“A Child of God. A Child of Ours. A Child Named Winnie”
Beth Bateman, New Windsor, IL
Kenya SOS August 2007
It was an ordinary day on a Shoes for Orphan Souls trip in Kenya. That is what I thought anyway. What happened that day would change my vision, my heart and my life. A placed simply known as “Busia” wouldn’t seem so simple after that day. That was the day I met her. Her name was Winnie.
The memory of that day seems so surreal. We stepped off the bus and were surrounded by children looking for a hand to hold, a face that would lend a smile, and someone to show them love. The feeling of stepping off the bus at a new location is always so similar to the feeling you get as a child, right before you open your Christmas presents on Christmas morning. In fact, I think the feeling of meeting orphan children for the first time is better than that of being a child on Christmas morning. Well, that Christmas-like morning in Busia is where I met a motherless child.
I found myself singing the “Welcome to Kenya” song with a small group of children. They were teaching me how to sing the song in Swahili. That was when I suddenly noticed the flies in our group were swarming and almost driving me crazy. I was shooing them away, but the children seemed oblivious to the presence of flies at all. It was then that I noticed why the flies were with us.
I looked down and saw a young girl in a blue, torn, dirty sundress. I had met her a couple minutes earlier. Her name was Winnie. She had an open wound on her knee. The size of the wound concerned me to some degree. However, my concern was more consumed by the fact so many flies were feeding off that wound on her body. The flies were deep into the wound of her leg, and she didn’t even notice they were there. Maybe she just didn’t care. It was a privilege to shoo the flies away from her that day. That probably sounds strange or grotesque to most. However, the Lord blessed me with the honor of caring for her and swatting the bugs away from her body. For that blessing, I am so thankful.
We continued to sing songs, and I could tell Winnie wanted to say something to me. She had that look of a child trying to muster up the courage to say something really important but was very scared to do so. I smiled at her and raised my eyebrows as if to say, “What is it, Winnie?” She slowly took a deep breath and moved in close to my ear. “I want to go home with you,” she pleaded. She sat back and gave a coy smile. She was looking deep into my eyes and heart, and was waiting for my response. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I had no breath. I prayed God would give me the words to lovingly explain why I couldn’t take her home.
“I want to go home with you.” Those words, her voice, and her big dark eyes haunted me for weeks after I returned from Kenya. “I want to go home with you.” I couldn’t stop thinking about her. What kind of life does she lead? How bad does it have to be to beg a complete stranger to take you home, for her to be willing to give up everything that she called home, the friends she had, the family (if any) she had left? Did she see a kind stranger that was willing to smile and hold her hand, and she thought, “I would be willing to give up all that I know and have if this woman would be my mother. Maybe if I ask, she will take me home and love me?” My heart ached so badly for her.
I struggled for some time after returning home. I finally just asked God, “Why? Why did you send me to this child? What did I do to help her? She desperately wanted to come home with me and I failed her. I failed You. I didn’t bring her home and give her what she wanted, what she needed.”
God very clearly spoke to me in that moment. He spoke these words, “Yes, you did. You did bring her home. You brought her home in your heart.” I realized I hadn’t brought her home to my house like Winnie and I both wanted, but I did bring her home in my heart and home in my prayers. Her picture sits in my living room, on my computer, stamped on my heart, and in my eyes. Maybe my ache for her was God’s purpose in me bringing her home in that way. One day I hope and pray to physically bring home a child just like Winnie. However, Winnie will always be my long-distance God appointed daughter in the heart.
We can’t bring home each child we meet. However we can bring them home in other ways. We can bring them home in our hearts and prayers. We can bring their voice home and share it in our world. God’s love for her brought her into my life and home with me forever. I will never forget Winnie. She changed my life, and I hope my prayers and love for her will change her life, too.
Winnie and so many others are hurting, searching, crying, and even screaming out for help. The world isn’t hearing or seeing them. Where is their voice here in the United States? It is in you and it is in me. We are their voice and with the Lord’s help we can make those cries heard. We can make them seen. We can go, serve, and give them what they have been searching for all along – Him. It’s Jesus Christ. He is the answer to it all and He is calling us all to do something.
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