Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Whispers in the Dark, Post 6

September 23, 2010
Right now… I wish I hadn’t come here.
So many people have told me that I’m here for a purpose. What purpose? I don’t see it. Unless that purpose is to have my heart ripped out.
One of my greatest fears in coming here was that a child would attach to me and be hurt when I left. I was also afraid that I would fall in love with a child and have to leave… but was guarding myself against that.
I joked around about coming home with a couple kids in my suitcases before I left. I didn’t think I’d actually want to do that. I thought that the fact that our youngest is a senior in high school and we can see the light at the end of the proverbial parenting tunnel would protect me from wanting one of these children. That and the fact that we have barely survived our own kids’ teen years and have enough friends that have adopted to know that there is an entire different set of problems there. There’s also the fact that my husband isn’t interested in having more kids, we can’t afford it. Plus, I knew coming here that Swazi adoption is difficult and they want the adoptive families to live here a year prior to finalization. Of course, I’ve heard of some exceptions but none of them include someone not having lived here at all. I thought all of this would protect me from even taking a step in that direction in my mind.
There is a four year old little girl with broken teeth. That first day at the care point I washed her face with a wipe, removed her clothing and put new clothes on her. She was stony faced throughout the process. Since then she follows me and the way she smiles at me… She wants me to hold her, which I do. She is fascinated by my hair. She studies my face. She rubs my arm and sometimes scratches at my freckles.
I am really struggling with this.
This little girl only has a 6% chance of making it to the age of 30 here. Honestly, those statistics are for all of Swaziland. I’m guessing her chances are even lower than that given she’s amongst the poorest of the poor. Knowing the statistics and looking around the care point is more than I can take. If I could stuff her in my suitcase and take her home I would.
I am also feeling very guilty. We sponsor a boy through World Vision in Maputo, Mozambique, which is actually very close to here. He just turned 13 on September 11. His name is Bernardo. I never write to him. I have his picture tacked up on the wall next to my computer, in a magnet on my fridge and even have a picture of him in my wallet. I do pray for him when I’m being a good little Christian so I can check it off my list. I feel like such a poser. Yes, I’m in the We Sponsor a Kid in Africa Club. Aren’t we wonderful?
I don’t know why exactly that I don’t write to him. I just put it off. I also didn’t really understand how it all works. The $35 we pay a month goes into a community pot for the benefit of all. I know that Bernardo lives with his parents, has four siblings, and that they are healthy and go to church. I guess I didn’t really feel it was necessary. There are those times that I worry that his brothers and sisters have better sponsors and that he feels left out and I tell myself I’m going to write and send him something really cool. And then I don’t.
The fact is if Bernardo is in World Vision’s system they are extremely poor. Poverty here in Africa is something so different from poverty in America…
We went on a home visit where the sponsored boy was about Bernardo’s age. He lives with his Go Go, or Grandma. We took them food and a gift from the boy’s sponsor in the states. The smile on his face… I feel so incredibly ashamed.
I look around at the kids at the care point and can’t help but wonder how many of them are already HIV positive. Like the phrase used for someone on death row, Dead Man Walking, I hear the phrase Dead Children Walking over and over in my mind, something I don’t think I could ever utter audibly.
October 5, 2010
I could not sleep that night. That four year old little girl was very insistent that I learn her name. The day before I sat down with one of the ladies that volunteers at the care point and wrote down many of the children’s names along with their meanings in my journal. She was quite tickled by my pathetic attempts to say them correctly. In Swaziland all names have meaning and everyone knows what those meanings are.
I laid there in the dark and tried to remember the meaning of her name. I was rooming with Anna who was already annoyed by my lack of sleeping habits so I quietly made my way to the bathroom with my journal. There was a window facing the hall which was lit so I raised my journal toward the light and looked for Nomphilo’s name. Her name means “Life.”
I stood there stunned…
I was also struggling very much with cultural differences. These people have very little. I was questioning the insertion of our gift giving, well, the extent of it. Every day we were having the kids line up and giving them gifts. They needed clothes and shoes and school supplies… and toys and candy are nice… I wasn’t comfortable and wondering if, in some way, we were harming them. When we first arrived at Bheveni the kids were cautious, a healthy response. When we visited another larger and more established care point, the kids were all over us immediately. It really bothered me.
I broke down at that other care point. I just couldn’t hold it together and Londiwe, a D Team member (I’ll explain in another post what the D Team is), kept asking me questions and wouldn’t let me get by with general responses. She followed me outside when I got up and left. I eventually told her my fears. As a Swati she told me a little of her story and told me that we were giving these children hope.
Ironic in that I was there with Children’s Hope Chest.
Later when we were in the van on the way back to Bheveni I asked Danielle to see the list of children. The majority of children at Bheveni have sponsors but there are children that have been profiled that do not have one. Nomphilo was on that list. I wrote my name next to hers and then I cried.

