“PIE-purr. PIE-purr. PIE-purr.”
Several times a day, I would overhear Piper practicing his new name. This was often accompanied by jumping, clapping, laughter, or a delightful combination of all three. I think it is safe to say that out of all the kids we were privileged to name, Piper was the most excited about his new name.
It was our very first day to have English camp with all of the kids. We had taken everyone outside to teach the kids some new games. Several of the kids in our beginner class were too young to participate, so we all started over toward the jungle gym. We told Piper that he could stay with the older group since we guessed him to be somewhere around 10-12 years old. He shook his head adamantly and began to run with the rest of his class.
I walked around the jungle gym snapping pictures of the kids as they played. Piper kept running up to me and making the same odd hand gesture. I had already caught on that the kids made a peace sign with their fingers every time a camera was around, so I assumed this was some other gesture that I just didn’t understand. I would smile and nod my head.
Eventually, he ran back and had written something on his hand in Chinese characters. I nodded my head again, completely ignorant of what he was trying to communicate. He ran back a third time and had gotten one of our translators to write “JESU” below the other characters on his hand. I felt like an idiot when I realized that he had been making a cross with his fingers. I almost started crying when it finally got through my thick head that this boy was trying to communicate with me about Jesus. We hadn’t talked about the Lord, read the Bible, or even prayed yet so I was an equal measure of excited and confused.
Apparently, my emphatic nodding after his last attempt to communicate wasn’t enough for him. I saw him dragging one of our translators over to speak to me. “He wants you to know that he is a believer in Christ and loves Jesus like you do.”
It took me a second to form any kind of response. I was baffled. I asked the translator if he was, in fact, living in the government orphanage. He was. “How would he have heard about Jesus?” I asked. I listened as a string of excited Chinese phrases flew out of Piper’s mouth as he explained that his family had told him about Christ before he came to live at the orphanage.
After multiple questions over a period of days, we were able to piece together a bit of his story. Piper’s parents were Christians, but his father died of cancer when he was about 5 or 6 years old. His mother either couldn’t handle taking care of him financially or she was in shock after her husband died, and brought Piper to the orphanage shortly after his death.
One day, one of the men who worked for the orphanage had read the story of Creation to the children. Piper, speaking through a translator, told us that we should be reading the “good news” to the kids. He ran and grabbed the Chinese storybook Bible and had little Peter read the story about the crucifixion to the other kids. As soon as the story was over, Piper clasped his hands like he was praying and looked up toward the sky and said, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” He took the Bible from Peter and immediately flipped to the story of Saul becoming Paul and motioned for Peter to continue reading.
I wish desperately that someone could have been a full time interpreter for Piper. There was something so special about him. This kid, who heard about Christ sometime before the age of 6—who lost his father to cancer—and who is now living in a government orphanage—has a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I was—and still am challenged by Piper’s relationship with God. He had everything earthly good taken away from him at a very young age. Yet, when he hears someone read about Jesus dying on the cross for his sins, he responds by lifting his eyes toward his Father and crying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5