A tight-knit group of CMDS graduates took their servant hearts abroad this summer, embarking on an 11-day mission trip to Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village in Tianjin, China.
The group consisted of nine high school seniors, one college student and two dads, Bruce Grissom and Stan Harding. They spent most of their time at Shepherd’s Field, a foster home for at-risk, special-needs orphans who have been abandoned.
Harding and Grissom wanted to expose the boys to other cultures and help them learn to think differently about other people, especially those that society has deemed broken and left behind.
“Specifically, I wanted them to get to know some orphans because I knew that would change their perspective and probably lead to a different life pattern,” Harding said.
Nine of the 12 who went on the trip are CMDS alums, and the high school seniors currently attend six different schools: White Station, MUS, Christian Brothers, ECS, Germantown High and St. George’s. The common thread is their years at CMDS and their enduring youth group at Christ United Methodist Church.
“After Christ Methodist, kids go in all different directions,” Harding said. “For them to stay connected and close and want to hang around together, that’s a pretty big deal.”
Grissom noted that the makeup of the group was especially beneficial for Shepherd’s Field. “Most mission teams do not consist of all young males,” he said. “We were able to take care of many big jobs that needed to be done on the property while loving on the children on a daily basis.”
Not only was there time to play with and hold and hug the children, but they also spent time encouraging the Shepherd’s Field staff, most of whom are American missionaries. “They’re living in a difficult culture and life can be really hard on them,” Harding said.
The group also connected with Chinese students and teachers. And Harding and Grissom, who have been the boys’ Sunday School, youth group and Discipleship Group leaders for eight years, enjoyed a deeper dive into Scripture with their young charge. They helped the boys see their international exposure through a Biblical lens.
“We also did Bible study in a more intense way than they’ve really had the opportunity to,” he said. “That was one of my primary goals, to help them learn to pick up the Bible and start reading it, verse by verse.”
The CMDS Bible Verse for the Year is 1 Samuel 12:24, “Serve the Lord faithfully with all of your heart, consider what great things he has done for you.”
A personal connection
Harding had been to Shepherd’s Field twice before, the second time to pick up he and his wife Stephanie’s now 8 year old daughter Zoey.
Their son Will accompanied his parents on that trip to meet his younger sister for the first time. And he experienced a heart-wrenching moment. Will had become close friends with a boy his age, and that boy finally had a family lined up to adopt him. But he narrowly missed the state’s14-year-old adoption age cut off by one week.
“My son witnessed that. Here’s this boy who can’t be adopted even though there’s a family that wants him,” Harding said. “So that was all part of the story, things that they got to learn in their trips. Things we wanted them exposed to. If somebody doesn’t take these kids in, they’re basically stuck without a family.”
The group did get to see an adoption during their July trip. Another severely handicapped child who had lived at Shepherd’s Field for eight years was to be picked up the day after they left.
“We served God by loving on all the children at Shepherd’s Field,” Will Harding said. “We are called to love and care for orphans and I believe we helped do that.”
Stephanie and Stan Harding are heavily involved in orphan and foster care ministry through Christ Church. He said there will be more trips, and more opportunities for parents and children to travel abroad together. Those interested in more information about mission opportunities through Christ Church can reach out to Harding via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the church’s Serving & Outreach department directly at 901-261-4386.