Tuesday, June 06, 2006

In the mountains on the border of Swaziland and South Africa sits a little village full of lemon trees, guava trees, avocado trees, berry bushes, and brightly colored houses. This once-abandoned village is now home to nearly 30 orphaned children. The stories of where most of these children came from are graphic and terrible. Evil. A group of five year olds gang-raped a three year old in one of the squatter camps where some of the children are from. They are babies born from rapes, children born of prostitutes as young as 11-12. They are from abusive homes. They have been beaten, abandoned, and tortured. The places these children spent their first days, their first years, showed them the desperate evil in our world.

But to see their faces now! Their smiles and their joy! These are not the faces of children bound by the terrible, oppressive chains of sinister evil running rampant in their everyday lives. These are faces of children loved by the LORD. Children in whom He has worked profoundly and miraculously to save from the depths of despair and bring to a true place of LIGHT!!! They are healthy. They are learning. They are polite and respectful and full of the enjoyment of life. Jesus's power of healing and restoration is evident in a mighty way in the lives of these children.

Layla is 10. Her Swazi name is "Tuppsile," but she told me she likes "Layla" better. She is shorter than her 8 year old sisters. Covering her skin are what look like lots of small bubbles. I don't know what they were or how they were cause, but Layla simply described them as "hurts." Layla and I bonded.

After having the privilege of hearing Robyn, the incredible woman who began Abandoned Babies for Christ, or ABC Ministries, speak to us about how God gave her this vision and then helped her to accomplish it and make a tremendous difference in over 300 children's lives, my team went outside to explore and play with the 26 children now living in the two neighboring ABC houses. As soon as I saw Layla and said hi to her, she gave me a huge smile and grabbed my hand, immediately inviting me to hang out with her. Many of the children and my team were headed to see the horses, but Layla insisted that we go ask her mom for permission. Robyn said it was okay as long as we didn't walk too fast. See, Layla has a heart condition. She stated this to me very matter-of-factly several times.

On our journey to see the horses, we were distracted. First, by a pretty flower that Layla saw. She picked it for me, then held it for me when she saw that I couldn't hold her hand, her sister Kitsile's, and carry the flower at the same time. We had scarcely passed the flower when we discovered fallen avocados which we had to examine. Together we determined that we would leave the avos to gather on our way back home. Our next distraction came when Layla saw a guava tree. She very excitedly hurried to find a yellow one, which she ate. She promised to pick me one on the way back.

Once at the stable, Layla discovered a berry bush that was much more interesting to her than the horses. I think she only went to the stable to humor me. At the point we got there, some of her brothers and sisters were already heading up the mountain to the waterfall, so we soon joined them. On our way up, Layla got tired, so my teammate Matt carried her on his back. Then she wanted down. Then she decided she wanted to ride on his shoulders. No, his back. Shoulders. Back. Shoulders. Yeah, shoulders. She got on and promptly wanted off. Eventually we made it up the mountain to the incredible view of the Swazi and South African mountains. Layla played with her friends, her siblings. She came to hug and hang on me for a little bit, then went back to play with her friends.

On our way back home, Layla told me all about their guava, lemon, and avo trees. She explained making guava jam, and the best way to eat an avo: "It may be soft on the outside, then it is ripe. You open it, put it on bread, add salt, and it is nice."

I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She didn't know. I asked her what she wanted to do. "I want to cook for a lot of people that doesn't have food. I want to help them."

Oh yes, the redemptive power of Christ is at work in this young, smart, amazing little girl.

She totally charmed me with her simple understanding of life's joys and hardships. When we left, she and her friends had set off to pick more guavas. I wish I could have accepted her invitation to join them...



At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Lauren,

Thanks for sharing about your trip/adventures/encounters. I've been struggling recently with the realization that I'm basically not doing anything about the many, many Laylas of the world. Most of the time, aren't we as Christians so wrapped up in our own lives (or even the busy-ness of things that take place at the church building) that we fail to be the hands and feet of Christ??? I keep giving the excuse that when I have more time, I'll do something more...Well, at 40 something years old, the extra time just hasn't shown up yet! Oh, I can rationalize and give a few examples of what I've done right, but they pale in comparison with what COULD have been done. David (our 24 yr. old son, for those of you reading who don't know us) recently shared part of a book that he is reading that states that compassion (and the actions that it prompts) should be a NATURAL part of our daily lives. We tend to make a concerted effort to do something compassionate, then pat ourselves on the back, or toot our own horns about what we've done--I can picture our heavenly father gagging in disgust, or at least shaking His head sadly at our actions!

I realize that I need revival, and am seeking God to find out what HE wants me to do with the rest of my life. At the forefront of our agenda is to get our business sold, and then I feel that I'm supposed to get a psychological counselor's license to help people struggling with difficult life situations. We'll keep you posted as things progress. In the meantime, I KNOW that I have to do more than I've been doing for the past 20 or so years...

Serving alongside you (but needing to serve more),

Aunt Jolene

At 4:59 PM, Blogger natenamy said...

Lauren-- What a great story! I am so glad that you got to witness first hand what God is doing among the "least of these" in a land that desperately needs to hear about Him and His redeeming love and power. How awesome to be a small part in His big plan! I am so glad that you got to go! I pray that one day, I will be able to go back there and work with the children and families that need Him. (and maybe, like you, adopt a few of them :))
Brent and Deanna-- we are praying for you and we miss you lots... just thought that we would remind you of that!
Hugs and kisses,
Amy (and Nate-dog too)

At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lauren, your journal entry today tugged at my heart...what experiences you are having in such a far-away place. They are obviously changing your life and your perspective. And, through your journal you change our lives and perspectives, too. God is using you - there and here. Isn't that awesome!

Still praying for your family in Arlington, TX.

At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences with the children. Our church is having VBS this week and you have reminded me that there are children right here that need that love and attention. I have the opportunity right now to be there for them. How timely. But God always is!

At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lauren, I have never posted to this site before but have been following since your brother was in the hospital. I have told many people about it. My daughter goes to IWU and I was just surfing the iwu blogring and came across yours. I read your entry today with much interest, my younger two kids, age 17 and 18 are going to Belize this summer. I will have them read this to glean some understanding of places and people they may encounter. Your family has been an encouragement to many, thank you so much for your works. In fact I have asked our youth pastor to play portions of BJ's celebration service to get them focused on how God can use them. Thanks again ~Debbie from Ohio~


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