The Power of Physical Touch




[The following is from a blog of Michelle Cuthrell who is in our Church. She is hosting a Chinese orphan this summer as part of an adoption advocacy program, something that my daughter did over a year ago with an orphan from Eastern Europe. This is her story of the impact of our worship service on DJ, the orphan. She granted me permission to repost it on this blog. Kleenex is not provided. Her blog can be found at]

Since we met our sweet summer superhero a week ago today, he’s been so vivacious and energetic and full of life and joy and heart-melting smiles. He’s jumped into the trampoline-jumping, boy-wrestling, clothes-hating fray and marched to the beat of Cuthrell chaos as if it’s been his whole life’s tune. He’s embraced every aspect of our crazy, boy-filled life and made himself at home in our family and our routines.

But for the last week, he’s been stiff in our arms.

Two of the three little people in our house are huggers and cuddlers and right-next-to-ers and smotherers. And my first love language is physical touch. (That was a funny joke, God, when you married me to a man who is never here to TOUCH. The pillow I snuggle with and drool on every night thanks you.) So with the exception of Superhero 1, who uses cuddle time with Mama purely for negotiation purposes (I will allow you to cuddle with me for 15 minutes if you allow me to stay up LATE for those 15 minutes) and Supersoldier (who is still in Michelle’s Hugging Bootcamp 101), we’re a bunch of on-top-of-each-other touchers in this family.

It’s how we feel love, so it’s how we SHOW love. And it was clearly strange to our summer superhero.

So for seven days, as we’ve greeted this sweet boy with morning hugs, tucked him into bed with goodnight kisses and rubbed his back and pulled him close anytime we’ve been constructing Legos or playing games or reading books or telling nighttime stories, he’s been rigid in our arms. Whether he had never experienced such affection or whether, like Superhero 1, it just wasn’t his love language or favorite thing ever, he didn’t know quite what to do with our constant cuddling and touching. And although he gave us PERMISSION to be this close, he never initiated or returned the hugs or snuggles we’ve smothered him in for seven days.

Until yesterday.

As we walked into our family’s church yesterday morning, hand in hand with our summer superhero who had no idea what “church” was or what these people who attended this church thing did, DJ was mesmerized by the families all around him. Throughout the foyer were moms holding little hands and dads lifting children in arms and family units sitting at tables eating donuts TOGETHER. Smiling. His eyes focused on these unfamiliar units, and he couldn’t take them off the MEN he saw interacting with little superheroes. With little boys.

We dropped his host brothers off in Sunday school classrooms, and DJ, who was looking back over his shoulder to take in these “families” who seemed to love each other in such different ways than he was accustomed, and I entered the sanctuary.

As he and I rose for worship at his very first church service ever, he stood beaming, mesmerized by the band playing live music right before him. His eyes sparkled as he listened to songs in English he didn’t know and watched people worship God for possibly the first time in his life.

I put my arm around him throughout the worship set, wanting to connect with him and love on him during what may have been an overwhelming experience. He just kept looking from the worship band to me, the worship band to me.

And then, in the middle of the third song, he looked up at me, just radiating, and threw two arms around my waist and squeezed.

His very first self-initiated hug.

He hung there for the most precious of moments, and I just pulled him in close, trying to savor that second with this little boy who may never have had a person in his life to offer such affection to. My eyes filled with tears as my arms held tight.

When he released, this sweet, sweet boy who has known me only for a week looked up with brilliant eyes so full of life, and he smiled.

And as the worship band began to play “The Power of Your Name,” I lost it.

Surely children weren’t made for the streets; 
 And fathers were not made to leave;
   Surely this isn’t how it should be;    
Let Your kingdom come …”

This precious little boy was not meant to be abandoned. He was not meant to be left alone at one week old, dropped anonymously at a police station in his province. To spend a decade in an orphanage waiting for SOMEONE to see his beauty. His value. His worth.

He wasn’t made for the streets. Not then. Not in three years, when he turns 14.

He was made for FAMILY.

And now he’s living in a world that’s broken. That’s not as it was meant to be. And in this place, DJ saw the love and heart of a redeeming God and church people singing and praying about loving a world that’s broken. And he saw HERE, not in our home, not in our car, not in the places we’ve taken him or the activities we’ve engaged in with him, a new kind of LOVE.

A love found in the presence of God and the body of Christ. A love that COMPELS TO ACTION. A love that OVERWHELMS. And his response to this overwhelming love in this place with people singing to a God who is a Father to the fatherless was PHYSICAL LOVE in return.

Lord, let this by my LIFE song. Let me live to carry your compassion to a world that’s broken — to be YOUR hands and feet.

To LOVE this sweet boy who is just learning how to receive and show love.

To OPEN MY EYES not to an overwhelming world crisis but to the FACES of these sweet angels who JUST NEED A MAMA TO HOLD THEM. To teach them how to receive hugs. To introduce them to a God who wraps His perfect arms around them and FILLS THEM with HIS perfect love.

To LOVE those who are CRAVING love … and might take some time to learn to show it in return. Who may NEVER learn how to show it in return but desperately need to feel and experience it.

Let my eyes be OPEN to the need. To the faces. To the hearts. To the heart of the most precious superhero-in-waiting we know … the one right before me, just waiting for a mama he can hug and hold FOREVER.

Let YOUR compassion MOVE me so that MY action on his behalf never ENDS.

In the power of YOUR NAME.


[If you have a story or a reflection that you would want posted, please let me know.  You can contact me at]

Bill Mann



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