I had intended to post another reflection of my trip to Nigeria last week. But my son was very sick. I have had a lot of good intentions of what I wanted to accomplish this Christmas. But some of my good intentions just aren't going to happen. There will be less cards and home made cookies this year but that is okay. I want to be in the moment more and enjoy the holiday with my children. They are growing up so fast! My son Christopher is 13 years old and my daughter Sophia is 12 years old. I miss the time when they were little children. I feel like during that time I took the preciousness of it for granted and had a hard time living in the moment.
I have come to realize how much I love young children. I love the beauty of their innocence. This is what Jesus was explaining when he said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14. I am a leader in a Children's Ministry at my church. It is a ministry for children to have their own age appropriate worship while the adults worship. For our message series in September we encouraged the children in our ministry to help us lead the adult worship by coming on the altar to sing and do hand movements to the ending song of mass. The children enjoyed it so much. I loved their honesty and ability to be free and joyful during the song. It was wonderful to have the children leading the adults!
I also appreciate how Moms are so important to young children. They want to be with us every minute! I remember how difficult this was for me but now I have sweet memories of those times. My strongest memories of Nigeria are of the mothers and children. Moms in Nigeria are with their children every minute. They carry their children on their backs on a sling. At Faith Alive Social Services they have a sewing class. All the moms in the class have their children with them while they take the class. They taught me and other women missionaries how to make the baby sling and carry a baby on our backs. Many moms and their children are alone because of the fathers dying who had AIDS. The men are ashamed to seek medical treatment. There are also many children who are abandoned due to poverty. My missionary team went to visit a state run orphanage and there was not enough help or supplies. There were so many babies just lying in their cribs with no one to hold them. This is why it is so wonderful that Sr. Oresao takes in abandoned orphans and helps young mothers with children. She makes sure they are well taken care of.
The children in Nigeria were very excited to meet us Americans. They would love to just touch us and be with us. They especially loved to touch my blond hair. The children also would raise their hands in the air begging to be picked up. I remember after one support group meeting at Faith Alive how this little boy came running after me putting his arms in the air to be picked up. I picked him up and swirled him around and he was laughing and I remember feeling a special joy of being in the moment. At the support group and prayer meetings at Faith Alive the people worship by raising their hands in the air. I was touched by this because it resembles little children raising their arms up to be held and loved.
All children should be held and loved but this is not how it is in this world, especially where there is much poverty and illness. What the staff told us at Faith Alive is that by Americans helping (either by visiting them or giving donations) we are giving them hope. When they think of how people care enough to be helping all the way across the world it helps them believe God cares, because they believe God is working through us. To them we are catalysts of hope.
Let us pray for children everywhere this Christmas to know they are loved. They ARE all loved by God. The story of Christmas is a beautiful one. Our God loved us so much that he came down to earth to be with us as a vulnerable baby. God's message was hope fulfilled in the birth of Christ and the establishment of his eternal kingdom.
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
All of us at The Hope for West Africa Foundation would like to thank you for your support. We pray for you and for our partners in Nigeria-The Anawim Home and The Faith Alive Hospital and their families to have a Christmas of joy, hope and peace.