Benjamin never spent time in an orphanage, so maybe I didn’t know. Benja is my son now and I know his story, so I was surprised to find all of this new to me.
There are children in Uganda without parents. Do you know this?
It’s one thing to know it. Do you see it? Have you held them?
I don’t know how to do this without sounding like one of those old Sally Struthers fly-on-the-face commercials. I don’t want it to be that. For me, those commercials were a spectator sport. I saw it, I felt sorry, but I still didn’t know. Because I didn’t do anything.
But having been here, I have to tell you. I saw what I saw and I can’t go back, and I can’t not tell you about these children.
In the orphanages we visited today, the staff and leadership are doing so many things right — which is no easy task in Uganda. They are protecting the children, they are trying to resettle them with their families, and if that doesn’t work they’re trying to find foster families, adoptive families in Uganda, or international adoptive families. They’re sending them to school, they’re loving these kids the best they can, they’re building relationships with visitors and asking for feedback and new ideas for how to improve.
But these kids still need families. Each day, they still long for a mommy and a daddy.
I know, because they told me.
During prayer time at one of the orphanages, a beautiful 7-year-old, Grace,* was playing tickle games with me, running around, chasing, laughing loudly when I caught her. After a while, she asked me to sit down and she crawled into my lap. After I promised I wouldn’t tickle her so she could relax, she said, “No, I want you to hold me. I want to go home with you.”
And I immediately wanted to adopt every orphan in Africa.
I asked her why she’d like to come home with me, and she said, “Because I laaaahhhhhv you.”
I hugged her tighter, my heart breaking all over again.
During prayer time, 12-year-old Geoffrey,* a beautiful, bright and tall boy who quickly became a favorite of many in the group (maybe for his dancing skills, because he loved to move) said, “Please pray for me so that I can have a sponsor.”
The Ja-Ja (grandmother) and founder of the orphanage, gently corrected him, “You mean you’d like us to pray that you get a mommy and daddy?” Geoffrey nodded.
That this boy would so long for a place to belong without even having the language to express it, to not know exactly what his heart longs for — I turned away to swallow the lump in my throat.
Isn’t Geoffrey’s prayer request and JaJa’s gentle reminder of his true heart’s cry a beautiful reminder of how God loves us?
So often I am praying for one thing, sure that my plans are best, but God sees my heart and knows, better than I do, what I’m really asking for, what I really need. And that’s the request he answers.
Even if my words are inadequate, even if I don’t even have the language to know what I need, I rest in the safety of my Father’s arms, who knows what I need before the thought reaches my mind. Oh, how he loves us.
* * *
We adopted Benjamin when he was just a little babe, but today the older waiting kids stole my heart completely. Any of the kids I met today would be a beautiful addition to a loving family.
If you’ve always considered adoption but haven’t jumped in yet, please know there will be no perfect time to start. Sometimes there’s no voice from heaven or “aha moment,” but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt. It doesn’t mean you should, either – I’m a big advocate for reading up on older child adoption and knowing what you’re getting into, but also standing on God’s promises and not bowing to fear.
Please consider how you can help – either by looking into adoption, or by supporting one of the orphanages we visited today. They are both doing wonderful things and you can be assured that your donations will go to a very good place. Click here to read more about Redeemer House, or here to read more about An Open Door.
*Names have been changed.