We’re done with our whirlwind shoe wrap, and will be back in the studio tomorrow. While out all last week, I heard to predominant statements from you:
1) Will you see Baby Carmen when you go back?
2) Will you please tell the rest of the story with Baby Carmen?
Half of you knew about Baby Carmen & half of you didn’t. For those of you that didn’t, I’m gonna re-post the 2-part blog that I originally posted two years ago when we all met Baby Carmen….
Originally posted September 14, 2011
As I began to journal, I realized this will have to be a 2-parter. (I’m getting good at those on mission trips). There’s so much I want to share with you. I’m struggling with being completely honest – or – softening the truth a bit. The reason I would soften would be filtering sensitivities to governments, government workers, and the buckner in-country staff of which I have huge respect & admiration (the work they do here is hard. they are the unsung heroes!!!)
But I am choosing to lay it out there, as I saw and experienced the orphanage we visited yesterday afternoon. But even with that said, my words will fall woefully short in painting the picture for you. It’ll end up being a black & white at best.
Hands down, yesterday was the hardest day I’ve ever experienced on a shoe trip in 4 years. If there’s a notch above homeless, this orphanage was it. When I say food, water, clothing (barely) & shelter; I mean food, water, clothing and shelter. That’s it.
Besides the one little boy with open sores from head to toe and an eye that had been severely wounded at some point in the past , we were greeted by no one when we arrived. Hear me say, we don’t deserve to be greeted, nor do we expect it. But most times the children are playing in the yard as we walk through the gate, or at least we see the director or a worker. But not here. It could’ve been deserted except for the one little boy, as far as we knew.
As we walked through the hallway into the courtyard, we entered the “prison.” We were standing in the middle of a two-story building, a perfect square with multiple rooms, barred windows, and locked doors. I walked past a couple of windows, and lots of little eyes looked back at me. The children had already been split into groups and each team was shown which room they would serve. The green team (my team, but mostly I’m a floater) went to our assigned room. We didn’t have the names or shoes sizes of the children, so we took construction paper, traced their feet, and found sizes based on the tracing. The kids were sitting on 2 sides, backs against the walls. The room had bare walls, terra-cotta tile, and that was pretty much it. Oh, there was one column in the middle of the room. I think there was a chair here or there, but I couldn’t stop looking at the kids to really notice anything else in the room. But whatever was there, wasn’t much. It was barren and sterile. The kids looked like they’d been swept in off the streets. Survival of the fittest is the name of the game. Here’s where it was equal: each had bald spots on their heads, open sores, infections, lice, rotting teeth, dirty feet….you get the picture. They had big brown eyes, but many looked dazed, hollow, and sad. I did get a couple of sheepish grins from a few of the girls. There were 3 in particular that were huddled together. Clearly, “they” were all “they” had.
We’d made the decision that the boys (mikeschair) would follow behind the shoes and play songs for each of the groups in their respective rooms. When shoes were done for our group, and the boys were singing, Shaun (our group leader) came and got me because she wanted me to see the toddler room. When she opened the door, the first thing that hit me was the stench. It smelled like this room housed the sanitation department. It was anything but. Our team was holding as many kids as they could, some double-fisted, but they were out-numbered. A little boy “toddled” over to me; his diaper in desperate need of changing. He reached out his arms wanting me to hold him. I picked him up and he laid his head on my shoulder. He smelled terrible. And not just from the diaper. He was a dirty, and looked like he’d not been bathed in weeks. I swayed, rocked and hugged him as tightly as I could. Of course, I wanted it to be a 1:1 ratio, so after a few minutes, I tried to sit him down so I could go downstairs and recruit other professional toddler holders. When I tried to sit him down, he wrapped his legs around my waist and his arms around my neck as if I was hanging him over a cliff. He did NOT want to let go. Of course, my natural instinct was to hold him a little longer. Two more times I tried to sit him down so I could go for others, but he wasn’t having any part of this. The reality of his conditions sucker punched my heart. A dozen questions went through my mind: how often is he held? what is he thinking? what parts does he understand? what must it feel like to not have daily human touch other than an occasional diaper change? does his sub-conscience kick in and say “if I hold on tight enough will one of them not let me go?” I walked over to Pam, who may’ve already had 2, and I said, “please hold him. I can’t sit him down.” Walking out of the room to go and find others, part of me felt guilty that I was yet another in his life who would let him down.
After I found more team members for the toddler room, Shaun walked me to the infant room.
And here’s where I’ll stop for tonight.
And just FYI, there’s no “rest of the story” to the toddler room. There’s no red bow. They are still orphans. And they are still there.