We learn a lot about perspective when we open our eyes.
Our complaints of not having running water, a toilet in our house or the nagging cravings that pull at our stomachs during mealtimes, are easily silenced by a woman’s rape story. Every woman’s rape story. Our beautiful Pastor explains: “It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ she’s been raped, in the villages it’s ‘how many times’?”
He provides the best kind of perspective.
This November war broke out in the provincial capitol where we’re based, worse than it had in years. In the chaos and confusion of gunfire and explosions in the sky, our Pastor opened up his home to 18 orphan children and half a dozen adults. His 2 roomed house, the living area smaller than most American kitchens, was turned into a displaced persons lodge: “We took all the furniture and put it outside. It was body on top of body, piled on another body.” Our measly bit of war relief sent during this time fed them all for the month they were there.
Perspective. It’s hard to communicate life here sometimes. The horror and the absolute beauty. The fungus that crawls up my arm in little circles, itching more and more everyday and sweet child that I embrace, again, though they were probably the one that gave it to me.
Every Saturday is “Sleepover Saturday” with Justice Rising projects. In the brothels, we have slumber parties with rescued child prostitutes. In the war zones, it’s a party with rescued child soldiers. The biggest difference, I vote, is the smell. Ha. Oh yes, even with the smelly soaps and lotions I give to our boys, somehow our girls always smell MUCH better at the end of the day…
This last weekend during some “art therapy” with our beautiful boys, we asked them to draw our little family in a garden, with an elephant. (Yes, I somehow sneak elephants into all of our art projects.)
A normal plan, so we thought, until perspective shows up. Machetes and guns in blue and red crayon. Perhaps an easy thing to draw? We ask our boys to explain. Their faces are sweet and I can rarely describe them in a sentence without slipping in the words “perfection” and “adore”, but deep in their eyes, still hidden in their memories, it makes sense.
Though our family is full of love, the picture shows a gun pointed at a stick figure with a blonde ponytail. Dang it. Everyone in the picture is either killing or running from conflict. Our heart aches for our sweet muffins and the things they’ve seen. The lives they lived.
Last week while in the bush we met quietly with other young boys we hope to rescue and began the process of helping them get out of the bush and into the city. (Our program is not one of 24-7 care but more foster sponsorship and extensive discipleship. With this we can see more boys restored with less money and still be able to love on the armies and not have them want to “get rid of us”… haha) While sitting with one of the kids, perspective was made clear when he stated “I have no life outside of the army.” It was either he joins our family, or he stays fighting in his current one.
Little boys with big guns. Everywhere. On the street we ask their names and they get fidgety. You try to gaze into their eyes with all the love you can show while still glancing at their finger to see it stays far from the AK’s trigger.
Perspective is a funny thing. Especially in a war zone. And you have a choice. Sometimes it hurts more to see. Ok let’s be honest, it almost always hurts more to see. That’s why not everyone does it, and war and famine persist. But in the end, opening your eyes and getting some perspective on someone else’s reality is so so worth it.
For in that moment of choosing to do life with them, the vulnerability expressed is what opens yourself up to truly experience love.
Love is nothing like I thought. Or probably even now what I think. Love is ridiculously and incredibly beautifully, while utterly heartwrenchenly painful yet always 100% completely worth it. Love is what stands with the broken, with the raped victim and the hungry and says “You’re not alone”. Love chooses to look deep into heart of the war lord and say: “I see you. I see you for not what you’ve done, but what God’s done for you” And love is what says to the little boy who’s been given a gun instead of an embrace: “I will stop for you. No matter what it costs me” Because love, in it’s purest form, always costs you something.
I feel like we’re forever learning here, continuously shocked at how little we know! But more now than ever, as I become increasingly obsessed with our sweet little princes, I get inspired to figure it out. Love in a war zone. In a brothel. It’s purity and power able to transform even the toughest area. It’s brilliant. Ridiculously and absolutely brilliant. And suuuuch a blast. We’re so excited as every minute here feels like the greatest honor ever. It’s just sometimes taking the perspective and the courage to really see it. The journey we’re foreeeeever learning. : )