Forever Angels Baby Home, at first glance, looks like a really excellent pre-school or day care facility. Bright murals cover every wall. Everything is spotlessly neat and organized. Detailed schedules are laid out on a bulletin board. Safety gates are on every doorway. A beautiful fenced-in garden gives the children plenty of space to play.
But of course, there are differences from a day care center. In the bathroom, there are rows and rows of carefully labeled colored cups and toothbrushes. Each child has a small crib with his or her name on it, and a mosquito net. And these children are not "checked-in" every morning by loving parents. Instead, this place is their whole life.
The children are universally beautiful, healthy (unless they've just arrived), and happy. Big eyes, round tummies, loads of giggles. Forever Angels truly is the highest quality orphanage I have witnessed. But it was a bit eerie. I sat down on the lawn yesterday and was instantly covered with about 6 toddlers. One pulling my hair, one climbing on my shoulders, and about four more shoving and squishing and pushing their way into the coveted lap position. Literally instantly. These children know no strangers. Anyone who comes through their gate is a potential source of love and attention. And the most persistent ones tend to get the most. So they learn to persist.
It was both beautiful and strikingly sad. As an adoptive mom, it cuts me open. I was only there for 24 hours, and even that was almost too much. So many children who needs families, and I am only allowed one. There was Zawadi, a petite little fairy princess of a five-year-old, extremely bright, completely-bi-lingual, and a total charmer. She's old enough now to understand her circumstances, and every time a child gets adopted, she asks the director, "When is a family going to take me?" There was Baraka, a three-year-old with a mischievious grin. He figured out my name and all day reminded me of it. "Amy! Amy! Amy!"
And of course, there was the one we think God has planned for us. I looked into her eyes and she looked into mine....she seeing only another white stranger, someone who would hold her for a day and then disappear, but she was willing to take what she could get. I seeing a daughter, a princess, a whole long future of laughter and conversations and celebrations stretched out in front of me. You have no idea what you are seeing, do you, dear one? I whispered to her. You have no idea how your entire life has just profoundly changed.
I followed her around and stared at her all day; she noticed my attention and flirted back, always checking to see if I was still looking. I always was. Today I had a few hours before I left to come home, and she just wanted me to hold her. She would scream if I put her down. I'm not sentimental enough to think that somehow she knew I was different from the others; I know that she reacts exactly the same way to anyone else who will give her attention. She would fight and screech and shove any other child who would try to touch me or get on my lap.
Dear one, how I long to give you a love that you don't have to fight for. Soon, soon, hopefully, prayerfully soon! I'm coming back for you, I whispered to her. I know she doesn't understand. But soon she will.