I was dreading visiting the Orphanages in the Congo to be honest. I mean, how could I go and see all those children who need parents and not be depressed for months on end knowing I can’t adopt them all… I can’t make others adopt them. I wasn’t looking forward to going. Then the day came, and we headed to the Orphanage that cared for Ezra and Evie before they got placed in a foster home. The drive was hot and bumpy and after about a half hour the city started to fade behind us and the country side opened up before us. The roadsides were lined with fresh markets and simple businesses. Women were carrying things on their heads with babies on their backs. Children were holding hands walking home from a nearby village school. It was getting more and more simple and more and more beautiful with every mile we went. We pulled into this trail like driveway and honestly, there were moments I didn’t think the van was going to make such a bumpy washed out road…. but we did. We pulled into an open area and kids started running towards us and women stopped what they were doing to look and see who the van was bringing. This was the community that the Orphanage was in the midst of. They were all very curious and VERY friendly.
The Orphanage Director led us to his office and showed us the many charts he had on his walls, they were documenting who was coming into the orphanage and who was going out… they were documenting what skills were being taught and when they were needing to be taught…. their was a huge photo wall of the orphans who had found a home there or who had aged out of their program. (and they all looked VERY happy!!) The Director went on to explain how they want to not only care for those with no parents and no home… but they wanted to raise them to be productive citizens of the DRC. They wanted to teach them skills, and to instill in them confidence. This was already very different then I had been expecting. The Congo is filled with Orphanages who just exist and try to survive…. and in those such orphanages they are full of kids who just exist and try to survive. They aren’t taught things, they aren’t fed well, they aren’t played with, they are given skills for future use, they just exist. THIS orphanage was different.
Then we went on to the rest of the Orphanage tour…. Some of the Orphanage was located down a small mountainside, across a valley and up a hill on the other side. The view was breathtaking. Their were community gardens in the valley and homes of congolese families were freckled across the side of the mountain and in the valley as well.
Because I have tricky knees and was holding Ezra, I stayed up top and went to visit those families nearby… to see how they lived. It was basic african living that I saw. Most of their kids didn’t have shoes and some didn’t even wear underwear. But they were happy, they were healthy, and they were surviving… probably doing things just as generations before them did.
The rest of the group headed down the steep dirt path and visited the children at the other part of the orphanage. They were in class at the school there and were very well behaved and super excited to show off to the group what they were learning. Then they took them to the bunkhouses… which were more houses less bunks. They had 5 bunk beds with no mattresses on them. The Director shared with them how getting these kids beds that were off the floor and were decent to sleep on was a crucial need of theirs. Having more beds would protect them from bug bites and dirty floors… both things that contribute to sickness there. Our group decided that this would be our project and that this would be our way of giving back to a place that helped give our children food and shelter when they had no place else to go.
After joining up with the rest of the group we all headed to the big meeting room where all the kids had gathered for lunch. We had bought and prepared peanut butter sandwiches and they were super excited to get one. You would think that they would be surrounding us with open hands and pushing in to make sure they got a sandwich… but they didn’t. They sat patiently and held their hands open in their laps and once they got handed a sandwich they just looked at it and waited until every child got one. One little one peaked into the sandwich and saw the peanut butter and nudged her friend beside her and showed her with great delight that there was something yummy and rare inside. I think it was then that I broke down and started crying. It was hard to be there and see the sweet faces and the patient hearts and know that most of them probably wouldn’t get adopted… ever.
I’m praying for families for these little ones… and big ones. I know there are homes out there who have rooms that are empty and could feel like a palace to one of these, I know there are moms and dads out there who aren’t done being parents and who have had experience with their kids who are about grown and could really pour into a child that is a little bit older. I know that there are families out there who could love one of these children and help heal the heartache they have been through in their short lives. I know there are couples out there who haven’t started having kids or can’t have kids yet have a strong desire to be a mommy and daddy… yes, it might not be the norm to start out with a 4…5..6…7 year old, but I know God promises to supply the wisdom needed to any who ask of Him. And what an amazing journey to say to that child… you are my first child, my chosen child… even if more will be added to your family down the road.
As we drove away from that beautiful horrible place…. I knew I wanted to come back, but in the meantime somehow make a difference for the kids there. Our team talked and started working out more of the planning for getting the bunkbeds built for them. We decided that we would fund 20 bunkbeds (40 beds) for them. (it’s not a lot of beds… but it’s a huge part of what they need, and in Congo you kind of have to start where you can and make changes one bunk bed at a time) Because of the location of the orphanage they were going to have to be built on location which isn’t cheap there. But it was something we wanted to see happen. I know that the project was being started by the time we left and I am hoping the next team that goes down to Congo next can take photos of the finished project.
I left a part of my heart at this place. And one day… I will go back again. Maybe to get another sweet child to bring into my home….maybe. Or maybe to visit and bring them photos of my babies…bring them more sandwiches…and to visit my friends on the mountainside once more. But Lord willing… I will be back.