Precious in His sight

February 11th, 2013

Caregivers walk into a room where an adorable small baby lies in a crib.  Someone has hung a mobile over his head and placed several toys about him.  He is a loved and wanted child and is here only temporarily.  His parents come to visit him regularly.  The caregivers cluster around the baby, cooing and fussing over him and stroking his cheek.

Caregivers walk through the room, not stopping to acknowledge any of the children with significant special needs who lie waiting in their cribs.  One caregiver leans casually against a crib, her back to the thin child lying behind her, no toys in sight.  One small girl hears the voices around her.  Over the sidebars, we see her tiny hand on her tiny contracted wrist rise slowly upward…reaching, hoping for a response…


The strollers are crowded along either side of the corridor.  Each stroller is manned by a baba, and each one contains a small older child with obvious special needs.  There is no place to sit down, no place for an older woman to sit where she can interact face to face with a child in a stroller.  Squatting is too difficult a position for an older woman to maintain for long.  Each baba stands, silent and bored, leaning on her stroller where her assigned charge cannot see her face.  Even a baba I already know and love stands tired and unsmiling behind her stroller.  The children cannot strike up conversations or otherwise reach out for interaction.  So each child sits as silently as if he or she was alone.


A playroom.  One adult is present–a baba who sits with her child at the far end.

In the middle of the room is another child in a walker.  She is motionless except for a hand in front of her eyes, fingers flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping.


The baba sits like a stone statue in the baba room.  She’s in charge of a tiny child who lies motionless, body twisted, limbs contracted, on a mat near her baba’s chair.  We strike up a conversation with the baba.  She turns out to be a decent woman, not uncaring.  But still she sits there in her chair, as if there was no child lying on the mat nearby.  Does the child respond to a loving voice and touch?  Yes, she does.  But for an hour the baba sits there in her chair, offering no interaction, no loving voice, no touch to the tiny teenaged girl she is being paid to care for.


A glance through a window as we pass down the hallway.

Two small girls in a plain, bare room.

It’s playtime.

No adults are present.

No toys are present.

One of the girls lies on her belly on the floor.  She is blind.  She cannot see the wheelchair in front of her, but her hand has reached out and found it. She lies on the floor and pushes the wheelchair back and forth.  Over and over again, back and forth.

The other girl, a miniature teenager, has been placed in a child sized chair.  She can only walk if she is holding on to something, so setting her on a chair in this way effectively immobilizes her.  She sits in the silent, empty room.  She sits.  And sits.  And sits.  And sits.

While a few feet away, the small blind girl pushes the wheelchair back and forth.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.


I look around the circular preschool-sized table, studying each beloved, familiar face.

“E, your email makes me wonder how many blog readers have an accurate picture in their heads of what Tommy’s “school” class is like when they read that post.  I put the word “school” in quotes for a reason.

About half of the children are constantly getting up and wandering from their seats, so the teacher’s biggest job is to keep them all sitting down. My therapist friend got the tiny teenage girl with Down syndrome to pay attention to a toy and reach out and touch it once after interacting with her for an hour.  Most of the children are easily over-stimulated and can’t process sensory input as most people do.  Only one child is verbal, and that child is by far the most developmentally advanced older child in the baby house, not yet at the developmental level of a child half her age.  The estimated cognitive ages of the children range from infant to maybe three years old.

It’s hard to communicate the reality to people who aren’t very familiar with older children who spent their lives having all their needs profoundly neglected without making the children sound freakish.  The starvation they suffered was also starving their brains of necessary nutrients.  There is hand flapping, tooth grinding, growling, random vocal noise, shrieks, toy-throwing, wandering, lip noises, nose blowing (no tissues), hitting the side of the head.  And none of them can help it. It was done to them. They are such pure, precious souls, E.”


I have seen it over and over again now.

It goes something like this…

They were seen as undesirable and thence never received the help they needed to thrive.

The mistreatment they received damaged them to the point that nearly all potential adoptive parents will now agree with the caregivers and see them as undesirable.

So they are still not receiving what they need in order to thrive.


Throughout the week, the conviction grows inside me that what I am seeing in the faces of these very delayed miniature older children is not an obscuring but a revealing.

Nearly everything that can be stripped away has been stripped away, until their essential personhood is revealed as it is.

