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Love you Kim!

Sometimes people come into your life and they are there for the rest of your life.  And sometimes they come into your life for a season.  They have a large impact on your life and suddenly they are gone.

Recently, a friend of mine passed away.  She was a missionary in Lesotho and I considered her a good friend during my time there.  She was someone who had a huge heart and lots of love to share.

Kim was one of the first people I met who didn’t work at Beautiful Gate.  We weren’t close at first, but she was a good friend of the Geurinks so I got to know her through them.  She also led the women’s Bible study I attended for most of my time there.  When the Geurinks went on furlough, Kim and I got together for dinner at least once (maybe more, I don’t remember) just the two of us and it was during that time that she shared her heart with me.  She shared some hurts and some wants and some joys.

One of the biggest desires of her heart was to be a mother.  At the time, she was beginning to pray about adoption and talking with her team about logistics.  She wanted to be a mother so bad.

Almost two years later this dream came true when she adopted a child from Beautiful Gate.  This child was one I remember holding as a baby.  And while I was no longer in Lesotho, I still felt a part of her life.  I could send her pictures of her child from when she was younger.

Kim thrived at being a mother, delighting in the smallest things about her daughter.  I remember so many different facebook posts about the joy of seeing Lebo eat a pancake or call her mommy for the first time.

Kim had an amazing joy.  Things may not have always been perfect in her life, but she had the joy of the Lord inside her.  And she had an amazing voice.  She would join us BG volunteers at worship nights singing praises to our King.

And she loved.  She loved so well.  She loved her team and her friends.  She loved her family so much.  She loved all her friends’ kids, being Aunt Kim (or Aunt Kimbershmo to the Geurink kids).

Oh and she gave great hugs.

When she came home for furlough earlier this year, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and the prognosis was not good.  I went to visit her for her birthday in May.  She had this amazing peace about her.  She knew she probably wouldn’t survive this.  She knew she probably wouldn’t get to see her daughter grow up.  Yet, she trusted in God.  She trusted in His will.  And she was at peace with whatever He decided.

During my time there, I got to pray with her and she asked me how she could pray for me.  She’s going through one of the worst things you could go through, yet she asks how she can pray for me.  That just shows how big her heart is.

It’s not easy losing a friend.  And seeing how many people are mourning her right now through their posts on facebook just shows how well she loved others.  She has friends all over the world.

I’m so thankful for the example Kim was to me and for the love she showed to so many.  Please keep her family and friends in your prayers.   And before you ask, her daughter is doing well and is with the family Kim appointed to be her guardians.

And here are a few pictures of my beautiful friend!

 

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Pictures from Songs

As I’m sure long time readers have noticed, songs often speak to me.  Recently, I put together a presentation for my life group about my time at Beautiful Gate.  It was a simple presentation with pictures of the kids.  And I wanted to use a song I’d heard in one of the presentations Terp put together for Beautiful Gate called Kings and Queens by Audio Adrenaline.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my time at Beautiful Gate and all the wonderful children I met.  This song really speaks to that time.  I can put images to the lyrics.

Little hands,

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So many hands come to mind, but the one that stands out are reaching up to me.  This little boy was the first to come running up to me for a hug.  He was a smiler and a dancer.  Such a sweet little boy

shoeless feet

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The kids would often run around, especially in the summer months, with no shoes on.  They would walk to playgroup with shoes on, but would take them off at some point during playgroup.  I remember a little boy just learning to walk.  I held his hands and helped him walk down the sidewalk.

Lonely eyes looking back at me

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One little girl arrived at Beautiful Gate right after her mother passed away.  You could tell she was well-loved before coming to BG.  She looked so lost.  She didn’t understand what had happened.

Will we leave behind the innocent to grieve?

She would often cry, wanting to be held, missing her Mom.

On their own, on the run

Last year around Easter, we received three siblings at BG.  Their parents passed away and their community was helping them, but mostly the oldest was caring for his younger siblings.

