation

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Love Like an Ocean 2012

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Videos, photos and updates from our summer camps in Kunming, Taiyuan, Nanchang, Xin Zheng, and Yantai.

Staff Summit

All of our summer camp met up in Xin Zheng at the beginning of July to prepare for camp. Between out meetings we managed to get some fun in, including a game that ended in people eating snails and chicken feet.

Kunming – Week 1 – Ballet and Waterslides

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Week one in Kunming was a success! It was an amazing experience, yet again, to love on these little kiddos. The girls put on a ballet show for us, while the boys enjoyed all of the outdoor activities. What a blessing to have them in our lives for this one short, but awesome, week!

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Taiyuan – Week 1 – Camp Kicks Off in Taiyuan!

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We jumped right into summer camp in Taiyuan with an amazing group of volunteers from Texas and whole bunch of energetic kids!

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Nanchang – Week 1 – Back in Nanchang! Thank you, JMC!

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Our one week mini-camp in Nanchang was a huge success! This was the first time since 2008 that Bring Me Hope held a camp there. There were many happy reunions and new friendships made. In Nanchang, we had the added benefit of being near the headquarters of one of our biggest sponsors, JMC, so several JMC employees were able to join in the fun! We are so thankful for all the support JMC has given us over the last seven years. Not only have they been involved with the Nanchang camps, they have covered the entire Bring Me Hope transportation budget! Wow, we appreciate their heart to help orphans so much!

Xin Zheng – Week 1 – Something Beautiful

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Wow, what an amazing week He prepared for us in Xinzheng! We cannot even begin to describe everything that took place in the last week, but we are thankful and humbled to be a part of something so beautiful.

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Yantai – Week 1 – A Rebuilt Camp!

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A great week which happened courtesy of the One who can take a broken camp with no pool, waterslide, swimsuits, bedding, first aid supplies, (or pretty much anything essential to a summer camp) and rebuild it, overcoming the difficulty and giving us all that we asked for!

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Kunming – Week 2 – Another Amazing Week

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Week two in Kunming was a huge blessing! It was another amazing week to have these kids in our care. Thank you all who participated this week! It couldn’t have happened without you!

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Taiyuan – Week 2 – Zoo, Crafts, Songs, and LOVE

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With over 100 people at camp this week we had the biggest Bring Me Hope camp of the 2012 summer here in Taiyuan, China. It was an amazing week! So many kids had the opportunity to leave their orphanages and enjoy a week of fun. The kids got to go swimming, go to the zoo, do crafts, sing songs, and experience lots and lots of love.

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Xin Zheng – Week 2 – Eagles Wings

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We had an amazing week with so many beautiful kids from the Eagles Wings foster home! The rooms were echoing with laugher the whole week! Many of these kids are available for adoption and ALL of them need sponsors. You can find out more information here: www.eagleswingschina.org

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Yantai – Week 2 – Blessed

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We had some wonderful children from the orphanage join us. What a blessing to spend this week with them!

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Kunming – Week 3

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Taiyuan – Week 3 – Talent Show

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Our third week here in Taiyuan, China. We had 20 kids come, 15 Chinese translators and 14 American volunteers. The kids were so sweet and had such a fun time. They especially liked swimming and even got to go to a water park! On Thursday night we had a talent show and we were amazed at our kids’ singing and dancing skills. We were sad to see the kids go but are so glad that we all got to meet each other.

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Xin Zheng – Week 3 – Returning Orphans

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This week we had the opportunity to have kids from the Zheng Zhou orphanage come to camp. Some of these children have been coming to camp every year since 2008! There were a lot of hugs and happy reunions when they got off the bus!

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Yantai – Week 3 – Rejoicing for Forever Families!

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Week three of Yantai camp was full of rejoicing as four returning orphans prepare to join their forever families. The rest were showered with hope and joy as we rode bumper cars, ate a whole lot of ice cream, and visited the ocean to see what love like an ocean is like: high, deep, and wide!

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Kunming – Week 4

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Taiyuan – Week 4 – An Unforgettable Week

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Our final week here in Taiyuan was so memorable. We had 12 of the sweetest orphans. A lot of the children this week had a range of more serious special needs than we expected and also brought us more joy than we could have imagined! Many of the children went swimming for the first time in their lives. They got to eat delicious food, sing and dance every night, and they got to visit a theme park and ride some fun rides. It was a week none of us will forget.

