Academics / January 2017

Student Service in China Leads to Big Questions, Bigger Answers

Originally from Manchester, Iowa, Madison Coates is a current junior nursing major, journalism minor, and vice president of the Mount Mercy University Association of Nursing Students. She is also a student ambassador, manager for Mount Mercy University Volleyball and member of the Nurses of Vision and Action.

By Madison Coates ’18, Student Contributor

If I learned one thing last summer it was this: sometimes God challenges you in the most unfathomable ways.

Last summer, I spent 16 days working with Bring Me Hope, a Christian organization in China with a mission to improve the lives of orphans around the world. My journey began in Wuhan, China, where Bring Me Hope relies on volunteers to run a camp for orphans.

“I loved those kids with a love I imagine they have never felt.” — Madison Coates ’18

Each child who came to camp had a form of disability. Before a policy change in 2016, each Chinese family was allowed only one child. Now they are allowed two. Because of this, many families abandon their children if they have any hint of physical or mental disability—they are hidden from society. But these children are beautiful and perfect.

At the beginning of the week, each volunteer was paired with one to two translators before being paired with the kids who completed our family groups. The first week, I was paired with two sweet girls. Maylee, who was 12 and diagnosed with mental retardation, was the most energetic and fun little girl I have ever met. The other was Hannah, age 15. She had the biggest heart for her brothers and sisters, and showed me a true love for others.

[photo] Madison Coats '18

Madison Coates ’18

The second week was spent in Taiyuan, China, where I was paired with two little boys—John, 5, and Mark, 7. From the moment I saw them, I knew I was in trouble. John stole my heart. He is the most adorable little boy who has the cutest smile and gives endless hugs and kisses. Mark is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and taught me the meaning of true joy—he loved to laugh and enjoyed every moment.

Both weeks, I fell deeply in love with my families. We spent every hour of every day singing, dancing, swimming, laughing and reading bedtime stories together. I loved those kids with a love I imagine they have never felt.

When people ask me how my trip to China was, I often say “it was the best and worst weeks of my life.” It was the best because I was able to show God’s love to these kids who have felt nothing but abandonment. It was the worst because once Friday came, I knew that they were heading back to a place where they wouldn’t receive that love and attention.

Bring Me Hope has a policy that every person who comes to camp, both kids and translators, hear the Gospel. In China, it is illegal to spread Christianity, so I was going against the grain of the culture. It was amazing to see the opportunities God gave me to share the Good News with my translators and kids with the hope that they will eventually come to know God and His amazing love for them.

Even so, I often felt anger and resentment towards God. How could He let these horrible things happen to the kids I came to love as my own? I had to constantly remind myself that His heart breaks for the same things my heart breaks for. He loves the orphans of the world, and He calls us as Christians to love them as well.

As a Christian college student, I think it can be hard sometimes to step out of my comfort zone to experience what God has waiting for me. China was one of the most amazing life-changing experiences, and without taking that leap of faith, I would never have met those four amazing kids.

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