About a week ago, Curt Trent received a call from China. On the other line were five screaming children and he didn’t mind a bit. The children are ones he will always cherish and, inwardly, wish he could take home and care for them himself. But Trent is 22 and a senior at Anderson University. And these children are across the world. Trent met these children and about 25 more this summer while volunteering at an orphanage in northeast China. Through Christian Human Relief, a nonprofit organization, Trent spent two months working with children with mental and physical disabilities. “It’s rather disheartening,” he said. “Most of these kids will never be adopted.” Trent worked alongside two other North Americans—one from Canada and one from Florida—throughout the summer. Trent does not speak Chinese and was born and raised in Anderson.
“They do their best there to use a family system with five children to a room. They call their caretaker the equivalent to ‘aunt’ in our language.”
Trent volunteered with teaching-about two-third of the kids were mentally functional enough to attend a class-and with some physical and play therapy. He will graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He hopes to continue on in the seminary or law school.
Many of these children are featured in classified ads on behalf of the orphanage in hopes someone will become interested in adopting them.
On such ad read: “I’m Hong Yao and I am a girl who is two years and a half. I can’t respond to your voice. I need His miracle. Please tell Him my desire. I’ll appreciate it a lot.”
Each of the kids share the same last name, Shen.
“They don’t know their last names,” Trent said. Some were just dropped off at the front door without knocking. “What is supposed to happen is parents are supposed to go to the police to give up the child, but one day we pulled up and a young boy, semi-asleep and semiconscious, was lying outside.”
The orphanage does not know the children’s birthdays either, so they pick a few kids to celebrate their birth each month.
While Trent felt a connection with each child he worked with, he found himself drawn to on e in particular” Lu Ping who is suffering from spina bifida. He used to be referred to as “diu diu,” meaning discarded.
The orphanage is run by the government of China. Until just a few years ago, the children inside were often neglected.
“Some kids couldn’t walk and hadn’t been taken out of their crib in three years,” Trent said. “Some used to have festering wound on their backs.”
But the government changed who was in charge of the orphans and their treatment greatly improved.
During his stay in China, Trent shared an apartment with two men about his age who lived 40 minutes away in a city of 7 million people. Both men worked with the orphanage as well. Trent brought into the country several Bibles to share.
“I was dreading taking them at first but I was ill informed of what the consequences would be if they were seen. When I showed my two Chinese roommates, their faces lit up like I opened a suitcase of gold.”
In the city he was living in, there are only two churches, both of which are run by the government. The Bible would be used in underground church and to help educate the children. To break the monotony of the orphanage, the volunteers, along with other volunteers who would come in through different organizations every few weeks, took the children swimming and ran a vacation Bible school class.
“Someone from the U.S. sent $500 and said to use it to take the children swimming,” Trent said.
“So we stretched that money out for several swimming trips. It was good socialization for them and good physical therapy.
“It would be a great feeling to be able to help these kids more,” Trent commented.
“I would love to go back. Their phone call made me miss them even more. They were so excited to call and all yelling in Chinese-all five at once. I don’t know if I will be able to go back. But I miss them and value what meeting them has done for all of us.
“It sounds so cliché, but we just take for granted all that we have here. These children have taught me so much about the value of life and what life is about.”
— Writer Stacey Grosh is a reporter with Anderson Herald Bulletin