I feel like my life has been in fast forward for the past few weeks.
With the help of many, many generous people, I sent off donated clothes, toys, and stuffed animals for the orphans in the orphanage I visited in Peru so that they could get Christmas gifts. The woman who took the gifts down for me was also kind enough to take down three lovingly wrapped shoeboxes, each filled perfectly, with a translated, hand-written note. I love all the kids I met in Peru, but Carmensita, Hectór, and Cesár have a special place in my heart.
I also had the opportunity to volunteer with Show Hope, Steven and Mary Beth Champan's organization that helps fund adoptions and started a special needs orphanage in China. This past weekend was what they called their "Fellowship Weekend", where out-of-town donors come in to see where Show Hope is going and be honored.
Some teenagers were valet parking cars on Friday night. For the first time in a while, I am so incredibly thankful that I don't have my license yet. I was helping sell merchandise. The night before, Chris Wheeler, my old youth pastor, and the director of the new Student Initiatives branch at Show Hope, sent me a text message asking me if I would be willing to share in front of the donors why I cared about orphans so much while he explained what Student Initiative was all about.
I was hesitant - I always am when it comes to talking in front of people - but I accepted. God had put this opportunity in front of me, and I wasn't about to miss it. Although, I did warn Chris that he, of all, people, knew I wasn't a very good speaker.
While my anxiety never brought on a panic attack (thank the Lord), and I never got to the point where I couldn't eat, I was still tense. I was nervous. I hadn't really thought about what I'd say. Why did I care about orphans so much?
My stomach was twisting and turning as the time came for me to go on stage. Three of my fellow orphan advocate friends came up as well. Of course, I just happened to be sitting closest to Chris, so I had to go first.
"Let me introduce you all to Tori Hook," he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Tori has a blog." I froze. Chris had not said a word to me about this. He did not tell me he was going to talk about my blog. And, as honored as I was that my blog was good enough for Chris to share, I still felt embarrassed. I didn't want all this attention. I didn't deserve all this attention. And, I didn't want people thinking I was some sort of SuperChristian just because I'm good at writing. But, he continued.
"Tori's blog is called Shining City Teens, and let me just read you all what it says about the blog..."
He went on to read EVERY SINGLE WORD of Shining City's mission AND the "about the author" section. I'm surprised the entire audience could not see the beet red of my face. Especially when Chris got to the part about how my favorite things are cookies, candles, Snuggies, and classical music.
Then he handed me the mic, saying, "Why do you care so much about special needs orphans?"
I felt my mouth go dry, my pre-planned words leave my brain, and leave a blank chasm where my mind used to be. So I did the only thing I could. I let God talk for me.
"Like Chris said, I have three siblings. All adopted. Two of them have Down syndrome. And they have changed my life like crazy. But the thing that really gave me a passion and a fire for special needs orphan care is: when I went to Peru this summer, I saw the special needs kids there unable to live up to their potential. Because they don't have the resources. They don't have what we have here. And it struck me that the only difference between my brother and sister and those kids is that my brother and sister have a forever family. And, I don't think that, as a Christian, I can stand by and watch while kids like my brother and sister are desperate for someone to love them."
I am always amazed that my words come out so smooth. People always tell me how good I am at public speaking. But, really, truly, it cannot be me. If God left me on my own when I was public speaking, I would probably puke, faint, start crying, or all three. But, somehow, God transforms my weakness into something beautiful. I guess that's just how He works.
The team who brought the gifts to Peru also came back a few days ago. Unbeknownst to be, they had distributed the gifts while they were there, and gotten pictures of the kids. Just yesterday, a man who was on the trip explained to me that he had gotten a video of one little girl opening her box. My hand flew over my mouth, tears sprung into my eyes, and my heart literally stopped. There were only three boxes, and only one little girl. That could only mean one thing - they'd gotten a video of Carmensita for me. They got a video of my baby girl opening her Christmas present. I broke down sobbing in the middle of the Sunday school hallway. They also have some pictures of the other orphans getting their gifts, which I will post, along with the video of Carmensita, as soon as I get them.
My dad is speaking at youth church on Wednesday. I'm leaving for a weekend vacation with a friend on Thursday. The Christmas Warrior Project 2010 is taking off. My heart is SCREAMING ideas for the orphanage in Peru. My life is on fast forward. At least for now.