Today I thought I was spending all day at a baby home in Nairobi—a home for 55 little ones who have been abandoned by their families. Some were found in trash cans, others in pit latrines, some on the road side, others wrapped in bags, some had been buried alive, others left at hospitals, some dropped off outside the gate of the home, others brought by well-wishers.
Phoebe and I have driven past the home several times and always wanted to stop, so last Sunday on the way to church, we stopped. Of course we could not leave once we were greeted by those precious faces grabbing at our knees, so we missed church. This home is incredible…. it’s a real haven for these babies. I cannot say enough wonderful things about what they’re doing for these kids and how they’re doing it. I am so thankful those babies have such a wonderful, loving environment to live in until they are adopted (another great thing about this home: they really really try to find parents for these kids so they get that family life instead of living their entire lives in a home with 54 other kids.) Anyway, I decided to start coming once a week and spending the day with these babies. It was a purely selfish decision, but one that I was so so excited about.
When I got there, I was given no instruction, but was welcomed and trusted (it shocked me that such an established home did not even need my name before I cared for their babies). I started playing with the little 2ish year old munchkins. I was speaking to them in Swahili (luckily a 2 year old Kenyan and I have the same size vocabulary so I can get by pretty well) until I was told that they only speak English. What? Bizarre, but it makes sense if they are hoping to be adopted by foreigners. Anyway, it was really difficult to talk to these sweet babies with chubby Kenyan faces and Kenyan eyes and Kenyan names in English. They were precious and we had fun and I just kept wondering around until I found a new baby to play with. After about 2 hours, every single baby—1 week to 3 years was asleep (or supposed to be sleeping). I decided to leave instead of waiting until they woke up… the volunteer to baby ratio was ridiculously high, I practically had to fight people to have a little one to myself. :) Anyway, I left and began walking towards a coffee house to catch up on emails before Phoebe got off work.
The fact that I can walk by myself in Nairobi tells you it is a very affluent area—mzungus (white people) everywhere and I felt perfectly safe walking around alone, as I was in good company(ie. if someone wanted a young white girl to harass, they have a large pool to pick from in this area). As I approached my destination, I passed a woman and a baby sitting on the curb. The baby smiled and the mom humbly outstretched her arm in my direction. I looked in their eyes, smiled, and kept walking. So, I did not give them money (my friends who are/have been homeless in Atlanta and Athens have taught me to avoid this type of giving)-I kept walking and said a prayer for them. Maybe .5 seconds later, He interrupted my well-intentioned prayer to tell me to not feel guilty about not giving them my money, but to just give them myself instead. There is FREEDOM in the Spirit! He reminds me again and again (thankfully because I'm a coward) to claim this power and WALK IN IT!!!! I went and bought fruit and got 2 take away chais (Kenyan tea) at the coffee house I was going to. I took it back to them and got to sit down and fellowship with Gladys, Antony, and baby David. David immediately reached for me and Gladys held him back saying “no, no. He’s so dirty!” in Swahili. I tried my best to say “It’s okay. Dirty babies are my favorite. I am dirty too. Come baby.” He came to me and yeah, I guess he was dirty… but there was nothing further from my mind than caring about whether his filth covered me because I chose to hold him and love him and pray for him. Sweet Antony was 6 years old, which Gladys did not even need to tell me – the absence of his two front teeth spoke for itself. We laughed and talked like old friends… dirty little David was the baby God wanted me to spend my day with.
These are the people I want to love—I want my best friends to be these people—I want to watch David grow up into a sweet little Kenyan gentleman—I want to learn from them and stare into His face when I look in their eyes. It doesn’t matter if I look like a fool sitting on a curb laughing with friends who might be a little bit dirtier than me or struggle a bit more to get their next meal… It doesn’t matter if people stare and scoff and don’t want to shake my hand after I’ve held a baby who has not been ‘clean’ since he was in the womb… It doesn’t matter if I am ALWAYS alone—if no one is ever sitting with us… It doesn’t matter if I can’t afford to get coffee now when I go to work on my computer… It doesn’t matter. None of it matters…. It just doesn’t. Truly truly truly nothing matters except that we LIVE like we are given the authority He has anointed us with when He gave us His Spirit!!!!!!!!! He is constantly putting people in front of us to love (and the part we forget is that they have the same purpose for US!) and if we listen to His voice and do it, our reward is higher than any judgment passed for our association with ‘these people.’
I am Gladys (and I actually think she’d take that offensively). “I wonder how she got there??? Did something terrible happen to her or did she get to that place on her own? Irresponsibility. Well, she gets what she deserves. Those poor kids who have to put up with that type of mother. People these days want everything to be handed to them. They know if they stick their hand out on a busy street, they will be able to get enough money to last until tomorrow. That is what is wrong with these people.” YOU are Gladys. If I am correct, she could have done less than one thing right in her entire life and maybe that is something for us to look down upon, maybe that makes her unworthy of OUR love… but what about our Father? Did we have to be clean to come to Him? Maybe you did, but I didn’t and if that was the case… I’d still be furiously scrubbing off the filth (and getting nowhere). He sees Gladys and he sees her humbling herself on a curbside so that her sweet boys can eat. He sees that she is dirty—do you think He thinks twice about scooping her up in His arms? Really? Then why do we? Ah.
God is jealously in love with the three I shared chai with today… He will do anything to gain their love and praise with each day that passes. He doesn’t NEED me, or you, to be an expression of this extravagant love He has for them, but He allows us—He asks us to. The King of Kings, who is capable of all things, asks us to take responsibility in living out what we’ve seen Him live. What an honor and I am continually repenting of not joyfully taking that responsibility daily. It’s not an obligation, it’s a joy. We get to share in His joy when His children release their grip on the things that don’t please and fall into Him… when I see Gladys and Antony and David in Heaven, I don’t expect (or want) for them to recognize me and thank me for the teeny tiny act of love He allowed me to pass to them. I do expect though to pass them at some point as we join in praise for our Father, together, and I believe our praise will become richer as we look into each other’s eyes and have yet another reason to thank Him—for showing Himself to us in others when we display His grace on earth. How sweet He is for giving Gladys, with her tattered clothes and callused hands, the opportunity to display His love to me. How sweet He is for letting me hold precious little David and produce a smile on his face that gave me chills and fulfilled so many desires in my heart. How sweet He is for introducing me to Antony and showing me that his big smiles and happy heart show that God’s shield around Him is thick, so I need not worry about Him.
I love Him and I love loving Him and I love loving His people—serving Him is a true delight and honor.