I Dreamed of Africa
I went to bed last night and woke up this morning with this little guy on my heart. His name is Jonathan. I met him very briefly on a missions trip to Zambia in April 2009. The impression he made on my heart was anything but brief. He was one of several little ones at an orphanage we visited. The first time I saw him he stood out to me. He was outside sitting on a blanket with two other children. The other children were cooing and simling and talking, but Jonathan sat quiet just observing. He looked at me, I smiled, he didn't. He just looked. I remember looking into his eyes thinking, I've never seen such a sad baby. He never took his eyes off me and I kept being drawn back to him. We went inside the facility to talk to the caregivers and next thing I knew he was placed in my lap! I talked to him - still no smile. Then Beth, our guide, tickled him and not only did he smile, he put his little hand on his head and broke into the best laughter I ever heard! Someone captured the moment in a photo and I'm so glad they did, but even if they hadn't the image, the sound, the feeling of the little body vibrating with laughter on my lap, are etched in my heart for eternity. So now it's five years later and I woke up this morning thinking of Jonathan; wondering if he's well, if he was ever placed with a family, if he's in school. I wonder whether he is still laughing...
I never did get the details of Jonathan's story, how he came to be at the orphanage. The majority of the children there shared the same story - left behind by parents who died from AIDS and without relatives who were able to care for them. The caregivers, a German couple and their staff, did such an excellent job loving and caring for these babies. I have never seen such well behaved children. In the photo below, all the babies had been bathed and changed and were quietly sitting at the table waiting for lunch. I know some grownups who don't behave as well - LOL!
I remember another infant there who had arrived at the home two weeks prior to our arrival. He looked like a two-month old he was so tiny, but he was actually born in July of 2008 (remember we were there in April 2009!). The young woman looking after him told me he had gained weight since his arrival and he was beginning to thrive. I pray he is continuing to thrive where ever he is.
It was so hard to put my trip and the affect it had on me into words when I came back. I'm not sure why I woke up thinking about all this today of all days, but this is one the first times I've been able to write about it 'publicly' without getting overwhelmed. I had so many good experiences on that trip. One thing is certain, my life was forever changed. The things I learned about myself and the world, the things I saw, the people I met (especially Jonathan and his infectious laughter) still weave themselves into the fabric of my everyday life over five years later. I don't know that I made a mark on Zambia, it was only ten days after all, but Zambia for sure left one on me. Among other things, the trip reminded me that what has always been at my core hasn't changed. I still have a disire to leave the world better than I found it. With that, I will sign off and get to it!