And the kids do get that- not every day but we were able to witness it first hand thanks to the visit to the orphanage in Dakar. As promised here is a blog entry on that afternoon visit- it deserves its own- it is a special place for many reasons and was truly the highlight of the trip.
When asked this weekend what was the favorite part of the journey- all 3 kids have answered- going to the orphange!
We learned about this orphanage from Kristine. I believe she visited on her first trip to Senegal and shared the details with my family. We were all drawn to her experience and have paid extra attention when she has shared return visits with her family on her blog, through Guy, etc...At Christmas time this year we joined with other families and collected toys, books and some clothes for the orphanage on Christmas Eve. Sally took it a step further and instead of having birthday gifts she had items brought for the package started Christmas Eve. We mailed the box, however Kristine kept the box with the plan we'd deliver in person during our trip- this thrilled the kids!!
I'm pleased to say with all the planning and to-dos in Senegal this was a priority for all five of us. We had thought to get there on Monday afternoon, however our earlier in the day plans took a bit longer than anticipated and we had to forgo the afternoon visit. The physical disappointment was visable when we realzied this in the children's body language and even with some tears. We promised we'd get there before returning home and thankfully we were able to follow-through on the commitment. We went with the students, teachers and staff from the International School of Dakar in a van on Wednesday afternoon. Sally was giddy and hopeful she would be able to carry the box into the school. Part of the positive energy of the experience radiated from the confident students that happily chattered on the ride over and their quick exit from the car and upbeat entrance into the building. Sally marched right in with the box behind the group going confidently and quickly.
As we moved through the gate and into the entrance there truly was a peace and calmness that I hadn't experienced elsewhere in Senegal. In those immediate moments a darling 2ish year old little girl greeted me with a foreign word- over and over again while pointing to my dress- she was saying pretty, pretty. Of course this delighted me I was intentinally wearing my LillyP for these beautiful babes. To see such a happy confident child was a lovely welcome. The students disappeared quickly and we were a bit on our own- a confident student said to stick with her and led us upstairs. There everyone had to wash and donn a shirt/gown to help prevent infection. We were delayed in our ability to interact directly as they were concerned about the spread of infection and we were obviously outsiders from the group. This made sense to me and we all were fine. I stepped back and observed, soaking in this peaceful place.
The kids were not able to go into the play area so they instinctively knelt in front and shared the toys that had been collected. Babies immediately gravitated to them and pulled themselves up on the gate to engage and accept the gifts. Our children didn't complain, they accepted the situation and made due- the reverence on their faces was something I hope I captured in the pictures I certainly felt it in my heard and hope to maintain the memory in my mind. I can see it now as I type and it warms me. Joe and I found our books that were being kept back for older children and started reading wtih the one little girl that joined us. We started to pick up on her sassy spirit and a knick name was applied by Clare or Peter- baby boss. She seemed to have free run of the facilities. She climbed into Joe's arms often and during story time insisted she was the only one to get his attention.
We were eventually able to go into the room for play time and play we did! We sang, bounced, rolled balls. We were all amazed at the way the babies were drawn to us- babies in the US get attention, these children crave and demand it from the volunteers. Know that it is the sweetest most instinctual healthy way and we talked about it as a family quite a bit. The afternoon continued and we were able to assist with returning babies to their cribs and helping with feeding time. We took some pictures and found children we'll pray for to stay connected in our own way. The kids would squeel when finding a name or birthdate connected to a loved one in the states.
I've noted a few times since that visit that the Spirit was with us as we shared our time at this wonderful instituation. These babes are well cared for by staff, volunteers, girls from the villages learning to be nanny/care providers- an internship of sorts- an apprenticeship. The facility is spotless- possibly the cleanest place we visited in all of Dakar. Dakar has lots of grit and sand - it wasn't felt at La pouponniere. The Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have created a beautiful environment for these children that have lost their parents- often it is the mother that has died in child birth and nutrician including clean water is critical to their development. Once they are old enough they are returned to their villages or adopted. Children found by police are also brought to the orphanage. Happiness was part of the energy here and in my mind it is because of the beautiful gifts that surround these children. The prayers and support that start with the sisters and radiate through all that engage has an impact. Our children- Maggie and Simon included- were living our church (FPC's) mission to be the face of Christ in the world and the Spirit felt it and it was reflected in the stillness and grace all around. We also were able to deliver a donation made by The Presbyterian Women of FPC- the Chloe Wells circle does wonderful mission work and it was an honor to serve on their behalf. The leader was sweet and most grateful when accepting the donation.
It is appropriate I felt this way when visiting Kristine. Kristine and I agree that our lives were especially good while we served our community and families with LOGOS. We can't give you details but we both have expressed this as we reflect on that time that connected our families and friendship. For me the call to serve and support baptism commitments was paramount to my call with LOGOS. It connects to my job now at The Works in a different way as The Works commitment to education serves our community in important ways. Seeing Simon and his confidence all over the city of Dakar was impressive- but it was stronests in a special caring way of grace at the orphanage. He, just like his mother were beautiful in their care of the children and escourting us to engage in this giving way. Life on Newark-GRanville Road took us to Africa and this experience at thttp://www.dakarpouponniere.com/en/sobre-la-Pouponniere.htm is something I hope none of us will ever forget.