Last week, we had a youth/college team here from Alabama. The team did an amazing job pouring out the love of Jesus into the hearts of the orphans in our program. Each morning, we had a bible lesson based on the theme of running the race of faith, and after the lesson we would do a craft. Then in the afternoons we took them to some fun places. I shared in my last post about the first day where we took them to the beach. The kids had a blast. The thing that most pleased me is that when we were all at the beach, I looked around and saw that not one single child was left to play alone. Every child was being played with by one or a few team members. It was a real blessing to see…and it was a real treat for these kids.
The following day, after the morning bible lesson, we piled them all into my pickup truck and went to a private field that another missionary friend of mine gave me use of for the afternoon. There, we had a great game of soccer. These kids are so good at soccer. Even the little ones were going around me like I was standing still. Many, if not all of these kids never get to play soccer in such a big wide open field. Usually, you see them trying to play a game at the end of a dirt road or something. So, for these kids to have a big field all to themselves was such a treat for them. They all had a blast!
On Wednesday, we had another special treat planned for them. After the bible lesson and craft, we all piled them again into the back of the pickup truck and drove them to the Kabic Beach Restaurant where we all served the kids hot dogs, fries, and cokes to their hearts content. The restaurant is a beautiful outdoor place that overlooks the beauty of the Caribbean. After we ate, I asked them if they knew what we were going to do next, even though I had no idea. So, jokingly, I told them that we were going to dance, and I started doing funny dance moves. The next thing I know, the owner of the restaurant cranks up the music and all the kids and team members get up and start dancing. We danced the Haitian dance called the Kompa. It was so cool to see all the kids being danced with from all of us. They were having so much fun. What a pleasure it was to serve them and treat them like kings and queens for the afternoon.
But when we got back to the Mission House, something happened that made my heart sad. First, I gathered all the kids together and asked them if they knew why it was that we were doing all of these things for them. I tell them all the time that we do these things because we want them to know how much Jesus loves them. So, when I asked them the question, I was sad to hear that most them said that we are doing these things for them because they are orphans. I told them that, while it is true that they are in the program because they don’t have parents, the main reason why we do everything that we do is because we want them to know that Jesus loves them so much. So, after I shared this, I told everybody that we would like to have a time where we close our eyes and give thanks to God for all of the wonderful gifts that He has given us and for the fun things that we were able to do together. I reminded them that every gift that they have received really comes from Jesus. I asked everyone to close their eyes and just take the time for anyone who wanted to pray out loud and say thank you to Jesus for all the wonderful gifts that He has given.
After waiting for a minute without any child praying anything, I told them again that now would be the time to say thank you to God for all that they have received. One boy then prayed and said thank you to God. After that…silence. Nobody else prayed. My heart was sad. I asked them why it was that they did not want to say thank you to God. I gave them an analogy of somebody giving another person a special birthday present and the person that received the birthday gift just took it and walked away without saying anything. I asked them how that would make them feel if they were the one who was giving the birthday present and the person to whom they gave it to just took it and walked away without ever saying thank you. They were all pretty quiet at this point. And so I told them that perhaps Jesus feels that very same way when He gives us such wonderful gifts and we just turn around and walk away without ever saying thank you. One of the kids asked if we could try it again, but I told them that we will give another opportunity the following day. I wanted these kids hearts to feel conviction…perhaps for the very first time in their life. I wanted them to walk away thinking about all that I had just said. And I wanted them to realize that they hurt God by just taking for granted His wonderful gifts. My heart was sad, but I realized that so many of these kids are so broken. They live in a world where it is all about survival. They learn to take what they can get. they are probably never told or taught to say thank you. So, this was a great teaching moment and I wanted them to learn. So, they left rather quietly.
The next morning, I was reading my bible and I was asking the Lord to give me a passage in His word that would illustrate the point that I was trying to make with them the previous day. I was so excited when I turned to Luke 18 and read the story of when Jesus healed ten lepers. So, I gathered the kids together at the end of the bible program and shared with them about this story. I told them about these ten lepers that Jesus encountered. These men were outcasts of society. They were looked at as the most unclean people. They were viewed as being cursed by God. They could not even live inside the community with the rest of the people. And Jesus loved them…and Jesus gave them the most wonderful gift by healing them of their leprosy. They all went away and did as Jesus commanded them to do in order to be healed. And they were all healed. But, only one of them came back to say thank you to Jesus. And when Jesus saw the one coming, He even asked the man where the other nine were that were also healed. And Jesus commended the one who had returned and told him that his faith has saved him. The kids were all listening very attentively. I asked them questions about the story to make sure that they understood. And they all answered the questions correctly.
