There is a movement across the United States to make the first Sunday of every November "Orphan Sunday". Many pastors use the pulpit on this weekend as a platform to raise awareness of the orphan crisis and call a sleepy Church to action. My husband, Ben is in Seattle this weekend with Tom Davis doing that very thing. I am so thankful that people are recognizing God's heart for the orphan and, more importantly, moving beyond recognition to action that is rooted in love and justice.
I stumbled upon these two photos tonight from our trip to Ethiopia in June. Both of these were taken on our last day in Addis after having spent two weeks with both of our sponsored girls through Children's HopeChest. These were the final moments of saying good-bye...
|Mekdes, age 6|
Both these precious girls don't have daddies. I literally get choked up every time I look at these photos. Mekdes and Maezanesh look SO happy and content receiving affection from Ben. I think all three of them could have stayed in these moments forever.
These girls aren't a statistic to us. When we hear that there are somewhere around 163 million orphans in the world we think of Maezanesh and Mekdes. We see THEIR faces. We know THEIR stories. We have laughed with them, held their hands, been in their homes and we love them. We feel the weight of the loss they have known in their lives. We have been so very blessed by them.
I think the photo of Ben with Maezanesh speaks volumes. You can look in her eyes and see her literally drinking in the value, love and worth that Ben is speaking into her with just his tear filled eyes, his smile and his outstretched hand on her cheek - no words necessary. People talk about magic moments. This is no magic, people - this is what the real love of the Father looks like to an orphan. This is what the love of the Father looks like to ME.
We are all orphans at our core... longing for that arm of grace and love to so gently reach out and touch our cheek. We long to have someone recognize us as valuable and beautiful regardless of our history. We want to soak up every last drop of affection and love that we can. But God has not left us as orphans - He has come to us and made us His own. And we get the immense joy of looking Maezanesh and Mekdes in the eyes and saying to them "You are daughters. You are loved and valued more than you can possibly imagine. Pay no attention to the world that says you are worthless, because you are daughters of the King."
I love these girls... with everything in me, I love them. And it's not of my own merits that I love them, but simply because as the scripture says "Christ's love compels us". I look at my own broken life and the One who is piecing it all back together and I can't help but want to be a part of that same work of restoration in the lives of orphans who feel forgotten and alone.
Back in April, I sat in a friend's living room and listened to Tim and Laurie Thornton of The Blackthorn Project sing the following words...
isn't it just like you to invite me into a warm house
isn't it just like you to stroke my hair as I fall asleep
Father you made me yours
found my orphan heart and brought it home
and I'm safe here and I sing
isn't it just like you to make a slave into your daughter
isn't it just like you to make wine out of dirty water
I used to live in chains
my wounds bled to the ground
my bed was out in the rain
my hair in knots and soaked in mud
but you took my hand
and you led me in
and you combed my hair
you kissed my skin
and you gave me food
you made me yours
YOU MADE ME YOURS.
In June I remember watching Mekdes walk through the doorway at the feeding center. It had been raining and her feet were caked with mud, her hair was matted and her clothes were soaked and filthy. She ran right to me and put both hands up in the air signaling she wanted to be picked up. I scooped her up instantly and smiled as she ran her dirty hands along my hair and face. We giggled. She belonged. I belonged. We were both daughters living in a moment of joy in the middle of the dirt. There is no describing this feeling to you. It's like coming home... two orphaned hearts looking into each other's eyes and recognizing the Father. Powerful stuff, friends. It IS heaven on earth. And there's more to be had. Don't miss out.