Heartache and Hope (Post by Tim McLennan)
Today we took all the kids out of the orphanage so they could play at a soccer field down the road. Some of the older kids and Visiting Orphans team members got a game going, and the younger kids watched or played games in the grass.
I sat beside our sponsored girl, Diane, to watch the game. From where I sat I got to witness a lot of the kids love and care for each other as a family would. They’re in it together, and they know it. To watch how they interact and share, and stand up for and protect each other…it’s the kind of depth that comes about not through ease but through the camaraderie of going through rough times together.
I watched kids who were so thirsty for water but only took a sip because they wanted to make sure everyone around them also had a chance. I split a bag of trail mix between Diane and another girl, and even though no one else saw they had it, they made sure the other kids got a taste.
It’s hard to watch kids you know are hungry or thirsty surrender their needs to help someone else. They taught me something today about my own greed and selfishness.
After the games, the kids sat down while their school reports were read aloud. It just about broke my heart to see Diane hang her head when her grades were shared, even though they weren’t bad. I didn’t want her to feel like our love for her or our support is conditional on her grades. I put my arm around her and gave her a sideways hug. When she looked up at me, I smiled at her and told her I was proud of her, but I’m not sure she understood much.
As we left the game and headed back to the orphanage, I was near the point of tears to see my 9-year-old daughter Annabell, who came on this trip with us, come alongside Diane. The two walked arm-in-arm, and I heard Diane say the word “sister.”
As I witnessed them say goodbye to each other, it occurred to me that we as a group and me as an individual are at the beginning stages of getting to know a scattering of the kids at the orphanage. And just as our relationships begin to grow in depth, the countdown to our departure has already begun.
I saw today that these kids have each other, and that’s great. But what these kids need is not anything they or we can fill. The hollow spot within them is something only Christ can fill. And no amount of money or physical time with them can heal the pain they’ve been through, or the rough times ahead. That thought ended my day with a lot of silent tears of humility and brokenness.
The kids want to know they are loved and not forgotten. And what they need from us is not so much material things but relationship. We can’t give them what only Christ can give them, and we can’t give them families, which they also need. But we can be sponsors, and right now that’s the closest we can come to being their family.
To be honest, before I came on this trip, I didn’t think being a sponsor was a big deal. But now I see how it changes their perspective. They know they’re cared for. That they have value and are not forgotten. It gives them hope. You become family, in a sense, to someone that has never known anything but dysfunction, sadness, and heartache. You become hope, whether or not you’re deserving of it.