Friday, August 19, 2011

Jesus In Disguise

Jesus doesn’t say to the poor, ‘Come find the church,’ but he says to those of us in the church, ‘Go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned,’ Jesus in disguises. ~Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution~

Journal excerpt and recollection from Day 4 of our trip…..

At this point we went to visit the eye doctors that Esi had brought to town to do the free eye screenings. Nana happened to be in the make-shift eye clinic watching the doctors, and as we got ready to leave he came up to me and said, “I have two orphans that I want you to meet that live near here. Let’s walk. They have a very pathetic (in Ghana that word means sad/sorrowful) story.” It was so sudden and unplanned the way Nana brought them up. It was like he saw me and then thought of it…..I had no time to ‘process’ where we were going – one minute we were in the eye clinic and then the next we were walking to the house of some orphans! As we did, I began to generalize and thought that these orphans would likely be two older boys. We walked less than 100 steps from where the eye screenings were and stopped on the back side of this shack-

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He pointed to this shack and said "This is where they stay." As we rounded the corner, Nana began telling me the details of their story, but we were interrupted as we saw two little girls (around the ages of 3 and close to 2 ) come from around the side of the house. MUCH to my surprise Nana gestured to them and said, “Oh, here they are.”

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As I knelt down to say hi to them Nana continued with their story, “Their mother died while the small one was at the breast (breastfeeding). They didn’t find the dead mother for a few days, and when they did, they found the two girls crawling all around her. Their father is not around. Their grandmother is now their caretaker.” Then he pointed to this pile of sacks under the overhang of their house….

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…he continued on saying that the grandmother sits here and cracks peanuts. Then she sells them to make a living. I asked Nana what their names were, “He said the older one is 'Y' and the younger one is 'A'.” Then his next sentence hit me harder than anything else he had said, “Since their mother is dead and they have no father they do not have a last name. They only have their first name.” I knew what he meant. Out of all the parts of their story, for some reason those words just haunted me.

Can you even IMAGINE the heartache welling up inside of me at this point? The past 5 minutes had all just happened so suddenly and hearing this tragic story right as I met these girls was so much to process. I was on the verge of absolutely losing it in front of the 20 other onlookers who had gathered around. As I tried to distract myself from becoming a blubbering mess, all I could think to do was to give them something. I started digging around in my backpack. We had filled our bags to the brim on this particular morning so we came up with two pillowcase dresses that would be a perfect fit for them. One of the village ladies standing around motioned to us to put the dresses on the girls, so I dressed 'Y' and one of the other ladies dressed the younger girl, 'A'. It was then that I realized how emotionally tender 'Y' and 'A' were. As we had approached their house they had been watching us intently and were quiet and reserved. But with our coming there was so much commotion that it had gotten overwhelming for them. The younger girl, 'A', completely broke down and started crying uncontrollably. In the back of my mind I thought that one of the village women standing around would pick her up to try and console her. But no one did. So, my instincts kicked in. Half expecting that she would turn away from me, I walked over to 'A' and scooped her up. But, instead of her rejecting this crazy white lady that she had never seen in her life, she immediately melted into my arms as I hugged her.

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I have never in my life felt as much compassion for a child as I did during these moments. As a woman, when you are holding a crying child, the first thing you think to do is to hand them to their mother. That thought actually ran through my mind while I was consoling 'A'. But I knew there was no mother to hand her to. In that moment, my arms were the only option. And yes, by this point, the dam broke loose and the flood waters came rushing.

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It felt SO GOOD to cry! Ahhhhh…..I just let it all out and was thankful that I had someone to cry with me. :) I wish more people could experience what I did on this day. As an adoption advocate I know that there are 147 million other stories out there like this one. But, on this day, that giant number got personal for me. Only the hardest of hearts could experience what I did and walk away unchanged. And yet, isn’t that what we sometimes do when God presses adoption into our hearts? We look at God and say, “Who? Me? Adopt? That sounds really hard. Oh, and it’s too expensive. And my kids, what about my kids at home? It would be hard for them to adjust to some random child entering our family. I don’t know if I’m the ‘type’ that could love a child that’s not my own.” And on and on the excuses go. But, what if you came FACE to FACE with the child that God has for you? What if you looked into their eyes, heard their story, and held them. Would you walk away then?

