We spent the last two days of our time in Rwanda at Noel Orphanage. Noel was once the largest orphanage in Rwanda housing over 600 kids. Now many of these children are at boarding schools and others have reunified with distant family members, but there are still many kids under 5 as well as older teenagers and kids with special needs.
Journal Entry Day 9: Before I came to Rwanda, I felt like I was in a pit. I even brought this book to read on the plane ride home by Beth Moore called "Get out of that Pit." But I realized today, I am entirely out of that pit...I don't know when it happened exactly, but some time between taking off from the Dayton, Ohio airport and now, 9 days into the trip, I notice weights being lifted, and worries dissolving. And as I'm processing it now, I can see so clearly what the pit was...because I've been there before, and it's being consumed with my self. I often serve myself more than I do others and wanting other people to love and affirm me and the reality is, God created us to serve and love others, so it's no surprise that I would be in a pit, when I find myself believing that this life I live is for me. Beth Moore would probably have reminded me that in her book, but I re-discovered that the secret to joy in life is found in loving and serving others and the children of Noel helped me remember that secret.
When we arrived at Noel and all those little faces with their big eyes were looking up at us, jumping to see in the windows, running along side the bus as we pulled into the gates, I could have been a puddle on the floor. As I got out of the bus and scooped up as many kids as I could possibly hold & hug at one time, I felt in the deepest parts of me how much they needed to be hugged, how much they needed to feel special and valuable...and in that moment, so many of the things in my heart and mind that had me in a pit started to disappear...and I thought to myself many times throughout the day, "I am exactly where God wants me to be right now." And so I realize more and more, the closer I get to the life that God has called me to live, the further away the pits of life become.
Journal Entry Day 10: We've spent the last 2 days at Noel Orphanage. I could have spent our entire time here. It felt a little overwhelming because there were so many children and we couldn't possibly give all of our love and attenition to every child in the way we really wanted to but we sure did try our best. I tried to split up my time evenly with different ages...the teenagers spoke english pretty well so it was really great being able to communicate with them, encourage them, talk about school and what they want to do and be in life after the orphanage. The babies were so precious, I could hardly stand it...we played with bubbles and stickers like there was no tomorrow. I think it was good to give the "orphanage moms" a little break and affirm them by telling and showing them how important their job is and hopefully we encouraged them in that.
These kids are so tough...they grew up in this environment that isn't very clean and without families, and without strong adult figures encouraging them and telling them they are special and beautiful and can go to school and get a job. They don't own one thing to their name. They share everything they have..clothes, food, space...they don't take piano lessons or go on family vacations...and I guess the thing that breaks my heart the most is that they don't get told over and over again, "God loves you so much, no matter what...even if you mess up and do something wrong, even if other kids are mean to you, or society has forgotten you, and even if you're not good at this or that...He still loves you, and that will never change." Our team lead a skit to emphasize this concept of God's love for them. We acted out the book "You are Special" by Max Lucado and we changed all the names in the book to African names. :)
Today I'm reminded of Hosea 14:3 "In you, the orphan finds mercy."