It was an early morning starting at Charlotte Douglas at 4:00am. We were all a bit tired but oh the excitement that was brewing. About half of the 20 team members went on this trip last year. There was much anticipation from those going for the first time as well as the veterans. On a normal day we would all have probably been a bit grumpy at such a time of day, but there was too much joy in the air. We each knew God had led us to this point (even if we didn't quite understand why yet) and we each knew something big was going to happen.
I am happy to report that He didn't disappoint! It was a awesome trip!
We spent four hours in Miami. Even though it was 8:00am most of us ate 'lunch'. We had, after all, been up for at least 5-6 hours already.
As team leader I was holding my breath that one lost bag was going to be the 'one' hiccup of the trip.
|Clayton and Maylin running across the courtyard in the rain.|
We rushed inside to get out of the rain. And stood... It was all a bit of a blur but what I remember is that at first there weren't any kids in sight, minus a few who were peering over the railings and from behind columns to see us. We pulled out a box of apples and suddenly they were coming from all directions. They loved the apples. It is something they don't get very often. Many of the kids ate the whole thing core, seeds and all. We were told to give each kid only one and warned that they would try to sneak more. I saw a few kids sneaking away with one in each fist. They looked at me with questions in their eyes? Was I going to make them give it back? How do you tell a kid who is that excited about apples to put one back. I just grinned, nodded and winked as they ran quickly out of sight.
Adam tried to lead the kids in song but they were more interested in eating their apples and trying to strum his guitar as he played. It was chaos.
While all of that was happening a few of us snuck up the stairs to the baby room. On the way I passed a big, otherwise empty room with a little boy wrapped tightly in a sweatshirt as if it were a straight jacket. My heart sank and I didn't know what to do but keep walking. He was rolling on a bed and groaning. It made me sick to my stomach.
Once in the baby room there were lots of babies. Two to a crib. There were also several older special needs children. Several of the special needs kids were in a cribs, one was strapped into a wheel chair by scraps of old torn clothing. We were told not to go near him because he scratched and pinched.... I found out they were right. :o
We changed the babies diapers and held them. I held a ten day old baby. She was beautiful. Others held babies with no expressions. They were limp and listless. It was heart wrenching.
The medical team came in and checked out several children. There was a boy with pneumonia .. He is probably not much longer for this world... In the states he would be in the hospital in serious condition... Not there...
Tara brought a few age appropriate toys for the toddlers to play with they were mesmerized. These kids had nothing to play with. There were no toys just empty rooms and beds.
I came to find out what the little boy who was stamping his feet and screaming was saying...He was crying for his mom and dad who had just abandoned him there that day. (He thought when the guards were opening the gates to let us in that his parents were coming back for him. He was sad and angry that we were not his parents.) He was still running around crying all alone with no one to comfort him when I came out of the baby room. I reached down and picked him up and hugged him tight. He clung to me as if his life depended on it. The only words I knew in Spanish were Jesus loves you. I said that over and over and over and over. Eventually he calmed down a bit... (I am going to sneak a picture in here...shhh)
I felt terrible. It was as if I was walking him to his doom, as if I was abandoning him all over again. I wanted to run and take him home with me. I realize most of these kids have similar stories. Some of them may have been there since birth and don't remember being abandoned... that may have been easier??? I don't know??? I wanted to take them all.
As we approached the room I gently tried to put him down. He put his legs down but clung to my neck. I squatted beside him and gave him a kiss and brushed his hair while I tried to smile. He still didn't let go, but the nannies were calling.
Several of the older boys were starring at us. I really wasn't sure what their intentions were. Youth with no parents and little supervision for their whole lives... well I just wasn't sure if they were going to mock him, be indifferent to him or what? I looked one of them in the eye and he seemed to have an understanding look about him. I motioned for him to come and put his arm around the boy and lead him into their room as I couldn't go with him past the door. The boy did. I was grateful.
The older boy walked over patted the little one on the shoulder and gently guided him into the large, baron, dimly lit room. The little one walked into the room with a gait of defeat. He had lost the battle but he was going to surrender willingly. For a brief moment he glanced back towards me with a look of heart break. I nodded and smiled as best I could fake.. and then he rounded the corner and was gone forever from my life.
I wonder to this day, to this minute how that little boy is doing? Did his parents decide to come back for him? Is he still there? Does he know that Jesus loves him? These are questions I'll never get the answers to. They are questions that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
It was getting dark and the orphanage wasn't in the best part of town so they were quickly herding us to the bus. They were warning us to look under seats and under the bus because kids try to escape all the time... As we were walking out of the building my kids were skipping along in front of me. I was watching the guard and for a second I saw him flinch as if to grab them (thinking they lived there). Then he looked at me and I could see in his eyes he understood his mistake. It all happened in half a second. It was an innocent mistake but it was terrifying. For a fleeting second my heart dropped. I was ready to grab my kids and run and scream. I felt helpless, afraid and then the next second so relieved that I knew my kids could walk out of that place on their own with their Mom and Dad, three of their grandparents and 13 others who love them! How blessed we are to be a family.
How helpless I feel that I can't give all these kids families.