Note: We thought it was an orphanage before we arrived, but it also housed kids who were juvenile delinquents and those who needed a place to stay until they could return home. So we called it “the center.”
Many people have asked the above question and there are so many ways I could answer. Here are a few:
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Powerful (if a one-word answer is acceptable).
I saw so many examples of how God resolved a situation within minutes (sometimes seconds) of it needing resolved. He used taxis, hugs, scripture, a hard-to-find cable to connect a laptop to a projector, a van that needed to be push-started on a short hill, and also literally cleared rain clouds multiple times.
I painted many fingernails and then let the girls paint mine. They seemed just like teenagers I know in the US, except that I couldn’t speak their language.
I played with some babies who were taken away from their homes. We were warned that they would cry when we put them down, but none of them did. Are they used to strange people playing with them and then leaving or was it simply nap time?
We gave each kid at the Center a diploma and a medal (like a race medal) which said one of five words (beloved, precious, chosen, overcomer, courageous). I was privileged to put the medal around the neck of a few kids and the look of pride on their faces was … incredible, overwhelming, none of those words are quite right, but you get the idea. The kids slept with and wore their medals to school the next day.
The hugs I gave and received were different. I felt their desperate, melting spirits in my arms. Some may say it was a sham, that this is what visitors have taught them to do. But that wasn’t my impression.
When we left the Center on the last night, they pleaded with us not to leave. We sat in the van for a few minutes, waiting for it to start. Some watched the kids and some couldn’t. We were all in tears. Then they formed human road blocks and jumped on the bumpers as we drove away. My tears are starting to flow just thinking about this.
We were all sick at some point, which is sort of expected when going to a foreign country where you can’t drink the water, the food may or may not be safe, and things aren’t as clean as our systems are used to. It was another lesson that I am not invincible.
I rode a Malagasy bus one day and it was quite the experience. The “bus” was the structure of a 15-passenger van, but holds much more than that here in Madagascar! I would guess there were 20-25 people on the bus.
There were many times that I didn’t know the language of someone I was communicating with. This was really difficult at times, but often it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t need to know Malagasy or French to teach kids to swim, play Uno, teach Jenga, or give/receive hugs. I didn’t even need to know it for worshipping, though it would have been helpful.
It was incredible to listen to the Malagasy people worship at the school where we stayed.
It always helps to start a workday with some corporate worship time.