She was no more than 8 weeks old, but only weighed 3 pounds. She wore a diaper made of bubble wrap and a dish towel. This baby needed to be in a hospital, but instead she was in an orphanage, the details of her short life unknown.
And this orphanage was a clean, respectable, well cared for facility. It was not over-crowded like most. And yet the resources that are in abundance in the US, are so scarce here that it left this baby girl dressed in packaging material and kitchen textiles.
Most babies spend hours upon hours alone, in their cribs, or makeshift beds with little to no stimulation. There aren't enough arms to hold them, play and entertain them. Too many needs. Too many children.
The older children sit and watch as families come and go with babies in their arms. They know that they are second choice to most. They know and will tell you that most families don't want older kids. That the babies are what parents want and that they will probably never have a family. And they say, "it's okay." with small sad smiles on their faces because they don't want you to feel bad or obligated. But the reality is that when they age out of the system, the orphanage opens the big metal gate and dumps them on the street. And you will find them there, weeks later, sleeping... sitting... waiting... because they have no where else to go.
To describe what we have seen, what we have experienced, takes a far greater writer than I. It's overwhelming at least. The need feels crippling. We took two full suitcases to the orphanage our kids stayed at and it was as if it was Christmas. The kids even took the packaging of the toys to play with. The cars were fought over and the jump ropes held tightly for the brief moments they could pretend that they owned them. But in reality, all clothes, toys, books, supplies - they are communal. Their name and story is all they can call their own.
I have had to dig into the Lord harder here, for I can't make sense of the pain. Part of me longs to tell you the time we had with their birth mom, but right now it feels too sacred. I cannot look at the pictures we took with her in fear my heart will rip in two. We wept together. Two mothers. One who was sacrificing her most prized possessions, even though it would nearly kill her and one who cannot wait to know them as well as she does. The strength this dear woman has is beyond my comprehension. She loves K and F so fiercely. It was evident in the way she spoke of them. The way she smile when she spoke of K's silliness, the softness in her voice when she told us why she gave Fiyori the name she did.
The pain in this land is great. The people have suffered much. And there are places that are creating opportunities for a better life. A Hope is an orphanage exclusively for HIV+ kids who are given food, clothing, an education and love. Otherwise they would be outcasts, given no chance for work or even social interaction. They are abandoned their families, thrown out of school and left on the streets to fend for themselves.
But for $20 a month you can provide a child a future. $20. That's all it takes to clothe a child, give him the medicine he needs to live, and provide a good education. Sponsorship programs, feeding programs or even the formula program that has been set up at the orphanage our kids got dropped off is incredible and creates empowerment for the people in Africa. The orphanage sponsors or provides formula to mothers who are HIV+ but have babies who have tested negative to the virus (there is only a 25% chance a baby will have HIV if born from a HIV+ mother) Breastfeeding greatly increases the chances of passing on the chronic disease and so these mothers bottle feed with the formula given by the orphanage. This allows the social outcast mothers to keep their babies healthy and receive care regardless of the social stigma that plagues them.
Melissa, a fellow adoptive mother from Ethiopia, wrote about several Ethiopian ministries that provide avenues for Ethiopians to become successful, self sustaining individuals. I linked her blog once before but please, go there and read. Eric and I may stay on the Bring Love In guesthouse when we come back for our embassy trip. Read about their ministry. Pray about how you can be involved.
We are all called to care for orphans. There are so many ways to do it beyond adoption. Adoption is just one way to be obedient. Would you please, consider and pry about how you are to love those less fortunate? We have SO much we can give in Time, money, energy, resources. You just have to open your eyes and see. I am praying that the Holy spirit leads you.