Have you ever experienced a moment that wa so perfect you know that it must have been orchestrated by something (or someone) bigger than yourself? I have these "the stars aligned perfectly" moments once in a blue moon - like when the light and the timing are perfect right at sunset and I get a great photo of one of my boys without a goofy look on his face. It happens once in awhile and it always leaves me in awe. Two weeks ago I experienced one of those moments, but on a much larger scale.
Five years ago, I first went to Casa Bernabe. It was not an ideal trip and I left with a huge hold in my heart. I felt like I had been on a big sight seeing trip of poverty and despair and then put right back on the plane to my comfortable house in Virginia. I wanted desperately to DO something, but had no idea what it was. I came home with lots of questions about the world and God's role in it all. I sat with that sad feeling and those questions for three years - still feeling guilty for not doing more since my return home. Last year I went again. I wasn't sure what would happen, but I tried to go with no expectations at all. I did my best to trust the process ORPHANetwork uses, just show up, and let God do the rest. It just so happened, I got to know some of the staff of the orphanage and began a friendship with one woman in particular, Rina - the woman who takes care of the youngest girls ages 4-12 at the orphanage. Through our relationship, Rina eventually expressed a need. I heard her need and shared it here in this space. Jade and her new organization Craft Hope came along side the project and exposed the need to more and more of you. And you acted.
In short, here is the breakdown...I respond to a ping in my heart to go. I am wrecked, and I sit in the uncomfortableness of lots of questions for a along time. I feel the need to go again, but am afraid. I go anyway, without expectations. Arms open to what HE has planned. A relationship is made, feelings are shared, a need is expressed, that need is shared with a community, partners come along-side and share the need with an even larger community, and the need is met...10 fold. Needs were met that none of us even knew about. And we all sit in awe!
The post you have all been waiting for...the doll report!
The third day we were at the orphanage I finally got to meet with Matilda, the orphanage psychologist and Rina, the youngest girls' caregiver. I did my best, in my limited Spanish, to explain to Matilda that Rina had told me about her need for dolls to aid with the emotional therapy these children need to begin to recover from their experiences. I tried to explain that what started out as a small ask from one faithful woman, had mushroomed into the over 400 dolls I had brought with me. I tried to explain that a beautiful woman in Texas heard about the idea and put it on a website that matched crafters with needs. That these caring folks were from all over the world - Kenya, Australia, the UK, Morocco, Canada, Mexico, Japan and the Netherlands. I tried to convey that with each stitch, mothers and daughters, craft groups, grandmothers and children had thought about the precious children that would love these dolls.
But I don't think they believed me until I took them back to the team center where we were staying. I pulled out suitcase after suitcase bursting with dolls. I tried to explain where each of the dolls had come from as best I remembered. To find the matching blanket for this one and the matching hat for that one. Matilda was most excited to see the boy dolls. She just could not contain her excitement with the thought that we had thought of the little boys as well. They were shocked (like I was) at how much detail had gone into each doll. And that we had thought enough to make many of them with darker skin.
Rina and Matilda were overwhelmed to say the least. The three of us fought back tears, as they carefully looked at each and every doll individually. I am not exaggerating when I say that they looked at all 400+ dollies. Rina would hold up a doll dressed in ruffles and pink and say "this one must be for Fatima, she loves pink so much". And the boy doll with the soccer jersey, "this one must go to Panchito, its just perfect". They knew these children and their personalities intimately. And it was wonderful to watch them pick the perfect doll for each child. Rina and Matilda hand picked one doll for each of the youngest boys and girls in the Casa Bernabe orphanage. Rina picked out about 20 additional dolls for any children that would be coming to the orphanage in the next several months.Then Matilda picked dolls for each of the other children she works with at two other orphanages. We loaded them up into duffel bags and walked them up to the main orphanage.
It was a thrill to watch Rina and Matilda, the women who are with these children day in and out, the women who do the hard work of loving these little people hand out the dolls. It was not my place to hand out these dolls, it was theirs. And I was happy to be behind the camera fighting back my own tears.
I was able to express everything I had previously tried to say later in the day through an interpreter. And Rina said she understood. She told me that that evening as she put the girls to bed, she was going to sit down with them and tell them that they were special. That they are so special that someone across the globe was thinking about them weeks ago while they were making the dolls that they were holding on to that evening. She said that God makes each of us as individuals, uses different stitches and colors for each of our lives. These dolls are a reflection of HIS creativity through the hands of the people who made them. And if a person could care that much about each of them...how much did they think God the Father cared about them?
I have to say, I about lost it.
Days later I went back to the dorm to take some pics of the dolls on the girls' beds with the new sheets another woman on our team brought. But as I looked around the room, I only saw two or three of the dolls we had handed out before. I asked Rina where all of the dolls were and she picked up a pillow to show me that most of the girls put them under their pillows. I must have had a confused look on my face because she went on to say that the girls put their most valuable possessions under their pillows so that no one will know what they have and steal it. And sure enough, each pillow had a doll underneath it just waiting for their little girl to come home from school to play with her.
It is an amazing thing to have been apart of this project. Thank you Jade for beginning Craft Hope and for being my partner in this God written adventure. Thank you to each of you who made a doll, to each of you who made several dolls, to each of you who didn't make a doll but chose to help by sharing a link to the Craft Hope site and spreading the word. I want you to know that that evening these children knew they were apart of a world bigger than their circumstances. They knew that someone across the miles cared about them. And that God the Father cares about them even more. You made a difference in these children's lives. And because of your generosity and support,the story continues.
Thank you and many blessings to you all!
P.S. Dolls were also given to another missions team headed to the El Canyon orphanage and to children at a child care facility outside La Chureca, the Managua City dump. More on finding hope in La Chureca next.