When Love Takes You In
For some reason, I could not sleep tonight. I’ve been working through several blogs in my mind these past few weeks, but have been very frustrated at the lack of time to put one out. Since it’s currently 3:00 am…we will see how this goes!
Last summer, Michael Moore went to Kenya with us to collect student-profiles. I have had those profiles all this time, but have not taken the time to read them. I just opened them and cannot believe what I am reading-story upon story of hearts broken as a result of sickness, poverty, and death. I knew that many of our children come from tough situations, but I had expected there to be more “good” stories. You know, stories where the family is intact, they attend church but cannot find work. Stories where the child is loved and cared for to the best of the parents’ ability, but cannot go to school because Soweto lacks a government school. All this time, that is what I imagined those pages held. Surely with 135 children, there had to be a handful of sad stories, but for the most part…
I am sorely disappointed. I have actually sat here for the past ten minutes watching the cursor on my computer blink while I search for words. Each child’s story needs to be shared, but how to convey such tragedies? How does one build a blog around another’s pain? How does one resolve a life of comfort when billions of others barely survive a life of need? Needs. Not just for an education-a way out-not merely even for daily nourishment-but for the basic human right of safety and love? How does the spirit of a child survive such tragedy?
I am most shocked because I have been there. I have seen the beautiful smiles. I have been the recipient of the hugs and heard the laughter. How can this be? And the love. These little people know how to love. They wrap you in that love from the minute you arrive at their school and they never let go! They call me here and sing to me, tell me they love me, tell me they miss me… and all the while I think, ah, they are children, like mine, they ARE my children, sweet, innocent…
And yet, they are not. They are children whose souls have been ripped apart by loss. Loss of family, loss of safety, loss of trust. Most have lost at least one parent, most not just a few, but most have suffered abuse at the hand of the one who was meant to love. And yet, they smile, they laugh, they love.
And then I remember. The empty eyes. The dirty, pain filled faces of long ago. I remember the first meeting. Hungry, skinny little kids all crammed onto two benches, barely able to learn for the hunger that stole concentration and understanding of even the simplest things. I remember.
I remember how I wanted to run away. I remember how I wanted to hide my plumpness. How it felt like an offense to a room full of starving children. How the small bits of candy I handed out seemed so pitiful. I remember how some savored every bite while others gobbled. I remember how they offered to share. SHARE? Yes, share-with us. The well-fed, well dressed, well cared for Americans. Sweaty, dirty little palms opened to us, inviting us to take the little they had.
And I vow. A renewed vow that such will not exist in a place called Soweto. I dream. I dream of a day when no child in Soweto is without the basic necessities of food, shelter, medical care, and education. I dream of a day when our students graduate and return to their community to continue the work and find that there is no work! That Soweto is no longer the slum of the forgotten, but the home of the fighter who stood.
How does this happen? It happens like it is happening at Provision Academy-one child at a time. Because of the needs being met not only in each child’s life, but often in the life of the child’s family, changes are happening. It happens when a child is fed, clothed, and loved into a place of healing. If you have not, please, view the video from last year’s trip. See the light that beams from the eyes of each child and know that light is there because someone here took a little of himself or herself and gave what was needed to allow a child to not simply survive but to thrive. Sure, their faces are still dirty, and I’m still trying to teach hand washing techniques, (I smile as I write this) but these children are healthy, happy, and yes, even a few are plump!
That’s why I titled this, “When Love Takes You In.” Because that is what happens when love takes hold and refuses to let go. When love says, I’ll sacrifice so you can eat. I’ll forfeit so you can be given the tools you need to be all God intended you to be. From the teachers at PEC who daily give of themselves to our partners here and abroad all saying, You are worth it-my sacrifice is a joy. Healing and redemption begin there and the while the pain of life is always present, while they are still orphaned, sometimes still abused, the seeds of hope are being planted and (pardon my cliché) sprouts of life are poking through the dirt of poverty . That’s what happens.