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Xin Zheng – Week 4 – Amazing Kids

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Our last week of camp at Xin Zheng! All of the children were from a private orphanage and we are amazing by how friendly and well adjusted they were. It was a great testament to how loving care can change lives! We were so thankful to spend the week with them!

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Yantai – Week 4 – “I’m going to have a family…”

2012Ryan

Week four was a celebration of victory and triumph over pain in orphans’ lives. One orphan’s quote sums up why we do this: “I am going to have a family because of the summer camp. I am very thankful for that.”

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Last Week in Xin Zheng

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Shine Like Stars 2011

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Photos and stories from our camps in Xi’an, Xin Zheng, and Yantai

July 2011 – We kicked things off in Beijing at the Staff Summit!

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Yantai Camp – Week 1 – A New Family!

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The first week of Shine Like Stars summer camp began with the birth of an extra special family group. The first boy who bounded off the bus was Andrew, a little guy with a limp who came to camp last year. Andrew smiled big when he recognized Uncle Mike and laughed as he was on the receiving end of a huge bear hug. He waved to his buddy from last year, and was introduced to his translator and his new American buddy, Adam. Back home in Minnesota, Adam is a good friend of Andrew’s soon-to-be-parents. Andrew smiled wide and immediately loved his buddy just because he knew he would see him soon in America.

Nine more kids filed off the bus. Then, through the bus windows, we could see a familiar repaired-cleft lip smile. One moment she was slowly standing from the two-hour bus ride, the next running down the stairs faster than any of the other orphans.
A year ago Da Mei left camp as an orphan, seen by her big sisters at camp and no one else in the world. Now, the same big sisters ushered her forward as she joined the same family group, knowing that her American buddy, Adam, was her new big brother—her forever big brother.

On Tuesday we had the best waterpark time on record at Yantai! Andrew and Da Mei were leaders, diving right into the fun knowing exactly why they were here. We also brought the kids to KFC for ice cream. When Andrew and Da Mei were here last, our family snapped photos, enraptured with two orphans who sat by themselves and ate ice cream and French fries like they were kings and queens. Now, as they sat together, everyone could see that Andrew and Da Mei were part of a real family.

On goodbye day, everyone was sad, but there wasn’t a hopeless spirit like other years when we say goodbye. We’re only saying goodbye for now. Even for the kids that aren’t coming to America within a year—nine of the orphans are available for adoption, and our volunteers know that the best way for them to know the good news of peace is to know the peace of a family, where, watching and feeling a mother and father’s love day by day, they can know their true Father.

The Mahoney Family, staff at the Yantai camp

Xin Zheng – Week 1 – A Surprise Arrival!

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On Thursday night the Sias staff took a train down from Beijing to Zheng Zhou. From there we took a little bread box bus to XinZheng, where Sias University is located. We arrived late and were slightly taken aback by the complete emptiness of the rooms. We were grateful to be staying a new building, however this meant we were responsible to find/buy everything needed to house 88 people in 14 rooms. Friday morning found us back in Zheng Zhou with a shopping list three pages long, including 88 pillows, 88 blankets, 88 mattress pads. We visited seven different stores and haggled for nearly three hours. Finally, success! We headed back to the university with our van piled high! The rest of Friday and Saturday were spent in a whirlwind of similar shopping experiences and other camp preparation.

Sunday morning we woke up to a surprise phone call. “The kids are on their way!”. What? We were not expecting them until Monday afternoon. We were not even close to ready for the kids to come yet. However, we managed to throw together all their rooms in 30 minutes and were all able to come out to welcome 23 excited faces. After many hugs and introductions, some of the staff took the kids for a hike up the mountain, while the rest of us stayed behind to piece together some semblance of a schedule. I had a million things running through my mind that needed to be done, so when our camp director, James, suggested we take time to lift the situation up, I felt a little annoyed. “Doesn’t He want us to have things ready for camp?”. A moment later, the need became clear when James’ wife, Charissa, started joyfully thanking Him because this meant we had more time with the kids! This is what I love about our team here. When some of us loose perspective, there is someone wiser who sees what He is doing! Thank you, Father, for giving more time with Your children!