This whole scenario that I experienced was pretty dreamlike, and I can’t say that it happens often in the adoption world. Typically a family considering adoption signs up with an agency, and then sometime later they are matched with a ‘referral’ based on the family’s preferences regarding the child’s age, gender, and health. I can tell you from our adoption of Justice that on the day when you finally get that referral photo and background information on your child, it IS so strikingly similar to what I experienced on this day in the village. Your emotions have built up since the start of your adoption…’ve waited and waited and prayed and prayed and then BAM you open up your email and you have a picture of YOUR child staring you in the face. It is such an amazing experience to know that God has picked out the exact child for you that will join your family, and yet he or she is half way around the world. WOW. Now, that’s cool.

It’s also feels pretty cool that Nana has identified little old me to help the orphans in his village. On this day, Nana told me there are many orphans in the village, but these two girls are his first priority, and I agree. Thankfully, because of meeting Christian on our last trip, I know exactly where to go from here to be able to get social welfare involved and a plan in place for these girls. Now that we are home I have contacted The Ripley Foundation and they are set to investigate and make the best decisions for 'Y' and 'A' moving forward.

Sometime after my emotional breakdown, 'Y' and 'A's grandma showed up. Here we are pictured together.

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I have such a soft spot for grandmas and grandpas and this lady just made me smile on the inside. When she first came over to us she flashed us a big, almost toothless grin and then sat down on her peanut sacks and started chewing on a stick. LOVE IT! Throughout the rest of our trip, Jake and I visited 'Y' and 'A' every single day. Sometimes grandma was there, and other times she had put some of the other village women in charge of watching the girls. In our interactions in the later days I saw that 'A' was very close with grandma and she tried to stay right next to her at all times. As we visited each day, 'Y' and 'A' got more comfortable seeing us around, which allowed us to observe them in their element and see their personalities come out!

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'Y' seemed very serious. She’s got a lot going on inside….you can tell by looking in her eyes. At first I had connected with 'A', the younger one, but in the following days that we visited the girls I felt myself drawn to 'Y'. By our 3rd visit she actually smiled and gave a little wave when she saw us walking up. That melted my heart! I came to realize that part of her quietness was because she doesn’t understand English. At one point I thought to try a little twi on her so I greeted her with ‘Eh tih sane’ (which asks ‘how are you?’). Without missing a beat she looked me right in the eye and answered with ‘eh yeh’ which is the twi reponse that says ‘I’m fine’. On a different visit I read her a book and she took her little finger and traced all the colorful pictures on every page. It was clear she had never seen anything like it before, but she was really enjoying it!

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Miss 'A' was a different story. First of all, she did NOT want to have anything to do with Jake!!! It got to be kind of hilarious. By one of our last visits she finally let Jake hold her, but man did it look painful….you know on the inside she is just screaming ‘Put me down! Put me down!’

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We did get to see 'A' run and play with some of the older kids one afternoon and she seemed to have a bit of a sassy streak to her. :) She would go up to the older girls and act like she was going to hit them, then she would take off running and giggling so they would chase her. 'A' seemed to be the more social and opinionated of the two.

'Y' and 'A' became quite popular with our team during our time in Asikuma. We all loved visiting them and checking out their personalities.

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I had asked you all to pray that God would make this trip personal for each one of us. That we would each come away from this trip knowing the purpose that God had us to go. After Nana took me to meet 'Y' and 'A', I knew for certain they were the reason God brought me on this trip - now my 5th time to Ghana. I gave Nana my word that I would help these girls, and any other orphans that he identifies in the village. For many, adoption will likely be a great choice. For others, perhaps I'll get to start working on developing a sponsorship program or get more involved with the Ripley Foundation's family preservation efforts.

Thank you Lord for bringing me here....again. Through Your strength and guidance I will hold true to my promise to defend the fatherless and plead for the widows in this place.

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Laura said...

Reading your story about these little girls made me
Feel like I was there with you holding her. It's amazing the compassion God has placed in womens hearts for children. And the gifts he uses to bless them. I cannot even imagine what God has planned for these little girls, but I do know that it is good. Thanks for sharing.

Daniel and Danielle said...

janel please e-mail when you get a second (yeah right huh :) )

Jen said...

Oh Janel...You were right when you told me that the story of the two girls would kill me. It did. I have been bawling. The words that haunted me were hearing that after their mother died, "they found the two girls crawling all around her." From my reading on attachment and how God created children to connect with their parents to develop their brains so they can know how to function in life . . . it completely devastates me. They were dying to connect to their mom and she was dead. It is horrifying. That is intense trauma for those two precious girls to have to go through. Do you have anyone in the works to adopt them? I will be praying.

Matthew and Jennifer Pitkin said...

Wow. Powerful. Praying for those precious girls. Thanks for bringing their story to light and being an advocate. Please contact us right away if we can help! Love you!