When their lives have only begun

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He (not pictured) was only six or seven.

These could be our daughters and our sons

Children all over the world have lost parents at a young age.  They are cared for by relatives or adopted into family or fostered.  Are you willing to open your home and your heart?

And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

A little girl just wants to be held.  A boy just wants a hug.  A baby just wants to be fed.  A child just wants a family to call his own.

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(Chorus)
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these

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Then they will be brave and free
Shout Your name in victory
When we love, when we love the least of these

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When we love the least of these

Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend

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Won’t you look around
These are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open

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If not us, who will be like Jesus
To the least of these
If not us tell me who will be like Jesus
Like Jesus to the least of these

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Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these

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This picture was taken on Easter Sunday last year, when the children had an Easter egg hunt after hearing the Easter story.

Then they will be brave and free shout your name in victory
We will love we will love the least of these

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We will love the least of these (Repeat) 

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Taking a Step

Lately, it seems like every time I’m in the car, this song comes on the radio.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Yeah

Oh Jesus yeah, my God

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

~ Oceans by Hillsong

 And so often it was the line “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.  Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me” that spoke to me.  But more recently it was the lines “where feet may fail”.  Lately, I’ve felt that God was calling me out of my comfort zone, off the shore onto the water.  He’s calling me to take a step and reminding me that He’s never failed.  He will catch me should I fall.  His hand will be my guide always.

I’m so thankful that I am His.

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Goodbyes

God truly blessed me with the people He surrounded me with in Lesotho.  One part of that was the ladies Bible study I attended on Thursdays.  These ladies have encouraged me and prayed for me.  They have been there for me through some extremely rough times and through some amazing praises.  I am so thankful for each and every one of them.  My last Thursday with them, we finished our study on Sacred Waiting and afterward, we had lunch.  Our Bible study used to be a large group, but we split into three smaller groups.  The lunch encompassed people from all three groups and I was able to fellowship with these ladies one more time.

This is my Bible study encompassing two Americans, one Dutch lady, two South Africans, two Basotho, and a South Korean lady.  Love my international Bible study!

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And here is the larger group who came for lunch, adding two Canadians and two Americans to the mix!

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The Sunday before I left Lesotho, I went to both of the English speaking churches to say goodbye.  While I attended Victory Church for most of my time in Lesotho, both churches have made a huge impact on me and God has spoken through both Pastors into my life.  I am so thankful for those churches and they will always have a place in my heart.  There are days when I’m in church where I yearn to worship with my Lesotho church family and to sing a song or two in Sesotho.

After church, I said goodbye to Benno and Wendy.  They served as Acting Director of BG while the Geurinks were on furlough and I got to know them during their time at BG.  I learned so much from them, I can’t even express how much.  I’m so grateful for them!

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Sunday evening I had a few friends over to play games so I could say goodbye.

The crazy Eygabroads had to leave early since Matthias has an early bed time.  This little guy is so cute and he’s walking now.  I skyped with them last week and he’s so active now.  Love these guys!

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The rest hung around a little longer and we got a group picture before they left.  Included in this picture are Kim, Brittany, Phase, Kerrina, Teresa, Tom, Jill, Bryan, and Tyler.  Everyone else on campus came by and played games, but must have left by this time.SAM_5492The evening included yummy food and a rousing game of Redneck Life.

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As well as Ticket to Ride.

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Monday I spent my final day in the office and Tuesday Kerrina and I went to Living Life for a yummy breakfast.

Wednesday morning before my farewell, I met Margie for breakfast in town.  She’d just returned from furlough so we hadn’t had much of a chance to catch up and this was our last chance.  Margie has been something like a mentor to me and such an encouragement.  I’m so thankful that I got to know her.

