I learned awhile ago that if you ask God for something, you better be prepared for the answer. This is a lesson I often forget and have to relearn. Today, I learned that lesson again, hard.
This trip has been an incredible experience. I often have moments where I stop and realize I'm in Africa! We've given beds to over 500 kids so far, loved on as many of those 500 kids as we could, and seen sights that most people only get to see in National Geographic. As much and as incredible as that all is, it wasn't enough for me yet. My heart wasn't breaking yet. I had a fear before going on this trip that I had been on so many trips, I was becoming desensitized. I feared I had seen so many children in devastating situations that they all would start to blend together and nothing would affect me anymore. Because of this fear, last night I asked God to break my heart. I asked him to show me something that would break my heart, partly to connect me to this place again, and partly to prove to me that my heart has not been hardened.
This morning I got the answer to my prayer. She came in the form of a 4 year old girl named Joanne. This little girl singled me out and clung to me. I haven't had an experience like that with a child in a long time. I picked her up and didn't put her down again until her named was called for her to receive her bed. I then lost track of her for a few minutes. I found her while helping to tie up the mattresses in rolls to make it easier for the kids and grandmas to carry. She saw me and came running. I picked her up and held her until her grandma motioned for her to follow. The heartbreak came when she wouldn't let go of my leg. Finally, her grandmother got her to follow and it was one of the saddest goodbyes I've experienced. I kept thinking about what this little girl is lacking in her life to make her cling to a complete stranger just to receive a hug or some sort of physical touch. I kept wondering what has she seen and experienced already in her little 4 year old life. What kind of tragedies could she have already gone through to be without parents and living with her grandmother, who looks to be about 120? Watching her walk away was such a hard thing to watch. I could not hold back the tears as all of those thoughts flooded through my head.
Joanne, is one girl I will not be able to forget and she made me realize why we're here. We come here and bring beds so little girls like Joanne can sleep at night, and hopefully have a positive change in her life to make something great of her life. I'm happy to say my heart is not hardened, at least where children in need are concerned. The only problem now is, my heart hurts.