No self-consciousness.

No image-consciousness.

No manipulative mind games.

No hidden agendas.

No misunderstandings.

No second-guessings.

No unrealistic expectations.

No critical, judging eyes; no prejudice or contempt.

No hate, no mockery, no desire to cause harm to others.

No falseness.

They are transparently themselves, transparently real.

And less stressful, and more restful, than any other group of people I can remember spending time with.

They are miracle children; none of them should even be alive.

And we think that children like these are the most disabled?

I disagree.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said.  “And do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”






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16 Responses to “Precious in His sight”

  1. Noah and Jacob are “conditioned” to hold their backs to us……………..a hard habit for them to break. Picking up a child who twists away to give you his back. :o(

  2. Lea says:

    I remember thinking at one point that my cousin must have had the most knowledge of grace and forgiveness of anyone I knew.  Her parents deliberately did not do her therapy after she became spastic quadraplegic who was also non-verbal.  Her mental function was all there – I can only imagine her anger and sorrow when she realized that her parents had done this too her by choice.  She had plenty of nutrition and people around her who cared for her – could laugh, smile, interact and go to a real school here in the US.  Her sense of humor was amazing and she brought 4 people who cared for her to Christ.  I had the priviledge of being the one to hold her hand as she passed on to her Savior’s arms at the age of 30.  Her “family” was there – I was her only blood relative (her mother could not be bothered to come) and there were 47 people there with us in her ICU room.  My children will always remember their “Auntie” and their acceptance of everyone due to their interaction with her is amazing.  I am so blessed.
    I can only image the amount of knowledge these precious little ones have of grace and forgiveness, even if they don’t know it. We are praying and will continue to do so….

  3. Dalas says:

    I know you have been wanting your words to convey what your heart has seen in these precious children.  I must say, this was explained perfectly.  Thank you for this post. Even after talking with you personally, after reading these words a light bulb went off.  I think I GET it now, even more so than I did before.  Thank you for writing.  Miracle children… yes they are.

  4. Lorena says:

    I am so sad – all those babas, not helping!  We were so thrilled that there was a baba fund to contribute to, and pictured babas loving on these children, nurturing them while they waited for forever families … Are they doing any good, all those babas??  (I know that wasn’t the point of the post, but it struck me so hard!)

  5. Ginger says:

    Your words paint a haunting picture that is new to me despite having read all your previous posts.

  6. Amanda says:

    So very true that they are the most miraculous.  Keith is the most amazing child that I’ve ever witnessed in my life.  I can’t wait to get our next three home and safe and loved and cared for.  This post makes my heart break even though I already have seen.  :(

  7. Kim says:

    Susanna – I can see Christ writing through your hands in this post.  You keep letting him because these posts move me and hopefully will move many people.
    Heartbreaking.  The little blind girl could be my Nellie (did I tell you we have video?)
    Let us all take a minute to pray for these children, the babas and all the caregivers.  May they be showered in love so that they may shine love outward. May the children be seen as precious.  Amen. 

  8. Sharon Robbins says:

    Even before reading this post I had the idea to bring mirrors for each of our children that could hang in their cribs after we left.  But, while we visited I thought that we could use them while we sit and play and talk when they want to sit, backs to us.  At least then they could be seeing us together, side by side, as we smile and laugh.  I’m hoping this will begin to bridge that gap and allow them to be more willing to sit facing us.  Thank you, Susanna for your ability to paint such vivid word pictures of the things you’ve seen and for being able to share them with us.

  9. Ruth says:

    Susanna, Thank you for allowing the LORD to use you and your family…I thank your wonderful husband too. I have been (lurking) eagerly reading your posts and sharing them with our family (husband and 6 children). As I have shared this with them and others I am moved to tears. More importantly, I am moved to tears as I pour out my prayers for each one to our wonderful Savior who created them in HIS image. (Our 7th and 8th children were twin Downs daughters- only we called them Blessed children) Sadly, we only held them for a short time (to us). We buried one at 5 mos. and the 2nd at 2-1/2 yrs. Your posts have opened new conversations around our table about what/how God wants US to do. THANK YOU  and God bless you. 