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Then that night the volunteers all gathered for a yummy dinner.  They also surprised me with a worship night.  I’m so thankful for them and the worship night.  One of my favorite things that happened a couple times this year was when we would gather and have a worship night on the porch or in the chapel.  It was a huge blessing to worship the Lord with these amazing people.  Tyler had asked me for some of my favorite songs to use and they read some Scripture over me.  Then they prayed for me.  I can’t even express what this night meant to me and what the people involved mean to me.  I am truly blessed.

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This is the whole motley crew involved.  This includes a team from Australia; the Geurinks; my roommates – Casie, Brittany, Bailey, and Jamie; Peter, Lindiwe, and Simphi; Tyler; and Kim from MAF.  I love these people!

Even if they are a little crazy…

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The beautiful Kim!  This lady has such an amazing and huge heart.  I am blessed to call her friend.

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This is Peter, Lindiwe, and Simphi.  They joined the BG crew last June or July and have been a huge blessing.  Lindiwe works with our special needs and developmentally delayed children and is doing an amazing job.  They are a beautiful family and I’m so glad I got to know them.DSC_0085

And these are the kids who gave me the name “Aunt Kristen.”  As I was looking at the pictures, finding one where they were all smiling was hard as Faith stuck her tongue out or Eli had a weird expression.  And in this one Mercy’s smile is disappearing.  Oh well, love these kids!DSC_0092God puts people into your life at different times who have a major influence during that time.  Each of the people mentioned above and some who aren’t on this page have had such a huge influence on me.  I am so grateful for each of their friendships, love, and prayers.  When I first arrived in Lesotho, I knew no one.  I left with an international community of friends who are a reflection of the body of Christ.  So many nationalities serving one God.  These people are the hands and feet of Christ in Lesotho.

 

 

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My Farewell

I’ve realized I haven’t blogged about a lot of my last adventures in Lesotho.  Today, I want to talk about the amazing love shown to me by the staff and volunteers at Beautiful Gate.

The day before I left, I had a farewell.  I don’t even know fully how to describe it, but it is a beautiful ceremony.  I had seen many done and participated in them in the past, so I knew what was coming.  But it was so much more.

During my ceremony, some of the staff spoke to me, thanking me for my service.  It was so special.  Representing the housemothers, Mme Judith, the matriarch of the housemothers and the longest serving staff member, spoke.  She truly blessed me with her words.  She also joked a little saying next time I come, I should come with a husband.  Mme Judith has a huge heart and she has always been so welcoming and loving to me.

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Mme Matsukulu, the Program Manager and one of our longer serving staff members, leads the ceremony.  I worked with her throughout my time at BG, as we served together on management team and also our jobs overlapped often.  She is one busy lady and she does an amazing job.  She has a beautiful heart for the children and staff.  She spoke a bit about our work together.

Ntate Bokang represented the maintenance guys.  The maintenance guys do a wonderful job keeping Beautiful Gate working.  They also love to play with the kids and it always made me smile to see them taking a few minutes to kick the soccer ball with a few of the older boys.

Mme Mataeke is the nurse.  She was hired about half way through my time at BG.  During her year, we had a few adventures together taking kids to the hospital or picking up medications.  She is so good at keeping track of the children’s health and she has a huge heart.

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Mme Makatleho spoke, bring with her one of our special needs children who has my heart.  This little boy is such a bright light on campus.  During my time there I saw him go from having fits or issues quite often to being put on the right medications and having few fits.  I rushed him to the hospital twice, but I also got to see him go to school.  He was so excited to go to school and learn.  His English improved so much and he graduated preschool in December.

Mme Makatleho is Beautiful Gate’s social worker.  She is one busy lady, as she works hard to get the children into families.  She has a very hard job, because she sees some of the worst, but she also gets to see some of the best things.  Her name before she married meant sunshine and she almost always had smile on her face and light shone from her.

Ntate Hlony, our driver, sang “In the Garden” and it was so beautiful.  He has an amazing voice.

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Anita spoke next and presented me with a gift from Beautiful Gate of a Basotho blanket, one that matched my new seshoeshoe perfectly.  Mme Matsukulu helped me put it on properly and told me I was a Masotho now.

