I used all these questions as excuses not to get involved. I never figured it was my problem. It was not part of my everyday life, and surely someone else was doing something. It was not in front of me, and it did not effect my life. I was just trying to achieve more of the American dream. I was serving in my church, I was serving my community as much as I could. A missions trip always perked my ears up, but I never thought it was possible for me to go anywhere. How? Where? HOW!?
That is till a "random" thought crossed my mind one day that changed my entire life. I have always had a passion for children. I was always involved in Sunday School, AWANA, nursery, childrens church, and worked as a full time nanny. I always said to put me in a room full of toddlers and I was happy, but I would be uncomfortable teaching adults or teens.
One day I was watching Grace and Chase, who are the first two children I full time nannied and adored. Chasing them through the house with loud foot steps, hands outstrached, them knowing I would tickle them, as they ran and giggled. And randomly I thought "I would love to do this for orphans." In a instant the thought of children who do not get rocked to sleep, chased to be tickled, tucked in bed, or get that one on one attention came to the forefront of my mind, and a desire I did not know that lay dorment in me, arose that I would love to give that to them.
I shook the thought off, and got back to the business of tickeling at hand. The next day I sat upstairs rocking Grace in her rocker, singing songs, as she flutter her eyes off the sleep. And again the thought took over me. "I would love to do this for orphans." And this time after I layed grace down in her crib, and went to clean up from lunch, I thought more and more on the idea. I did not share this thought with people, because I did not think much could come of it, or would come of it. I prayed for the orphans in the world that day as I went about getting things cleaned up and organized from our busy morning.
Needless to say the thoughts did not stop. I remember one night waking up out of a sound sleep, and my first cognitive thought was "Some child right now, is being ushed into a crowded orphanage. They are scared, alone, have no idea what to expect. " And the thoughts started to interupt my everyday life. I could not shake them, and I could not stop thinking about orphans. Finally the desire grew so passionately and deeply inside of me. I called my pastor one day, and left a message with the receptionist to have him call me, as soon as he could. (Maybe it sounded a bit urgent, but my heart was now ablaze, and I was sure I needed someone to talk some sense into me. I was not trained, I was not ready, I had no idea what other cultures where like, I had no idea of the needs of international orphans. (Which in case your wondering, is the same as your children. Love, security, education, etc) It was just this thought that I kept lingering on, and it kept impassioning me more and more.
That afternoon, was one of the "those" afternoons. The grilled cheese burned on the stove, the smoke detectors had been going off, the dog was barking, and the kids where crying. I looked over and saw my cell phome lighting up, and "CMA" across the screen. And I just HAD to pick it up! In a single breath I said "I want to go to a third world country and work in a orphanage." In which my pastor kindly responded "Why dont we set up a meeting and talk about this." UGH! Didn't he know I needed him to talk some sense into me NOW, before this this thought interupted my life any longer. Didn't he know I needed him to tell me all the things I can do right here in America, and how this is really a silly idea, and I am not trained to do a single bit of it!
So one afternoon after bible study, a friend of mine played with Grace and Chase, while I met with my pastor. Much to my surprise, he listened to me rattle off all these thoughts, and all the reasons why it was ridiculous, but how I kept entertaining this "thought". And how this thought had now seemed to take on a passion all it's own. Much to my surprise, I did not get any of the reactions I thought I would get. He encouraged me that he would pray about this, and for me to keep praying about this, and perhaps we could look into some options of a short term mission trip.
Then I started to actually research, watch movies, documentries, do endless google searches. And I knew what I wanted to do. I cant build a well, I cant do construction, my passion had always been children, and investing in them. I think we all knew as children when someone was merely tolerating us, and when people where investing in us. And I wanted to invest in them. And I really like to color, and dance silly, and there is no other place I can really do that, but when I am working with kids. I guess I am just a child at heart. So I typed into google "Visit Orphans." and THIS popped up. WHAT?! This is exactly what I wanted to do!!
So, after talking to my pastor again, I signed up for a trip, and I started to fundraise. I was shocked to see my church family come alongeside me, and help me get there. I stepped out of my comfort zones and even stepped up to the pulpit a time or two to share where my heart was, and what I was going to go do. Public speaking is my arch nemisis. But the passion inside me was growing a whole lot bigger than that fear.