Lacey Scott, staff at the Xin Zheng camp

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Xi’an – Week 1 – Off to a Great Start

We have a great group of not only kids, but translators and volunteers. I love watching them become such close family groups, hearing the kids call them by endearing names like Mama and Papa, or Grandpa and Grandma. One little rambunctious little guy, who has captured the hearts of many here, became so attached so quickly that he snuck out of the room he was sharing with his translator buddy and other children early in the morning and found the room of his foreign buddy. As soon as the door opened, we were told, he ran through and jumped right into the bed.

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We used the scarves made by friends back home in the States this week as a camp prize!! Each week, we give the kids awards for something they are good at. “Best eater” “Best Smile” “Best Runner” things like that. So this week, each child got a certificate that had their name and what their family group felt they excelled in, as well as a handmade hug! It was so much fun to see their faces when I placed it around their neck!

Carm Hepworth, staff at the Xi’an camp

Yantai – Week 2

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Xin Zheng – Week 2 – Love Acts

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[It’s] love that makes every day and every week of Bring Me Hope camp happen. It’s Love that causes people to travel 10,000 miles to be with a kid. Love doesn’t just sit around and do nothing – Love ACTS. Love causes us to play games of basketball in 90 degree weather with 80% humidity. Love leads us to cuddle, sing, and pray for Chinese orphans to sleep when we feel completely exhausted. Love doesn’t just ask you to sit back and watch the world unfold around you. No, Love demands that you run straight to the heart of the world and unfold it yourself. Love may not be glamorous and it may not be easy. It can break your heart. But man, lemme tell ya- it’s life changing.

Jenessa Petersen, Xin Zheng volunteer

Xi’an – Week 2 – A Mom for the First Time

We had a group of kids well known to camp, with all but two kids having been to camp at least once if not twice before. It is so good to be able to keep in touch with these kids from year to year and to watch them change.

2011Icey

At 12 years old, Icey has already had to go through so much and her emotions can often be hard to discern. However, I knew from the look in her eyes that she did in fact remember me. I knew that she would be matched with a mom and her daughter who were only at camp for a week. In her time here, I saw a difference that was unmistakable. In both years before, she had a jie jie (big sister). For the first time ever at camp, she had a mom as well as a sister. I could see how happy she was to be part of a real family, and how much she wanted to make it more than for just a week.

Carm Hepworth, staff at the Xi’an camp

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Yantai – Week 3 – An Adventure Story!

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Week 3 at Yantai is an adventure story, but one where the Father was the author! The night before the week began, a bus full of folks from Bring Me Hope’s Continue Home, having been kicked out of their apartment, joined our camp. Most of our volunteers, meanwhile, were stranded in the Beijing airport due to a huge rainstorm. When our kids arrived Monday morning, we only had two American volunteers!

It was Tuesday before the volunteers finally came, and Wednesday when our friend Brenda arrived with her son Isaac who was adopted from China. Finally, our camp was full of people—dads, daughters, mothers, and sons! Morgan came to China with her father and had eyes full of delight through all of camp, from the KFC trip to goodbye day. She chased her dad’s buddy Steven around with a smile on her face every day and joined in every activity with the kids. All week we could see the hearts of all the teenage girl volunteers being transformed, because they were here with their families. Every person’s heart was touched by Xiao, who, despite a skin condition, did everything with a smile.

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On Thursday, the kids had a victory parade, and the next morning, before we said goodbye, we smeared cake over each other’s faces. There were tears, but there was also happiness—these volunteers knew they were called for such a time as this. The only thing they wished was that they could stay longer.

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Not only did we raise 1,000 RMB to take care of Xiao’s condition, but all but one of this week’s orphans are available for adoption. There is hope!

The Mahoney family, staff at the Yantai camp

Xin Zheng – Week 3 – His Children

I’m sitting on the roof of a six-story building, surrounded by freshly washed blankets I’ve just hung out to dry. The city is thick with its normal smog and the air is heavy with humidity. I feel a thunderstorm coming. Hopefully it will hold off for another hour until all this bedding is dry. Inside the building I hear our three and a half faithful washing machines dutifully cleaning 40 children’s bathing suits, swimming caps and towels. I say three and a half washers because one machine is only faithful to wash and not to spin dry. Still it’s better than hand washing!

