Last night I had a dream that Megan and James had a reminder board in their office and each week we put up a sentance that reminded us of why we are here. In my dream, on this imaginary board was written:
"Remember the way Joseph crys even when he's singing."
I woke up with tears streaming down my face at 3 AM. The truth is, Joseph IS sad. He lost his father and his brother in the same year. He lives in extreme poverty. He looks depressed. He's a little tiny boy, and his only freind is a grown blind man who comes and sits on their porch. He doesnt laugh and play with the other kids, he sits with this man and they talk... or don't talk. He doesnt smile. He's sad.
These kids have real struggles and real heartache that I never knew when I was growing up. Heartache I still don't know and I am a grown woman. They have pain inside of them, but they also have the love of God inside of them too, and each one of them has a chance, through our guidance and care, to find that hope and that joy and that peace in Christ.
Sometimes they do things that irritate me. Sometimes they do things that dissapoint me. Sometimes they make the wrong choices, or their guardian makes the wrong choice but I refuse to give up on them because no matter how hard headed I am and how much I make the wrong choice, God has never given up or walked away from me.
These kids, all of them, consume my life. My wheels are always turning. I find myself thinking of Everlyn when I am making breakfast or worrying about Barbara when I am driving or laughing at something Christian said when I am washing the kitchen floor or tearing up at night knowing that they are all going to sleep on the floor or the dirty ground or on inch thick foam mattresses....I am struck with guilt as I realize I have more than one pillow and then I fall asleep coming up with plans how to get them beds. How to get them more soap. How to get their guardians pots and pans... how to take care of them more... Then I think about their neighbors and the kids I give high fives to when I'm driving the older boys to school.
I don't count sheep. I count needs.
I just feel helpless in the MAGNITUDE of need- that is utterly indescribable.
I decided to make one of these reminder boards, but I realized I was immediately flooded by a thousand things I don't want to forget. I'll think of a new one each week and impliment this idea in my dream, but here are a few that came to mind right away:::::
I don't want to ever forget what Amos's face looked like as he buried his face in his new blanket and grabbed up his bag of soap and blanket and mosquito net like he just won the lottery.
I don't want to ever forget his sister putting her head down in her lap and just saying over and over: "awe, awe AWE" ("no, no, no") in disbelief that we were giving him shoes, a mosquito net, hygiene products AND a new blanket- it would be months and months and months of work for her husband to be able to afford all that and it was in their hands all in one day.
I don't want to ever forget the feeling of pain but also love and sisterhood when we told James and Mary's cousin we were sorry her baby died this weekend. It was her first born. When I saw him last week he was the size of my forearm and was only taking shallow short breaths and Fanny told me it didn't have long... she was right.
I don't want to ever forget how EVERY morning, without fail- Protasho and Patrick walk up to my car, I roll down the window, they shake my hand and say "Morning Madame", I say "Morning guys" and then they say "Madame, we missed you." and get in the car. Every school day since January.
I dont ever want to forget the way Annie smiles.
I don't ever want to forget Richard and Maurice riding the bike Reece bought him for Christmas last year down the road. They never knew they'd meet when he bought that bike and to see them riding together laughing and smiling without a care in the world.... was amazing.
I never want to forget the way the kids get so excited when I pop in on them unexpectedly. Like today when I saw Philip at home and he specifically thanked me "Thank you for coming to visit me, Miss Kat.", or how Nathan asks me to "surprise" him at work or how Barbara begs me to come to church every Sunday- and when I do it, they act so happy and proud.
I never want to forget the once a month text messages from Kaumba. "Hello Miss Kat. We just wanted to greet you and tell you thank you again for everything, and we will see you soon. May God greatly bless you." Every month, always the same message but with different wording. He has taught me a lot about gratitude.
I never want to forget my first English conversation with Mary's grandma, Veronica. Last week, we joked in Nyanja about holding all our meetings with her in "Chizungu" or: English. She laughed and laughed cause she doesn't know a lick of English. Today she came up to me and said "Hello, how are you? How are you feeling?" with her coarse hand in mine, and still a bit shocked I said, "I am feeling fine, how are YOU feeling?" she said: "I am feeling very well thank you" and then broke out in a LAUGH that should be bottled and sold.... She apparently did her homework and she was as proud as a peacock.
I never want to forget the way Harrington cried on Tuesday. These kids need love.
I never want to forget Patrick begging me to teach him the song "This is the day the Lord has Made". He sings it under his breath all day.
I never want to forget the day we were so tired in class, and everyone was so hot and so worn out we decided to have a fly killing contest instead of doing math. The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever and still talk about it today.
I never want to forget the way Richard always makes me gifts and presents and hides them places- he made me a necklace out of straws and a matchbox car, another out of a rusty key and grass, clay figurines, and once he ever decorated my kitchen with flowers.
I never want to forget who Morgan used to be and how clearly I can see the change between then- and who he is as a Christian.
I never want to forget the meeting we had to announce the business startup with the guardians. The joy and gratitude was tangible and powerful. Writing this now, I have this bubbly feeling in my stomach just remembering the atmosphere.
I never want to forget how overwhelmed I was swallowing tears the first time I sat in the Tembo's house. I am there all the time now, and it's become very familiar- so I don't want to ever become numb to their situation.
I never want to forget Peggy's house. It's impossible to accurately depict it using words or even pictures. I was there, sitting on the floor and talking with her mother today. The claustrophobia, the smells, the feeling of the flies all over me, the realization that if I had stretched my legs I would have been touching both walls at once- the dead rat on the ground outside the door, the flea, tick and disease infested dog laying next to their laundry, the fact that my brain started trying to calculate at which angle on the dirty floor her mother must lay in order to fit horizontally at night... not to mention with four children in there.... the fact that she has not lived anywhere except that miniscule room in 30 years.... thirty years.....
I never want to forget what a crowd of kids screaming BYE BYE BYE when we leave looks like. They all need what we are giving their neighbors. It hurts.
I never want to forget Tisa's confidence when she sings in front of the whole group. She has a slight stutter and is VERY shy and soft spoken but as soon as you ask her to lead a gospel song she turns into Mariah Carey.
I never want to forget Barbara's "strut" the first time she got her hair braided.
I never want to forget seeing Mpando run. It was painful to watch him limp around just walking, and it was amazing to see him run for the first time with all the other kids after he got his corrective shoes.
I never want to forget the day Maggie made me a meal to say thank you for taking her to the clinic when she had pox. It was disgusting and I can still taste the sour milk on my tounge but I ate it happily, and I am greatful for that meal still today.
I never want to forget the fact that Fanny has these kids in her home every day. She comes with me and Maureen every day when we make our rounds doing various things. She goes out of her way to assist, and translate, and relate, and WORKS... and she does not make a dime. The heart she has for these kids is the heart any ministry worker needs, and I look up to her and strive to model her attitude and generosity. God will give her what she deserves- if not in this lifetime then the next. She will wear a crown of solid gold.
I never want to forget the way Prisca's hand feels inside mine.
I never want to forget how strong Maureen is. She is a single parent, living in a compound, facing illness and she takes it all in stride and gives what she can. She makes it work when many in her situation would give up.
I never want to forget the joy Lawrence has depsite the fact he is facing the odds. All the odds.
I never want to forget Geofrey's humility. He came to us at age 20, asking for a shot at making a life for himself. He is struggling through grade 8, but he is more determined and more of a man than many I have met in my life.
I could keep writing these for hours. It's good to remind yourself why you do what you do.
"For the needy will not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor will never perish." Psalm 9:18