"Turn both your pockets and hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean not just your dishes and hands." - Luke 11
That verse lept off the pages of Luke as I read the bible after praying for God to speak to me directly about whether or not I should go to the Hope House orphanage to stay the night and help take care of the nearly 50 kids living there. You see, I have reasons not to go... I am traveling to the states today (a day and a half later) and it will be a long journey and I really need my rest. I get headachy and miserable when I don't get enough sleep. And I have visitors at the guest house now that need my attention and I need to pack and do some last minute shopping for family members that I will see soon in the states... And... well you get it! Honestly, it's hard to go to the Hope House. I am often overwhelmed by the needs and in awe of the love and care that dwells there.
Kristy O'Neal is here for four months as an E4 associate to specifically observe and care for the H.H. (Hope House). She is nearing the end of her time here and wanted to do something special for Pastor Israel and his wife Natalie. She and Leanne and Hannah decided to give Pastor Israel and Natalie and night out at a hotel complete with a lovely dinner. They rarely if ever get to be alone and never in a nice air conditioned room overlooking the ocean. They spend their days taking care of orphaned or at risk kids. And that isn't even Pastor Israel's main job! He also pastors a church that is active and growing ministering to Gabonese and Nigerians in french and english.
So a night out for this amazing couple was set for Friday night. Kristy, Hannah, and Leanne were already slated to go and they were hoping I would join them. Hence the prayer and the hemming and hawing on my part. Confession: I am selfish and love comfort. I love sleeping on my own bed with fans and AC blowing. And yes, I am a missionary in Africa. I have made many changes since moving to Africa and continue to face the ugliness of my selfishness. I am not naturally a hard-working person. I have to rely on God to give me the strength. So there I was praying (as if there were really a question there) that God would speak to me so I couldn't let myself off the hook. I knew if I heard Him he would set me right. He's good like that! So I continued to read His word that day with the sinking realization that I needed to steel myself up to go (I admit red-faced).
"Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be - and experience - a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor but the favor will be returned - oh how it will be returned! at the resurrection of God's people." Luke 14
And so I went. It was a looong night. It was sweaty and terribly uncomfortable in a hot room with air heavy and motionless as mosquitos buzzed and feasted on my exposed flesh. The night outside was noisy with drumming and chanting going on continuously for hours somewhere in the neighborhood. Earlier we made spaghetti with meat sauce and veggies for dinner, huge vats of it! The kids ate and ate and some ate more. They were sweet and thankful and laughed and played and sang and danced and fought and at one point I had five kids braiding my hair at once. I held the young ones and swung them around. I helped the littlest girls get ready for bed. They had a routine. After much giggling and playing we prayed together and I read a Winnie the Pooh book to them in french. There was unfamiliar vocabulary that I stumbled over but they didn't seem to mind as they curled into me while I read.
I slept maybe two hours total. We awoke early to unlock the doors for one of the older kids to head off to school at 5:30 am. I went back to sleep for a bit before coming down to help make breakfast. We scrambled 60 eggs and bought 28 baguettes to make egg sandwiches. They love ketchup and we went through two large squeeze bottles before the meal was through. I also brought seven bags of Fritos to share and they loved dipping them into, of course, ketchup!
Funny story... Leanne found a hidden pile of peas and carrots under a chair where the kids had eaten dinner. It seems that the classic parental lament of "there are orphans in African who would love to eat your (insert any veggie here) peas and carrots!" did not prove to be true in this case... That particular orphan did not like peas and carrots either!!
Just before Pastor Israel and Maman Natalie were due to be back little Christopher fell and slammed the back of his head on a concrete curb. He was crying and we couldn't feel any discernible lump and there wasn't any blood and Christopher is known to dramatize any event to an academy award winning performance so we weren't too concerned initially. But when he wanted to sleep and began throwing up we knew he needed medical attention. We called our dear friend Maman Jeanine who is a nurse and asked her advice. She advised that we take him to the military hospital and get him a scan. We had tried to reach Pastor Israel and Natalie but couldn't reach them. Maman Jeanine sent PapiJoe to the rescue. By the time PapiJoe arrived Pastor Israel and Natalie were back. They had a marvelous time out but were facing another emergency all too soon... PapiJoe and Krisity along with Christopher and a few older kids went to the military hospital. Unbelievably they were turned away at 2pm due to the hospital being "full". They drove to another hospital and it's scan wasn't in working order. They went to two other clinics before finding help. I just got an update from Kristy. Christopher's scan didn't show anything critical and he went back to HH but as of this morning he is still in pain and not himself. Please pray for him! Hopefully he will be back to his academy award-winning antics again soon!
When I got back to my house I had the best shower of my life and took a long nap in my air conditioned room. I'm truly blessed to have had the opportunity to work alongside Kristy and Leanne and Hannah. They inspire me to be a better me. I am so thankful to my Father who refuses to leave me stuck in my selfish ways and leads me to love on HH kids. I have been blessed greatly by stepping outside my comfort zone.