I woke up this morning, 3 sleeps post Africa, from a dream that I was living at the Fiwagoh Mission Orphanage. When I finally realized that I was in my bed in Redding, CA I must admit I was a little heart broken. When I boarded the plane in Nakuru, part of my heart stayed in Kenya. It's hard to come "home" to a place that no longer feels completely like home. I've been back for 4 days and still can't shake the feeling that something's missing. After my dream, I realized what it was I've been missing: the constant, joyful chatter of children. I miss their voices and faces and smiles and hand shakes and hugs and kisses. I miss them. All of them. Over the course of our trip, we saw over 2,000 orphans. There are so many memories I want to share, but one in particular stands out vividly in my mind:
On the last night of our stay in the Fiwagoh orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya, our team of 30 had the privilege of reading bedtime stories to the children of the orphanage. I snuggled up on the twin-sized bunk bed that my Leah slept on, and began reading to her. As I read story after story to her, not wanting the moment to end, two things happened: The first thing was swarms and swarms of children began to gather around, hanging on every word I read. The second thing that happened was that tears began to cascade down my sweet Leah's face. I could tell she didn't want me to see, but her tears turned into sobs, and she melted into my lap. After finishing about 15 Bible stories, the children headed for their own twin-sized bunk, and I had a moment with Leah. I hugged her and hugged her and she cried and cried. I fought back tears as she told me how thankful she was for me. For my love. For the time we spent together. I hugged her again, not wanting another moment to pass. I whispered the word "Nacupenda" in her ear, which is Swahili for "I love you" and she replied with "I will always love you." The walk back to my room was a tearful one. When was the last time these beautiful children were read a bedtime story? When would be the next time someone tucked them in? That was the moment God gripped my heart for His children like never before. My heart is in Kenya. My heart is with Leah. My heart longs for those children. To see them again. To hug them again. To read to them again. I sat on my bed and cried so many tears. Tears for Leah. Tears for the rest of the orphans. Tears for the children with no parents. No beds. No home. So many tears. That was the moment when God beautifully and irreversibly broke my heart for a nation and for His children. I long for the day when I can walk back into the gates of Fiwagoh orphanage again, and see my sweet Leah. I think of her every day. All the time. I will never be the same. My heart now lives in two places at the same time.
As I continue to process my trip, I hope to share what God is teaching me and more of my many stories from the trip.
Here's a picture of me with Leah and Evyline during our last few minutes together. This was by far the hardest goodbye I had to say.