Everyday I go to school, I say many words, I laugh and smile, and tickle and hug, and exhort and discipline. All of it with one purpose: to make these children know that they are loved. By me, and by Jesus they are so very loved. I know each of their names, and I know their personalities. I know which ones are weak in reading, and which ones are super competitive. I know who is picking on whom, and who has a quick temper. I know them, because I WANT to know them. Because Jesus has given me such a big, uncontainable love for each one of them I am compelled to know them and long to know them better.
However, these children aren’t used to being shown affection. And there are few people that really know them. Many of them have either dead or absent parents. Many of their guardians are more concerned about what to eat for the day than about asking their kids how school went or playing with them. And although I can tell you that “Nkutaka ino” means “I love you very much” in Lugwere, I’ve never heard it spoken to a child (apart from by the westerners that come). I know that some of them do feel loved by their parents, and all of them know they should love their families, but I very rarely see any kind of affection shown to the kids.
For years now, I have been telling my kids, “I love each of you so very much!” But only those who were raised at Katherine’s house have ever said “I love you” back to me. All of the other times all these years the response has almost always been them looking shyly down or away, or at most a “thank you.” They just have never been told “I love you,” and are only beginning to know how to accept and respond to such a statement. It grieves my heart so much to know they have had such a lack of affection their whole lives.
My constant pleading, even begging, prayer is that Jesus would miraculously show me how to help them FEEL loved. To touch each of their individual needs and longings in a way that helps them know how valuable and cherished they are. I have been desperate for so long to see these kids really understand how much Jesus and I both care about their every thought, need, and desire. But I’m left wondering constantly if it’s happening. I’ve been walking in faith, believing that Jesus hears and answers my every prayer, especially when I KNOW it is His desire for them too.
Then this morning I was walking with one of my P4 kids, and he said, “Teecha, I want to tell you something.” I looked down on his small head spotted with scattered ring worm as he looked down at the ground, and I asked, “Yes Winyi? What is it?” He nervously grabbed my arm and started walking again with me. As he examined my fingers, he hesitatingly said, “Teecha Angelina, (my middle name, and what some of my kids have taken to calling me lately), I just wanted to say that……. I love you very much.” My heart started pounding and I grabbed him for a quick hug. “Thank you Winyi! I also love you very much too.” He ran away grinning, and I walked away with eyes full of tears and a heart full of thanksgiving.
That was the first time I’ve heard those words voluntarily from one of my kids.
It means that Jesus is getting through to them. It means He’s answering my prayers. It means that Winyi has felt and accepted my love for him, and is learning how to give it back in return.
What an incredible day! What a faithful God we serve!