Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs. Isaiah 35: 6b,7a
At the risk of sounding cliché, I tell you, I think of you all the time. But in no season do I think of you more than in Fall. For it's this time of year, when leaves start to turn, that reminds me of your bright-eyed faces, you the ones who brought new color to my world.
It was five years ago that we were preparing to return to Africa. It would be my second time to visit your home at the orphanage there. I won't go into detail about how my time(s) there were much like a dream that you don't want to wake from. I'll save that for another day.
Today I reminisced the time I received a large brown envelope containing letters from you. I'm so thankful for our friends who served close by, who collected those for me. It was months after that fall visit that I received them. I remember running into Jason's office after one particularly difficult day and seeing him smile and reach over to pick up an envelope whose contents had traveled the ocean to deliver love to me. I gave him a quick peck and dashed to the car. Amidst a torrential downpour I ran into a convenience store and grabbed treats for the kids to keep them occupied while I pulled out letter after letter from you. The edges of each hand-written note were decorated with flowers and scrolling, carefully penciled with map colors. Within reading the first two sentences my eyes poured somewhat like the rain that fell outside my window. So now, though you may not receive this, I am writing once again to you.
You left an indelible mark on my heart, which is ironic. Like so many others who've had the privilege to serve in a similar capacity, I wanted to meet you to change you. I wanted to brighten your world with stickers and treats. I wanted to cure your loneliness with mama-like hugs. I let you wear my sunglasses and made bracelets with you. I played with you with small stones and a tin cup in the sand. We jumped rope with a broken water hose. I played much more intently than I'd played with my own children.
Remember this clapping/hand-slapping game:
My mother and your mother were washing some clothes.
My mother gave your mother a piece of clothes?
Which color was it?
Besides having an unforgettable time, I determined that I would carry in my Spirit the grace of God and I decided that I would give it to you. Little did I know, the grace of God was surely already there.
It's in moments of humbling clarity I realize that I was one of a handful of Americans that visited you through the years. Sometimes I wonder if we dazzling people were like sparkly shirts that fade after the wash.
You called me Kristin. You told me I looked like one of your favorite characters on the Spanish soap opera you were fortunate to be able to watch on your three-station television. You asked me if I knew Oprah and Obama. And looking back at what you wrote in your letters and from our conversations, you thought me as one who lives in the place where the God of prosperity resides.
Initially, I saw you as impoverished being that you were nourished with only beans and tea and the fact that you only had one pair of clothes not counting your school uniform. Most of you were motherless and fatherless and for the most part unsupervised except for the one fourteen year old who was in charge of you (at non-school times) and didn't hesitate to climb the tree to find a switch to use on you. You were without possessions not counting the small trunk which held maybe a small stuffed animal, some Obama bubble gum and a letter or two. The red dirt upon which your tired feet tread seemed thirsty.
That description of you sounds so desolate.
I brought books for you to read and lima beans that I'd hand-lettered so that we could play educational games. A special memory I have is from some of the beans being left out from the plastic game container I'd made for you. I remember coming back the next day, seeing that some of those beans, though unplanted and not watered had sprouted. I don't know how anything grew layed out on that hard, dry ground but those beans did. I remember knowing then that God was at work. I felt his protection over you. I sensed His love for you. That's something I will never forget. It wasn't evident in material prosperity, but the air was thick with his presence.
I think often how I gave you an incomplete picture of who God is, me and my material wealth- flat character that I was. I think of how my own view of God has been so very short of who He is. Since visiting with you, I have spent time of my own, now and then, in the desert; not like the one in Africa. At times I have a desert soul within me. I have found myself feeling insecure. My soul sometimes feels desolate and wanting. I think all people spend time there.
In those times I would be remiss not to think back. You helped me have a clearer picture of God. He is on the mountain, in the valley and He is in the desert too. You've taught me that He's not always seen, but sometimes felt in the depths of seemingly bare places.
You taught me that empty hands and full hearts can coincide. My life is more prosperous for having known you.
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God. Isaiah 35:1-2
With much love,