Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Some of Their Stories

When you look at the children at Kamanga Lifeway Christian Academy, it is easy to notice their precious uniforms, the smiles and faces of joy, the laughter, the dancing, and the singing.  These are blessings from God, signs that these little souls have been restored and redeemed and are loved by their God.  Their school is their second home, their safe place.
Step outside the walls of the school, however, and go through the gate.  Enter their every day lives, the compound in which they live, the situations they return home to after school, the stark contrast to the hope found at school.

While I was there, I never wanted to forget where they come from, the situations they endure every day. They all have stories, reasons they are there.  Though teaching these children academics is undoubtedly important,  loving on them, making them feel protected and valued, and instilling them the belief that they can be something is vital.  In a place where orphans are usually shunned and forgotten, the teachers at Kamanga have decided instead to be a light, to love on them, to invest in their lives.

Meet Mary.

I could not get over the cute little bonnet she wore to school or the entire outfit ensemble.  She was too precious for words.  She does not wear a uniform to school because she does not have one.  Mary is new to Kamanga LCA because she just took her sister's place.  Her sister died in March.  Death at a young age is common and something these children are sadly used to.  So many are dying of disease, malnutrition, AIDS, and many preventable or treatable diseases.  Thanks to Family Legacy, many children are now getting nourishment from lunch at school every day to help them build an immune system that is able to fight many of these diseases.

Meet Espina.
She was a cutie, and from what I heard from Diana, who taught Grade 1, she was a little mess in class, too. She had quite a personality.  Wouldn't you, though, if you were only 6 years old and walked a long distance to and from school every day, went home to no one and had to cook and wash your uniform yourself?

Meet Bridgett.
I don't have a picture of Bridgett because I actually never met her.  Her name was called on the roster every day, yet she was never in class.  When I talked to Chewe, the teacher, about her he said that she often liked to drink beer and "have fun" with the men in the community.  He had recently seen her out around 9pm one night as he stopped by the store, and she saw him and ran.  She had not returned to school since.  He said that she was probably embarrassed and ashamed to see him again at school.  This lifestyle, unfortunately, is reality for many young girls. They are taken advantage of and led into lifestyles such as this for money, to feel worth, etc.  Please pray with me that Bridgett will not feel so ashamed that she cannot return to school.  Pray that the discipleship leader can reach out and speak to her and her family, to guide her, and that she will see the importance of her education.

Meet George. (and settle in for a long story!)  

There are not enough words to explain what George meant to us these 2 weeks.  From the very first day, we all recognized George's leadership, his bright smile, and the spark in his eyes.  He is a Grade 7 student, and he often leads the school assembly, engaging the kids in song and dance with his vibrant personality and natural leadership abilities.  I think at some point we had all hugged George tightly and told him how great he was, how we felt he was going to be something great for Jesus!
On Tuesday of the second week, we heard news that George's stepfather was arrested for stealing and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.  With no way to provide for the family, George's mother told him that she would be moving him and his siblings back to the village as soon as possible.  George was devastated.  This meant he would not be able to attend school anymore.  Education is the key to getting out of poverty for these children.  George also knew that he would have a big responsibility for caring for his family.  He already did piece work every night after going to school 7:30 to 4:30.

While eating lunch, and discussing the situation, we noticed sweet George out the window standing by a pole alone, his head hanging down, while the other kids played in the courtyard.  He slowly walked across the courtyard and sat down, still within our view.  His head was in his hands.  We immediately all looked at each other and said, "I can't take it!  Bring him in here!"  Diana went to get him, and we brought him in to pray with him.  As we prayed for God to provide a way for him to stay at Kamanga, George's tears streamed down his face and onto the floor.  We were all in tears.  Our hearts were broken and hurting for him.  We hugged him, told him we loved him and that we were continuing to pray for his situation.  We encouraged him that God would use him in mighty ways, even if it was in the plans to return to the village.  It was a special moment, one I will never forget.

We left that day not knowing if we would see George again.  We didn't know how quickly his mom would take them away or what could be done for their family.  The discipleship leader was looking into it, and we brainstormed, as well.  We were pretty sure Diana was about ready to adopt him if she could have! :)  The Tree of Life was not an option since he is over the age of 13.  His only hope was finding a "well-wisher", a neighbor or friend in the community who would take him in.  Because most people are struggling so much themselves, having an extra mouth to feed is not usually something they want to take on.

George came to school on Wednesday and Thursday, and we saw more of his smile, as he seemed to be more of himself again.  We still did not know what would happen for him, but we continued to pray.  On Thursday, we had just had our morning devotional and had prayed for our day and for George.  Diana got out her ipad to video our drive to school through the compound.  Just as she did, she said, "That's George!".  He was walking up ahead of us.  We pulled up beside him and said, "Get in the car!"  Mariah jumped into someone's lap, and we now had 5 people in the back seat.  We told him we had just prayed for him, and his smile was bigger than I have ever seen.  When we drove up to the gate at school, he beamed as he waved to the children.  You could hear them saying, "George???" when they noticed he was in the car.  Who knows if he has ever ridden in a car before.  It is such a blessing that Diana got the whole thing on video on her ipad.  She looked at him and told him to say good morning, and with the cutest grin on his face, he just said "Morning!!!!"  After we parked, we tried to take a group selfie in the car, and we laughed so hard as Diana and Tia could not figure out how to get their finger out of the picture.  George was all smiles, laughing at us, too.  It was truly such a special moment.  God put him in our path that morning.  We needed that, and George needed that.  It was such a sweet reminder to me of his faithfulness.  

On the last day of school, at the assembly, Tia asked the kids to share any "happy thoughts" from the week.  This is unusually hard for the students.  They are not used to verbalizing things they are thankful for or coming up with positive phrases.  George raised his hand, though, and ever so sweetly said, "I want to thank you all for your advice."  Oh my goodness....tears!!

God may have used us to give George "advice" that week, but I am pretty sure he used George more for us.  Through him, God reminded me how much he takes care of his children, how he has plans we cannot see or even imagine, and how everything is working together for his purpose and glory.

I do not know will happen to George, but I know the God that does.  Please pray with me for George and for all of the other children who have stories of their own.

Thank you, Jesus, for blessing us with George and his contagious smile and personality.  Thank you for allowing us to be a very small part of his story.  Thank you for gentle and sweet reminders of your faithfulness and love.


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