The LORD has been doing so much in my heart and in my life since I got home from Africa. I feel so much like myself and yet so different all at the same time. I’ve always wondered how that’s possible. Things in my life are changing and I’m probably a few weeks away from announcing the big change but all I can tell you is that the LORD is good.
So where was I? Oh yes. My African meltdown.
During the clinic day, I saw the little girl I had fallen in love with. She was there with her mom and I watched her go through line after line, taking time to play with her and make sure she was seen. Eventually we had to leave and I had my little foot mishap so my thoughts changed gears as we went home.
The next morning was our final full day at the Care Point. I knew the day was going to be rough but I didn’t expect what was to come. When our team got there, I found my little buddy, pulled her up for a snuggle and noticed she was very warm and coughing like crazy. Hoping that her sluggishness and cough were a result of medicine working, I called for a translator to come over.
“Will you ask her if she got medicine yesterday?” I asked Pilo. He quickly translated and a look of concern crossed his face. “No,” he said “She didn’t get medicine.” “Why not?” I pushed, more confused than anything.
“Her mother wouldn’t let her.”
I was shocked.
“What?! But she was THERE! She was AT the clinic! I saw her!!!”
My throat started clogging with tears and anger. I walked over to the tiny little building that is on the care point where the other team members were painting faces. I grabbed a chair in the corner, put the little girl around my body and rocked her while tears dripped down my face. Coughing intermixed with sniffles as her eyelids grew heavy. She soon decided to wriggle off my lap and go find the bubbles and balloons. At this point my tears started to overwhelm me. I walked out of the room, got on the bus and SHOUTED at God.
I was so angry.
The very basic thing she needed to save her life had been in her grasp and she didn’t get it. I shook my fist at God and told Him He was cruel. That His love ISN’T love. How could He let this innocent little girl suffer? And then my rage turned on her mom. How could a MOTHER deny her child life saving medicine. The clinic comes once a year and the medicine is free and she wouldn’t let her see the doctor. I vowed right then and there that if I ever met her in a dark alley…
After about 30 minutes I settled into numbness and knew I couldn’t hide out any longer. I walked back into the hut and helped with face painting trying to distract myself from the emotions swirling inside. Once we finished I went outside and wandered around aimlessly. I don’t know what I was looking for or if I found it but eventually I knew I had to find the little girl. As I walked over, she was sitting in the sand, nodding off, all by herself. Tears came flooding to my eyes as I scooped her up, walked to the building again, and sat in a now empty room. A single chair, rocking this precious little girl to sleep. Again, anger was coursing through my veins. Anger at her mother, anger at God, anger at myself. All I could do was hold her as she was coughing and gasping for air. Her little body was burning up through her jacket and I could feel her feverish shivering as I held her.
I knew right then and there I would never be able to hold another sick child without thinking of this little girl. The intensity of love and protection I felt for her caught me by surprise. Minutes turned into hours and she slept in my arms without stirring. At some point one of the high school boys came into the building with a boy from the care point who is blind. Zac, one of our high schoolers, kept looking over my direction as I tried to explain how broken I felt.
To my chagrin, this little girl’s mother walked in.
I looked at her, still holding her daughter, and accusingly muttered, “she’s SICK.”
“Yes, it’s asthma.”
LIKE HELL IT IS! I wanted to shout back. But I knew our language, cultural, and life barriers wouldn’t allow for any sort of fruitful conversation. She reached for her daughter, who alarmed, clutched on to me, and peeled her out of my arms. She slung her on her back, tied the towel around her and left. I stood up, put my hand to my mouth, and fell apart. Zac got up, handed me a blanket, and wrapped his arms around me while I fell apart. It was the ugly cry that leaves snot, tears, and make up in it’s wake. Eventually I calmed myself down and walked back to the bus.
I couldn’t do it any more.
I couldn’t love any more.
Hours later we went back to the house and were sent off on our own to process. I managed talk to Deb, a dear friend and co-worker, and she helped me process from the States. After my brief phone call with her, I took my bible, journal, and ipod and went behind the team house. There are times where I go to “hide” but secretly want to be found but this time was one I wanted to just hide. I was sitting on the edge of the deck and I felt the prompting to get on my knees. So I climbed down, among the prickles and thorns, on the hard packed African dirt and knelt with my hands open listening to the song “how He loves.”
How long I stayed like that I’m not sure, but eventually I sat back on the dirt and watched the beginnings of a sunset. One of the other kids ended up finding me and wanted to share somethings that the LORD had been showing them in relation to His love. It was a comfortable moment, sharing words and phrases and silence.
And I looked over with yearning in my voice and said,”I just don’t want to forget it.”
“You won’t.” was the reply.
“No, I don’t want to forget this,” and I picked up the dirt, “or the smells, or the sunset. I want to feel Africa and remember what it’s like to sit in this moment and be here. Wrestling with the greatness of God’s love. How it’s so big and so small and so different. I thought I understood it. But I’m realizing I don’t.”
And that for me was the defining moment for Africa. Because I started to understand that I will never understand. Somehow His love is big enough that it looks one way for this little girl and a different way for me. That He still has a hope and a future for her as much as He does for me. The greatness of our God became awe-inspiring as I sat in the dirt with prickles poking my legs, the cold air dropping in temperature as the sun set, and I wrestled with the truth that a little girl I loved with my limited capacity to love was loved infinitely more by the same One who loves me.
It wrecked my world.
One final Africa post… our last hours at the Care Point, seeing white people again, an African safari, and an old would resurfacing in the most painful way.