It is Friday June, 2014. We are stirring about the house trying to get ready to go to the church to meet with the Choir 64 kids. We are so blessed to be invited into their private morning time. We pull into the parking lot, noticing that there are not many cars there. Then my mind is flooded with all these doubts…am I sure they invited us here? Is the time right? We don’t even attend this church, what if they don’t want us there? So we sat in the car for a minute and then drove away. We decided to see if they were meeting in a different spot because we didn’t see their bus anywhere. So we drove around by the school, it wasn’t there. We drove down main street and saw the bus by a ice cream shop, so we knew they were still in town.
We called one of the ladies that was hosting a family and she said they were at the church. They were all being dropped off there by their host families. Relief and fear swept over me at the same time as I directed the car back towards the direction of the church. This time we got out of the car and hesitantly walked through the front doors.
Awkward..out of place..that is how I felt standing there as all the little ones played in the foyer and the aunties and uncles sat around the tables chattering away in their local language. We moved over by the water fountain and stood there not knowing what to do or say as we were the only ones there besides the church staff and the Watoto Choir. “What are we doing?” I thought to myself more than once. But then God slung the door open wide. One of the little girls came up to me smiling as if she was sitting right on the lap of Jesus taking to me. She looked at me with her beautiful brown eyes filled with wonder and questions..”May I please ask you a question?” she implored. I said, “yes”. She sweetly replies..”What is your name?” I tell her Jen and spell it for her. Their broken english is so wonderful to listen too. Then I return the need to know who she is. “What is your name I ask her?”
By now the kids are crowded around hanging on Tyler and Brianna and asking then their names also. But before me is Lydia. “My name is Lydia? L Y D”…she pauses. So I finish her name, “I, A”..she laughs and says yes. “Do you know that your name is in the bible?” I ask. Her face lit up like a tree at Christmas time. “NOOOOO” comes out as she stands there in amazement. I walked with her over to the table as I went to retrieve my bible that I had brought. She stood right by me as the other kids joined along in gathering around the table. I opened my bible to the book of Acts 16:14-15. Here Lydia was able to see her name. She put her finger to the page as she traced her name and spelled it as she went, getting more excited with each letter. Then out came a squeal of sheer delight, “my name is in the bible! My name is in the bible!” I was as if she just found out how special she was in God’s eyes.
Then by some unknown incident the pages blew over and it opened to the book of James. When she saw James’s name she took that bible across the room to James and we started this amazement once again. “James, James, James”, she exclaimed as she jolted across the room. “You name is in the bible!”. “What”, was his response. She leaned over and traced the letters of his name reading one by one. Then James caught the energy of the moment and too exclaimed, “My name is in the bible.”
Now little voices are coming in from all around me. Kennedy a little 8 year old boy asks, “Where is my name?”. Whitney follows with the same pleading, “Show me my name?” and Gerotti squeals in delight as she says, “show me my name!” I didn’t know what to say. Unless God miraculously rewrote the bible in the past few seconds I knew that Whiteny, Gerotti and Kennedy were not in there. Trying to keep it positive, for I did not want any if them to believe they meant less to God because their names were not written in the bible, I said, “It is okay if your name isn’t in the bible because my name isn’t in there either.” I wanted them to know that my name wouldn’t be found per say spelled out. That way they wouldn’t be sad.
Then a moment that made my hear weep with joy inside me. I believe Lydia but perhaps Whitney looked at me..those brown eyes full of love and wisdom beyond their years. She held up her hand in a blade and pointed her fingers towards heaven and said, words that would be engraved on my heart forever..
“NO, but your name is written on the palm of Jesus hand.” I was speechless. I couldn’t have spoken in the first seconds if I would have tried. Here in front of me is an orphaned girl, loved by God, who speaks His words of love into her heart and she in turn shares them with my heart. I cannot put into words what happened to me that day, but something inside of me was changed for the rest of my life. That was a bible verse that God had hidden in her heart to share with my at this very moment. So we talked about how everyone’s name that believes on Jesus has their name written on the palm of his hands and that Jesus must have lots and lots of names on His hands. I didn’t want to cry in front of them but as soon as I got home I let the tears fall into the jar at the alter of my God.
