If you want children to love, here they are
They are so skinny that you can see their bones.
Limeh has a gash on the right leg that has been infected for so too long that its become a breeding ground for disease that threatens to take over her entire body.
Their mother is 18, and has neglected their basic needs.
As I waved away the flies that settled on the twins’ deep brown skin, they looked up at me with their deep set eyes, in which I saw little else except exhaustion.
I had been watching them from across the playground for a while. They sat up side by side in the shade under the supervision of the social worker, both holding twin baby dolls. They didn’t cry. They didn’t smile. They didn’t move.
I walked over to them and planted myself on the small blanket next to the one dressed in red, and her sister, who was dressed in yellow, moved to position herself to see me. I hadn’t even had a chance to smile at them before Limeh reached up and handed me her doll. And then she cracked a smile.
My heart broke.
I began to play the game with her. I’d accept her doll, then offer it back to her, and we’d repeat this for a while. The social worker told me that today was the first day they had ever seen the twins smile.
Lesegho and Limeh weren’t the only children there. Close to 60 boys and girls ranging from ages of 3 to 14 were running around under the hot sun on the dirt playground. This place is an after school program for orphans and children who are HIV positive.
One of the head teachers pointed out to me at least 15 of the children who are infected with AIDS. I watched them. They ran and played and skipped and jumped just like healthy, fun-loving kids. They didn’t know any different. The disease hasn’t taken its painful toll yet. So for today, they twirl. They skip. They climb.
They swarmed around me laughing and speaking to each other in their native tongue (I’m assuming they were making fun of my hair…). I fell in love with their bright smiles and their innocent passion for living. I could barely comprehend how fatality could co-exist inside of such LIFE and vibrancy… How bright purity and dark disease live in the same being.
And as they walked away to go home, I thought of where they would sleep. I thought of their parents… Were they the loving, nurturing kind? Or did they beat them? And what of the ones with no parents? Parents who died of the same disease that they are carrying around every day? The disease that still doesn’t have a cure? The disease that claims the lives of too many children…
I rode away in the van, my head and arms out the window, waving at them as we passed by, and this feeling of broken helplessness grew in my stomach.
I’ve read the blogs of previous World Racers who wrote of the time they spent in Africa. I’ve read how orphans have stolen their heart, and have caused them to break. I guess I just couldn’t picture myself with my own two feet planted in the red earth of Botswana, Africa. I didn’t know just what this would do to me. The only concept I had of African orphans was the Compassion International commercials with the swolen bellied children who stand there staring at you from behind a thatch hut. And while that moved me to a certain point, it wasn’t real. If I’m honest, I’ll tell you that for a long time for me, it felt produced. I was borderline numb.
But I’m here with dirt stains on my skirt and one orphan’s lunch smeared on my shirt, and I saw two twins close to death smile at me today. I’m feeling the fissures of brokenness.
In one of my favorite books, the author tells the story of a man probing God with his deepest question. He says, “God, You say You are love, and it is indeed so. But tell me, why is there still such poverty in the world? Why do you allow this? Why are children dying of hunger? Why are people dying alone? Why is this happening?”
And God answered, “I don’t know, Church. You tell Me.”
Because becoming the will of God is better than always asking what it is.
I’m learning more and more that love is the greatest thing. Out of anything. Ever and of all time. Until I can have the kind of compassion that causes me to ache, I don’t know what it means to love like God does. He probably aches all the time because so many don’t really know Him, both in and out of the Church. He aches for Limeh and Lesegho, every child who is dying of AIDS, and I’m convinced that He knows better than anyone what pain feels like. If you’ve ever loved someone with every ounce of your being, but have to endure separation from them, you know a glimpse of your Maker’s pain for the world.
Every day, my team has been praying that God would teach us how to love DEEPLY. I anticipated that the process would involve fire and pain, and it is. It is out of the places of pain that we can love the most deeply. I’m here in Africa, inviting pain for the purpose of deep love.
I would like to know which book you quoted from; I really liked that excerpt. And I especially liked your next statement, “Because becoming the will of God is better than always asking what it is.” Was that your own statement or was it a quote also?