Tauranga woman Sandra King set up three orphanages, adopted a child and cared for almost 600 others during her 20 years in China, but her work is not complete.
Ms King sold everything so she could move to China to study Mandarin at Chengdu University in 1991, not knowing what would follow.
"I lived in Hawera. I was just a mum. My [three] kids had all grown up and had all left home and were flatting. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life I wanted it to count," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.
During her study, one of the university staff members asked her to take care of a one-month-old baby found abandoned.
"They made her look like a boy because they wanted only boys. They paraded her through the streets for one month then they threw her away in the bike shed."
Ms King, now 67, spoke little Mandarin at that stage but looked after Laura while she studied until she was adopted by a family in Holland eight months later.
By the time Ms King finished her university studies, she knew she was there to look after babies.
She moved to Guangzhou and started her first orphanage, the Home of Heavenly Healing, in 1999.
During her eight years there, Ms King and her 10 staff looked after 38 babies - including a young girl named Ruth whom she later adopted.
Ruth was 10 days old when she was found abandoned in the rice fields near the orphanage and brought to Miss King who took her in and cared for her.
When Ruth was about 18 months, Ms King realised there was something special about her.
She was feeding a baby when Ruth asked to do it.
"For 20 minutes, she stood there. Most kids wouldn't do that," Ms King said. "I noticed something different about her that other kids didn't have. She stood out. She had perseverance."
In 2004, she officially adopted Ruth and the pair have travelled and worked together ever since. Ruth is now 15 years old and a Year 11 student at Bethlehem College.
In the years that followed, Ms King started the House of Peace in Beijing, worked at the Holy Love Foundation in Chengdu and then opened the House of Grace in Yangchun.
She found babies in rubbish bins and under bridges but most of the time they were left in cardboard boxes at her gate. Later, she worked alongside government-run orphanages.
Ms King said during her 20 years there she had to trust God to provide for her and the children and only worked with Chinese staff, training them in how to care for the children, most of which were girls or children with birth defects.
"There's a lot of young girls that get pregnant and they don't know what to do. There's often a lot of pressure from the husband. It's the one-child policy."
Ms King has been home resting for about two years but has been asked to go back to Sichuan to set up another orphanage at the end of the year.
She will be speaking at a Mount Maunganui Aglow women's coffee and dessert evening on July 8 at Daniel's in the Park on 11th Ave at 7pm. Tickets to the interdenominational Christian ministry's meeting cost $10. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Carol on (07) 575 0900.