Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Team: Natalie

       I had done the orphanage thing before. A veteran of mega church student ministry, I had taken high school students to far flung places to bounce kids on their knees, assemble PVC soccer goals and lead VBS for a week or so at a time. It was good for the high school kids and the orphans. God moves in their hearts during short term mission trips. They're wonderful.
But this was different.
       Within weeks of moving to Kampala, I'd been invited to begin visiting an orphanage there on a regular basis. The first few visits were fun and much like all of my other orphanage experiences. It was later, when the workers began to tell us the truth about the place and when a few unannounced visits were made that we began to see. Really see. The reality of life at this particular orphanage is something that words cannot fully communicate. I'm not even going to try, but know that I cried every time we went. If not for an amazingly optimistic friend, I'd have quit.
       Just four months into my time in Kampala, the same friend and her husband brought one of those baby girls into their home. Their family of five grew to six almost instantaneously. She won the hearts of her sisters and brother long before she was completely trusting of them. Her new momma learned everything she could about coaxing a child from the brink of malnutrition, and her new daddy took great joy in teaching her how to walk and talk and hit other milestones she had missed in her year at the orphanage. We'd sit and watch her play on the floor of their living room or splash in the tub and wonder what the first sixteen months of her little life had been like. She blossomed wrapped up in that family, and it was a miracle to watch.

       A few months later, my sister Christine came to visit me for Christmas. We played with all the missionaries' kids, and Christine especially loved to play with the little brown one. She's know as the "Baby Whisperer", but all preschoolers love my sister, and our mission family's newest edition was no exception. I'd had months to watch and process, but for Christine, it was real deal ministry. Right there in that family's house. I remember talking long and late in my little apartment on the other side of the world, about adoption and salvation. How adoption is salvation when babies die at the orphanage every month. How our salvation is adoption.
       We are almost nine years removed from those conversations; some of them on this side of the planet, some spent on the other. That little girl thrives now. Ten years old; soccer, guitar, a sense of humor that fits exactly with that of her family. She has questions. "Who was my birth mother? What happened to her? Why am I chocolate when everyone else in the family is vanilla?" But she is loved- by the family that rescued her and by a Savior who is her very own. And she'll work out the hard stuff, because love helps you do that. While I see her a couple of times a year, I'm sure that she has no idea how her story has taught me, changed me. I hope I get to tell her one day.
       As the Lord is prone to do, He has continued to whisper. Sermons and songs and conversations seem to all point to the thing He's been talking about. And, here we are. Everybody knows that only people with disposable income start non-profits. It only makes sense really. Not this one. It's just us. Girls who got to see.

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