Piece of the Puzzle

Piece of the Puzzle

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meeting the children of Refuge - Sunday, Nov.7, 2010

I got up at 6 am Sunday morning (3 am California time & my body felt like it!) to be ready for breakfast at 7. I certainly didn’t need a whole hour because with no luggage it didn’t take long to just put back on the same clothes that I had been wearing since Friday afternoon (eeeewww).  But I had plenty of time before breakfast to just take in the surroundings. We were literally atop the mountain – 3500 ft elevation. Kingston could be seen miles and miles and miles below. Seeing the road that we had traveled to get here, made me appreciate having come up in the dark!  It was a very narrow dirt road that wound it’s way up the mountain side. There were no retaining walls to speak of and the drop off was very steep.
The winding mountain road

But the mountains were just beautiful, full of lush green trees. All around the property are bamboo, banana, palm, and papaya trees.  Our cottage sat on one of the highest points on the hill, with the school, the children’s homes, and the construction site further down the hill. I was told there were 132 steps from our landing to the bottom of the property. I foresee a major quad & glute workout heading my way.
The view of the MP from down the hill

Breakfast was held in a large multipurpose room near our sleeping quarters. The same room served as the sanctuary, so after breakfast we moved the tables out the way and set the tables up for church.  And church we had!! There was no praise team, drums, piano, guitar or horns, but the voices of the children singing praise songs was the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen children so young with such a heart for worship.  It was amazing! After the formal service, we had a chance to interact and meet the children and their “house moms.”  The children who came to service looked to be from about 5 yrs to 17 yrs and every shade of brown you can imagine. My heart was so full, I thought it was going to burst. All too quickly, it was time for the children to head back to their homes for lunch, but we were promised “play time” with them at 3pm.  We were also promised our luggage which was found that morning!

I couldn’t wait until 3 o’clock to hang out with the kiddos!  I almost ran down the hill at exactly 2:59 to maximize the time I could spend with them.  The children are split between 3 different houses. The younger girls live in the “blue house” which is closest to the multipurpose/dining room. Next to that is the green house where the older girls and the toddlers live. Further down the hill is the yellow house where the older boys live. Each house has a kitchen, several bedrooms filled with bunk beds, a main living/play area and a large bathroom. The homes are all supervised by “house mothers/parents” who care for all the children.  During the afternoon playtime, most of the kids hung out at the green house because it has a small outdoor patio area.  One of the house moms brought out balloons and the kids just went wild with excitement. It was amazing how something so simple could cause so much pleasure.  The children played with the balloons with unabated joy for the entire 2 hours. As I watched them play, I reflected upon the contrast with children at home in the states. I don’t think our children would be so content with something so “common” – no batteries, no electronics, no bells & whistles – just a plain inflated balloon.

While on the patio, my heart was stolen by little Kemar.  When I first saw him, I thought he was 9 months old. When the house mom told me he was about 2, I couldn’t believe it. His legs and arms were about as thick as my thumb, his 12 month old clothes were too big for him. When I picked him up, he wrapped his arms around me and snuggled into my neck like I was a familiar comforter. My heart melted and I wondered what had caused him to end up at the City of Refuge. What circumstances had caused him to be tiny - it had to be more than just a possible premature birth. I wondered what each of the 65 children had encountered at such a young age to be placed in this home. When 5 o’clock came and the children retired to their homes for baths and dinner, I didn’t want to leave. I knew then that Friday was going to be a hard day for me.

We had night service with the older children at 7 pm.  It was a more informal gathering. We all sat in a large circle in the MP room. Each of us had a chance to share a prayer request with the group. Most of the children wanted prayer for their family and for the needs of the City of Refuge. After we went around the circle, we had individual prayer time. However, it turned out to not be “individualized.”  Two girls immediately grabbed each of my hands and asked if they could pray with, and for, me. To be prayed for by a 10 and 12 year old is an awesome experience. These girls were just amazing little prayer warriors.  We then all came back together for one more group prayer before we ended for the night.

Before going to bed, I spent some time sitting on the veranda off the MP room looking down on the lights that were sparkling in the city of Kingston. Being so high up in the mountains, it did truly feel as though I was that much closer to God. I wasn't sure what I would experience over the next week, but I did know that I was in for a life-changing week.

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