  10. Susanna says:

    Sharon, it’s a great idea to take a mirror along for the visits. You may find it esp. more so for your little guy since your girlie received a lot of attention and is already so face-to-face interactive. But if you leave things there for your children, they have to be left with their babas or the items will not stay with your children. A friend put a crib activity center in Tommy’s crib for us about a month before I got there, and it was gone, unsurprisingly.

    Another wonderful face-to-face activity is feeding. :)

  11. Susanna says:

    Kim, may I please, pretty please, see the video?

  12. Susanna says:

    Lorena, the babas are minimally accountable for how they’re doing their job, and that’s causing a problem. The organization who provides them cannot adequately hold them accountable from a distance, only checking in on them occasionally. The old director didn’t care. The new director has very high standards. But no matter what she observes about their job performance, her hands are tied because they don’t answer to her. It’s kind of like if someone was coming into your home, working with your children, and you weren’t able to hold them accountable or let any of them go or do necessary training, because someone else was paying and calling the shots. In the past, it was necessary to bypass the director, but not any more.

    I have explained the baba situation at this orphanage to people this way. Doctors who practice in third world countries often have to manage and make do in less-than-ideal situations in ways that would be unacceptable here in the US. That is not saying anything negative or ugly about those doctors! Their efforts are making a real difference, because without those doctors, there is NOTHING. But they themselves know that their efforts are insufficient and would do much more if they could.

    That’s the case with this orphanage. The situation was so bad that even a not-good baba for four or six hours a week was SOMETHING rather than the LESS-THAN-NOTHING the children had received for years, and the SOMETHING kept some children from dying. There are good babas and not-so-good babas, and YES! they saved children’s lives and that’s a wonderful thing! The children with babas weren’t in their beds for those four or six hours a week! I love the babas of both our children! WITHOUT A DOUBT, both of them are alive now because of their babas! But both babas knew the limits of what they could do and are overjoyed that their assigned child has a family! I appreciate those who provided them and have let them know that! But now we can raise the bar much higher, just as doctors wouldn’t continue to practice “third-world medicine” once they had the means to raise the standards higher.

    There’s a reason K. was still only 10 1/2 pounds at 9 1/2 years of age, although she’d had a baba for several years by then. There’s a reason she made immediate huge progress after coming HOME. She needed way more than even the best baba could give her for four to six hours each week–a FAMILY who is with her and loves her 100% of the time. As a dear friend emailed me earlier today, “Adoption, and ‘loving as your own’ is surely the place these children truly deserve to be. It seems that’s where the Holy Spirit miracles truly happen, because adoption is his invention!”

    By the way, some of the money that was raised for babas/nurses last year for this orphanage was used to hire two wonderful, loving nurses for the top floor. And there are more plans afoot which I hope to tell everyone about once I know more.

  13. Maureen says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Ginger’s comment. It’s hard to imagine how it is that someone can look at a child and simply not care. But they are amazing, truly the least of these who will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  

  14. Anna T says:

    Dear Susanna, 
    I enjoyed reading your post this AM!  I love how Verity answers questions incorrectly sometimes on purpose, Jacob does that too, he doesn’t laught, but, I can see it in his eyes (and thankfully so do his teachers and therapists, LOL!)!  Love to see Katie standing at the piano!  Steven was safe and comfortable in his big brothers arms when he fell asleep : ) !!  I hope that everything went OK yesterday with returning your items, thanks again for being so generous with another family in need.  Unfortunately I have witnessed assistants in a special needs preschool being minimally helpful.  When I was reading about the babas I was thinking about that.  
    ((Hugs)), prayers and love to you and yours, 

  15. Dawn says:

    Hello Susanna,
    I have been following your Blog.  Praise God for your faithfulness to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  You have inspired us as a family to pursue a special needs adoption of a baby from China.  We have 8 children, 5 biological and 3 adopted.  Two of our children have special needs.  Our 18 year old son has Asperger’s Syndrome and our 4 year old daughter has epilepsy, developmental delays and difficulty with walking.  We are looking at adopting a child with missing legs or possibly a child with CP.  I would love to talk with you or at least email you with some questions that I have.  Please let me know the best way and time to be in contact with you.  I know that God will continue to bless you and your sweet family.  
    In the grip of His grace,

  16. Susanna says:

    Dawn, I’d love to talk with you again. :)

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