Years ago I felt a deep burdening for Africa. This confused me since I had only been on an airplane for the first time two years before. Also, Africa seemed so distant and unreachable for a little small town Texas girl who had just finished her first year of teaching. I mean money wasn't an issue since I was banking educating the youth of this nation (sarcasm) but the thought of flying to an unfamiliar, possibly dangerous land just didn't seem like something I was going to do. Even though I heard the faint whisper "Go." I pushed it aside and moved on. I met my roommate at a bible study, we became fast friends and decided to move that summer. I finally had a friend that was passionate about the Lord in town with me... and later I would find out, about Africa and adoption as well. The thing about the Lord that I love is that He is what I like to call the two C's.... consistent and constant. He doesn't ambush or override... but He gently whispers and spurs. With that spurring I realized I HAD to do something. So I began sponsoring a child from Lesotho, Africa. I thought, as any oblivious, bible belt, Jesus lovin' Texas girl would, "I am making a difference." And I was... but my ridiculousness and pride were so loud I couldn't hear the sweet whisper of my Beloved saying, "Go." So another few months went on and I still felt like something was missing. One day I was so confused and uneasy I began painting and ended up making a HUGE canvas with a picture of Africa on it and the words "Pray for Africa." So I did. I began to pray for this "random" continent that for some reason was overtaking my mind and thoughts. But... it still wasn't enough. I mentioned it to my roommate... you know the one who I had just randomly met and decided to move in with a few months before... and she said, "Let's go!" Now here is something about Lauren Benesch. Her middle name is impulse. She thinks and does. I think... and sit for months and argue back and forth and freak out and get nervous and then usually don't. I thank the Lord for putting Lauren in my life. Not that I wouldn't have eventually listened and obeyed and gone... but having someone I knew go along with me and even say it wasn't crazy, was doable and go made it easier.
So after months of searching we found out about Visiting Orphans... the rest was history. It was tough... my parents (ahem... mostly my mother) was scared. But I ended up going... I spent a week in Uganda and a week in Kenya. I was on 9 different airplanes, went to multiple orphanages, remand homes, villages and churches. But I came back with one thing forever branded on my heart.... DANIEL. An 8 year old little boy that grabbed my heart and did not give it back.
My heart was broken coming back. I never thought I would see Daniel again or get to go back to this country that ripped my heart out. I prayed for, talked about and looked at pictures of him daily.
Two years later, June 14, 2013, I stepped on an airplane that was headed for Nairobi, Kenya. I was going back to see Daniel. I was humbled by the fact that I was headed back to Africa-- a place two years before I thought was an impossibility-- to see Daniel. Fears of him not remembering me crept into my mind. Would he know me? Want to see me? Care to even give me another chance? This is part of my journal entry from the night I arrived at Fiwagoh...
"Finally we got here. I was moved to tears when the gates to the compound opened and the children came sprinting towards us. All the kids were hugging and grabbing at us... but then I looked up and saw him. Daniel. He was looking at me... and smiling. My heart flip flopped. I bent down, set my stuff on the ground and smiled at him. He ran to me smiling and hugged me. Obviously I began crying. I had dreamed about how that moment would have been and it was just like it. Amazing. The Lord was so sweet to allow that... and abundantly so much more. Child after child approached me.... excited to see me and remembering me. I was so fearful that no one, especially Daniel, would remember me... and in fact they all, remembered me. I.am.speechless."
I long to be back in Africa. My heart misses Daniel so much. The sound of his voice. The warmth of his hands. The beauty of his dirty feet, laying on top of mine. I miss the others too... all the way from a crazy little 4 year old to a mature 21 year old. I miss them all... I miss hearing them sing out "Emmanuel... our God is with us!" I miss everything about them. They are my heart... and this is just the beginning. When the Lord whispered "Go." He didn't just mean back in 2011. These kids have become apart of my life... they have become my family. I care for them with all that is within me. We are told not to make promises to the kids that we cannot keep. They take things literal and wouldn't be able to understand if we weren't able to follow through with those promises. So as Daniel was sobbing on my chest I was searching for what I could tell him that I knew I would be able to truly mean. So this is what I told him...
Me: "Daniel... baby open up your eyes and look at me. Look at me. I LOVE YOU... with alll of my heart. You know that right? I tell you that all the time... everyday. Yeah? Right?"
Me: "Then listen... I am going to do everything I can to come back and see you. This isn't goodbye... this is I will see you later. Because Daniel... I WILL see you again. I love you too much to not come back. I will be here playing with you, holding your hands, kissing your cheeks and saying 'Nakupenda Sana, Sana, Sana, Sana' (I love you so much, so much, so much, so much). I don't have any kids... but I love you like you are my son! So don't cry... because we will see each other again. And I will be praying for you everyday and write you and send you pictures. Because.... I.love.you."
Daniel: "I will miss you..."
And then I lost it. But our God is so good that I trust in Him and His promises for my life... so I don't have to worry. Because He has put this love and desire for Africa in my heart... and He will bless my yearning and desire to do His will, make His name famous and love on His children!