Babies grow so fast and changes occur constantly at a place like this. It has been tough at times, testing, tiring, delightful, messy, stinky, slimy, cute, happy, and sad. The 52 orphans under the age of three sleeping downstairs right now have captured my heart in every way possible. What seemed like an overwhelming group of screaming toddlers when I arrived 7 months ago has turned into the most special group of children I have ever known. God created each individual so incredibly different! I count it a privilege to have been able to help shape the beginnings of their characters and share as much love as God poured through me.
Now, I have 3.5 days left. How is it already over??! I can't wrap my mind around it! I've been looking forward to going home and in the back of my mind, counting down the days since the beginning of August...but now I feel like I need to put on the brakes! It is hard to start packing up all of my belongings and all of my experiences to take home with me after 7 months. At the beginning of my time here, I talked about the four phases that most missionaries go through and I promised that I would give you an update on whether they were accurate or not. Well...they certainly are! And now I'm in the last phase where I love the culture, I love my children, I love the nannies, I love the food, and I love the language. I'm comfortable here and it definitely has become a second home to me. I'm struggling to imagine life in North America again and wondering how God will fit me back in there and use me at home. I'm praying that I will be able to share my experiences some how in all that I do and that they may have an impact in others' lives.
While I have been here, 24 new babies have arrived and joined our Cradle of Love family. Ten of these children came as a result of their mother's death and poverty of their father or extended families. Nine of the new babies were brought because they were found abandoned, either in a field, in town, hidden in the bushes, or left at the hospital. The other few had unique cases.
I experienced 14 children leave the baby home. Five moved onto different orphanages, five were adopted, and four returned to extended family. It is very hard to say goodbye and watch them move on. I still think of them and pray for them as I wonder how they're doing, growing up in a new environment.
I sadly experienced little Joel's death, and I will always remember him and what I learned from his short life.
I had the joy of helping and observing 10 babies proudly take their first steps, which was a priceless experience.
I saw tiny pre-mature babies grow into big, smiley, drooley 7-month-olds. I saw severly malnourished children grow and put on weight. I saw "first smiles" in the nursery. I experienced long nights at the hospital with a near-death 2 month old and watched him pull through.
These are just a few of the "baby" experiences God has blessed me with at Cradle. Tanzania as a country, though, has given me countless more! Markets, spending time with local friends, learning the language, learning to serve...to share anything I have, teaching English at Kilimani Primary School, climbing a mountain...
The list goes on.
In everything, though, I've experienced God. Whether I was looking for Him or not, He has revealed Himself to me in ways I've never see Him before. I didn't always realize it right away, but I see it now. I am able to look back on all my experiences, whether good or bad and see that He was in the midst of it, blessing and teaching. From now on, I believe I will know how to better open my eyes to see His presence in every situation life may bring. I know He lead me here for such a time as this and I will trust Him to lead me into the future. Right now, I basically fall apart when I think about life without these babies. I've woken up with them and tucked them in every day and night for so long. It's difficult to prepare to say goodbye and to change this experience from a "now" to a memory, but at the same time, I feel satisfied. I have served, and have learned what God had in store for me to learn, and I have grown. He will continue to bless and take care of his precious children because He has a plan for their lives. Whether they have a mother or father or not, my prayer is that they will grow secure in their Heavenly Father's love.