We were riding in the car, talking about the day ahead and planning the schedule. Our Brother said that there was an opportunity to go along and visit the home and family of three of the children living at the orphanage. They had only been back to their home one other time and that was four years ago.
Did we want to go along?
I have learned that these opportunities are usually the very ones that God uses to stretch and grow me; the ones that aren’t on the original agenda.
We said “yes”.
The next morning, we loaded up and followed another car that carried the three children to visit their parents and “di-di” (little brother). When I met these children just the day before, they greeted me with wide, bright eyes and smiling faces. I caught a glimpse through our car windows that morning; their smiles were gone.
After driving for over an hour, the car came to a stop at the base of a foothill. The area around us was stunning. The land was lush and nearly untouched by industry and technology. A short hike up the hill (in a skirt and flip flops, no less!) led us to the place these children had once called home.
My team mate and I stayed back while the children, our Brother and our Sister, the orphanage director, went to engage the family. I’m not sure the family knew we were accompanying the children on their visit, but they didn’t seem to care that we were there.
Our Brother came to us after a short time and started to paint the picture of the family situation. Poverty. Mental illness. Misplaced value of marriage. Selfishness. As he spoke, my heart broke into a million pieces…
“Why in the world am I even here?” was the thought that pulsed in my heart and mind.
Left alone again with my thoughts, I looked out into the hills and wondered how many voices cried out from unmarked graves; victims of a family planning policy and hundreds of years of a cultural preference of sons over daughters. My heart continued to break…
The family gathered for a picture.
Mental illness allows a smile – one that is oblivious to the circumstance. Apart from that smile, the picture is void of joy; the weight of the situation is evident in the faces of the other 5 members of the family.
As we prepare to leave, the di-di is overcome with emotion; the older three maintain a stoic mode that gets them through the good-byes. Their mother waves and smiles; their father encourages them to work hard and succeed. Our Sister, the orphanage director, chokes back the tears. She reaches for left-over breakfast food and runs it quickly to the di-di.
As we drive away, the tears swell in our Sister’s eyes; she can no longer contain them. She wants to do more. She wants to bring the di-di with us; he begged as we drove away. She simply cannot house one more child right now.
The car ride back to the orphanage was silent. Too many thoughts in our minds and hearts. I was overcome with emotions I didn’t think I was capable of. I was so frustrated! Where could we even start to help? How could we help without hurting? How could we even begin to fix this? No amount of community development can erase generations of tradition, thought and prejudice.
In that moment, the Father stepped into the middle of my thoughts and reminded me:
You live in the not yet.
I will step in and fix this all.
No more mental illness.
No more poverty.
No more fatherless children.
No more gendercide.
No more hunger.
Even as I recount that day – almost 2 months later – I have to allow God to remind me that we live in the not yet. The faith He has grown in my heart that He will step in and redeem all this brokenness is what allows me to work on behalf of the orphan now. In this not yet, He allows his people to be active agents of reconciliation. We cannot fix it, but we can love like Jesus did. And somehow, loving like Jesus did makes us more like Him.
Right now, that has to be enough…