Broken Hearts for God’s Broken World
My summer with Youth In Mission was not what I had planned it would be. It was not what the staff and ministry description had said it would be. It was definitely nothing even close to what my heart had hoped and dreamed it would be. Nonetheless, it was the most amazing experience of my life.
There is one story which captures the essence of my entire trip and highlights the reasons I decided to go. The event is a memorable one that I walked away from with memories to last a lifetime. It was only one isolated event, so it may seem strange that I have chosen this event to share; but in order to convey exactly what my summer was like, I need to tell you my experience at Little Angels Place of Safety.
The official title of my site was “Africa Aids Project – South Africa.” I had chosen to go there because the HIV/AIDS epidemic had been a burden on my heart for a long time and the place where it is the worst is in South Africa. When my four teammates and I got there, we realized that we weren’t going to be much of an Aids project at all; but rather that we would be traveling the country going to camps and youth events. We made the best of it and held AIDS workshops and training sessions whenever possible.
In one city, in an area where the AIDS epidemic is the worst, we got the chance to go to an orphanage of sorts. Little Angels Place of Safety is where babies with HIV go to stay until they die. Children with HIV aren’t allowed to be adopted in that country, even if the adoptive parents are willing to take them and care for them until they die. This fact causes all places of this kind to be extremely crowded and understaffed.
This particular “orphanage” (they stopped using that word in South Africa) housed nearly thirty children with only two full time and two part time attendants. Twenty of the thirty children were toddlers with over half of those less than a year old. Perhaps the most tragic part about this place was that most of these children were only held for two or three hours a day. So upon going there, that is what we did. We held babies, two or three at a time, for hours on end.
One particular little girl comes to mind: She was only three weeks old and had been born five weeks pre-mature. As I held her for over four hours, I marveled at the fact that a baby so small and so sick could even be alive. This child and I developed a special bond. Well into the third hour of holding her, with two other babies in hand, I thought to myself, “Hmm, that’s warm, she must be peeing.”
A few moments later I thought, “Hmm, that’s too warm to still be in the diaper!” I quickly, but gently lifted up my new friend and sure enough there was pee all over my lap. Once again, I began to marvel at her, thinking, “How could something so small pee so much?”
I struggled to put the tiny diaper on her, as she was far too small to fit, and fell in love with her. For the third time I was in amazement by her strength despite all the odds that the world had put against her.
After six and a half short hours we left with broken hearts and even to this day I get tears in my eyes when I think about all of those children. It was hard to leave that evening, knowing that in just a few weeks many of the babies I had held would have already “gone home.” At the same time though, I was happy knowing that for the first time in these children’s lives, they wouldn’t be feeling any pain.
Through this experience and others like it throughout the summer, I saw God work in so many ways. I saw God’s grace as he eased the suffering of all of his children: young and old, sick and healthy. For the first time, I could see personally that God truly does care about the sick and poor of this world.
In so many ways this summer, not just at this little hospice, God spoke to me and used me in great ways. I experienced God in ways that I can’t even fully express and have come to a better understanding of what God has planned for my life as a result.
Here's a challenge for you: If you are willing to sacrifice, to be challenged, and to have your world turned upside down, I fully believe that God will honor your request and that He will provide you with the most amazing experience of your life -- an experience where you can encounter God and fully give of yourself to the poor, sick, and oppressed of this world; just as the Bible calls us to do. I don’t mean to say that the only way you can add such an experience to your life is by being a part of Youth in Missions. Rather, Youth in Mission is a life changing experience where you can be a part of the work of God all across the world. If you’re willing, God will empower you and use you in such a way that words cannot even begin to describe.
Editor's note: For more on Youth in Mission, go to: www.youthinmission.org
Posted on Mon, November 10, 2003
by Gavin Fothergill, ECHO guest writer