Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Gifts from the Orphans

I wonder if I’m interrupting something at the orphanage. The kids are dressed in their patterned batik clothes, the girls’ faces surrounded by coverings, the boys’ heads topped with small round, traditional hats.  They are beautiful, and clearly, in the middle of something important.
The man and woman who run the orphanage hold microphone, giving instructions to the crowd of kids, music blaring. I hesitate outside the door.
During our English lesson that week, a couple of the boys had begged me to come for a visit on their school holiday that day. I asked the head lady for a good time to come. Now I wonder if they were busy with something else. I feel like an intruder.
I have invited along the 10-member vision trip team from Canada and the States that was visiting our MAF program that week. This mixture of pilots, mechanics and a doctor, wait with me outside the door.
The kids see us and stand—jump, really—motioning us in with their whole bodies. And then the gifts begin. They sing their lilting songs. They dance their enchanting traditional group dances. They pray song-like blessings on our team—speaking in a mixture of Arabic and Indonesian. 

And the head woman apologizes again and again for not having a full meal for us. If only she’d known—and she chastises me for not telling her I had guests. And begs us to return so she can make us a proper meal.
She’d only known that I was coming. And they were prepared to sing and dance for just me.
I see the talent of the vision team—young people with gifts and training and desire to make a difference. I see myself with sweaty efforts and tired life and half-hoped dreams. And then I see the kids. And I understand for the millionth time how much they—the orphans—make a difference in me. How much I, their teacher, learn from them.
I sit, all sweaty, watching these kids as if I’m their proud mama. So talented. So loving. So giving of themselves. Yes, with sad stories. Yes, with faults. I don’t understand some things—like why the boys pick on one of the girls because she’s from the wrong ethnic group. As if sharing the loss of parents isn’t enough to erase stupid racism.
But who would have thought that a vision trip team from the States with so much to give would be the receivers, not the givers? That this perpetually sweaty pseudo-English teacher would be the one wrapped in orphan arms? That their losses from their past would create such beauty in this world. Such aching in my heart.

I don’t have that much to give that they don’t already have. I see this again and again here. There is One who has been working in this culture, giving it gems of hospitality, and visions for caring for orphans, and beauty of music and art and dancing. 

They need a lot, yes, but they have so, so much to give.
But He wants to give them more. And for some reason, He uses shells like me and others to carry this More into their lives. And in the process, More into my own life.

photo credit, Tony George

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