When we adopted Lian and Anna, their home seemed far away, their situation unknowable. Now I live in the same city as our son, his home is less than a ten-minute drive from my house. Yet, he is unknowable for now. Is he born yet? I don't know. Yet, what I do know now makes my heart long for him even more.
On Sunday, Kristin and I went to the Home of Hope orphanage, run by the Sisters of Charity in Kigali. We were not allowed to take pictures and I don't think I would anyway. Almost seems to trivialize the reality these children live in. So we went with some teachers from my daughter's school who volunteer there every Sunday. I have been to many orphanages before as a result of our adoptions and my work with Children's Hope Chest, but this was harder than what I've experienced before.
I need to preface my comments by saying that I know the Sisters there are prayerful, dedicated, hard-working and compassionate people. Yet, there are too few of them and too many children. One hundred and twenty children, ages 0-8 live in this home. Volunteers are not allowed in the baby room, unless you are a doctor, so as to keep the babies healthy. However, I could see them through the windows. Crib after crib lined the room - it was overwhelming to me. There had to be sixty cribs, at least. Outside the baby room were the 1-2 year olds, some of whom slept two to a crib in a very small crib. No furniture except the tables at which they all eat their meals. Outside in the courtyard, about forty 3-6 year olds, along with several special needs older children, were playing and getting ready to eat their dinner (a roll and some milk) and take a bath.
I thought I was prepared. I brought a Rwandan soccer ball as I thought that would be fun to play. Lesson learned, unless I had 40 soccer balls, I should not have brought it. The children stormed at us, wanting to be held, wanting to touch our hair and wanting to see what I had in my bag. They tried to grab it off of my arm. I finally got control and tried to play a game, but it was chaotic. They all began climbing on me and not in a fun way. I literally had to cry for help because the smaller children were getting trampled by the older. I just wanted to cry. This was not what I had imagined. And the caregivers (not the nuns) did not seem to know what to do. Finally, I put my bag in hiding, toys away, and just held a few small children, singing and blessing each one.
The smell of urine was everywhere - on the children, on my clothes, on my skin. It was overwhelming to me, yet I couldn't stop holding them. My son could be one of them in a few years. Lord, please hasten our process.
In the meantime, I will hold the children and support those who are coming alongside these children. I've met so many wonderful people who are providing medical care each week to the children, or working to provide material needs for the children. Specifically, another adoptive mom, Laurel Greer has started a non-profit to come alongside this orphanage. She is doing a "Crocs" shoe drive right now, which will be followed by a developmental toys drive. She sends the supplies from the States with other families who are adopting. To learn more, please visit http://four4-more.blogspot.com
My son, you are loved and longed for.