20 September 2017

Something Worth Living For!

raIn previous issues we have been introduced to members of the McNamara family. Sheila McNamara obeyed God’s call to leave her home in England and go to work in an orphanage in China where she met Amy-Joy. Amy-Joy has now written her amazing story for Rejoice Always readers!

My life began in a small rural village called Hanzhong, in central China, in the year 1995. I was abandoned beside a haystack when I was two years old, most probably because of China’s one child policy. I often wonder what my parents were like and if I have any siblings, but I will never know. I can’t remember much about the next two years of my life, so I have gleaned this part of my story from my English Mamma. Her name is Sheila.

In 1997, I was taken to the local Chinese State Welfare Centre and lay in a basket on a bed of straw. The basket was placed under an open window in the corner of a dark room. I was covered in old coats to keep me warm and fed with watery rice to keep me alive. Mamma said when she first laid eyes on me I was devoid of any emotion, weak, listless and barely clinging on to life.

My Mamma and the team whom she worked with began to pray for me every day. The orphanage staff could not understand how I had miraculously fought death. God gave my Mamma a verse from the Bible for me: Zephaniah 3:17 “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

The weeks and months passed and everyday Mamma would come to the orphanage and take the other children to her nursery class. The Chinese carer who was responsible for us said I was too sick to go with them. Five months after Sheila and the team had begun to pray for me, God answered their prayers in a remarkable way.

The carer arrived at Sheila’s nursery carrying me, the child with no name. As Sheila undressed me for my first bath, she realised I was significantly disabled. I was later diagnosed as having cerebral palsy, affecting my four limbs and I had no movement in my tongue, therefore would never be able to speak. My right leg had a deep pressure sore and I was extremely malnourished. This was the first time I had been outside of that cold dark room since I was abandoned earlier the previous year.

On that incredible day, Sheila cuddled me on her lap, and I looked up at her and smiled. God’s love was bringing me back to life. Sheila asked the Chinese carers to give me a name: they named me Guo Yu Hua, which means beautiful flower of the country. Sheila gave all the girls in the nursery English names. Mine is Amy-Joy. She said as God’s love touched me my face would light up and I was full of joy.

Months passed by and I blossomed, growing stronger each day. Sheila said, “For God’s purposes to be worked out in my life I would need to be adopted because I might not survive in the orphanage.” Sheila prayed and sent letters to her friends telling of my plight and during those prayer times God spoke clearly to Sheila. Would she be willing to lay her life down for me? On August 9th 1999 in central China, Sheila signed my adoption papers. I had a new Mamma.

My Earliest Memories

I remember not wanting to look at Chinese people. Mamma had put a collage on the wall in my bedroom of the photographs of the Chinese children and friends she had made while living in China. She used to pray for them every night. She also would pray that I would love them too.

Snuggling inside my Mamma’s bed when I was only five and asking questions about Jesus, is another vivid memory. That’s when I asked Jesus to come and live inside my heart. A big hole in my heart was filled and my journey with Jesus began.

I had only been in England a few weeks when I started nursery school. This was the beginning of a long and varied education that I am still enjoying. I loved everything from art, horse riding, swimming, dancing, to learning sign language. I was very quick, learning all the new signs and Mamma could not keep up with me so I had to slow down. Sign language gave me the tool to learning to read; now reading is one of my favourite ways to relax.

Just after my 5th birthday I travelled to California with my Mamma, my brother Scott and my Grandma. Easter Sunday morning was the beginning of my independence. My family had hidden chocolate eggs around the room and their plan was to help me hunt for the eggs. I surprised everybody and crawled for the first time. Mamma cried she was so elated. She had spent six months trying to teach me how to crawl and she never gave up.

I won a Child of Achievement award for courage and determination, appeared on live TV and was given a holiday for four in Disney World, Florida, USA.

One night, I had a vision. Jesus told me to go back to China and tell the children I had left behind, that He loved them. God provided all that was needed for Mamma and I to return to the orphanage. The president of the Welfare Centre welcomed us warmly. He was the man who had rescued me from beside a haystack and taken me into the orphanage. When he saw me his eyes filled with tears. He said he could not believe how much I had changed. I had doubled in size and my legs were strong enough to stand up. He was honoured we had returned and he promised us he would do his very best to give us anything we asked. In response to my request, he provided a coach to take all my friends into the local town. Many of these children had never left the orphanage and disabled children were not seen out shopping, so this was a huge request. We let the children choose new shoes and clothes. Then we treated them to a banquet lunch and a visit to a fun park. The day was Easter Saturday and Mamma told the children the Easter Story. God’s timing is truly perfect! My friends said they would never forget this special day.

Visiting the orphanage again, brought back difficult memories, but God had healed me and I was able to share His love with my friends. I realised how much I love the people and the country where I was born. Now, I am proud to be Chinese; I would not change my nationality for anything.

Last year God revealed to me the name of the country He has chosen for me to serve Him in the future. The name of this country is Kiribati, an island in the South Pacific. One day I hope to visit this island and serve the Lord who saved me from death.

I am seventeen now and working extra hard on my studies at school. My dream is to become an Educational Psychologist.

I love to write poetry and inspiring quotes to encourage and bless whoever reads them. This poem is what I believe Jesus is saying to me, but it can also apply to you: … You are a precious and delicate treasure. I just want to hold you close to my heart. Come, let us journey through life together where you can lean on me. I will give you faith that is immovable so you can face the obstacles in this world. I will fight for you when you are weak. You do not yet realise how much I love you, I would not change a single part of you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in My sight, I love you as much as there are grains of sand on the seashore. I will never let go of you, never, because you mean so much to me. Even if you think you are unworthy of my love, know I will never leave you. Come, take my hand I will give you all you will ever need.

The verses in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 are very special to me.

“Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” Because of the perfect wonders of our Lord, I live. He continues to give me strength to rise above the challenges I face. After I die, I will be with my family in Christ, our loving and faithful Heavenly Father forever and maybe I will even meet my birth parents. In Heaven, there is everlasting life and total healing; never give up hope! Just pray and believe in Christ.

My life has, and still is, taking surprising twists and turns. Through it all I sense God’s guiding hand on my journey. Everyday I am constantly praising Him for His goodness, mercy and compassion. Every moment of the day I am grateful for my birth parents who chose to give me life. I wonder what it cost them to leave me by a haystack. I wonder if they think about what happened to their little daughter. I love to believe that they have been and still are praying for me, and my future.

WORDS Amy-Joy McNamara