My heart is so deeply affected by the plight of the orphan. I can’t even tell you. I have prayed more times than I can count : “Lord, let my heart mirror yours” and I’m realizing now the full and profound impact of such a prayer. My heart aches deeply to know children who are in such a state of being as the orphan. I’m struggling to put a definition to this group of people- children and adults alike without family or belonging.
This, of course, leads me to want YOU to know also. I want- no, I NEED- to share with you the stories of a few of the beautiful children who I call my friends and who weigh heavy on my heart at night when I can’t sleep and I ask God who needs prayer. To start, I’d like you to meet Joanna.
Joanna was born to a woman who was insane. My friend Patrice would visit her village and see the woman sleeping on the side of the road while her baby cried beside her. Patrice would feed the baby and swaddle her then leave. All the while she prayed the mother would awake and take care of herself and her child. After almost two years, Patrice realized this situation would not improve and went to the authorities for permission take the child to her orphanage. She was granted custody of the baby and when she was finally able to bring the baby home the authorities informed her that there was no record of birth for this baby at any hospital and by the way, she didn’t have a name. She was two years old.
Patrice named the baby Grace because God was her Papa now and she was a child of the King of Grace. She raised Grace in her own home until she was old enough to go to the orphanage. Grace was given the opportunity to go to school and learn to read and most of all to love Jesus. Praise God for rescuing her from the side of the road! Then one day, the very best opportunity came to Grace: she was adopted by a local pastor and his wife. They had no children and loved God so much that they shared His heart for the children at the orphanage. They financially supported the orphanage’s school and much of the ministry Patrice did in the city. The best news of all was that Patrice would still get to see Grace grow.
It was the best day of Grace’s life, I’m sure. She went to live with her new parents in the city and they changed her name to Joanna. (It is customary in Africa for a person to change their name to document such an exciting life change). Joannad lived for 4 years as the daughter of a pastor and was settled in her new school and neighborhood. She had a Mama and a Papa who loved her and saw her friends at the orphanage regularly. Then one day, her new Papa fell sick. He died suddenly and went to be with the Lord- causing shock to his congregation and friends. His wife was not a citizen of Benin, and so was exported to her native country. And Joanna? Joanna was returned to the orphanage since her mother had no rights and her father was dead. In a moment the happy dreams Joanna had once been blessed to live were gone.
When I met Joanna she had been back at the orphanage for the second time almost a year. One year after the death of her Papa, she is a shell of the joyful child I hear that she once was. Her eyes are haunted by tears over the family she had and lost. She doesn’t revel in the “family” of 100+ kids she now lives with as some children do. She isn’t ungrateful, but she knows better. She knows love and has lost it. She knows what it is to be tucked in at night and now she goes to bed without a kiss. Her smile is still beautiful but her heart is shattered. I spent a whole day with her covering her in hugs and mom-kisses and interceding as I held her hand, but at the end of the day, I received this glorious smile and I knew. I knew she was changed. I knew while I was holding onto her and dragging her with me as we played chase with the little ones, God is not finished with her story. There was a shift in her spirit that day and perhaps even she didn’t notice. But I did. And I got a smile.
Pray with me for Joanna’s future. My prayer is that she finds a family-either in Africa or another country- that she will be adopted again.