Sunday, April 29, 2012

One Child, Two Worlds

Our time with the kids started in earnest today. Given the curve ball we were thrown yesterday regarding where we would be, things went remarkably smoothly. There are two sessions each day, with some kids coming in the morning and then going off to school, and the rest of them coming in the afternoon after they are done with school. Today, Rob Tennant started each session with a Bible lesson. Easter is just finishing here, so he is teaching the kids about the events leading up to the crucifix of Jesus and will be leading them through the salvation. Let me just say that Rob is a master with these kids. They are engaged, hanging on his every word. He does a really nice job involving them with role play. It did strike me as funny when Rob asked for a volunteer to play one of the disciples,  and one of the moslem girls volunteered.

After the story, each of the kids received a back pack and water bottle. Some confusion ensued when the kids took the permanent markers they received to write their names on their new belongings and started writing on themselves. I'm not sure what we could have done differently as they needed to be permanent markers, and there was no way we would have gotten everyone's names written by the staff in a timely fashion.

Next, the kids were divided into three groups; crafts, games, and care package receipt, with a roughly 20 minute rotation. This is where the folks that came on this trip shined most. Some adjustments had to be made but everyone took them in stride and made sure the kids had a great time. The look on the kids' faces were pure joy. I've never seen bigger smiles in my life. There is no doubt that laughter is a universal language, as all of us had no problem understanding that we were all having a good time.

Finally, the kids received bananas and were sent on their way to school. The second session started at 3:00; lather, rinse, repeat. Great times all around.

Between the two sessions, two of our team had a chance to visit the homes of their sponsored children. I tagged along out of curiosity and for moral support for one of our team. We visited two homes.

The first home was quite a distance from the drop in center. Our guide told us that it takes the little boy thirty minutes of running and walking to get to the center (mind you, this is in tattered shoes). The home was made of mud and sticks, and had two rooms; the main living area and a room used for storage and cooking. The floor was dirt and there were no lights and no windows. Even though it was mid-afternoon, it was very dark inside. If the door hadn't been opened, we wouldn't have been able to see anything.

The mother invited us in to sit. She was very gracious and kind. She told us what a blessing it was for her son to have a place like Grace Baptist to attend, how much his sponsorship meant to her, and how she hoped her son would be able to be successful because of the sponsorship. There was an older girl with us as well. When asked, the mother said that the girl's mother was very ill and was living with them. Three people living in one room (and not a large one at that). 

It was obvious that the mother was preparing lunch. Something red and orange was boiling in the storage room. It wasn't a lot, probably enough to feed the three of them. The mother asked us to join her and the kids for lunch. I couldn't imagine how there could possibly be enough for all of us and I thought it would probably be rude to decline. However, our guide must have found a way because we left for the next home.

I will say one positive thing about the next house we visited. There was plenty of light. Unfortunately, there was plenty of light because the house was made only of sticks. There was no mud to finish the walls. Natural light poured into this two room home (again, one for living and the other for storage).

Basarat is twelve and is a double orphan, meaning both his parents have passed away. He is being raised by his 28-year-old sister. She works until midnight, so Basrat is left alone at night to fend for himself. Basrat's sister also thanked us for supporting the drop in center and for sponsoring her brother. Basrat wants to be a doctor some day, and I hope that comes true.

I'm glad I got to visit the homes of these two kids. It reinforces to me the importance of drop in centers such as Grace Baptist. While these two boys were nothing but smiles and laughter earlier in the day, they were serious and withdrawn as they were listening to their caregivers tell their stories. It was a sobering experience.

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