Portrait of Shanghai: an orphanage’s perspective

Jessie and Nancy
Portrait of Shanghai: an orphanage's perspective

David, Ricky, and I travel pretty far today to reach Helena’s House of Hope. The area is more rural with no skyscrapers or looming buildings in any visible direction. The streets here are much less congested here as well, which is quite a relief as we have a few roads to cross. We arrive at a two story house with a large black metal fence and we are greeted by Jessie.

The house is pretty nice. Nothing fancy but it has a lot of open space and can accommodate a fair share of people. As we walk into the house we pass by a man in a wheel chair and two ladies in the kitchen. There doesn’t appear to be anyone else in the house.
Jessie informs us that the girls are working today at the factory. She will call to see if they can arrange a quick tour of the factory for us. The man in front of the house is Jessie’s father and one of the ladies in the kitchen is her sister.


A little background regarding this orphanage. Terry and Jessie opened an orphanage in Gao Yao years ago in the Guangdong region of China. There they had served a large number of girls (I can’t recall how many) with ages ranging from very young to 18. Over the years the orphanage was able to secure governmental funding but this also led to increased regulation. It became increasingly difficult to minister to the girls the way they had intended. A few years ago, Terry and Jessie decided to move back to Shanghai where they would be closer to people they knew and could help them. Here they opened Helena’s House of Hope. Helena is the name of one of their donors so the house was named after her.
This house is a little different from the traditional orphanage in that all the girls here are over 18 years old. After the girls turn eighteen they are required to leave the orphanage to seek employment. As many of the girls are disabled, it is very difficult to find work. Helena’s House of Hope aims to provide girls with an environment in which they can learn practical life and working skills in a loving home. Most if not all of the girls that HHH receives are disabled. They are not forced to stay but they are given an opportunity here they would not find elsewhere.
Jessie shares that many of the girls that come here are from other orphanages. It takes me a little time to adjust to the fact that the term orphans can be used to describe a person even up to adulthood. I guess I never pictured orphans to stay orphans. In America, I imagine that orphans are typically picked up by foster homes or adopted. The truth is that I don’t have much experience in this area and so it is quite new to me. Back to what Jessie is saying.
She shares that many orphanages do the bare minimum of giving these girls shelter and food. However, many girls are demoralized and constantly degraded in these environments. Just recently, one of the girls (Grace) disclosed that she had contemplated suicide just before she had come to HHH. This is not an isolated event, many of these girls are broken physically and psychologically. Here Jessie and Terry’s mission is to show them how a true Father loves.
While here at HHH, the girls can choose to work at Home Sweet Home, which is a company that fabricates bags and gifts, or learn another occupational skill. I hope to have a chance to share about Home Sweet Home in a later post.
Sometimes the girls are found spouses and will marry and leave the orphanage. There have been a few marriages in the past year and Jessie says that they try to make sure that the girls are marrying into a loving family and a loving spouse. She sounds a little hesitant and shares that one of the girls recently married and left the orphanage quite quickly. Jessie asks us to pray for her.
Portrait of Shanghai: an orphanage's perspective
Nancy walks in and we get a chance to talk with her. She is one of the orphans in the HHH program. In the picture above, the one on the left is Jessie and the one on right is Nancy. Nancy asks to see her picture after it’s taken, it’s quite funny. Nancy does not speak any english so once again Ricky acts as a translator.
Nancy came to know the Lord through Jessie and now says that the Bible is her favorite book! She’s known Christ about 1-2 years and I smile wide at her response when I ask her what she wants in the coming years. She responds, “a christian husband”.
Over her time here at HHH she’s learned how to be a masseuse but finding the right type of employment is difficult. Many of Shanghai’s massage parlors are quite shady and the workers are exploited so Jessie says they would rather she wait until they find a safe opportunity. David seizes the opportunity to ask for a quick massage and Nancy obliges.

Portrait of Shanghai: an orphanage's perspective

Ricky and I look on enviously and it is clear that Nancy knows what she’s doing in a deep tissue back massage. I tell Jessie that Nancy must be an inspiring success story. Jessie’s face lights up as she tells us about another girl Mona. Mona was a very difficult case and she was resistant to the message of God’s love throughout her stay at HHH. When Mona left HHH, Jessie was uncertain if her heart would ever soften up to accept. Not a few months later did HHH receive news that Mona had accepted Christ as her savior and she was absolutely excited about the prospect of spreading the gospel to the ends of China. What a transformation! Jessie’s face was beaming by the end of this story and we all sit in amazement.

Jessie’s last request is prayer for more workers, more bible study leaders. These girls are thirsty for the word and if only there were God fearing women who would lead them in bible study.

As we leave the orphanage, only two blocks away are massage parlor fronts where girls line up inside ready to service customers. Locals tell us the true story behind these massage fronts and it isn’t pretty. The stark contrast in the direction these girl’s lives are headed is staggering. It is Christ that has transformed these orphaned women, given them a hope and a family that they never once had.

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