Thursday, September 22, 2011

Light Was There -- Far More Than I Expected

I guess it’s not what I expected. In my narrow American view of the world, I pictured orphanages as, well … as sad places, where children grieved and mourned for what was not and despairingly, longingly looked in to the future.

But this is not the case at the Villages of Hope. True to its name – a village of hope. The children here ARE amazing grace personified, and God has granted them great favor. They are fully alive, confident, caring, compassionate, joy-filled and content. I could go on and on.

I sat down next to Mary B (one of the 42 children at the Villages of Hope), as she snuggled in next to me, eager to be together, talk and be “interviewed.”  Spending time with each of the children, one on one, before my departure was one of my desires. I wanted to hear their stories and write down their thoughts, word for word.

I asked Mary a few questions about herself. She hesitated not to share.

She is 12 years old, likes the color blue and her favorite thing to do?  Read.  She came from another orphanage that closed. The children fought a lot there. She does not remember her mother, only her father. She has one sister. She does not see her.

Her favorite thing about the Villages of Hope?  “They keep us well, give us food and care for us.”

Her favorite thing about God? “He keeps us alive, He cares for us and He brought us here where we can learn and know of Him.”

Her favorite thing about how God made her? “I help people and I care for myself. I am responsible for myself.”

What she grows up she wants to be a teacher or a musician. She’s learning how to play the guitar and loves to sing.

If she could ask God for anything, it would be – Wisdom.

She is a strong young woman, with leadership skill. We worked together at a carnival station, when we did an outreach event at a neighboring village. Watching her organize and keep a group of “spirited” children in line, with authority, determination and kindness, was a pleasure to observe. She is wise. God has granted her prayer.

I love this child, and I do not say that lightly. I love them all.

One of the things that strikes me the most about these children is their lack of bitterness. They have endured much (loss of one or both parents, poverty, sometimes abuse, loneliness, reasons to be afraid beyond what we can even imagine), and yet they do not radiate bitterness, they radiate joy.

Time with the children has left me asking myself lots of questions, questions that will likely take many years to answer. Questions like …

How can I love Jesus better?

What will it look like for me to trust Him more?

In what ways do I need to depend less on myself and more on Him?

In which ways can I let go of the world and hold more firmly to Him?

You know, I went to Africa asking the Lord to help me be a light, and when I arrived I realized that truly, the Light is there, in the children, far brighter than I could have ever imagined.

More stories of the children to follow. Thank you for taking time to hear their stories and pray for them. You can read more about the Village on their blog here.

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