After a tear filled night of prayer followed by that familiar embrace, I found myself falling fast asleep in our two bunk, bedroom. The first day at the CURE hospital hadn’t disappointed and I couldn’t wait for what tomorrow would bring. Compared to my classmates, I had adjusted to the jet lag relatively well and found myself waking up earlier than most. Those quiet moments while some still slept, I spent with God. From the house that we were staying at, there was an unbelievable view right past the opening of the front door. As you look out, the vastness of the land was almost overwhelming. From the porch, straight ahead was the valley, Kijabe being nestled into the side of the mountain just a few miles up from the floor of the valley. Panning right, the plains of the valley brushed themselves up right next to Mount Longonot, one of the higher mountains in Kenya which doubled as a volcano with a crater at the summit. As you look left from the porch the valley climbs into a plateau and then makes its way back down even with the valley. If you looked closely, you could make out the small towns in the valley, and closer still you could see the individual villages and houses that made up part of the Rift Valley community. God had painted His canvas here in Kijabe with the most rewarding colors, giving us just a glimpse of His beauty with each brushstroke. Needless to say, breathtaking.
So every morning I would start my day here. Right in His creation. In the still, clear, quiet morning. Just to be with Him. I would sit there in pure awe and adoration at our Creator’s handiwork. Mesmerized. Taking time to read His word and just spend time with Him. Back home it was so easy for me to be in a rush and have some excuse not to make time for God. How? Distractions. Something that in the long run is worthless was getting in the way of something that is the long run. Psalms 4:2. It’s comical that when we find our faults God shows them to us again. I found that verse shortly after I thought about not making time for Him.
Today I would be in the ward. The ward was made up of 4 sections with 6 beds in each. This is where the patients were, think of it as one big hospital room. I had heard the stories from the day before of the kids that we would be seeing in the ward and my excitement was piling on. I love kids. For some reason, I feel like that I can connect with most of them, maybe that’s just wishful thinking, who knows. The morning started with vitals for every patient in the ward. As I made my rounds, I begin to meet the patients, figure out which ones knew English, which did not, the names of the patients, and tried to get a fill for their knowledge of the Lord. Their ages varied, their conditions varied, their languages varied, the tribe that they were from varied, their backgrounds varied, but one thing was the same. If you smiled at them, they smiled back. If you played with them, they played back. If you loved them, they loved you back. The trip could have finished here, just seeing the smiles on their faces. Not because I had never seen smiling patients before, but because I knew the reason behind those smiles. See this isn’t just an ordinary hospital. This hospital changed lives. When you go from not being able to walk, or run, or play, to being able to do all three and more, you have reason to smile. When you’re loved, for some it could have been the first time-I don’t know their stories, but when you feel loved you smile. Lives were being changed, and that’s a reason to show those pearly whites.
Before I had left the guest house that morning I had grabbed my Polaroid camera. I thought when I packed it, that I would be able to get some good shots of scenery, or of me completing that cliché of holding an African baby. But when I pulled it out of my pocket to snap the first picture something had changed without me even knowing. I thought of all the pictures that I had back home. I looked around. Most people had one bag with them, no pictures. I met a man traveling with his son who had packed his things into a briefcase for the extent of his trip. I asked him if he had any pictures of his family and he pulled out two tattered pictures of himself and his wife from what appeared to be high school stained brown with age. He didn’t have a picture of his little boy who was around two years old. So from there I decided that those pictures I had so selfishly intended to take back home and add to my ever-growing collection could be of better use. I took the first one of a mother and her special needs son and handed it to her. The second, of a young boy who had come to the hospital by himself. The third, another young boy with no caretaker. The fourth, a father, his son, and a friend. The fifth, the man with the two pictures of himself and his wife, as he sat there with his little boy whom he now had a picture of. As I went out for lunch I wondered if those pictures had meant anything to them. But when I came back, it was clear. The younger boys had their pictures by their bed. The mother, wrapped up in a paper towel in her purse. The man and his son, in his briefcase. And the father, his son, and a friend were still looking at theirs.
It was then that I had a thought. Most of them did not speak English, so I went around and picked the pictures up, got a pen and added a caption at the bottom of each photo. Yesu anakupenda. Jesus loves you. When I returned the pictures, I got warmer smiles than I had ever seen. They understood. They knew what I wanted to tell them that I couldn’t get across in English. But later I decided that love didn’t need a language.
As I made my final rounds towards the end of the day at the ward, I came across the father, his son, and a friend. The father was reading the New Testament so I asked if he was a believer. He gave me an answer that I had never heard and that I wasn’t exactly prepared for. He told me that he was 50/50. He explained that he had grown up Muslim, but was now curious to find out which religion was the correct one:Islam or Christianity. After talking with him a while and finding out his thoughts, I told him that I would be praying for both him and his son for his surgery that was coming soon.
*In trying to recollect my thoughts from the trip last week, I want to go day by day. That being said, the rest of the story about the Muslim man will continue in my next post.
The end of the work shift ended and I walked back down to the house. By this time the sun was setting, painting the vista that I had seen that morning with new oranges, reds, yellows, showing the change of beauty even in the same location. As I thought back on my day, the one thing that really made the most impact on me was giving the pictures to the families. In my mind, I had made an impact. I had shown them God’s love by caring for them as patients, talking to them, playing with them, and so on. But at the same time, I had given them something concrete for after I’m gone, after they leave the Christian hospital and go their separate ways to remember His love for them.
That was my prayer. That those children never forget that they are special. That they are loved. That they are beautiful, not just in my eyes but in His. Because I wasn’t sure that they had heard it. In a perfect world, every child hears that they are loved, and wanted and needed. But our world isn’t perfect, in fact we’re a long way from it. And for these children that were born with these deformities and defects, my concern wasn’t what they hadn’t heard, but what they had heard from this cold, cruel world. Shouldn’t they know that they are loved? Beyond measure? That they are needed? That they are wanted? Desperately? Such is my prayer, that the children and families will never forget the love that Jesus has for them and that those pictures will remind them of that. As for us, I think that it’s just as important. And sometimes that’s hard to believe or tell yourself, but it’s true.
Jesus loves you. wants you. needs you. thinks that you are beautiful. can use you. will take you back.