God is awesome. Let me just say that really quick. I just have to give Him so much praise. Yesterday I lost count of how many times I cried overwhelmed tears due to the way God was moving in response to prayer. I am still in awe of him and so excited that so many have seen Him in big ways in the last week or so. I believe the best is yet to come. In advance, I apologize if this blog post is a bit back and forth and a bit long. I hope I don’t miss any details.
Many of you already know that Josh and I have taken in an exchange student from Belgium. She is such a great fit for our family. She isn’t used to having much younger kids in the home, but she is patient and has adapted well. Her spunk and sass is a nice addition to the male-heavy tone in our home. 🙂 She has been such a blessing to our family. We decided to host through Cultural Homestay International (CHI), an organization I would recommend if you are interested in doing the same. Our family will never be the same having had her in our lives. She is such a ray of sunshine in our home.
On August 25th, I logged into facebook to find a message from our CHI Tennessee coordinator saying the following:
Students and families please keep a 16 year old young man from China in your thoughts and prayers today. He is an exchange student with CHI in the state of Illinois. He is in critical condition after suffering a stroke yesterday while in PE class. He has a blood clot in his carotid artery. He is unconscious and on a feeding tube at this time. Please pray that his family will get here safe and quickly and that a miracle will happen for him.
Naturally my heart began to cry out to the Lord for healing and peace. I instantly placed myself in the shoes of his host family and his natural parents. My word. I cannot even make myself go to either one of those places. God impressed upon me to find a way to serve him during that time. While our coordinator and her assistant were on their way to St. Louis to show support for that situation, I contact them and asked if I could organize a card shower for the student and host family. They agreed.
This is what was posted on facebook. This is still an option of you’d like to get involved:
A. Send greeting cards of encouragement to his host family, his biological family and/or him. We are asking that you put “Host Family” “Student” or “Family” in the lower left hand corner on the back of the envelope so each card can get to the right person without the cards having to be opened first.
B. Send a prepaid debit card to be used by the biological/host family for gas, food and/or personal items associated with staying at a hospital and possibly rehab center for a little while. There’s no telling how long they will be here, but his biological family had to leave China quickly. Changes are they forgot things. We all know how expensive eating out can be and what a hit that can take on one’s finances. If you were a person who wanted to rally your Sunday school class, this would be a great option for a group support effort.
C. Send Domino’s, Jimmy John’s and/or Pizza Hut gift cards. The cafe on site is reportedly VERY expensive. There is a Pizza Hut on site so these could be used there or for delivery. All three of these places deliver. This would be another great option for Sunday schools or small groups to either purchase a variety of cards or one larger card to one place.
D. For those in Coffee, Bedford, Franklin, Cannon, Moore and Warren counties: I am collecting non-perishable foods (peanut butter crackers, fruit cups, pudding, granola bars, etc), gum, mints, small coloring/activity books, cards etc to for the family to use in the waiting area. I will be sending this box NEXT FRIDAY (the 7th) to give people enough time to gather items and meet up with me. Depending on where you are located, we may have to meet in the middle.
The last I heard, nearly $100 in prepaid VISA gift cards had been received and delivered to the family! Thank you for helping! That’s awesome! Donations also came in locally of food and financial support for the care package. That was shipped out today and should arrive Tuesday!
During the coordinator’s stay in St. Louis, they posted this update:
He has a tiny hole in his heart that has probably been there. The doctors believe that the long flight caused the blood clot to set up and it has just been floating around until it found the hole and that is where it lodged.
They have removed his breathing tube to see how he is going to do on his own. China will only allow one emergency visa so his natural father is getting that. The flight is so long so hopefully he will be here in a couple of days.
At this point many began to pray that God would work it out so that both parents could travel to be by his side during this time. A time later, we were given this update:
Update: His family will arrive tonight at 9:15. His parents and little brother all got their Visas!!! He is conscious, but still unable to move anything on his left side. Thank you all for your prayers and support. We will be heading back later this evening.
Praise GOD! God provided for his whole immediate family to travel to be by his side! That’s something only God could do! He went above the law of the land to provide for this student!
Upon their arrival, CHI hired a translator to help the family speak with doctors about decisions and to gain their whereabouts. From what I understand, it is unclear how long this individual will be able to stay to offer his services. Something in my heart just wanted to cry. Having been to India, I can slightly relate with how it feels to look around and see VERY FEW people who look and sound like you do. Here are these parents (and brother) plunged into a situation where their son is very sick, they can’t speak the language, are unfamiliar with the food, have no idea how to get around (not that they would probably want to leave their son’s side)…and the translator will only be available for a short time. My heart just felt so bad for them. I tried to think of people I knew in the St. Louis area and remembered one of my friends all through school lived in Missouri. I contacted her on facebook and began to discuss the cards and then expressed my desire to find someone to reach out to them in person. I began to look for Christian chruches in the close proximity to the hospital with not much luck. I thought maybe I could help coordinate meals for the family and general outreach during this hard time. Each time I found one which looked promising, there wouldn’t be contact information available. SIDE TANGENT: If you are in charge of a church website, PLEASE make sure there’s a phone number listed. Your website is somewhat ineffective if someone in need can’t have access to you or your ministries by way of phone. Looking back, I can see it was God’s plan though. Just yesterday, September 3rd, I did yet again another search for churches in St. Louis. What popped up? “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church!” I literally sat there with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I didn’t type in anything special. Nothing different from the other searches I had done for a week leading up to yesterday. It was just God’s timing…and it was perfect! And guess what? There was a phone number so I called and left a voicemail.
