Three weeks ago today.
Three weeks ago, we visit Tommy’s “school” class for the last time.
We have one hour. We show his teacher all the developmental toys and books we chose for her to use with her students. Some of the toys and books are immediate hits, like the board books with simple sound effects to match the illustrations.
A whole hour! I sit with Tommy and see how he responds to the various toys. This week has been a week of discovery. Who is this boy? What does he enjoy? What can he do?
Suddenly, it hits me with full force. It’s time.
I have to say goodbye to Tommy. He doesn’t know why I’m here or why I have shown up every day this week. He doesn’t know why I won’t show up tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week, or the next month, or the next five months.
When I come back again, will he remember my face, my voice, my touch, my scent?
I will remember his.
Time is running out. We only have a minute left. I cannot give in to the tears now. Someone, please get one more photo?
One more quick video…
One more quick photo…
And it’s time to turn and walk away.
We only have so much time until we must be at the bus station. The director wants to see us once more before we leave. On our way to her office, I tell the others that what I really want to do is give her a big hug, but she doesn’t seem to be the hugging type and I don’t want to overstep any personal boundaries.
As we enter the director’s outer office to bid her goodbye, lo, what sight greets our eyes?
Again, an unexpected gift. We get to see the coats!
A whole pile of coats, each one chosen for an individual child.
Not orphan rags.
Beautiful, warm, new coats for little treasures who not too long ago were hidden away, labeled “malformations,” profoundly unwanted and profoundly neglected.
Children who are now beloved to many. People who love and care for the children paid for these coats.
“Can you believe this?!”
We walk with the director back to her inner office and sit down together one more time. She asks us for feedback from what we’ve observed this week.
We don’t want to overwhelm her with negatives. We know her well enough now to understand that she is keenly aware of the grievous situations that have occurred and still occur in the orphanage. She already feels heavily responsible for them. This is a rebuilding time. There is still so much work to be done, and it won’t be done quickly, but we know that she will do all in her power to make it happen if she is allowed to continue here. It will all come to pass in its time. God will see to it that the job is not left unfinished.
We want to leave her strengthened, unequivocally confident that we and many others are behind her 100%, and that she has our admiration and appreciation for the unbelievable amount of work she has managed to accomplish in a few months’ time.
So we briefly mention only a couple of small, manageable ideas that are not overwhelming in their scope. We spend more time detailing the positives we’ve noticed.
We are running out of time, and stand to take our leave.
It’s time for the final words we didn’t want to leave unsaid.
And receive one more unexpected gift.
With tears in her eyes, she enfolds us each in a long, warm, tight hug that says what words can’t begin to communicate.
On our way back to the capital city, I have a favor to ask of Maggie, our facilitator. We will want some “bridge” words, words that we can say to Tommy in his language before saying something similar in English.
I ask her what she has commonly heard in her experience as an adoption facilitator in many orphanages. What is Tommy most likely to hear throughout his day?
“Of course!” says Maggie, and as the striking mountain scenery passes by our bus windows…
…she obligingly jots down almost three dozen words and phrases in the language of Tommy’s country, with their translations, in just the way she has often heard orphanage caregivers speak.
“We are changing the diaper.”
“We are washing hands.”
I had said goodbye to Tommy and left him behind, but that wasn’t the end of the week.
My therapist friend and I had left his orphanage with a determination to do what we could right away to validate the director’s decision to allow what she had allowed. The therapist had made a list of therapeutic items that are much needed by the children. As an immediate demonstration of good faith, what could we purchase from that list and send back to the orphanage before we left the country the next day?
Our hospitable friends in the capital city had again cleared their schedule and made themselves available to serve us in any way they could. This time, they helped us find the items we sought, and arrangements were made to deliver them to the orphanage within a few days’ time.
In the large entry room of Tommy’s orphanage, there hangs a picture. Who deemed this choice appropriate for this baby house? When was it hung?
It speaks the truth.
The hero has come, bringing justice and defending the cause of the most vulnerable. He has dealt the death blow to the cruel one who preys on the weak. The enemy thrashes about violently, claws flailing, to do all the damage he can on his way out.
But he has already lost, and he knows it. The real hero of the story has won.
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
While I live, I will praise the LORD!
I will sing praises to God while I have my being!
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God!
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry!
The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners!
The LORD watches over the strangers;
He relieves the fatherless and widow;
But the way of the wicked He turns upside down!
Praise the LORD!