I simply cannot believe that we are in the middle of February and I have not written for in nearly four months. Life has a funny way of changing your plans, doesn’t it?
Near the end of October, I experienced a deep personal tragedy that took hold of my heart in way I found difficult to handle. I sank into a valley that took me quite some time to make sense of. If I may be honest, there were days when I cared not to try to find the sense in it at all. I rather feel God allowed me my time to wallow, and then, when I had reached the end of myself, He turned the tables and allowed me to see the “self” I was feeling so sorry for. It was then, and this was just recently, that I saw how much the comforts of this life had blinded my eyes to the plight of those I had vowed to stand for.
This past week, I have on more than one occasion felt the restless call in my soul to defend the rights of the defenseless…but how? What is my role? This morning as I washed my hair, I fought to gain composure as I stared at the many bottles that line our shower walls-shampoo for volume, conditioner for color, baby soap, baby shampoo…such excess. I thought of all those living all across this globe who have not experienced the luxuries of warm showers, sweet smelling shampoos, flushing toilets… It’s interesting how “simple” things in life remind me of how fortunate I was to be born in the time, on this side of the world. I don’t know real hunger, exploitation, or real fear. Sure, I have my fears, but most are based on the “what-ifs” of life. For most of us, fear takes place in our thoughts, not in our reality.
I just finished an autobiography called “Passport Through Darkness” by Kimberly L. Smith. It’s a must read for anyone who desires a God-directed compassion for victims of poverty. I’ll likely reference her book in several of my next blogs as it has literally ROCKED my way of thinking. Right now, I can’t eat, write a check, or pay for our groceries without seeing the beautiful dark faces of our fellow humans in Africa who suffer unspeakable violence, hunger, and real fear.
What to do? I don’t have the answer yet, but Proverbs 31: 8-9 is burning a its way through my soul- “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of ALL who are destitute…defend the rights of the poor and needy.” After living in Kenya, after being surrounded by its senseless poverty, I am shocked to find myself at a precipice…breathlessly waiting…heart breaking once again…how could I forget? I want to jump…deep into the solution…to find my role.
For now, all I can do is share their stories. All I can do is hope those who read see the heart of the little ones in Kenya who know the fear of death by starvation, who have been exploited for sex, food, and money. While I burn to do more, for now, I will share the hope that the little sacrifices on our part can bring.
I never realized how tangible a thing hope is until I met the children of Kenya. Children like Dorcas whose inner strength allows a survivability that I cannot always comprehend. I met Dorcas back in 2008 when she and her younger sister Margaret first joined PEC. If you are a teacher you will relate most strongly to the kind of student Dorcas was. Lazy, loud, disruptive…scornful. She was bigger than all of the other children at PEC and one could tell very quickly that she was not “fitting” in well. While I did not always understand the Kiswahili that was being murmured, I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was often teased and ridiculed. I’d love to tell you that such things do not happen at our haven of a school, but kids are kids and as I would later find out, Dorcas came with a stigma that was hard to overcome.
Earlier that year, Dorcas and Margaret’s mother was diagnosed with HIV. The fear, depression, and anger of the “death sentence” drove her to do the unimaginable-she turned her daughters out to the streets and fled the city. For a time, the girls lived on the streets, eating from the dumps, begging for and stealing food, and sleeping in doorways and alleys. The girls would wander the streets of Soweto by day with other pockets of children all bonded together by a common thread-they were alone and “no one” cared. In a place like Soweto, such a child often falls prey to exploitation both as forced labor or sexual bondage. In many cases, the child never escapes. It is undeniable that these two precious children suffered greatly the time they spent without an adult to watch over them.
But Dorcas’ story doesn’t end the ugly way millions of other castaways do. Because grace found a place in the heart of a child and they were rescued. One of the students at PEC who had been the girls’ neighbor told Samuel and Pamela about the girls. Once found, the girls were immediately admitted to the school. Margaret, being just seven, transitioned well into the orderly educational setting, but Dorcas did not. The street had changed this young lady’s heart, and she found it confusing and difficult to accept the love she was being given. Love she had not experienced at the hands of strangers before. Often, Dorcas would run back to the streets and go missing for days. It is difficult to fathom that a child would chose such a life, but unless one experiences what she has, it is impossible to understand.
That was the Dorcas I met in 2008. Masked pain, suspicion, and overall complacency hid the beauty lying under the walls of protection she had been forced to build. Over the past few years, I have watched those walls come down, one brick at a time. I have watched the patient love she has been given in the midst of her anger. I have seen the black hatred that filled her eyes melt as healing tears fell. I used to call Dorcas “the girl who never smiles” for even I, the bearer of candy, stories, friends, and soccer balls could not elicit even a grin from this hurting child.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible says that “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Dorcas bears witness to this. Not that she was full of sins to be covered, but all those wrongs, those wicked sins that were forced on this beautiful child have been covered by the love of our Lord, a love made tangible by His “hands and feet” through the teachers and staff at the school. I wept when I saw the pictures below. Dorcas is no longer the “girl who never smiles” for the light of love beams from her eyes- a witness to the healing that can take place when one person takes the time to care. Thank you Jesus for your love that covers and for allowing us, your children, to serve you as your hands and feet to the young ones you hold so dear.