As I sat quietly in the nursery at lunch time yesterday, I marvelled that six babies would all fall asleep at the same time, lying in cribs pushed right up against each other in this small room. There were shuffles and snuffles and the occasional whimper from Xadreque, the youngest and newest nursery resident.
Just two months ago, Xadreque [below] was brought to the Centre desperately malnourished, literally starving to death. At 7 months of age and just under 6kg, he was fighting for his life and now we were fighting with him. Within days and under the ever-watchful eye of our medical team, he began putting on weight and, after a week, he was giggling and happy, his skin beginning to glow again and his hair to grow. He has big black eyes that sparkle all the time and notice everything, especially now he has gained enough strength to sit up and turn his head toward every noise he hears. He misses nothing. Silvia [below], 13 months old and the natural leader of the five toddlers who are now all either walking or crawling, has lately taken to touching Xadreque’s cheek gently and making kissing sounds with her lips. She’s learned this from observing the many times a day Xadreque is kissed and cuddled by the tias, missionaries and visitors who cannot resist him.
To play a part in loving a child back to life is the greatest privilege I can imagine and, as I watched Xadreque sleeping (his name comes from Shadrach in the Bible), I marvelled once more that I am a part of such a miraculous place, where the hopelessness of poverty is defeated by the powerful and practical hope of love. Here, we have the immense honour of loving the dying back to life and watching them grow into the healthy, strong adults they were always destined to be.
I will celebrate Christmas this year with my Zimpeto family: 260 children, 150 workers and 30 missionaries. I will miss another Walker family Christmas and the laughter, the pressies, the giant turkey on the barbeque and the noise of my nieces and nephews swimming in the pool in the late afternoon. I’ll think of them tomorrow and be sad for just a moment or two, wishing I were there. It won’t last long - I will have noise and activity and laughter enough here.
Tomorrow will be all about our Zimpeto kids and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Presents and prayers, singing and dancing in the summer heat and humidity, a church decorated with streamers and balloons and, hopefully, cooled by a breeze flowing through the open eaves, a feast of chicken, chips, rice and fizzy drinks, and the celebration of the birth of the perfect Saviour who makes all of this possible.
The celebrations begin tonight with a Candle Service (yes, candles for all our kids, oh my!) and nativity play, then supper at the home of our Base Directors. In the morning, I will be woken by the noise of excited children before dawn – some things are the same the world over. There will be presentations of gifts in every dorm and, of course, the nursery. Then church, a lunch feast, more presentations and, in the evening, a Christmas dinner with all the missionaries. At some point in the evening’s proceedings there will be a wild, undignified and hilarious Secret Santa game.
Thanks and blessings to all who have prayed for me and for the ministry this year, and to those who have given financially. Thank you for your sensitivity and generosity: I look for what may be credited to your account (Phil. 4:17). Thank you for remembering the poor.
To all my friends and family, I wish you the hope and joy that come from knowing that, because of the birth-day of Jesus, all things are possible. Celebrate the arrival of Jesus two thousand years ago and His presence with us today and enjoy the festivities... I know I will!
Feliz Natal to all!