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I’ve come up to the roof not only to keep an eye out for rain clouds, but also to reflect on some of what I’ve been experiencing these past few weeks. Updates are difficult to write, not only because of time constraints, but because of the voice inside my head continually telling me no one will really understand what is happening here. How can I convey how touching a hug from Bao Bao is, when none of you know he is a little boy with Downs Syndrome from an abusive orphanage?

2011Baobao

Who can understand why I cried when AnAn left, except someone who saw the bond we developed this week? What can I make you feel the same anger I have when I see Yan and know nobody wants her because she was born with legs that cannot walk?

2011DongYan

It’s difficult knowing the things I experience in my “China World” will never translate back into the language of ordinary life. At the same time I know you all understand what it means to love and be loved. Thank you for remembering our team as He teaches us how to best love these children. I am remembering you in your callings. Thank you for being a part of The Body, brothers and sisters.

Lacey Scott, staff at the Xin Zheng camp

Xi’an – Week 3 – And the fun continues…

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The kids are here! Another week is starting, and we once again have a bunch of awesome family groups! It has again been raining, so we are finding other things to do besides outdoor things. We are also using the wet to our advantage! There have been relay races, balloon fights, and plenty of dumping water over each others heads!

Pottery continues to be a big hit each week and it’s so much fun to watch the creativity of the kids come out. Some of the kids are just naturals, while others just enjoy being able to get dirty!

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Our volunteers are doing such a great job of getting involved! We have even had one graciously accept a leading role in our nighttime assembly play. The purple princess dress looked ever so pretty on him! It was so cute to see the look on the kid’s faces and hear the sound of surprise when he stepped out from behind the curtain! He was such a good sport.

Carm Hepworth, staff at the Xi’an camp

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Xin Zheng – Week 4 – Camp Video

Xi’an – Week 4 – Another Heart Changed

We are sitting here as a large group of staff, along with two volunteers that are ‘honorary’ staff members, passing around the memory books to be signed, as if they were year books. In a few short hours, our camp will be over! OVER!

This week it was wonderful to watch the oldest girl at camp. She was very frightened and upset when she first arrived. As the bus pulled away she tried to run after it to go home, and continued to repeat her desire to leave. When we all went in to have our first assembly, she stayed outside the room quietly sniffling and bemoaning her situation. It was not until half way through our fun and games that she wondered into the room and we saw a glimpse of her first smile. As the week wore on, she became more excepting of her surroundings and ventured to try new things and join in on the group activities.

Carm Hepworth, staff at the Xi’an camp

Yantai – Week 4 – Proclaim His Great Works!

“Our Father has done it! We are debriefing after a four-week adventure that rocked our world. We’re exhausted after the most fun we’ve ever had in our lives and all the crazy things that happened we couldn’t have foreseen. Typhoons invaded, motorcycles crashed, idols were removed, cake fights went on, fried bugs were eaten.

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It’s time for us to proclaim the wonderful things He has done. This summer:

– A volunteer’s life was changed when he met his new sister for the first time
– All the volunteers plan to come back next year…with their families
– Seven families expressed a new desire to pursue adoption…six of whom want to adopt specific kids from camp
– Twelve people were buried with Him in water and raised with Him through faith.
– One hundred and six Chinese orphans’ lives were changed forever.

We don’t say goodbye to the kids or our Chinese friends, we say “see you soon.” Even though sometimes it feels like leaving a family member behind, we know this is right because He sends us home with a burden to tell people that which we’ve seen, that which we’ve heard, that which we’ve seen with our eyes. And even though it feels like an ending, we know that He has more plans, more beginnings, and even more grace. And we remind each other that the best is yet to come.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in making this summer the miracle it’s been.

The Mahoney family, staff at the Yantai camp

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Shout for Joy 2010

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Photos and stories from our camp directors in Kunming, Xi’an and Yantai.

July – Off to a great start in Kunming!

Bring Me Hope’s 2010 staff just finished a wonderful week in Kunming, China. We were able to connect, plan, and really bond as a group before heading to our three separate camp locations for the summer. We had a lot of meetings, but even more fun, as you can see in video of this little Aussie game we played!

