Yesterday, I got a call from the Children’s Office to come pick up a pair of siblings. I was told that one of them was four years old. I assumed (very dumb of me) that the children’s officer was telling me that because we normally don’t take kids over the age of three unless it is a situation of not wanting to separate siblings, one being an infant. She told me that the kids were in a very terrible state and that I should just come to the office so she could explain the situation to me. I think she knew that if I saw these kids, I would not be able to turn my back on them…. she was right.
It turned out that the four year old, Paul, was actually the youngest. His sister, Sheri, is six. They are both suffering from EXTREME malnutrition; Paul weighs barely 23 pounds and Sheri weighs 29 pounds. My first thought when I laid eyes on them was, “How could anybody let it get to this point. They look like their knees are just going to buckle right out from under them! Why weren’t the authorities notified sooner?” I wasn’t prepared for the answer.
Nine months ago, both of their parents (a pastor and his wife) were imprisoned for planning and carrying out the brutal murder of the wife’s mother. When this happened, all of the children’s relatives and tribesmen turned their backs on the kids because they were considered to be an abomination or a curse because of what their parents had done. Unbelievable! Incomprehensible! Totally inexcusable…. except that here, it is totally excused. It’s just the way it is!
There were a few neighbors who would toss them a morsel here and there. Other than that, they were on their own. Finally, somebody anonymously reported the situation to the police and the courts ordered that the children would be placed with us.
The sadness on their faces is downright disturbing. Malnutrition has taken their strength, but malnutrition can be overcome with a little food. Personally, I think malnutrition, while being the immediate physical need, is not their greatest need. The emotional malnutrition must run deep…maybe even there permanently! In one day, they lost their parents to prison. They lost their grandmother to the actions of their parents. They lost their status (children of the pastor) in their community. They lost every relative and tribesman that they had been associated with their whole lives. They lost their day to day sustenance. All they had left was their will to survive! I still can’t get my head around it! Here are two kids who have probably never in their lives seen a white person… yet when a couple of them show up and promise that if you go with them, they will give you food, they just get in the car without a moment’s hesitation! That is straight up survival mode!
They’ve been with us now for about 30 hours. They eat and sleep and try to take in their new surroundings. They’re not very active…. probably a combination of being physically weak and emotionally overwhelmed. They haven’t cried at all. They just eat when food is put in front of them, sleep when they’re put in bed and answer questions (usually with one word answers) if anybody asks. They are, however, very receptive to love and attention. They both like it when someone holds their hand or lets them sit on their lap. They are obviously starved for physical touch and find some comfort in it. They haven’t smiled yet, but they will soon! I can’t wait to see their beautiful smiles. I am also looking forward to seeing a sparkle come into their dull, sad, penetrating eyes!
I took them to the doctor for a check-up today and as we were waiting for lab results, I reached down for Paul’s tiny hand. I brought it up to my mouth and kissed the palm of his hand several times. He looked at me like he wanted to smile, but wasn’t quite ready to allow himself to. He just kept looking at his palm and wiggling his fingers…it was like he could still feel my kiss in the palm of his hand. After about 30 seconds, he reached his hand back up to my mouth and I repeated the process of filling it with kisses. This went on for about 10 minutes. He was willing to receive and even willing to ask for affection. I think that’s a very good sign.
Sheri has stolen my heart. She’s so wide eyed, constantly trying to take in everything around her. I’m sure she’s trying to figure out how yesterday morning she had nothing…nobody except her equally helpless brother…no food…no love…no hope. But now, only 30 hours later, she is surrounded by people who love her, people who are willing to take care of her. She’s had a bath and more food than she’s probably eaten in the past couple of weeks combined. She is accepted by the other kids and asked to play by the other girls her age. I wonder if she understands what a miracle is...one thing's for sure....I’m going to make sure she knows the Miracle Giver!