This is my first mission trip. Starting out on a trip to Africa has been an amazing experience. Today we ran our second Orphan Day for the children that live near St. Moses church. The children ranged in age from about 2 to 12. Some of the children are true orphans while others are considered vulnerable children (children who may be neglected or abused). Some children may also live in families who don’t have the means to care for them. Many did not have shoes and wore torn and dirty clothing.
I was surprised to see a few kids (around age 8 or 9) who arrived carrying around their younger siblings. I’ve noticed that children here take on many responsibilities at a very young age. Elementary school kids are often seen caring for their brothers or sisters, cleaning or cooking.
We started Orphan Day with the children singing songs and clapping. For living in such challenging conditions, the kids seemed quite happy. They live simple lives with their needs barely met. This allows them to appreciate the smallest things. Many of them are full of joy, running to us and acting very friendly. Others were much quieter and did not smile. Many children responded to our smiles and waves. Lots of them wanted to be held. Once we showed them affection, they clung to us.
We took turns singing and teaching them simple songs in English. Next, we did crafts (coloring with markers). The children waited patiently to take turns if there were not enough supplies. At one point, I spent time asking each child what his or her hopes were for the future. We wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper. I was amazed that few children asked for money or a larger house. Instead, many asked God for the ability to finish school, care for their parents, and pray for others. A couple of them also asked God to allow them to open orphanages when they grow up! These children were not selfish, but requested God to bless them so that they in turn could help others.
Later on we played simple games with them outside. In addition, we fed them a light snack of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and juice. While the children ate on the dirty ground, flies swarmed around them. They were happy with such a simple meal. Finally, we handed out cookies and small toys as gifts.
I was so touched by our time with the orphans. I was saddened to see the children who were so withdrawn and I was thrilled to hold the children who craved affection. Since the kids have almost nothing materially, they appreciated the most simple food and activities. They appreciated the attention we gave them. And they learn to have trust in God to fulfill their most basic needs, while we often take things for granted and don’t rely on God on a daily basis.