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Then I got to speak and going into it I had no idea what I was going to say.  To try to put into words what my time at Beautiful Gate meant to me, there weren’t enough words to be sufficient.  I thanked the staff for welcoming me and loving me.  I thanked them for the amazing work they do for the children.  I can’t even remember all I said, but my time at Beautiful Gate changed my life.

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Bryan always gets to close these ceremonies and he read a Bible verse and spoke a few words then had everyone gather around me and pray over me.  The staff and volunteers gathered around me with hands raised and prayed for me.  I can’t describe how that felt.  It meant so much.  During the prayer, the little boy I mentioned earlier came and stood with me.  I have a picture (which I can’t post) of him standing with his arms crossed and eyes squeezed shut in prayer.  It was that picture which broke me today.

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It wasn’t the kind words spoken to me and about me that meant so much to me.  It was the love shown to me by these amazing people.  During my time at Beautiful Gate, they taught me what it means to love like Christ loves.  The children at Beautiful Gate have such open hearts, welcoming anyone who will show them love.  It reminds me of Christ’s love.  He loves us no matter what we do.  All He asks is that we love Him in return and trust Him.

The staff and volunteers at Beautiful Gate open their hearts to each other and the beautiful children of Beautiful Gate.  They love unconditionally, loving each child that arrives without question.  No conditions are on their love, in fact they often have their heart broken as they say goodbye to the children.  Yet they still come to work each day and love the children and those around them with open hearts.  They show the love of Christ in their actions every day.

These amazing people gave me so much over the past two years.  They were my teachers, my friends, my family.  And I said goodbye in the best way I knew how, with a hug and a gift.  I love each of them and miss them dearly.

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SAM_5578And these are only some of the wonderful people I met and worked with at Beautiful Gate.

 

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Building an Altar

I have a confession to make.  Since I’ve been back from Lesotho, I’ve been floundering a bit.  I’ve been visiting friends, visiting family, going on vacation.  I’ve also been looking for a job, wondering about what’s next.  But instead of truly seeking guidance from God, I’ve been watching tv or reading books.  I’ve been thinking back to Beautiful Gate and all that happened there.  I haven’t been reading the Word as much.  I haven’t been praying as much.  I haven’t been focusing on the One I should be focusing on.

A couple weeks ago, I attended a church which I think will be my church home here in Florida.  Currently, they are going through a series called “Closer.”  The topic a couple weeks ago was worship “our response to the things we value the most.”

The Pastor discussed building an altar, a personal place to meet with God.  He mentioned how one man bought a rocking chair and every morning he got up and spent time in his rocking chair reading his Bible and praying.  We each need to build a personal altar, a designated place where we will meet with God daily.  And we need to meet with Him intentionally.  You can’t love without sacrifice, so we need to sacrifice our time, something in our schedule so we can spend time with Him.  We have to ask ourselves, what replaced our time with God?  For me, it was watching tv and reading, which in moderation are okay, as long is it doesn’t replace my time with God.

The Pastor discussed how in the Temple described in the Old Testament there were two altars, an altar of sacrifice and an altar of incense.  Incense is symbolic for worship.  Coals were taken off the altar of sacrifice to the altar of incense by the Priests.  Then the hot coals would mix with incense and a cloud would form.  In the midst of the cloud, the High Priest would move the curtain to the Holy of Holies and step into the presence of God.  When Jesus died, the curtain was ripped in two, so we can step into the presence of God ourselves now.  We can go directly to God and we need to go with sacrifice and in worship.  Sacrifice can take many forms, as can worship.

I have a chair in my room, it has become my time with God chair.  It’s where I set aside time each day to be in the Word and pray.  It is where we talk about what is next or any other issue that is on my heart.  Since I’ve been doing this, I have felt closer to God.  While I still don’t have a job and still am not completely sure what the future entails, I know God has it firmly in His hand and He will show me in His time.

