Currently, I am writing while flying over the giant pond known as the Atlantic Ocean. Hope we don’t need to emergency land because there is no part of me that wants to see if this cushion I am sitting on will actually float. I have my doubts. I love how the safety video Delta plays at the beginning of the flight makes the what to do in case we crash information so pleasant, and almost enjoyable. The woman smiles as she says in a smooth calm voice, “In case of emergency landing in the ocean, there are eights rafts that will inflate upon opening each door. Women please remove your high-heeled shoes so you don’t bust the raft and be the reason any remaining survivor drowns. Please do not worry, when the light on your flotation vest touches the water it will illuminate so rescuers may locate you as you float over waves in the middle of nowhere. If the crash into the ocean does not instantly take your life, please remove all shiny or sparkling jewelry so you are not devoured by a shark.” Ok… maybe that is not a direct quote, but they may as well just tell us the truth. If this plane goes down, I’d rather God just take me Home.
Here are a few moments of our trip that I will remember forever.
I have written before about Rays of Hope, which is Joel’s school in Kabalagala. I have always enjoyed the time there but this week topped every experience in the past. Every time we go, all the children dance and sing and put on programs for us. Africa is the most hospitable place in the world and here at Rays of Hope they truly embrace that custom. Sometimes it is so much, that we almost feel like they are the ones serving when we came with intentions to serve. They give us breakfast, water, and occasionally flowers. Our group was trying to think of ways we could show them God’s love and serve them without them actually serving us. So this week, we washed their feet just as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. We washed 300 pairs of African feet. After getting over what we were actually doing, it was amazing. I have never been more humbled.
There is a girl named Joan in Rays of Hope school that without saying a word has captured all of our hearts. Beyond just being an orphan living in one of the worst slums in all of Uganda, Joan is deaf and mute. You can tell by her actions she is extremely intelligent, but when she attempts to speak it comes out just noise. The thing about Joan that humbles me and brings me more hope, is that she is the most joy filled child I have ever met. I have never seen her without a beaming smile. When she sees us, especially Catherine, she comes running towards us jumping in our arms. Joan loves to be loved. We went to the mud-walled, thatched-roof home that she lives in with her grandmother. We took food, detergent, and soap and prayed with them. It was powerful. God was overwhelmingly present. (This is Joan in purple in the picture below.)
It is not getting easier to leave Africa. The piece of me that can’t wait to get in a hot shower is ready, but the rest of me is still in that home with those children. The few weeks I had there were incredible. There were again ups and downs, and times of great joy and overwhelming stress, but overall everything was amazing. The kids… oh the kids… God has truly blessed these children and this home. They are healthy, growing, smiling, laughing, and a phrase I feel like fits them well… they are finally just kids again. We looked back on some old photos earlier this week of when they were still at the previous home. It was hard seeing those images of the past. Beyond their visible illnesses, their malnourished stomachs, or their bones nearly protruding through their skin, the feature in these photographs that is more striking and heartbreaking than all, is their eyes. Emptiness and hopelessness are words that I feel like barely scratch the surface of what their eyes were saying. None of them spoke a language I understood, but their eyes were a lamp into their souls clearly communicating pure brokenness. Yesterday when I gave them all hugs goodbye, even thought it hurt to say that again, their eyes all tell a different story. They tell a story of hope and the power of God. Their eyes all show the glory of Christ and how he intercedes for us and restores us to complete healing. These 17 children's eyes are all now a lamp that shines the glory of God.
I am still overwhelmed looking back and realizing what God has done. All glory and praise to Him. These kids have really helped me change how I see people. I think God is finally showing me how He sees us. It is still a challenge but every now and then I will get a glimpse of seeing someone I don’t even know and realizing how much God cares for that person. The love is overwhelming. The grace is overwhelming. Even after all we have been through and done, out of His love for us, He sent His son to give us everlasting, never-exhausting grace. After traveling by myself through three different airports in three different continents in the past 24 hours, I have watched a number of people. Not watching people in a creepy way, but honestly, I could sit and just watch the interesting diversity of people walking through an airport all day. Sometimes I laugh inside and other times I can see their pain without even knowing them. Sometimes I try to imagine their stories and where they have come from and been through. Sometimes I try to think of how their accent would sound. I catch myself unknowingly practicing it out loud as the person next to me shoots a strange look my direction. There are so many different cultures across this world and before traveling half way across the globe, I don’t think I fully realized that. I have always known of the existence of other cultures, but never experienced it, is a better way of saying that. In Amsterdam, I really enjoyed sitting near the end of one of those moving walkways. Those are the epitome of lazy, but I must admit I never pass one up. Did you know we are the only country in the world that stands, and doesn’t walk, on a moving walkway or escalator? Don’t try to do that in another country because they will run you over if you are standing. The best thing about sitting near the end of this moving walkway is watching people’s expressions as they adjust from the speed of walkway to the motionless floor. As I am sitting here finding humor in the people that fall forward, God is showing me something so much bigger. Today, for a second at a time, I can see into the person. I have never really looked at people from God’s perspective before. I always see them from my perspective and how I feel about what they say, wear, or do. I judge quickly. When I can shift my mind to God’s perspective of a person, for a split second, I can see their heart. I can see how much He loves them. That may sound strange, but if I or we could see people from God’s perspective every day, at all times, my life and this world would be drastically different. I pray that when I get home, my perspective on others is no longer my quickest judgment or formed thought of something they have done in the past, but I see them with the love of Christ in me. I pray that for you too. This world would profoundly change.