I think too often I find myself only telling the good, happy, sweet, sugar-coated stories when it comes to mission work. I come home from a trip, and I am bombarded with questions and requests for stories, and quite literally my mind jumps towards the stories that people want to hear and passed the ugly ones that make people incredibly uncomfortable; that children will still be starving when I leave, that there are still orphans struggling to survive, and that there are still so many that need to know Jesus. I'm not trying to downsize the great things that God does on mission trips- trust me, what He does through people is amazing, but I think there is an element that we miss when we forget just how much we still need Him.
I arrive at an orphanage located on the outskirts of a major border town of Mexico. I was here a year ago, spending the week after Christmas with these precious children. Some of the children recognize me and we embrace each other as if we have been friends for years. I thank God for these little ones, who remind how desperate I am without Christ. They know more about this whole-hearted dependence than I may ever know, but I pray to gain this mindset, oh how I pray for my heart to change. Mama Lapita (the orphanage's founder) has taught them well- they don't have anymore food for the hundred mouths to feed, they pray; they receive the needed amount, they praise Him; they don't end up getting the food; they still praise Him. This is the heart I want to have.
I walk into the youngest babies' room and I am immediately acquainted with the overbearing, foul odor that encompasses this room. I spend time with the older girls who have somehow become responsible for raising these little ones. I pick up a 2 year old who is starving for attention, for any attention. The conditions here are appaling compared to those of the nurseries I've volunteered at in the States. The older girls leave for a little while, so Blythe and I stay behind to love on these babies. I pick up little N again and wrap her in my arms as I look over at Blythe who is embracing sweet little J. We both agree that something needs to be done about their hygiene but we are hesitant as we try to help the babies without offending any of the older girls. Because they are absent, and because the smell surrounding these children is so prevalent, and because nobody has changed them in at least a week, and because they are so helpless and could not do this on their own, we strip them of their clothes and bathe them using wipes. Little N shivers as I take her shirt off and wipe her arms with wipes. As I take off her pants, it becomes so apparent that the last changing hasn't been for several days. She hollers as Blythe tries to keep her comfortable as I change her diaper. She is so upset with us and her eyes burn black as she looks at me with so much helplessness. I tell her the hurting won't last- that cleaning is good- that she needs to be changed. She is furious as I finish bathing her and put on new clothes. Then suddenly we are done, and she forgets how much she was crying a minute ago, and she is happy and she is free.
Blythe and I continue to clean the other little ones, holding them tight, desperately trying to make up for the love they've missed out on. And it isn't fair. Because even though Little N is clean tonight, she will need someone to do this tomorrow, and then the next day, and the next day after that. And in those days of need, we will be back in the US, so far from Little N. So we make it an aim to teach the older girls how to take care of the little ones without trying to look down on them. This is not their fault; when they were little and abandoned, nobody did what we have done for them. This is all they know. So we teach with love and grace just as the Father teaches us.
Because in all reality, I am Little N. Jesus walks into my heart, and it wreaks of sin- my flesh is literally appaling to my Father. Yet even in my disgust, He picks me up and chooses to love me. Jesus comes and says it's time to clean me, time to take out all the ugly and bathe me in His righteousness. In rebellion, I cry because I am so upset with Him. He reminds me that the hurting won't last- that cleaning is good- that I need to be changed. And His blood pours over all my sin, and I am clean, and I am free. And suddenly we are done- my sins are removed from me, I am reconciled with my Father, I am pardoned!
But today I am reminded that this is a process. How beautiful it is to know that Jesus will be there to wash me every time. Just as I taught the girls to care for the children, Jesus has taught us to care for His. Now we ought to love one another and bring others to the cross- the most glorious cleaning of all.
This is just one of the many lessons I learned from spending time at the CHE a couple of weeks ago. All names were changed to protect the children; thank you for understanding.