Please join me and make yourself a place in your home where you meet with God each day.

Please keep me in prayer, as I am interviewing with and looking into different missionary sending organizations.  I’m also looking into different mission opportunities in Africa.  Pray for clarity and guidance.  Thank you.

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2014

In 2014, I spent time in 5 countries, the majority of it in Lesotho.  It was an amazing year, full of joy and heartbreak.  Smiles, laughter, and tears.

I rang in the year with friends in Maseru.  We went to Lancer’s Gap to watch the sunset and sing praises to our Lord.  Then we headed to a friend’s house to hang out.  His house is on Parliament Hill and overlooks part of Maseru.  At midnight, we headed outside to light roman candles and we could see fireworks all across Maseru as everyone celebrated the new year.

I saw many people come and go from my life in 2014.  We had many teams and volunteers at Beautiful Gate.  Also, the missionary community in Lesotho had a lot of changes in 2014.  Short term and long term missionaries came and went, some on furlough, some called elsewhere.

Many friends and family got engaged and/or married.  Many had children.  I got to meet so many of them when I came back to the states.

At Beautiful Gate I saw children arrive and children leave, either through reunification or adoption.  I saw children achieve milestones in development, including taking their first steps.  I experienced the joy of showing a child pictures of their new family and the sorrow of saying goodbye to them on the day of their adoption ceremony, still with the joy of their new family in my heart.

I had to say goodbye to the beautiful children, staff, and volunteers at Beautiful Gate October 2nd, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.  I miss each and every one of them.  I miss being “Ausi Mpho” and receiving so many hugs.  I miss being “Aunt Kristen” and getting my daily hug from the Geurink children.  I miss life there.

I had to say goodbye to the amazing ladies in my Bible study.  The ladies who supported me through so much over my two years in Lesotho.  The ladies who I know even now I can count on to pray for me.

I had to say goodbye to the many wonderful friends I’ve made in Africa.  The friends who are from all over the world, from Australia to The Netherlands and everywhere in between.  Friends that I may or may not see again this side of Heaven.

This past year I’ve had some amazing adventures.  I’ve been to Katse Dam, gone on safari at Nambiti, went on an outreach in Katse, relaxed at Malealea and Koranna, explored Port Shepstone, cuddled lions at Tempelhof multiple times, visited a friend in Cape Town, and that’s only in Africa.  Since leaving, I’ve explored Heidelburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and visited a good friend.  Played tourist in London and Swanage, while visiting friends.  I’ve been to Daytona Beach and St. Augustine, as well as Downtown Disney, and attended a wedding in Chicago.  And I still feel like I’m missing a trip or two.

2014 was a great year.  I’m so thankful for the many blessings God has given me.  I’m thankful for all who played a part in making 2014 an amazing year.  Thank you!  And now I leave you with some pictures from the year.

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A Little Blessing

Recently a child met her family for the first time.  Ever since I found out she was matched, I’ve been so excited for this day.  I teared up when it was even a possibility, because this little girl just wants to be loved and to have a family to call her own.

When I first came to Beautiful Gate this girl was very standoffish towards me.  She wouldn’t listen to me and didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with me.  She didn’t trust me.

About a year later, something changed.  I remember when it happened.  I was carrying my trash to the dumpster and she offered to help me.  She walked with me to the dumpster and suddenly I was okay in her book.  I could be trusted to be there.

I remember one night after the younger kids had gone to bed, she was on the front porch with her housemother and another older child in the house.  They were laughing and I went outside to join them.  We played some games, like jumping on each other’s shadows or dancing.  It was so much fun.  She has a beautiful smile and laugh.

A couple days before I left BG, she came up to me and sat on my lap.  She said “Ausi Mpho, I have a family.”  She went on to tell me all about her family, telling me she has a mom and an auntie and an uncle.  She told me they are coming soon.  I asked when and she said around Christmas time.  She was so beyond excited about having a family.  She’s seen so many kids come and go during her time at BG.