Now we are all awaiting the arrival of our first campers on Monday! We look forward to seeing all that is in store for this summer!

Staff2010

July – Yantai Camp – Preschoolers and the Hospital

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Our first week of camp isn’t even over and yet the adventures have already begun! Our children arrived and we were surprised to find that they were almost all toddlers or preschool age.

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We were expecting a few kids around five and ranging up to twelve, but the oldest was about nine and we had more than a couple under four! The kids were mostly excited to jump into the activities of camp, and even the most reluctant children were excited when it came to pool time.

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On the second day we had two boys who needed medical attention for pre-existing condition. Zhong, who is about five years old, was suffering from eye inflammation that at first everyone thought was pinkeye. We took him to the hospital to be treated and they found out that the eye was inflamed because his eyelid is inverted and his eyelashes grow upwards into his eye, causing scratches that will eventually blind him. He will need surgery to correct the eyelid, but in the meantime the doctors taped the eyelid down so that the eyelashes would no longer bother his eye. Zhong was so excited by the makeshift eye patch that he dragged his foreign volunteer, Lydia, around by the hand so he could show everyone!

We also had to take another boy, Jing, to the hospital due to a severe cough. The doctors diagnosed him with a form of pneumonia and said he would need daily IV treatments. During the treatment, Jing, who is also missing his right hand, bonded strongly with out staff member Teresa. During the group photo on Wednesday Teresa was showing him how to wave at the camera and Jing stopped her from waving and began to push some of the fingers out and others in. He showed her the sign for “I love you” in Chinese and began to tap each of her fingers, saying “Wo ai Ni” (I love you), over and over.

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This week we had many first for the kids and also for Bring Me Hope. We took the kids swimming, which is always a highlight for them and for us. This year we even had an inflatable raft that they took rowing all throughout the swimming pool. We took them to a local amusement park and got to ride bumper cars, spinning dolphins and even a flying elephant ride. We even had a beach day full of sand and surf and all the crabs, clams and tiny little fish the kids could find. Summer camp is never boring, that’s for sure!

July – Kunming Camp – Water-park Thrill!

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We are off to an amazing start! It was an awesome, fun-filled, life-changing, blessing beyond words time. The children are always quiet when they first arrive, but in a matter of hours are laughing, playing, and enjoying being loved. When it was time to go, every single child, translator, and volunteer, was crying. We always go away each week blessed by what we (our WHOLE FAMILY) have experienced and witnessed, and wishing we had a huge house with lots of rooms.

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Eight-year-old Anna was one who captured us the most this week. She sobbed when she told her volunteer about her mom dying. And she later asked her volunteer if she could kiss her on the cheek. Another highlight was when three of the little boys walked into the water park. First their eyes bugged out, they threw their arms into the air and then they screamed in excitement! What a thrill to witness this!

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July – Xi’an Camp – Bringing Cheer All Over Xi’an

Here in Xi’an, our volunteer and staff teams are made up of people from Australia, Ireland, England, America, and China. We’ve had continuing jokes about not being able to understand each other, especially the Americans with the Aussie lingo. But in all seriousness (which is a rare thing for us!), we have loved our joined unity over our common goal of helping the children.

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We had two groups of precious orphans with us this past week, most of which were energetic boys. They had a blast visiting Ocean World, running through the Xi’an fountain show, and swimming.

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One fifteen-year-old boy named Loren made an impression on us all. He has CP, though that sure doesn’t inhibit his joy. He was constantly laughing at his silly seventy-year-old volunteer, Alan, who sported goofy hats every morning.

2010Alan

Alan and Loren were quite a sight walking around the city of Xi’an together, with huge smiles on their faces, they would greet every (and I mean every) passerby with a big wave and a loud “NI HAO!” which mean “HELLO!” They continued greeting people until they broke into a smile and gave a little wave. The pair brought so much happiness to literally hundreds of city folk in Xi’an this week, and not only them, but also to the rest of our camp and to each other.

July – Yantai Camp – Lots of Teenagers!

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This week the Yantai camp went from a preschool to a high school! While we still had a couple younger kids, the majority were teenagers! We were also once again blessed with an abundance of boys, which made things more complicated for our female volunteers and translators. But they stuffed up and loved their boys like the sons, nephews and brothers they might have been.

