About three days into our stay at Maria's Big House of Hope, I started feeling dizzy. I'd be standing up, and I'd feel like I was going to fall over.
I excused myself from a few team activities just in case, but dismissed it as being really hungry from not eating a lot of the Chinese food.
I woke up the next morning completely congested with a pounding headache. As I laid in bed in the early morning, watching all the other teammates go and play with the kids, I thought, I'll just rest for this morning. Then maybe I'll feel better this afternoon.
We were going to Downtown Luoyang that morning and, despite my protests, our team leader sent a nurse to check on me and make sure I was okay to go. While I adamantly said that I was fine, he told the nurses and the other team leader how I had been sick for two days in Peru, and hadn't told anybody. I gave up. I couldn't argue the truth.
Thankfully, the nurse said I could go as long as I didn't push myself too hard. Excited, I left and went to visit the beautiful Downtown Luoyang. But about halfway through, I started feeling worse. It took all my focus and energy to walk. Just get to the end, I thought. I took a nap when we got back, and was feeling somewhat better, but still didn't want to play with the kids if it meant them getting sick.
When I woke up the next morning, I felt like death itself had come for me. I was so congested I couldn't breathe through my nose. I was coughing so much I was having trouble breathing. My throat hurt so bad that I had to clench a pillow tight in my fists to offset the pain every time I swallowed.
And silent tears dripped down my cheeks.
Why me? Why me, God? At this beautiful building where I can care for special needs orphans all day, every day. Where I'm living out my dream. Why now? We only had a short time here, and God had made me sick.
Suddenly I felt completely useless. Why would God want me on this trip if I was only going to get sick? If I wasn't going to be of any help to the team or to the orphans?
It was then that God revealed to me a truth that I had refused to see for a long time. Simply because I hadn't wanted to see it. Physically loving orphans isn't the only way to love orphans. I realized that because my only way to love the orphans of Maria's while I was sick and weak was to go room to room and stand outside, praying over each of the children individually. And it struck me that I was loving these orphans. Maybe they couldn't feel it. Maybe they couldn't see me. But God could. And God could use my prayers to love these orphans.
I was laying in bed, sick, for two days, and by the time I was sort of well enough to play with kids, it was our last day.
I had to be very careful not to breathe on them, and I had to wear a surgical mask. I sanitized frequently. With my mask on, and my voice completely gone, I realized that the only way I could communicate with these kids was through my eyes. I had to convey all my love and joy and passion through my eyes.
Would my kids recognize me? Would they be scared of me? As I visited my little boy Bryan, I could see the confusion in his eyes at first. But as I looked into his eyes, and focused all my love for that boy through my eyes and into his, his face lit up. His smile covered his entire face, and his eyes returned the love.
While I was angry at God while I was sick, I am learning to realize that getting sick in China was God's faithfulness to me. I needed to be taught a lesson, and through His Hand in my China experience, I was able to learn it so that I would never forget it.
I think about how much it pains me when I have to hold Levi down at the doctor when he gets a shot, and how much it hurts me to watch him scream in pain, not understanding that I'm doing it because he needs it and because I love him.
How much more must God hurt for us when He has to do things to us that we don't like or understand in the moment. So I thank God for being strong and "hurting" me when I didn't want to be hurt. Because through that small amount of pain, I have gained a small amount of wisdom.