Monday, January 23, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: South Africa

A Note from Katie: The same missions scholarship that made it possible for me to go to China brought to fruition my friend Laura's dream of going to Africa. I am so grateful for her willingness to share her story. <>< Katie

Adventures in Africa

For four years, it seemed like all I wanted was to go to Africa. I finally got my chance this past summer. I worked at an orphanage near Johannesburg, South Africa called The Love of Christ (TLC). This orphanage primarily cares for newborns to kindergarten age children. Most of the children there were given up by their mothers when they were born or were found abandoned.

The work there was unbelievably difficult but soooo rewarding! I learned everything from feeding to burping, giving meds, and cleaning up potty training accidents. I learned how to teach, to discipline, and how to love in ways that spoke best to each child. I even learned how to say goodbye, with tears running down my face but joy in my heart, when our babies were adopted.

At first it was difficult to figure out how to teach such young children about Jesus. Sometimes we would have simple conversations, starting with questions such as, “Who made the sky?” I would find myself whispering to them as they fell asleep that Jesus loves them, and I do too.

When I think back to my time there, there is one event that always stands out. In part because I was so afraid but also because I saw Jesus in the hearts of the children.

It was a night during my first week of nightshift. We usually clean the rooms, continue the rounds of feeding the newborns, and change nappies. On this particular night, we had only been cleaning for a little bit when we heard screams coming from the main house. The main house is attached to the nursery and is where all the adopted kids and family of TLC’s founder live. We stood there wondering for a moment if the kids were just rough housing but then we heard screams for help and one of the kids ran in and grabbed my nightshift leader.

In the next hour, we found out that a gas heater in one of the boys’ rooms upstairs had exploded, his room was on fire, and he had been badly burned. The teenager ran to the yard and finally ended up jumping into the pool.

We rushed buckets of water upstairs and hurriedly carried the children downstairs into our nursery. It was really difficult because the kids were all in shock. Many had seen their brother’s burnt face as he ran out of the house screaming. There was a 14 year old boy we found curled up in a corner of the kitchen unable to move, another boy was shaking too hard to hold a cup of milk, still another just stared unseeingly into space, and a little girl kept repeating over and over how scared she was.

The boy who had been burnt was quickly driven to the hospital (which is faster than waiting for an ambulance). Once we had all of the main house kids safely in our nursery, we wrapped them in blankets, hugged them tightly, told them they were safe. They were terrified for their brother. Most of the main house kids are kids who never got adopted so the founder’s family adopted them. And to them, family is priceless.

Soon after we got them into the nursery, we gathered around and prayed. I was surprised at how some of the youngest had the most profound prayers. One little boy asked for angelic presence in his brother’s hospital room! They prayed honestly and earnestly. It was a moment when I truly was able to see their hearts. Their trust in God was beautiful.

Praying together really seemed to calm them, although they were still very much afraid.

The rest of that night was rough for us. The night staff was pretty shaken. The sounds of the boy’s screaming were haunting, and I found myself jumping every time someone walked into the room. It wasn’t until I called someone and asked them to pray for me that I was finally able to calm myself down. Still, the light from the rising sun was a welcome sight. Dawn was beautiful and it was as if everything that happened the night before was just a vague dream.

Being able to witness the power of prayer and the faith these kids had was amazing. We were in a third world country, where you can’t count on someone to be there in an instant to help you like you can in America. You put a house fire out yourself because you have no other choice. You drive a burn victim to the hospital because it would take too long for an ambulance to arrive. You comfort your family because they’re all you have. In a moment when there was so much fear and uncertainty, Jesus was there so clearly. And it started with the prayers of the children. 

And, just so you know, by the time I left the orphanage two months later, the boy who had been burned was absolutely, completely, 100 percent healed. You would never know he had been burned. God is so amazing.

1 comment:

Lizzie said...

Wow. That is a really, truly touching story.