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Since we had so many larger boys, pool time was a much more active endeavor than the previous week, and the small ball games and swimming lessons were overtaken by water fights, splash wars and a game of keep-away that eventually devolved into a full contact game of “tackle the guy with the ball”! We were able to get our waterpark up and running. This lead to flips, slips, jumps, push wards, water hose battles and a few accidental trips down!

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A big event for the camp this week was the beach. We tried out a different one and found not only a better spot for swimming, but also a place to take rides on jet skis and powerboats!

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The big highlight for everyone was a powerboat tour along the coast of Yantai that included views of cliff sides, cliff top temples and lots of dips and turns along the way.

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Bai Bai was the youngest camp this week at about five years old. Desprise being the smallest and youngest, she has the most sass! Her favorite word was “bu”, which means “no”. All week her volunteer, Carm, and her translator told Bai Bei “Women ai ni” (We love you), but didn’t get much response. One the last night of camp Carm went into the say goodnight and gave Bai Bai and hug. When she said “Wo ai ni” yet again, Bai Bai looked up nonchalantly and replied simply “I know!” and smiled.

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July – Kunming Camp – “The Happiest Time of My Life…”

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We can say “Hurray” for week two- not that it is over (ha!), but that it was very successful and fun. We had another amazing group of children. Everyone connected well with their children and played hard. Our goodbye party, complete with a beautiful cake for eating (not throwing, a typical Chinese tradition) was filled with many heart-felt words of love, affection, and disappointment at having to leave.

Here are a couple quotes from the kids to their foreign volunteers:

“When you said, ‘I love you’ to me, although I didn’t have enough courage to speak out, I did say it in my heart.”

“Hello, beautiful like flowers sister. This week is the happiest time in my life.”

Every day you take me to eat ice cream. That is a happy memory in my life. Every day in the camp, I was so happy.”

July – Xi’an Camp – Adoptive Family Volunteers

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Like a refreshing summer rain storm, week two of camp has come and gone in Xi’an. We were yet again blessed with a group of volunteers from all over the world. The Knipe family from Florida were especially excited to spend the week with children from their adopted daughter’s orphanage!

A six year old boy named Wei Wei grabbed all of our hearts. He is blind and very small, but he reminded us that no child is insignificant.

July – Yantai Camp – Lots of Rain!

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In Yantai the word for week three was FLEXIBILITY! It seemed like a comedy of errors, as not only did we lose access to the swimming pool for the entire week, it also rained with some lightning and thunder thrown in, enough to throw out any plans we had for outdoor activities and disrupt the schedule of assemblies and meetings. Despite these obstacles to our plans, the staff, volunteers, translators and kids came together to have a blast of a week where we even managed to throw in a few surprises!

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Tuesday came in with a roar that would have made any lion proud. Rain, lightning, thunder and the staff at our hotel telling us that we would have to turn off the electric equipment before anything nearby struck us with lightning. While we had to shorten our assembly, we were able to lengthen our family and give an extra night for the kids to contemplate come questions about what they wanted to be in the future and what they thought it meant to be a man or a woman.

By midweek the skies were still dark and stormy so, instead of risking a trip to the beach, we found an indoor water park. It had two slides, one smaller tube and a huge rafting slide, plus a gigantic pool complete with a hidden tunnel. It also had a large fountain to run through and a smaller kiddie area for the younger campers to enjoy. While the tube slides were somewhat troublesome to get through, especially for some of the larger staff members who kept getting stuck halfway down, the large raft slide became a hit both for those of us daring around to ride down in and for the spectators who got to watch.

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One of the character lessons we have been teaching this year is the story of Joseph, a young man who is abandoned by his family in a faraway land and there comes to great power and responsibility. At camp we had our very own Joseph this week, a young man named “Steven”. At the age of six, Steven was told to wait on a train while his parents took his sister to the restroom. Hours later and miles away, Steven was still on the train, but his family never returned for him and he ended up in an orphanage. Now Steven is seventeen and has been trained as a design artist. One of our camp sponsors, Terry, a manufacturer who also produces our t-shirts, visited camp. After finding out Steven’s story and hearing what a good man Steven is striving to become, Terry offered Steven a job in one of his factories!

