Abandoned to Abundant

The story of Li Shi's life journey

Esther Lee, ICC Canada’s Promotions and Development Officer, tells us the incredible story of a young man named Li Shi. He was one of the first boys to come into ICC’s care in the mid-1990s, having been abandoned by his family at a young age. Almost 20 years later, his story is an inspiration to everyone.

Li Shi lives in Changsha. He was one of the earliest children to be taken into International China Concern’s care and is a testament to the impact of giving love, hope and opportunity to the abandoned and disabled of China. 

Li Shi was born with cerebral palsy. While having no effect on his mental abilities, it heavily affects his physical abilities and his speech. When he was only five years old, his mother abandoned him.
His name, “Shi,” was a name given to him by his father. It means, “having a successful career,” and shows the expectation his parents had for him when he was born. When his father learnt that Li Shi was disabled, he took on multiple jobs in order to earn enough money to raise and care for him. But because of over-work, his father became ill and subsequently passed away. 

Li Shi was five years old around this time. He remembers that not long after his father’s death, his mother said she was taking him by train to Changsha to find a doctor to cure him. 

When they arrived, Li Shi just looked around, fascinated by the city lights and the people at the train station. But after two hours, he realised that he was alone and that his mother had left him. He recalls that he instinctively knew he would never see her again. 

He survived by begging for several months as part of a gang of young beggars until a good-hearted man brought him to the local Welfare Centre. A few years later, he entered the care of ICC.
Li Shi recalls his reaction as he realized that he was not the only one in this situation. “I was not the only child that had a disability and had been abandoned,“ he said. “There were many other children just like me. But, I considered myself very lucky because I had been able to enjoy a few years’ time with my family.” 

After completing school, his ICC caregivers encouraged him to get a job and suggested he sell newspapers on the street. At first, Li Shi didn’t like the idea because he thought no one would want to buy newspapers from a disabled person like him. But, his Ah-Yee (Chinese caregiver) kept encouraging him, telling him not to look down upon himself. She said that even if he only sold one newspaper in a day, he should be proud of himself. Finally, Li Shi took the challenge and started to work. 

Li Shi is now 24 years old. He sells newspapers in the morning and has a cleaning job in the afternoon. He lives in one of ICC’s “Canaan Homes,” which are living units that allow some of ICC’s young adults to live semi-independently. He pays a little bit of rent to ICC and takes care of his own living. He’s known for his charitable heart and willingness to help others. When disasters happen, like the earthquake in Sichuan, Li Shi is always the first one to donate a few hundred dollars to the victims.
A local man tells the story of the first time he met Li Shi. He was walking down the street when he saw a crippled and disabled young man selling newspapers on the street. He felt pity on him and tried to give him money. But, Li Shi called him back, with great difficulty reached into his bag and took out some change for him. 

The man said, “No, the money is for you.” But Li Shi’s response surprised him: 

“No, I will not take your ten dollars. I sell newspapers so this is your paper and your change.” 

The man was so amazed at the dignity of this young man that he followed him to learn his story. The man has since become a volunteer with ICC.
Li Shi not only holds down two jobs and lives independently, but he is also a leader at a church in Changsha. He improves his Bible knowledge online and preaches regularly at the church services. His dream is to go to seminary school so that he can equip himself to better serve the church. While the Chinese seminary is not able to take a disabled student at this time, Li Shi hopes the day will come soon when his dream comes true. 

When I first met with Li Shi in Changsha, I saw a confident, yet humble, young man full of joy and trust! I could sense no trace of bitterness in him. 

“I was a dead man before,” Li Shi simply states. “But Jesus Christ brought me up from death.” 

Truly, abandoned to abundant.
Story writer, Esther Lee, with Li Shi Li Shi and his cousin Li Shi introducing his cousin to ICC staff members

Li Shi finds his family

Li Shi’s story does not end here. On a Sunday afternoon when our group went to visit the Canaan Homes, we saw Li Shi coming home from church with another young man. As Li Shi introduced us, we found out that this young man was Li Shi’s cousin! As we stood there amazed, Li Shi explained that his church had helped him to track down his family and this indeed was his cousin! 

After all these years, he had found his family. 

Li Shi is a very real example of the wonderful work that Jesus does through ICC and how love, hope and opportunity completely transforms lives.