I wrote in my journal on Sunday evening when I arrived in my village of Nsinda, “I feel like I married Jesus and had 16 children.” This accurately represents how this whole journey so far has been very much me dedicating my life to Christ’s calling and purposes, and as thirty-two little eyes of the sixteen boarding students that live in the dorm with me peered at me expectantly, I discovered this would also be like being a mother of 16 (with more to come in January). Their only toy, a soccer ball I had bought them a year ago, had just burst on Friday, and their eyes begged for someone to play with them. A year ago they had had a similar look in their eyes, and we had played a huge game of hide from the tickle monster. Figuring I had probably had very little influence on them in the short months I had been there last year, I was surprised that Divin requested a good old game of tickle monster. My bags sat in my room, unpacked, with my room left unfurnished with no soap or water to bathe, but the duty of the moment called for tickle monster. And even the shyest of children was screaming in joy and laughter.
To contrast this, we told stories during dinner that evening and my heart broke as every story the children made up included either alcohol, domestic violence, beggars, poverty, soldiers, or prison. This is their reality, and the words, “princess,” “fairy,” and “magic” are foreign to them. Similarly, while working out the budget for next year, I became very disheartened. The teachers have been patient, as they have not been paid in months. We don’t have much milk anymore, and sometimes I get hungry because we don’t have food for breakfast. The money simply isn’t here. I didn’t even know before just how bad the situation was. They just pray for miracles every single month. They talk all the time about “Hope.” And while I kindly tried to inform them that “hope does not produce income,” it dawned on me that that’s exactly what I do when I fundraise in the US – hope that someone will help.
So it touched my heart when I noticed something three days ago I hadn’t noticed the first two days here. I was leaned over washing my hair in the wash basic bucket that the school had provided for me, my head and eyes peering at the red plastic holding my small amount of water for washing. And there carved into the red plastic in the handwriting of a child was a word in four beautiful all capital letters: H-O-P-E. I just noticed tonight the same thing etched into the jerry can I was given to fetch water. It both exhilarates me and terrifies me that I am the hope for these children. So to keep the exhilaration and remove the terror, I give this over to God. He is truly their hope. And I am his servant. And hopefully, together we can give these children what they seek, what they talk about, the one word that echoes in their mind when doodling in wash basins- hope