WE were able to spend a half hour or so playing with the kids. Then they were called to start school. We weren’t sure what to do at this point so we just waited to see. I was thinking we should leave but they wanted to stay and watch them do school. So we asked one of the uncles if we could stay and he said sure. So we went into the sanctuary where God once again taught our hearts of his love for his people in Africa. They learned scripture first thing every day in the form of a song and they practiced it until they all got it right. Today was the scripture from “The lord has not given us a spirit of fear but he has given unto us a spirit of power, a spirit of love and a sound mind”. They sang it part by part until they got it. Each time the messed up she would stop them and say, “who keeps dong that?” She was getting frustrated with the children. They squiggled and wiggled and giggled in their chairs the whole time as smiles danced across their faces. I couldn’t help but smile and giggle too.
One time as I was singing with I forgot the words and sang the song wrong. She stopped everyone again. I almost busted out laughing but didn’t. I kept super quiet under conviction that I just got them in trouble. I was so embarrassed.
Spelling with sounds and actions..that is the way it should be done. Every sound came with an action and sound that was attached to it to help the kids learn how words are spelled. “M” for example says mmmmm as they rub their tummy with their hand as in saying the food was mmmmm good. Each letter and sound has a similar attached sound and action. It was so entertaining watching them spell. She would have them write it on their paper first and then when everyone was done she would have one of them come up in front and act out the spelling for the class. Then they would applaud for them. It was so much fun. She was such a great teacher. Her name was Aunti Comfort.
As we were watching them do school Uncle came up to us and handed us the Watoto photo book. He said he asked us to come because he wanted to give us something thanking us for praying for them the night before. They opened the wrapping and then asked if they could all sign it. We said yes of course. So each one of the children signed their names and the aunties and uncles each wrote us a little note. I was so touched by the kindness and love they showed us. I was overwhelmed yet again. I cherish that book and each of them that has touched my heart. We were able to go on the bus and pray with them before they left. Getting hugs and high fives from each of them as we got ready to head home. We prayed with them as Pastor Conners prayed over them. Then we told them we would see them in St. Croix Falls in two weeks. The night before we sat down and looked up their schedule and found them just over an hour away in St. Croix Falls, WI. So we decided to take the youth group to see them. I couldn’t wait to see them again. We were so blessed to have this time with them. A gift from God.
We headed home as tears fell down my cheeks. I was so moved by the love these people showed us. I couldn’t have been any more blessed. I read each of the names and messages they wrote when I got home. Then I began to read the Watoto photo book. I wasn’t ready for what I would read that is for sure. I read only a few pages at a time as I had to process what their lives were like in Africa. It was hard to read and see the faces of the pole that have struggled. There was one page that literally stopped my in my tracks. It was page ….. that read…Almost all of babies abandoned come from teen moms.” I just cried as I read that. God was doing something in my soul as I read that. I don’t fully understand yet what He is doing but I know something. I just kept asking myself what can we do to help these girls be safe and equip them to keep their babies. I felt like God was asking me to be apart of the solution. He broke my heart and called it into action. So I just prayed and left it at the feet of Jesus. But I won’t ever forget the way I felt when I read this. I knew that I wanted to see this ministry one day. To see Africa..
Now we got busy designing t-shirts for the Choir 64 members. We wanted to do something special for them as a thank you for touching our lives in such a powerful way. So we made shirts that said..
“you left your prints on our hearts forever”. With a black footprint and each of our names written in bright colors all over the shirt. We printed the picture of us on the bus together as they were readying to leave Birchwood. Across the top read..”Beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.” We also made t-shirts for our kids but on the footprint is their names.
Now with those done we just waited for the Friday night to go to St. Croix Falls, Wi. In the mean time we prayed and waited to see what God was going to do. So excited to bring the youth group and hoping that Watoto kids change their lives as they did ours.