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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pressing Love into Each Child (Ethiopia)

As the suitcases are pulled from the vans and laid out on the tables, the kids start buzzing with excitement.  This is the day we sit with each child and a translator, give them one-on-one attention, unwrap the care-package sent by their sponsor family, and pour over each photo and letter. 

They let the words wash over them ... "We love you!" ... "We think about you all the time." ... "We are praying for you." ... "You are smart, you are beautiful, you are so very precious to us." ...     And they soak the words in.  Smiling shyly, swinging their feet, and grinning from ear to ear.  Their eyes are glued to the photos of their family in America.

And even though the packages are filled with special gifts picked just for them, things they need like a new shirt, underwear, socks, and soap and a few things like pencils, chapstick and a doll or matchbox car ... their focus is on the letter and the photos.

One of the things I appreciate so much about our HopeChest staff and our volunteers and translators, is how they use this one-on-one time to touch and hug and love the kids.  To press into them through touch and eye contact how precious and valuable they are to us and to God.

I will never forget being told by one of the kids at Kind Hearts, who scavenged in garbage for things to eat and things to sell. "I ate garbage, I walked in garbage. I was garbage.... but I'm not garbage any more." And I could look into his eyes, with tears welling up in my own and say ... "Oh you are most definitely NOT garbage."

And it wasn't just empty words. Through the provision of his sponsor family who loved him enough to provide for him ... and through the daily encouragement and love of the staff and teachers at the CarePoint and Children's HopeChest ... he knew. Knew it in his heart ... he was not garbage.

The photos below are from Kind Hearts CarePoint, as the kids received their packages. 

Pictures of family ...

Letting the words from the letters sink into their hearts ...

Knowing the importance of a touch and a hug ...


And then there's this little peanut, Kidist.  Her sponsor family waited for over a year to see her beautiful smile, as every picture before this has been of a sad and scared little girl.  She was the very last child in line to get her package, and she waited so patiently for the 200 kids ahead of her.  Her eyes were lit up as she watched the other kids get their packages and she genuinely smiled for each of them as she waited.

And then finally it was her turn ... to hop up into the chair and see her family's smiling faces and hear their words of love and encouragement, and she hugged their picture to herself and she grinned and grinned and grinned.