Thursday, December 15, 2011

November 2009 - Minimal Reflections

I don't have much reflection today, I'm just trying to deal with a sense of urgency and responsibility after what I've seen and who I've met. I heard this week that in the village we were in, there are 1,000 orphaned and vulnerable children who are in desperate need of care. It's the word desperate that is causing me to run around in circles today, trying to figure out what my role is, how do I help, how can we save these children? This is just one village. In Zambia alone, there are 1.2 million orphans. I hate writing numbers. They don't mean anything. All I know is that all day, I've been taken over by this sense of urgency that I can't find an outlet for at the moment.

To me, the fact that I heard from our friend in Zambia who is working so hard to care for these children that there are 1,000 in desperate need, means that things are DIRE. Desperate doesn't include children who have a caregiver of some sort to watch over them. These numbers are children that if they don't get into a feeding program, will either slowly starve or be forced to do unbelievable things to earn something to eat. Sheer numbers that are overwhelming to me, and must be excruciating to the volunteers who walk among them and care for those they are able to reach out to.

And so, some of these 1000 children in this one village are the children I've held. The boys chasing each other in the village. The girls carrying their baby brothers on their backs although they themselves are ridiculously tiny for such a task. These are the children that sculpt clay into people and animals when they have time to play. They are the children that filled the alleys and chased us as we walked, who came from every corner of a yard to see the mazungus and who held out their hands and gave us their smiles and practiced their English on us. And these thousand include the tiny baby boy, barely old enough to sit up on his own, who was crying in the puddle of diarrhea in the middle of his yard, scarcely old enough to crawl away from his own waste that was the distinct color that marks the excrement of those who are malnourished. I think of him so often - asleep or awake, his small face and his cry are with me. These children are the boys whose mother asked us to pray for blankets for her boys who slept each night on the concrete floor, boys who were literally eating any piece of paper or dirt or straw they could find on the floor to assuage their hunger while we visited with them.
I want to apologize for these images as you sit where you are reading...but I can't. They are ours to tell and ours to act upon. All I know is right now, I feel like in many ways, tonight, I'm coming out of my skin...wracking my brain for a solution, for money, for a way back to them and a way to bring comfort.
I don't know what the solution is. I do know that God loves these children as much as He loves mine. As much as He loves me. So,God and I, well, we're talking about it. And I have a feeling we're going to be deep in conversation about this for a long, long time. When I first returned, I was hoping that He would heal my heart but now, now I am just hoping that He tells me what I'm supposed to do next with all who broke it.

These little ones came from a home near the farm where we were staying...every day, several times a get water from the well on the farm. The littlest fellow could only say "Howareyouuuuuuu?" and would repeat it over and over and louder and louder...he just loved talking to us in Bembe and his one sentence of English. His oldest sister was perhaps 8 and she gave them all water containers according to their size and they all carried their share back to their home. I never saw a parent in the home although they did tell me they lived with their mother although she was sick. She probably still had to go seek work or food to care for these ones.I <3 this girl. I can hardly look at this photo without crying. This little one barely spoke a word. I learned from the teachers that she comes everyday for school and to the feeding program but doesn't speak. They told me they thought her name was Virginia and that she was 5. She clung to me all afternoon, which was fine with me...and before I put her back in the arms of one of the teachers,both of us tearfully, she whispered "Eva" to me and I asked her if that was her name and she gave me the first smile of our day together.Some of the faces of the children who are enrolled in the community school and feeding program. Most are orphans or are very vulnerable because of poverty or living'd never know it by their smiles and their laughter...but their skin and hair and tummies give them away, showing the telltale signs of malnutrition.More statistics...beautiful, aren't they? It's hard to believe when we say numbers that these are the little faces we're talking about...Melissa with a small girl who just wanted to be held for a while. Even in the midst of such dire circumstances, there are volunteer care workers giving themselves sacrificially to care for as many as they can humanly reach out to.Kristal holding the girl whose story I am not sure I can ever tell - it gives me some comfort to see photos of us holding her and loving her but it also breaks my heart to think of her today and what she may be living without.

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