I’m pretty sure there are at least a few of you that catch up with us from time to time who, perhaps, enjoy the stories or thoughts I have on orphans or orphan care…but must wonder “do you have to talk about it in almost every single post?!” This is my attempt to explain why Colby and I are “the way we are”. Also, I decided this post was so special to my heart, there’s not gonna be a family update at the end…we are all still doing well and the kids are still super cute 😉 so there ya go!
Colby and I were both 20 years old, about to enter into our third year of college…excited about life and having fun! I was invited to go on a mission trip to Swaziland, Africa and totally jumped at the chance, as Africa had always held some sort of special place in my heart. Colby contacted me out of the blue (we were not even dating at the time…not even in the same city or school!) and I half-heartedly, almost jokingly really, invited him to come too. To my surprise, he also jumped at the chance and that was the start of a summer filled with fund raising letters, yard sale fundraisers and anticipation for what the Lord had in store for us there. Man, we were clueless, but I have to say that I am quite satisfied with the outcome!
Fast forward to the trip…we were loving everything. The beauty of the land and the people, our wonderful missionary hosts, camping in a village setting- everything!! We could slowly see the Lord bringing us together and bonding our hearts together in our love for Him and a very compelling draw towards ministry. Yep, that’s right, folks, we were falling in loooooove! (Awww, I know.) On one of our last days visiting, I had the chance to go to a hospital in the capital city where the missionaries were making connections, and that is where it happened. I fell in love. The desperate, how-can-I-ever-be-the-same-again kind of love that an encounter with an orphan brings.
We walked in the door of the “Orphan Ward” of the hospital; a place for special needs kids that had nowhere to go and no one else in the world to care for them. And there he was, just to the right of the entrance, in his little yellow crib. Just recalling the memory here today, my eyes well with tears. That sweet, little boy with his chocolate brown skin and curly hair dressed in his blue shirt and sock feet. I immediately put down my bag and asked our interpreter if she could ask if I could hold this little boy. She didn’t even have to ask, she knew no one would care.
He looked big laying there in the bed, so I was surprised when I picked him up and he felt light as a feather. By appearance, he seemed to have Cerebral Palsy and could not sit up or talk, but, oh, that smile when I picked him up! I took him outside in the sunshine for a minute. He blinked his eyes shut tight at the sight of the sun, with his long, curly eyelashes stunningly beautiful. He laughed as I spun him around in the sun, and a little dribble of drool creeped out the corner of his mouth. I sang “Jesus Loves Me” to him. I knew he didn’t speak English, but I believe in the power and comfort that comes with the Name above all names. I hold these precious few moments as some of my most treasured and frequently visited memories in my mind’s eye…I’ve gone back there thousands of times.
After just a few short minutes, they called me back inside and said it was time to go…he had to go back in his little yellow bed. I hugged and kissed him and gently placed him back in his bed and waived good-bye to all the other children…I was fighting back tears. As we exited through the double doors, back down a long hallway, our translator told me something so shockingly horrible to my innocent heart, I could never live my life the same way. While I was outside swinging and laughing and singing “Jesus Loves Me”, the other children in the ward were telling her that I was the first person they had ever seen holding this precious boy. I could hardly stand it. What?! How is that even possible?! Why?! I was broken-hearted, I was angry, I was saddened….I was changed.
I immediately felt regret that I didn’t even know his name. In my naiveté, I assumed that “whoever else” would be in soon to pick him back up and play or cuddle with him, care for him…I didn’t even ask his name. We returned to camp and I told Colby the whole story and something was born inside our hearts that day. A determination that this should not be. Children- even “special” children- deserve to grow up in a family. They deserve to have cuddles and songs and smiles and laughs. They deserve to hear that they have worth and that Jesus does love them…so much so, that He gave up his own life, that we may be spiritually adopted into His family. A determination to tell the Church, all over the world, that this should not be was born that day, and, although, it has grown and changed and been refined over the last eight years, it has only grown stronger.
I have never, ever forgotten the little boy in the yellow bed and I have loved him for changing my heart and life…opening my eyes to the things that break the very heart of God. And that is why. That is why I think and talk about adoption and orphan care so much. I was personally touched by someone’s life that compelled me to press on and work hard to make whatever little change I can while I’m living here on Earth. I know so many of you must also have stories where everything about orphan care just “clicked” and you have never been the same…I would love to hear some of your stories and maybe even publish a few here and there! You can e-mail, or Facebook message them to me- ahhh! I’m sure we could write a book! Looking forward to your stories.