I took a picture of Nomphilo (Nom-pee-lo) after dressing her in her new clothes. She seemed almost scared.

The kids all like to see pictures of themselves so I took a picture of us together and then showed it to her pointing to myself and then to her. She just stared at me and then left.

Then... when I went outside, there she was.

She was often nearby and when I'd look around her face would stand out.

It seemed like every time I turned around, there she was.

When I downloaded my photos I found so many pictures like this that I wasn't aware she was in until I looked at them... It shocked me.

My goodness...

Many children smiled at me but she was so persistent and there were so many times that I'd look up to find her just smiling right at me.

Sometimes when I was holding other children she would stand by and wait.

Erica told me right after I took this picture that Nomphilo had pointed to me when I turned the corner and told her, "Sisi Kelly."

Here she is eating under the water tower.

The kids wash their dishes after they eat.

So often at my knee...

It got to where I could pick her out even when she wasn't looking my way... the shape of her head, the way she walked, the way she moved. My eyes were drawn to her. And my heart.

I was able to tell her that I was her special friend in America and give her this doll (Thanks Elysa, she had extra and let me have it) as well as a little children's bible I bought at a Christian bookstore in Manzini.

I don't know what the future holds for Nomphilo. Our $34 a month actually goes into a pot for the running of the Bheveni care point, which benefits her because she goes there for food each day. I will be writing to her and I will be praying for her.
I will also be writing Bernardo.


Michael Brower said...

Thanks for sharing your story Kelly. Riding in the van with you when you found Nomphilo's name, and knowing you were going to stand in the gap for her, was one of the highlights of my experience in Swaziland. As much as we hope to be blessings to the children, I believe the transformations in us were just as blessed! Enjoy Nomphilo...and Bernardo too. You're making a difference and bringing hope each day!

Elysa said...

Sniffing and smiling over here in Mississippi.

Dusty Mommah said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE reading your posts! I totally can relate to your feelings even though I've never been on a mission trip to Africa, but I felt your same struggles when I met the "girls with no identities" in Macau (they were abandoned at the border as newborns because they were girls, and without identities, the face either slavery or prostitution).

I know God has changed your life through this experience, but I also know God used you to impact others' lives in Swaziland.

Keep finding f.i.s.H. (fulfillment in serving Him)

Flea said...

Thank you for sharing your story. What a beautiful girl. Hope is dangerous. Hope is beautiful. Thank you for having hope.

Melody said...

What a great turning point in your life this trip has been. I think it is just wonderful. <3

Sandra in NM* said...

This was a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing. I must admit though I have the same problem. I have been sponsoring a lovely little girl in Sri Lanka for the past six years and have yet to send her a letter. I have every intention of doing so and then it doesn't happen. I'll receive another letter from her or a drawing and feel so guilty, but don't bring myself to do it. I think after reading your story--I have a letter to write. Thanks for being an inspiration.