Today, beggars got to be choosers, and boy were they picky. At 6:30 they were lining up outside the compound walls waiting to come in and get their supplies. They were not told what they would be, just that we had something we wanted to give them. They all dressed in their Sunday best, including the shoes they had stored away, and walked the two miles to Emery’s house. We had a system down that worked pretty well. The gatekeeper would check their cards and make sure that nobody extra was present. Then they would escort them inside where one of our dedicated workers, usually Jesse and Hope, would grab one of the kids’ hands and bring them to their section and try on shoes. The kids’ faces lit up as new tennis shoes were put on their feces stained feet. Their parents would make them take the shoes off before they left, so they could keep their new shoes clean. Emery said they would probably keep the new shoes for church, hopefully that means the old shoes will be released for play time. Doubtful though. Maybe they will be sold for food or other supplies. All I know is the kids were happy. The parents would each get a pair as well and then I would mark down their sizes and they would be given a bag of supplies (i.e. toothbrushes and toothpaste, clothes, etc) and a large can of kidney beans. Finally a water filtration system was given to them an explained how it worked. Apparently they can be a life saver, turning even nasty water into clean drinking water. After standing in the heat for hours, the whole process inside took them only 10 minutes and they were gone again, walking home a little taller and the kids a little happier, knowing new shoes were in their bag.
The shoe drive took from 6:30 am to almost 1:30 in the afternoon. We were run down and exhausted but they asked us if we wanted to go to Jubilee for the feeding program and say our goodbyes as this would be the last time we saw the kids. As I hoped in the truck I wondered what kind of emotions I would feel as I said goodbye. We pulled up and the children were waiting for us. Each child I saw I had to say goodbye to at the moment, not knowing if I would see them again. The school children were first and DG clung to me, happily jumping into my arms to get away from people touching her hair. Then Rochel and then the flood of every other child clothed in blue. I had not imagined a day that I would not see those faces, which was such a realization to me. I wanted to be there and absorb every face, every hug, every moment I could with those kids. It will never be enough. I recognized the faces in the crowds and they recognized me calling out my name wishing only to be acknowledged. I cupped every face I could and in words they will never understand, told them I will miss them. My eyes spoke of love, which is a universal language.
As I climbed back into the truck after the feeding program ended, I had to turn my face away from the children so I would not cry. ‘Save the tears for when you get home April’, I told myself. It was difficult. I feel called to these children, this place. What is your dream for me Lord?
I had a quick lunch when I got back from Jubilee and then decided on a nap. I woke up in a bucket of sweat. It was so hot that even breathing was laborious. After convincing every muscle (individually) to move, I headed downstairs only to find out that we were doing another round of shoes in the night. So at 4 o’clock the people started lining up again. This time things were hectic because half of our team was gone in jubilee and we were without a translator. Worse than that, nobody had cards with names or faces so we could not check that they were telling the truth. It was a mess, but in the end we handed out over 330 pairs of shoes.
After packing up my stuff, getting ready for our trip to Port tomorrow, I took a glorious shower and headed up to the roof. Things seem so much simpler up there. Things seem simpler here in general. The goal of the days is to build relationships. Naps are taken in the afternoon and the only concern is what time dinner is and will you be able to recognize it. Ah the simple life.