She’s also seen so many volunteers and staff members come and go.

And now she has a forever family.  A family she gets to go home with and spend the rest of her life with.  My heart is so happy for her right now I feel like it could burst.  I’m so excited for her and I pray the transition goes well for her.

I am so blessed to have known this little girl and to have earned her trust.  Her new family is receiving a little blessing.

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A Different Kind of Family

Almost a year ago Beautiful Dream Society opened a long-term care center in Lesotho.  Four children from Beautiful Gate were transferred to this new facility and we held a ceremony the day they left.  It was one of the most heartbreaking ceremonies I attended while in Lesotho, because these children weren’t going to families, but to another facility.  They were being adopted into a system that is like a family, with a housemother, but it still not a family, at least not what we think of as a family.

Beautiful Dream Society and the church I attended in Lesotho, Victory Church, teamed up to open up the care center, as they are both under the same umbrella – a church in Oklahoma.  Every Sunday the housemothers at the care center brought the children to church and I got to see them many times throughout the year, whenever I attended the same service they did.  It was so great to see them and give them hugs.

About a week before I left, I had dinner at their house.  I wanted to say goodbye to the kids and tell them I love them.  And it was so amazing to be in their house with them and see how they live.  They are so happy in their new family and it is a family.  It’s not a family as we had dreamed for these kids, but they are a family.  The 12 kids in the care center are brothers and sisters.  They have a mom and aunties and uncles.  They are well loved.

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This is me with all the kids and their housemother.  Love these kids!

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I miss…

I scroll through facebook or read a friend’s blog and it hits me, how much I miss my kids.  Two graduated from preschool a couple weeks ago and I wasn’t there to join in the celebration.  Many have been adopted and I haven’t met their new families.

Yet there are other times where I just don’t think about them, which also makes me sad.  Beautiful Gate posted a bunch of pictures of kids’ smiles the other day and I only recognized a couple of the smiles in the pictures even though I probably know most of the kids.  Have I already forgotten?  How can I?

I got a new computer yesterday and I was changing the desktop background to a picture I like.  I decided to do a slide show of my kids, so it could flip through them as a background.  And looking at some of the pictures, I realized I’ve forgotten a few names from earlier in my time at BG and some of the babies’ names from more recently.  I never want to forget.

But even so, looking into the eyes of a little boy who I love, my heart breaks.  This child has been reunified with his family since I left BG.  I will probably never see him again.  I’ll never get to hear him say “Ausi Mpho” again.  I will never get to pick him up and put him in my lap and just give him a big hug again.

Seeing the smile of a little boy who always makes me smile brings joy to my heart even though I miss him so much.  Remembering the story of a little girl telling me about the family she will be joining soon, one that she has waited so many years for, brings me such happiness.  When I see her picture I remember how she always tested me and gave me attitude for the first year I was at BG.  Then suddenly, like a switch, she trusted me (what an amazing thing to receive a child’s trust).  I guess she wanted to make sure I could be trusted.  Did she always listen?  No.  But what child does?  Hopefully her family will be able to bring her home before Christmas.

I wonder if that trust is gone now?  These kids trusted me.  They knew I loved them so much.  Yet now I’m not there.  I left them.  I wonder how they feel about that?  Do they think I don’t love them?  Do they think I abandoned them like maybe a family member did to them in the past?  I sure hope not.  I hope they remember and know how much I love them.

I often get asked how I’m doing now that I’m home or “aren’t you happy to be home?”  And the answer is always hard.  Am I happy to be home?  Sometimes.  I’m happy to see family and friends.  But I miss Lesotho.  I miss my friends there.  I miss my kids.  And how am I doing?  Mostly well, but I do have moments where something hits me.  Where my heart breaks because I can’t hug a little child who has claimed my heart.  And in those moments I wonder what am I doing?  Yet I thank God that He brought me to BG and showed me His love for the fatherless.

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