Hope in the Orphanage
Words by Tiffany Bluhm // Images by Lizzie Randazzo
When I stepped off the plane into India, so many thoughts swirled through my mind. I hadn't visited India since I was adopted at 18 months old. I had always wanted to return, so when the opportunity presented itself, I didn't hesitate. But travelling to India meant willfully embracing the mystery of my beginning: I was abandoned at birth, one of millions of children orphaned on the streets of India. No mother, no father. Just me.
I was left at an orphanage run by Sikhs. My “baby” picture resembles an infant mug shot rather than a photo of a bright-eyed baby. But though I was left without anyone to care for me, God was there. Psalm 27:10 reads, “Even if my father and mother abandon me, my Lord will hold me close” (NLT).
I couldn't understand why someone wouldn't want me. What did I do wrong? Whatever it was, I was sorry and longed to meet my birth parents. Questions about my abandonment and rejection ate at my juvenile mind. I have since come to know Christ and am actively and passionately pursuing an intimate relationship with him, but in my youth I struggled with strong feelings of abandonment.
In the orphanage I peeked into each crib and felt my throat start to tighten. Many of the little ones had rashes, chicken pox, and, I’m sure, more than that. Their chests rose and fell as they slept in the corner of the room. After a few minutes they started to wake up from their naps. The first little one started screaming, and I motioned to the caretaker for permission to pick her up. She smiled back at me so I took her gesture as approval of my request. I scooped up the screaming baby in my arms and she kicked and screeched as I drew her near. Her eyes darted around the room looking for someone she knew but never landed on a familiar face, so she screamed until her eyes turned red and tears poured down her face.
I felt like deep down she knew something wasn’t right. She knew there was someone missing. She spent her waking hours waiting and watching for someone to call her own. Those feelings of longing have faded as Christ made his home in me. I found he’s all I ever needed. My time with that baby left both her and I in tears. She cried for someone to love and I cried for her loss. Soon after they had all woken up, I was sitting among a dozen baby girls, all orphaned. I broke. I fought back hot tears as they motioned to be held, cuddled, and caressed.
While trying to keep my composure I decided to pray. I laid hands over a crib and started to pray. I believe without a doubt God was in that room. Regardless of how these girls ended up in an orphanage, I had to believe God was present and near to the destitute. He loves the poor Indian baby girl that was left in the dumpster as much as he loves you and me. I know he does. Another baby who was by far the smallest, about five pounds at three months old, wore a shirt that said, “My Mommy Loves Me.”
I prayed and pleaded with Jesus to bring a sense of family, of nearness, to these orphaned girls, and asked him to bind up the brokenhearted. As I was praying I was overcome with the relentless love of God—a love that seeks you out in your most vulnerable moments, a love that doesn’t explain your past but instead sets you on high ground for your pilgrimage forward, a pilgrimage in the name of love, justice, and truth.
The morning of the orphanage visit I had been reading Ephesians 3, and had never been so deeply moved by Paul’s encouragement to the church in Ephesus as I was that day. Verses 17 through 19 read, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (NIV).
A love that surpasses knowledge is sometimes more than we want to accept. For me, it meant that no matter what context I discovered in the orphanage, no amount of knowledge would prompt love for God. We aren’t prompted to love by answers to life’s questions; we are prompted by the Spirit to experience and understand the love of God. Up until that moment my questions prevented me from trusting that God loved me. It took a trip across the world to carve the questions out of my soul and replace them with deep compassion and love. Romans 8:17 became my heart song, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (NIV).
When we accept the love of God into our life it transforms the way we think, believe, dream, relate, and love. We want to skip over our aches and pains, forgetting that through our hurts, we can find what we’ve been looking for: healing and restoration—a healing that can cast off doubt, and restoration that eases anxiety and fills us to the brim with grace.
I may not have a clue how each of those darling babies will be cared for, or where they will end up in life, but I do believe Christ is near in their brokenness: he cares for the broken hearted, he sets the captive free. He will be their father and mother. He will love each and every one of them with an everlasting love. Of this I am sure.