After a couple of hours, I called again because I figured nobody would be in the office on Friday. The following is a bit of a summary of our conversation:
A man answers the phone: Hello?ME: Hi this is Andrea, I called earlier about a Chinese exchange student who is currently being treated at St. Louis Children’s Hospital…”
It was at that moment my brain realized when he answered the phone he said, “Hello” and not something along the lines of, “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church, this is ____. Can I help you?”
ME: I’m sorry. Is this St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church?
MAN: No. I don’t go to that church anymore. When I did attend there anymore. How did you get this number?
ME: *Palm to face* I’m thinking, great….I thought this was God’s provision. “I searched for churches in the St. Louis area whom I thought might help reach out to a Chinese exchange student who is being treated at Children’s Hospital. Do you by chance have the phone number for that church?”
MAN: They don’t have a lanline number that I know of.
ME: Oh boy…ok, well…. hummm. What about an email address? I tried to email them but the email was returned because that email address isn’t in use anymore.
MAN: That was also my email address.
ME: Shoot…ok. I am looking for a church who can reach out to a Chinese student and his parents. He is an exchange student and suffered a stroke last week. His parents are in from China but they don’t speak English at all.
MAN: Do you have an email that you can send? I will forward it to the pastor of the church I go to now. It’s called Chinese Gospel Church.
ME: Yes. I will do that when we get off of the phone if I can have a good address to send it to.
MAN: *he gives it to me*
ME: Great! I will send it to you when we get off the phone. Thank you!
A few hours later, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. Normally I just let it go to voicemail, knowing if it is a sales call they won’t leave a message. Moments later, my phone beeped with a voicemail. Because I was making dinner I wanted to check it. When I did, I got tears in my eyes again. It was an elder from the Chinese Gospel Church calling to get room number and additional information about the student. Not only was I connect with this church in a way that the world would say was “by chance” but they had follow through! I called the gentleman back and discussed the student’s and parent’s situation. I inquired as to when this weekend he would be traveling to the hospital to make a connection. He said it wouldn’t be this weekend, but that very evening. Keep in mind please it’s 9pm while we are on the phone. We prayed before we got off of the phone and looked very much forward to hearing a report. Later I learned that he wasn’t able to visit because visiting hours ended at while we had been talking on the phone but that he and his wife had plans to go around noon the today (the 4th). To God be the glory! A willing and ready servant! You know, it’s great to see someone with the shoes of readiness firmly secured. Praise the Lord! Not only that, he said that they would be turning this into a local mission of sorts.
We are a homeschooling family. While I was at Co-op today, I got a phone call from a Missouri number. I quickly answered it and learned it was an additional elder from Chinese Gospel Church wanting to clear up some communication issues. He also confirmed that they would be working with their fellowship this weekend to make a plan to surround this family in love and service while they are here. I was so overwhelmed by God once again. Currently I am waiting on a report from the meeting that was scheduled to take place today.
Where does this mission project go from here?
Because of the predicted amount of time the family will be at the hospital (they should be able to check into the Ronald McDonald Home sometime soon), I am encouraging those willing to serve somehow through this situation to consider the following in order to keep the support rolling. Don’t forget you are welcome to rally your own church/Sunday school class to get involved.
- Purchasing a package of blank cards from a dollar type store, stamps for those cards and go ahead and address the cards. When God leads you to encourage the family, host family or student, please feel free to do so. I am also giving them out to families with whom I share his situation with who want to help.
- I will be putting together another care package shipment to the family in October. If you would like to help provide items for the box, financial gift to purchase things for the box or pay for shipping, you are more than welcome.
- I learned that the host family is traveling every 3 days or so to the hospital. Their family lives approximately 45 minutes away so they are spending a decent amount on gas each time. I plan to send a card to them also with a prepaid VISA card in it for gas expenses. Maybe consider doing the same? I know if our student was the one sick, I wouldn’t be able to just stay at home. I would be heartbroken and would want to be there, too.
- PRAY for the student’s healing!
- PRAY for Chinese Gospel Church and the work they will be doing for this family.
- PRAY for the peace and comfort of Christ to be accepted by the family of this student.
As of right now, this is what I know about our support efforts. Thank you for those of you who have been a part of this outreach.
- 4 states are represented among those who have agreed to send cards to the student, family and/or host family!
- Close to $100 has been sent to the family by way of prepaid VISA cards! I have been notified that more are expected to be sent as well!
- One church in South Carolina, primarily comprised of single moms, has agreed to take up a special offering for the family and to send cards!
- Countless churches across the United States have placed this situation on their prayer lists.
- God heard the desire of the student’s brother to have Legos to play with. They were purchased for the care package without even knowing of his desires.
I believe that God has something bigger in store for this student and for this family. I just can’t wait to see what he does in their lives. His healing power, his ability to provide comfort and peace during this time of crazy circumstance… Only He will be able to be glorified in the end. He has already showed His power and I don’t see Him walking away now. He is mighty to save and worthy of praise.