So in August 2011, I found myself with 20 strangers, on Ethiopian Airlines headed to Rwanda and Ethiopia. And I am NOT one for strangers. I am not one who looks at strangers as potential friends. I like the company of people I know and feel comfortable around. I take time to "warm up" to people. And here I was going to another continent with a bunch of people I just met as we stepped on the plane! EEeeeeek! SCARY! Still the passion I had growing in my heart was a whole lot bigger than the fear was.
Little did I know then, that so many of those then strangers, are now some of my dearest and most coveted friends. Experiencing something like this with a bunch of people, really binds you together, and friendships run deep after that. My friend Jenn from home later told me that the day I was on the plane going to Rwanda and Ethiopia, that Sunday, she said to my pastor "You know we lost her. She is a goner." And he said "Yeah, I know."
They were right. I had looked up so much, watched video's, googled visiting orphans on youtube and teared up everytime I watched video's of other peoples experiences. A missionary from my area was at my church the Sunday before I left. And he came up to me and shared some wisdom. Some wisdom I was not expecting. As friends of mine where sincerely asking me how my heart would be after this experience. His advice was rather different. "Tina, let your heart break. You cannot do this without a broken heart." As others wanted to make sure my heart would come back in tact. He was encouraging me to let it break and shatter. And it made sense to me, on a level I did not understand then. But later this statement came to mean more and more to me.
And the experience changed me. All of a sudden these kids had names and faces. I had laughed with them, played games with them, held them. All of a sudden it all indeed did change. It was not some far off idea. It was not some weird random thought. It was not a image on the televesion screen. It was kids. Real kids. And they needed what every child needs. They needed love, they needed a education, they need nutritious meals, they need security, they needed everything your child, or neice, cousin, or child you babysit needs. They needed to be invested in. They needed a chance.
I came back and hung up pictures of the kids I had met and fell in love with all over my house. I shared stories with friends about my trip and showed them pictures of kids I had fallen in love with. I prayed with a vengance, like I had never prayed for anyone before in my life.
I ended up going back to Rwanda at the end of March and beginning of April. This flame and desire had then engulfed me. I had to come back, and really come back. I wanted to stay. I wanted to live it with them. I wanted to live it alongeside them. I wanted to invest in them. So I did the next logical step. I sold everything I had, and I moved to Rwanda.
Now that I am here, I will go back to the beginning of this post. I did not think there was anything I could do. And since I have come here, I have been so surprised at people. I have been surprised at how people have loved these kids who have never met them. I have also been surprised how many people have "entertained that thought" as well. But never took a single step toward it. Or people who have said "I think maybe God wants me to adopt." or "I feel compelled to sponsor, but I do not know if that is what God is calling me to do." And maybe you are one of those people. You feel compelled to go. You feel compelled to give. But you struggle with the thought. You wonder if God is really calling you to adopt, to go, to give, to invest.
I do not think it is a question of if. There are MILLIONS of orphans in this world. And just like the children in your home, your nieghborhood, they are children. They need love and to be invested in. There are children all over this world, right in your neighborhood, who need you. They are kids, and they need someone to advocate for them, give security, give love, and invest in their lives. So is God calling us to the children who have no parents to do this for them, for us to step up, and step in? Yes! It is not a question of "if" God is calling you to love the orphan. Maybe its a question of which venue?
And if God is starting to break your heart. One day I realized, love flows more freely from a broken vessel. If you where to but some water in a vessel that is not broken, intact, and guarded. It will just sit there. Break that vessel and that water is going to flow so freely and unihibited.
Its not a easy life here, and its not a easy life there. And I do not do this perfectly at all. I make mistakes all the time. The staying has been changing me and molding me in ways I never knew. The kids have taught me more about God and love than I could ever tell them about God and love. But if you are wondering if you should care for the orphans. Is that really a question? God will bless it no matter what you do for them. It is a mandate for us to do so. We are to love them as our own, we are to equipt them, and give them a fighting chance. We are to perhaps put all the chips in, and put it all on the line, and see God in ways we never dreamed. Maybe we are too put ourselves completely on the line, and see God do what God does best.
For me, that was in the coming and staying. But for you maybe that is in sponsoring, adopting, going, fostering, or commiting to prayer like never before.
"I said "Somebody should do something about that." Then I realized I am somebody." -Lily Tomlin
Lots of love from Rwanda,