Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 3 Kombolche

There is so much to say about the last 48 hours so let me start with the describing the kids that we met with in Kombolche and then I'll follow up tomorrow with a post about the 20 hour driving adventure (over a 36 hour period) of getting to and from. 

The facility we visited in Kombolche was a Baptist Church with an accompanying school.  The school educates over 1000 kids from grades K through 8 with 8 teachers on staff (how's that for a student to teach ratio?)  Of the approximate 1000, 125 are double orphaned with AIDS being the most common culprit.  These kids do NOT live at the facility, they typically live with an extended family member and are dirt poor.  In other words they don't eat much, if at all, in any given day.  

As an example one of my teammates witnessed some of the kids eating grass (the kind you can't digest), but they tried to hide it when they noticed she was looking.  One other little boy showed severe signs of malnutrition as his hair was white - his body was not producing the pigment for his hair.  I put my arm around a number of the kids and I could feel nothing but skin and bones through their clothing.  Now please don't get me wrong.  Not every child at this facility looked emaciated, sick or near death.  Some of them looked to be in decent health as far as I could tell.  But many of them were clearly in bad shape - and obviously these are the ones that stand out in my mind.

In spite of their respective physical conditions, ALL of these kids wanted to have fun and be loved my members of the team.  They treated us like rock stars, cheering for us as we drove in on the bus and swarming us wherever we went.  They wanted to be noticed by us, they wanted to matter to us.  These kids have not had a group visit in over eight years!  They absolutely love to have their pictures taken and especially like seeing themselves back on the digital cameras.  I don't know this for a fact but I'd be surprised if any of these kids ever sees themselves in a mirror - so imagine what that would be actually see yourself.

We broke the kids up into four groups and did different activities with them (parachute, arts& craftsbible study, and other classic games).  They absolutely had the time of their lives.  WE absolutely had the time of our lives.
Myself and three other team members (including a translator) manned the parachute station - the kind you used to play with in grade school.  You remember?  The game where everyone grabs the outer edge of the parachute and you shake it, bounce balls on it, run under it etc.  If you didn't have this experience as a kid then call me up and come over my house when I get back and we'll hook you up.  The kids had such a blast - if I could have extracted 10 watts of energy from each smile I saw, I could have lit up their entire village for a week.  

The highlight of this experience for me occurred when we were starting to organize our final parachute group.  My friend Shilo came up to me and said that there was one girl left who didn't get a chance to play with the parachute, (leave it to Shiloh to recognize this).  Oh and by the way she can't walk - she's in a wheelchair.  So we wheeled this little girl up next to the parachute, and simply put, her reaction was pure JOY! I'm getting chills just thinking about it.  We would raise the parachute up and have all the girls run underneath - and we would wheel her right in, giggling and screaming all the way.  Joy!  When the games were all over, she cried. I asked what what was wrong and the translator told me that she was crying because she was so happy.  Joy! Are you kidding me?  Joy! Imagine this little girl for a moment, the poorest of the poor, without the use of her legs, confined to wheelchair, and we brought JOY? Wow I gotta tell you, that experience will do a work in your heart. Praise God because that's Him at work, not any of us.

At the end of the day, our group presented the pastor of the church with $2000 to buy food for the kids. This money came from the donations from the friends, families, and churches of the people on this trip. We also left three large suitcases full of clothes, toys, crafts, and medical supplies. Thank you all for your donations.

There's so much more to tell, but for now I'll leave it at that because it's really late here and I'm spent. I can't wait to share more with you about the journey!

Thank you to all of you who are following this trip.  I especially appreciate your thoughts and prayers.


Megan December 3, 2009 at 4:07 PM  

Oh my goodness, I have chills thank you so much for sharing your day with us.

the Garrisons December 3, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

Pete...You don't know me, but we are another AWAA family (traveled Aug. 2009) and love Children's Hopechest. We are following along on your journey....thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I am humbled by the story of the girl at the parachute little it takes to bring these sweet ones JOY and how easily I can become dissatisfied in my own life. Love hearing these stories and how God is at work!

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