Today we actually split up as a group. As some were at Dare the other 10 of us went to Home for Sick and Dying Children and Babies. I have a heart for babies so I was very hesitant going into it as everyone else was. When we got there there were babies crying in cribs in multiple rooms. Every time I'd walk by all the children would reach their arms out and wail in attempt to get you to just hold them. The second I'd pick one up I was never letting go...they literally latched on and you couldn't set them down without them crying. This was heartbreaking and very difficult to see. Something I thought was cool was that I got to feed some of them! They all suffer from malnutrition and most of them TB as well so this was heartwarming. The hardest thing I saw was a 4 month old 1/4th of the size of my 3 month year old cousin back in the US, his mother was sitting next to his crib (in a separate room) and he was hooked up to a machine. At first when I walked in I thought the baby had passed away because he was so still, but his eyes rolled back a little and his chest rose a little bit. I had our translator ask what was wrong and the baby had a terrible fever. I just comforted the mother and looked at that baby with such a broken heart. It was like nothing I've ever felt before and I hope to never see again. This day was very moving for me.
Going in to our visit to Dare, I was really afraid. I think it was mostly the feeling of not knowing what to expect. I had never spend any time with disabled children, and I had no idea if I would be able to handle what we were walking in to, but I just trusted that I was there for a purpose, and God would use me through it. As we got off of the tap-tap, we could hear LOTS of noise from inside. There was grunting and clapping, and a few screams. As we walked inside, we were greeted with warm smiles from the caregivers, who were clearly very happy to see us coming in to spend time with the children. There were probably about 15 kids altogether, with a mix of different disabilities. Some of them were running around, smiling, screaming, and expressing themselves through whatever means possible. Others sat or laid on the ground quietly, with blank expressions on their faces. It only took a few minutes in that room for all of my fears to dissipate. I know that the Holy Spirit took over to lead me in the best way to love the kids. I sat down and a girl came up to me right away to hug me and put her face in my lap. Many of the kids just wanted nothing more than to be held and touched. A few of the livelier boys loved to clap and play hand games. The clearest thing was that for each of these children, all that mattered was for them to be seen and acknowledged by someone. Just looking into their eyes and smiling, taking the time to learn their name, help them blow bubbles, clap along to worship songs, made a world of difference. One of the older residents who was blind loved to clap (louder than I have ever heard before) and he along with a few members of our team led the most powerful, joy-filled session of worship I have ever heard. By the end of the day, tears streamed down my face as I held a boy whose arms and legs were the width of two of my fingers put together. I knew in that moment that God's heart was beating wildly for these kids, and their songs of praise in the worst of circumstances were perfect in his sight. Seeing my tears, he put his hand on my face and kissed my cheek, and I will never forget that feeling.
After Dare our group came back together and we went to La Phare's orphanage, run by Pastor La Phare and his wife. We put on a faith lesson about the Easter story, helped the kids with a craft, and gave them a snack. When that was finished, we toured Pastor La Phare's church next door, and we were able to pray for him and the future of the children he cares for. It was so clear through the smiles on the children's faces, through the words of Pastor La Phare, and through the joy we all felt that there is much hope for their futures. Even though we struggled leaving the kids behind (some of them wrapped their legs around ours and asked us not to leave, others tried to climb on to the tap-tap with us), we could see that as we pulled away, the love of God stayed with them.