I need to back up a little . . . I was tired and so I wrote “holding babies for several hours” but that doesn’t really cover it. Maybe this picture will help me explain:
I mean, are you kidding me, gorgeous - right?! There was a set of twins whose mother had died during childbirth, a girl with cerebral palsy who couldn’t quite meet your gaze, but she smiled, and not just a little smile but a big wide grin, when I ran my fingers through her hair and rubbed her head. These babies and special needs kiddos are cared for by sweet, amazing women who the team calls mamas. They gently and patiently feed the children, change them, bathe them, lay them down for naps, and shower them with love. It was hard to leave Lantu’s house, I was the last one out.
When we arrived at Ebenezer Grace Children’s Home, we met about fifty kids, including the 11 mingi children who if not for this team’s rescue would be dead. It was a joy to see them after hearing Argaw speak yesterday with such conviction about doing his best to save as many of these children as possible. I mean how incredible is it to stand in front of someone who would otherwise be dead? And now I know… it’s pretty amazing.
We played with the kids and then took polaroid pictures of them. A gift for them. I had been looking forward to this since I first talked with Alyssa about the trip. She had explained how when you photograph a child and then use that photograph to raise funds it can begin to feel a bit like exploitation because while the child may be helped indirectly through that, it also feels like you’re creating something that they don’t have access to. Instant film turns a child’s image into a gift for them to keep and since it’s the only copy it’s truly just created for them alone. It was magical watching them see their faces develop on the film. Their little heads crowding over the white squares waiting to see an image emerge. Their excitement was palpable and contagious; some proudly waving their photograph around and some so excited that they were even trying to sneak back in line to double dip!
We interviewed Rachel and listened as she described the beautiful way that God brought them to this place and all the prayers He had answered each year since they had begun to venture down this path. She shared her heart for these children and for this ministry. I saw her courage. I felt a twinge of envy mixed in with my admiration - to be so secure and content in what God had provided, though imperfect and often difficult, the life she described as we talked seems close to paradise. Sitting together on the screened porch of their home, a pomegranate tree just on the other side of the screen, cool breezes bringing floral scents through the air and monkeys jumping from branches to enter their walled oasis, it certainly looks a lot like any paradise I’ve imagined. Rachel’s eyes were shining when she told us and our cameras again about Lantu. I let my tears spill out this time when she told us of her early death, I was affected both by Lantu’s story and also by Rachel’s obvious love for this child. We next talked with Shaun about his work in the ministry and recorded some clips for the videos we’ll create for Ebenezer Shepherding Ministries. This team of four people has built all of this in just a few years while facing many obstacles, yet all you hear when they speak is joy and love and peace in what they are doing. They shared how government officials were often surprised by the way they have included the children in family activities, bringing them over to their houses to bake cookies or taking them out to do an activity for the day. When we said goodbye it felt as if we were leaving dear friends of many months, rather then people we’d met yesterday.
Back at the hotel I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to type a short update, but I slept so well. In fact, I can’t remember having slept this well in years.