July – Xi’an Camp – Like Family Dinner Time

What happens when you have a group of willing volunteers, helpful translators, agreeable orphans, and a big Father? We found that it leaves you with a pretty seamless week of camp!

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The children love making pottery, running through the city fountains, and goingto the pool with the giant water slides. But something our more meaningful camp moments happened when we were simply hanging out together.

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The more intimate times of making bracelets for one another, reading bedtime stories together, and watching people perform in the camp talent show are precious moments. Like spending time with family around the dinner table, we don’t need anything fancy to enjoy one another!

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July – Kunming Camp – Keep Lifting Us Up!

On a personal level we (the Heddens) have not had the best of weeks. So many lows- Luke’s camera and much of his equipment was stolen. We found out we will not be allowed to adopt our foster daughter, Bryn. Finally, Amy’s mom was moved to a nursing home on Friday. We felt as though we were under severe attack!

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We have been amazing though that despite all this, but His grace, camp has gone very successfully. Translators’ lives have been changed in eternal ways, our volunteers are so kind and loving, and the children have been showered with a love they so desperately long for and eat up.

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One little boy wrote to his volunteer, “When I get big, I will come and find you!” One little girl who was at our camp last year as well saw Tim walk in, jumped up from her place at the table, grabbed his hand and said, “You come sit with me!”.

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We are so blessed to witness and to be part of this whole wonderful process!

August – Yantai Camp – Charlie: The Story So Far…

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Four years ago Charlie came to a Bring Me Hope camp for the first time and spent a week with a family group. During that week Charlie told his life story and it was one that shocked everyone who heard it.

When Charlie was around three years old, his mother had a love affair and left her family for another man. Charlie was left in the care of his father, who was very poor. Charlie’s father married another woman who treated Charlie alright and bore a new baby sister for Charlie. But there was no love in his life. When the stepmother also left, Charlie’s family was destitute.

One night, after eating in a restaurant, Charlie’s father was unable to afford the bill, so he left Charlie’s infant sister as payment. Charlie didn’t understand until later that night that his father was not playing a joke, but had really left his sister behind.

Soon after his father was at a hotel with Charlie and once again could not afford to pay his debt. This time he planned to use Charlie as payment. But the manager of the hotel called the police and Charlie’s father was taken into police custody while Charlie was sent to the orphanage. He was eight years old.

In the years after his abandonment Charlie suffered many disheartening events in his life, including being tested because he was put in a kindergarten class, despite being such an advanced age. He was also mistakenly identified as mentally handicapped, due to his low class placement.

In 2006 Charlie came to Bring Me Hope came for the first time. Since then he has become a repeat visitor and this year we were lucky enough to have Charlie visit us here in Yantai for a week. He was placed in a family group with Logan, another boy from his school, Crystal, a translator, and Marina, a volunteer from Canada.

While Charlie was shy at first, he was obviously very curious about what was going on around him and there was no concealing the brightness in his eyes. On the first day he was one of the last kids to join in on the water-park. But once he got on and began enjoying himself, he was also the last to leave. During our trip to the indoor-water-park Charlie was swimming and playing with all the kids. He even picked a few different volunteers and translators to take turns riding down the inner tube slide with him.

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Tuesday night the family groups were asked to answer a few simple question: What do you hope for, what do you want to be when you grow up, and what do you worry about. Charlie’s biggest worry is much the same as any child his age: his future and his education. While most kids wonder how they will succeed once they reach adulthood, Charlie’s worry is much closer to his heart due to the fact that he has been place so far back in school and has fallen so far behind. He doesn’t know what idea he wants to do in the future, but he does know he does NOT want to become a beggar or cleaner.

Despite the life he has lead and the evil he has witnessed and suffered, he is a boy full of love. When asked what he hoped for, his answer was simple: For Bring Me Hope camp to get better and better. When his volunteer, Marina asked him why, he said “So more kids can come and enjoy the camps and experience love!”

Charlie’s story is ongoing, as are the stories of all the other hundreds of kids that have come through our camps. Their lives are hard and their needs are great, but hope is our there for them. Here is a excerpt from Charlie’s good-bye letter to Marina, a glimpse into the heart of a strong, joyful young man.

