Guest post by Caleb Lococo.
"In my own little world it hardly ever rains. I've never gone hungry, always felt safe. I've got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet. In my own little world, where it's population: me."
Hello fellow residents of Shining City! Tori asked me to do this post following an experience I have just returned from. Tori mentioned it in one of her latest posts, "Joy Over Jealousy." I had the privelege of getting to go over to Ukraine to help my Dad complete the adoption of my family's 6th (yes, 6th) child, miss Julia Mary, who has Down syndrome. Previous to this trip, I would say my view of the world was pretty safe and sheltered. My parents had already been there once for the court proceedings to legalize everything on the country's end of things, and they had already gotten the chance to see Julia and her orphanage. The fact that they were going before I was would be an impact shield for anything tough I might see. I would be ready for anything.
Except for what I saw with my heart, and not with my eyes.
Going over, I had read about other people's experiences doing this. They arrived in the country, fell in love with their child, and fell in love with the orphanage as well, for better or worse. They were happy to leave, but they never forgot it. I went over with the mindset of "God, this is your ball. You have the floor, and you'll give me the experience I need." But secretly, I already had my own expectations for the trip. I would spend time with my Dad, take pictures, get ready for taking Julia home, and then hit the road ASAP. No strings attached to the orphanage, nothing. Sure, I'd remember the orphanage, the country, and the orphanage would always hold a place in my heart because that was Julia's home, but another little orphan catching onto me just wasn't in the cards. It didn't fit my bill.
While hanging with Dad, taking pictures, and getting to spend some quality time with Julia was a large part of my trip, other things took on a life of their own. The village surrounding Julia's orphanage, while not an Africa/South America level of poverty, isn't in tip-top shape. The roads are bumpy, pot-holed, and made of dirt. The houses (offset by the occasional rich person's gated mini-mansion) are generally made of cement or brick, with a crude, 7 ft. concrete wall guarding each house on all sides. The school building while, again, not in bad condition, looks like it's the same building they erected in the 60's, and hence looks a little banged up in places. There is a tiny little hut comparable to an American Ice Cream Stand that happens to be the corner store. Timid, stray dogs roam the streets. It sets a certain mood as you come up to the orphanage of just what a miracle it is the orphanage is as well-off as it is.
When you go to the orphanage, your view of what goes on is pretty sheltered. Our driver escorted us up to the second floor where Julia's groupa (her group of kids that shared a room with her) lived. He debated with the nannies for a minute, and then told us to wait for five minutes before going down. That first time I walked down the hall to visit Julia, after 36 hours of sitting on planes, in airports, and in trains, I was so excited I was trembling all over. Surprisingly the video I took came out quite well :) For the next five days or so, our schedule ran in a pattern: Meet our driveron the sidewalk, drive to the orphanage with our fellow adopting family, the Winkles, visit Julia, and spend the rest of the day seeing the sites of the city, grocery shopping, hagning at the apartment or visiting with the Winkles.
On Gotcha Day, though, things changed drastically. It was the first time I was allowed in Julia's crib room. The room isn't huge, but it comfortably fits the six or seven cribs that line the walls. The workers were making the most of dressing Julia for the last time, fussing over her hair and making sure that Dad had brought the seventeen layers of clothes that are orphanage protocol. I was left to wander the room, visiting the other kids. One little guy I had met on another occasion (whom I dubbed Bruiser) was hanging out in his crib and didn't seem very interested in me when I went over. In the crib next to him, though, was a little girl. She wasn't too much larger than Julia in stature, but her face looked a little older. I quickly realized that this was Sonya from Reece's Rainbow who was staring at me, and that this wasn't the first time I had heard of her. When I said her name, the little eyes that had lit up to when given attention grew even brighter. I got to play with her for another ten or fifteen minutes before it was time to go.
But in that split second, my heart changed. It opened to another little orphan. My heart attached to the orphanage, as well, because I realized what a treasure it housed. I knew full well the circumstance of kids with Down syndrome or just about any special needs who were put into orphanages and aged out. I knew how bad things could be. And I cringed at it. But I had never actually met one of those little souls. I had never seen the fire in their eyes, or heard their tiny giggle, or felt their little hands in mine. Now it was different. Now that I have met one of these precious little souls, my reslove is all the stronger to see less of them transferred. To see less face that doom.
And God made my trip even more meaningful.
If there's one message I can leave you with, it's this: there are orphans in every corner of the world. Here, most are in foster care. Everywhere else, though, they either have to fend for themselves and roam the streets, or face whatever institutional life their country has for them. But either way, what would it be like putting your little brother, sister, son, nephew, or daughter, in the place of that little one? Then what would you do? Speak for those who have no voice. Feed those who have no food. Clothe those who have no clothes.
Give homes to those who have none.