Yesterday the world was spinning faster than I had experienced for a long time. I am learning to say “espera por favor” with a smile. “Please wait…”
Needs to be met. Issues to be faced. Problems to be solved. Questions to which I must respond… now! Phones to be answered, again and again and again. There are days when I juggle three phones at once. I have learned to hold two conversations at the same time; after all, I have two ears and two hands.
Yesterday there were plans to be finalised, messages to be delivered, money to be sorted, accommodation to be organised, directions to be given, vehicles to be coordinated, transport to the airport for 37 people all at once… hugs, thanks, goodbyes… oh no, I forgot to find the lost suitcase! As the day progressed and the world turned faster and faster, my head began to spin with it. I wondered how to do everything that needed to be done without dropping the ball, my bundle or the many papers I was carrying around to reassure me that I was on top of everything.
I headed for the Baby House to deliver a message. The plan was to be in and out in a moment. No time for distractions or play or loving on babies today.
Within seconds, I’d delivered my message but Lourenço had spotted me. I began to back out the door. He ran towards me, gathering momentum even as his feet tripped over each other. He leaned forward precariously as I began to turn away, his arms wide and face beaming even as I thought, “I don’t have time for you today.” As he reached me, he fell into my arms and I instinctively swung him into the air. Somehow my day was hijacked by the smile of a precious babe.
To think, I almost missed it.
As I held him, he placed one tiny hand on each of my shoulders and turned his head, leaning his cheek firmly against mine. I felt his little body relax as he leaned against me. His breathing began to slow and deepen.
My day’s agenda faded as I held him close. I began to sing quietly to him, “Yes, Jesus loves you…” as his arms loosened and his hands dropped from my shoulders. The echoing noise of thirty children playing within the concrete walls of the Baby House faded as I focused on this one beautiful boy wanting a few moments of my attention.
Lourenço has no mother to rock him to sleep at night, no father to swing him high in the air and catch him as he squeals with delight. He has spent the first two years of his life without a family to remind him that he is loved and he is special and that there is hope for him to be all that he wants to be in his life.
Yesterday, for a few moments he had me. It is not enough but it is something. Somehow my heart was captured, just for awhile, by a toddler innocent enough despite his losses to still believe that a hug is enough. He stirred an instinct in me so viscerally powerful that it took my breath away. To hold an orphan seeking love is worship of the highest order.
And so I surrendered, my heart taken captive by the guileless trust of a child. Somehow he knew that, as he ran and toppled in my direction, my arms would catch him and lift him high. This babe who has no earthly reason to trust, trusted me. It is why we are here: to catch them before they fall and lift them as high as we possibly can, holding them there until they can soar on their own.
For a few moments yesterday, the world stopped spinning, my heart stopped racing and rest took me over. I breathed out the busyness of the day as I sang over him. He was being filled and refreshed by love, even as his tiny body relaxing lightly in my arms was refreshing me.
I swayed gently and continued to sing as he leaned his head back and his eyes gazed at my lips singing life over him. My back found the wall and I slowly slipped down and onto the cool concrete floor, babe in arms. His eyes drooped and closed and he fell asleep. All the riotous noise of thirty children faded into the background as I gazed at his sleeping face and thanked God for reminding me why I am here – to stop for the one.
“The one” in this moment was a toddler needing a cuddle. Perhaps the one tomorrow will be a Mozambican tia needing a smile or a staff member a word of encouragement for all the work he does. Perhaps it is, as today, one of the 60 or so visitors wandering the Centre, their hearts being stirred for a harvest field so ripe that they can smell the richness of the crop as they walk through the sand, praying and laughing and loving on our children.
Today, Lourenço’s soul needed refueling, as did mine. He reminded me to slow down, to breathe, and to stop for awhile. As he slept in my arms, I poured love into him with my touch and my words and my prayers. I quietly thanked God for these moments, for using the outstretched arms of a toddler to draw me aside from the busyness of my day, reminding me that He leads me beside still waters and He restores my soul. I could so easily have missed it. Even on the busiest of days, He is my Restorer - and Lourenço’s.
Half an hour later and the world was no longer spinning, my heart no longer racing and my head now thinking more clearly about the next steps to take in this day full of challenges. I whispered my thanks to this little boy for giving me more than I could possibly give back to him. I handed him carefully to a tia and slipped away, walking more gently now, back into a day filled with opportunities to serve, one person at a time, with a smile.
“…ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer 26:16
Oct 2013 update: Lourenço is now a healthy, mischievous six-year-old. When he thinks none of his friends are watching, he runs up to me for a hug in the playground but is way too cool for this when all his mates are around. A glimpse of this sweet smile always lifts my heart and brightens my day.