“I am happy we are family. It is hard for me to say good-bye. I hope time can be frozen. You are like a mother that loves me and cares for me. This is the most beautiful memory that I have ever had.”

August – Xi’an Camp – Newly Abandoned Child Comes to Camp

Just a few days after being abandoned, “Sean” came to our camp in Xi’an. For an eight-year-old, Sean was extremely withdrawn and quiet. At first, he didn’t smile, respond to our questions or keep eye contact with anyone.

Halfway through the week, Sean really started to come out of his shell. He began smiling at us, playing along with games and going down the huge water slide at the pool. We even began having to chase after him because he was so excited to explore and experience things at camp. We saw the Father’s provision for Sean’s life that at just the time he was abandoned, he was ushered into his new orphanage family with other children, during a fun camp where he was told how loved and he special he was.

August – Yantai Camp – Dead Fish for lunch?

Our final week in Yantai we were blessed to have thirty-eight kids! We had toddlers, teenagers, and, for the first time at the Yantai camp, an nearly even spread of boys and girls.

On Monday we had kids from three orphanages arrive and we knew right away this was a rowdy group. We had kids of all shapes and sizes running around and none of them were worried or shy. Right off the bat we had craft time and then walked straight to the water park. Unlike the past week, these kids took to the water without any hesitation and were soon barreling down the waterslide.

Later in the week, thanks to the return of the sun, we were able to go to the beach. It was a great day of sun, small surf and rides of the jet skis. It was a highlight moment when one of the kids brought a flat fish up to the sitting area and tried to feed some algae to it, all the while saying “hungry fish, eat, eat”. It was even better when the boy searched around for a plastic bag, dumped the fish and some salt water in and told us he wanted to take it home. Luckily we were able to convince him that fish are better off in the ocean.

During family time one afternoon a volunteer, Lindsay, took her boys to the local market to buy some snacks. The boys had never seen an escalator before and took turns riding it up and down, thinking it was a ride rather than a convenient way to travel between floors!

Friday was goodbye day and the long hugs and tearful goodbyes continued even after the kids were gone. Eventually it was time for all the translators, volunteers and staff members to go their separate ways. Some were returning home, other were heading off for further travels and a few are remaining for the first ever Chinese run camps. It was four weeks of love, friendship, laugher, and big smiles (with a few sad moments sprinkled in!). From all of us here in Yantai we want to thank everyone for their love and support, especially our volunteers and translators who worked so hard to make camp happen!

September – BMH Volunteers Return to China to Visit Camp Buddies!

2010Susan

My name is Susan. My daughter, Alexis, and I went to one of the BMH summer camps last year. Wow, what a great time we had! Perhaps because they were old and I am a mom, I bonded especially well with my two campers Yan (16) and Qingqing (20). It broke my heart to watch them leave on the last day. Lily, my translator, spent an extra day after camp before we parted ways and we solidified a friendship that had been growing that week.

After camp Lily and I emailed each other a couple times a week. Yan and Qingqing were continually on my heart and I could see that they were on Lily’s heart too. We talked a lot about them and I told Lily that I felt I would be back in a year so that we could all be together again.

As the months went by, the Father provided money for my “China Fund” again and again. Although I was dismayed that the cost of returning to china had more than doubled, still the money was provided for both my daughter and me to go. Lily explained to me that she had told her family so much about the girls and her experience at camp that her father was interested in meeting these orphans and the Americans who cared so much about them. Lily called the orphanage and they agreed to allow us all to visit.

2010orphange

The most important part of our time together was spent at Lily’s home with her family and Yan and Qingqing. I don’t believe her family has ever met a Westerner, but they welcomed us into their lives and treated us as honored guests. My greatest desire was to see the Father bond Yan and Qingqing’s hearts to the hearts of Lily’s family—and that is exactly what he did. Lily’s father announced that the girls must come and spend their future school vacations with the family from now on!

2010LilyFather

In an email I just received from Lily’s sister, Violin, she wrote, “Your coming has changed my whole family a lot! We were curious and joyful. Now we understand love deeper. Dad and mom often talk about you. There is no different between Chinese and Americans to come degree. We love you all and hope for another wonderful meeting together.”

2010LilyFamily