Based on how our day started, today should have been awful. Nate and I both woke up tired and worn out from sorting and resorting pencil boxes and letters late into the night. I even missed breakfast due to the fact we were running behind, which is never a good sign. So, when we got to the babies’ home this morning, I was pretty out of it. That is, until I walked in and saw Danny, Juan Pablo, Jose, and Alejandra. For whatever reason, all of the big kids (well, almost all. Estuardo wasn’t there) didn’t have school today. And there truly is no better cure for a bad mood than being with those kids.
Even before I got in the door, Danny was already in Nate’s arms. And we were excited to hear that he remembered our names! I’ve heard it said that there is nothing better than the sound of someone saying your name, and I must confess that there are few things sweeter than hearing “Naughty” and “Raquel” coming from the mouth of a precious kid like Danny.
One moment from today I will never forget is when we went over the kids’ schoolwork with them. Danny wanted to show me everything he had done, and on one of the pages was a little paragraph they were supposed to read. I started to read it with Danny and soon realized that it was a paragraph all about families and how “Mommy loves me” and “I love Daddy.” Danny was seemingly unaffected by these words and ideas, but it literally brought me to tears.
After lunch, we were able to finally get back to Elisa Martinez. I went into the orphanage feeling stressed and anxious. Different people in our group wanted to give specific boys their Foreign eXchange gifts and letters. Some of the gifts and letters were addressed to boys who were no longer at the orphanage. I was wondering how the heck we were going to make sure all of the gifts and letters were passed out in a orderly and timely manner when the kids were spread out all over the orphanage. And if the kids were going to be patient and wait for us to get organized. And how about me, the organizer? Was I going to be patient and calm while we were trying to get organized? Well, I know the answer to the last question and it is a most definite “no.” It was a mess. I was a mess. Papers were blowing everywhere. Some of the boys were trying to steal the gifts. There were at least 10 boys named Jose and none of them had the same last names as the “Jose”s I had on my list.
I am thankful that, as Jody pointed out, God redeems our crazy, messed up, imperfect efforts. Today I saw our sloppy system touch the hearts of the boys at EM. I end today able to say, with confidence, that the letters, pictures, and gifts we brought to the boys made them feel loved. And that is exactly what we came here to do. For me, it was great affirmation to hear from one of our translators, Carte, that in the year she’s been working for Buckner, she’s never seen a group bring down personalized gifts and letters. She was genuinely touched by our efforts to make the boys feel loved.
However, even more than Carte’s words, the reactions of the boys affirmed that what we’re attempting to do here needs to continue. Today I got to hand a gift and letter from my friends, Megan and Phil, to a boy named Oraldo. Oraldo is a special needs boy who gets your attention and keeps it. He laughs loudly and speaks gibberish. He has the most amazing, somewhat toothless grin. I know Megan and Phil will smile when they see a picture of Oraldo laughing at the camera as he holds up pictures of Megan, Phil, and their dog, Mr. Darcy.
I also got to give a gift and letter to one of the “cool kids,” Raphael. You know the kind of kid I’m talking about, right? The kind of kid who has to be forced to participate. The kind of kid who doesn’t want to get involved. The kid who has to be dragged into the group. Raphael was at EM in August, but he told us he was going to a transitional home, and we wouldn’t see him again. Originally, Stephanie Longyear had wanted to sign up to be his amigo because the Longyears had met Raphael in August, but since Raphael said he wasn’t going to be around, we didn’t have an amigo for him. However, Nate and I told Raphael about our “very white” and “very bald” pastor who arm wrestled him in August, and we told him that our pastor and his family remembered him and wanted to know how he was doing. Raphael then got a huge smile on his face and told us that, yeah, he remembered him. He left, and I didn’t think any more of it. But then he came back a few minutes later with a handwritten note for Scot. In his letter, Raphael said, “I want to know why you haven’t come back to see me… I look forward to seeing you soon.” I know the Longyears will be thrilled to hear that their friend is still around and doing well, and that Raphael will be on their minds, in their prayers, and on their hearts for a long, long time. Also, I’d be willing to bet that there’s a good chance Raphael will be hearing from them soon. If not through a personal visit, at least through letters, pictures, and small gifts.
I also had the joy of seeing Mandy, Emily, Jen, Brad, and Breya get to interact with their amigos. In particular, I enjoyed watching Emily and David and Mandy and Hancel. Hancel, who has Down Syndrome, just loved being around Mandy. I think he spent the majority of the afternoon hugging, kissing, and inappropriately grabbing his new friend. Mandy responded with love of her own. She has a huge heart for special needs kids, and she was able to show Hancel the kind of appropriate love and touch that he needed.
Emily is somewhat of a pro in the sponsorship department. She recently came back from a trip to the Dominican Republic where she met a child she sponsors through Compassion. I think she was nervous today about meeting her boy, David, but, like I said, she’s a pro. David doesn’t speak, but Emily managed to connect with him anyway. She told us tonight that she made faces to get him to smile, pushed him around in his wheelchair, and blew bubbles with him.
Tomorrow is our last day! How is that possible? We are going back to EM in the morning, and then we’re taking some of the kids from the babies’ home with us to a pizza party at the transitional home. I think Spiderman might be making an appearance tomorrow at the party, so check back tomorrow for pictures!