And so I then told them that the reason why I shared that story was to let them know that all of us were just like the lepers. We were unclean. We were outcasted by God. We were dirty in His sight. Yet, He healed us. He forgave our sins. And not only that, but He has poured out His amazing love into our hearts. And I told them that He has poured out His amazing love to them through all of us who have given them such a wonderful time throughout the week. And I told them that Bradley (the only one who prayed and gave thanks to God the previous day) was like the one leper who returned to give thanks to God, whereas everybody else were like the nine lepers who were also completely healed, but did not return to give thanks to God. I shared with them about how the Lord loves to hear us say thank you to Him for His amazing gifts. I told them that my heart was to live as the one leper who returned and not like the nine who did not. And I encouraged them to do likewise. I looked into their eyes as I spoke to them. Many were completely focused on what I was saying.
After I shared, I told them that we will now close our eyes and give an opportunity for anyone to pray who wanted to give thanks to God for His gifts. The room went silent. And then…one child began to pray and give thanks. After she was done, another child prayed and gave thanks to the God of the universe. Then another…and another…and another. It was beautiful. They got it! They understood what the word of God was saying. They felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. After about 15 minutes, just about every child in the room had prayed and gave thanks to God. When I asked if there was anybody else who wanted to pray who hadn’t yet, little Robinson Francois raised his hand and said that he would also like to pray. And so, I think every child prayed. It was beautiful. To me, this was a very defining moment in our program. This was discipleship. And these are the kind of things that will carry over into the every day lives of these children. It made my day!
After the kids left at noon, we brought the team to the beach for a fun day. The waves were huge and everybody had a great time. But the waves of pain in my heart were also huge. I grabbed a rock with Isabela and we both wrote a message to Susana in the sand. I told her that I love her and that I miss her. Less than a minute after I finished writing it, a big wave came up and washed it all away. I went out into the ocean by myself and just wept. I looked back at Isabela who was playing in the shallow water by herself and it made me weep even more. I so longed to see my little Susana there in the surf playing with her big sister. The waves of grief came larger than the ocean waves that were knocking everybody over. My heart still aches every single day. I long to be reunited with my precious little girl in Heaven. But, God has ordained it that I still have a race to run here on this earth…and so…I press on…
That night, we invited the kids over to the Mission House for a movie night. We showed Tom and Jerry cartoons on our movie projector on our wall. The kids loved it. Again, what a beautiful moment I witnessed when I looked around the room and saw so many of the children sitting in the laps of various team members. It was beautiful. Some of the team members were crying as they said a final good-bye to the kids that they spent the week with just pouring the love of Jesus into their hearts. It was very moving.
On Friday, we went and visited the home of one of the orphaned girls who is now in our program. Her name is Lovely. And she is just like her name…Lovely. Anyway, we learned that she was living in a tent with her aunt. This broke my heart. I brought several of the team members over to visit with her in her tent. They were overwhelmed with sadness. I told them that I would love to put a word out on our website asking if anybody would be led to give some money so that we could move this woman and the children that she is caring for into a house rather than remaining in this tent where she has lived for the past 17 months. What a blessing it was to hear the Team Leader say that his church had already raised some additional funds for this trip and that they will give $1,000 so that we can rent a house for Lovely and her family. When we visited on Friday, we first went to the depot and bought her a ton of food just to let her know that we love her and that God has heard her prayers for help. She was amazed when she saw us bring all this food into her tent. She cried tears of overwhelming joy. And then she cried again when we told her that this team from Alabama was going to give her $1,000 to rent a house. The team is also going to try and raise additional funds to help buy some furniture and get her better situated. We already have 2 people from the previous Alabama team from Grandview Baptist who want to sponsor Lovely. This is amazing since her picture is not even up on the website yet. We just learned that she is an orphan. Her mother died years ago in a flood and her father died recently of cholera. We are so excited to see how the Lord is already providing for this family. Lovely has also become friends with Isabela, and now she comes up to our gate every day asking if she can play with Isabela. God is so good. I love seeing His redemptive hand in motion.
So, God is at work. The kids are starting to get it. Discipleship is beginning to take place. Redemption is happening as the body of Christ is meeting the needs of the poor and the orphan. The Lord is giving us a vision to further this work and we are excited to share it with you soon. May God be praised!