I heard that statement before I went to Kenya, but I didn't fully understand it until I experienced it.
There are things in this world that cannot be captured with a camera, videotaped, recorded, or even described. While on my trip, I kept a list of things that I didn't - and/or couldn't - take a picture of: the mountains and Lake Victoria (pictures don't do these justice); the perfect and most beautiful sunsets; the full moon rising as the sun was setting; and the pitch-black night sky with thousands and millions of visible stars.
Along with these beautiful sights, there were 4 moments that I couldn't photograph, and those moments were the moments that changed me.
Moment number 1:
One of the last things my momma told me before the trip was "Do not bring home any babies - we don't have room in our house, and I'm not ready to be a grandmother."....yea love you too mom...
The thing was, she knew I would want to take every last kid home with me. I, too, thought that would be the case, but for some reason or another I never felt that incredible pull towards one particular kid. That was until we went to the elementary school.
Those kids were the absolute sweetest! They just had the time of their lives runnin around chasing soccer balls and tossing balloons in the air. For most of our time there I just handed out balloons, embraced the moment, and took pictures...that was until this little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old with a Little Mermaid tshirt on, handed me a small balloon....All she wanted was for me to toss the balloon with her, so we tossed the balloon back and forth for probably 30 minutes, and the whole time she never said one word. She had the cutest little smile and the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. And she stole me heart.
I never got her name, I don't know her age, and I will probably never see her again in this life - but she captured my heart. Her innocence, her joy, her angel-like eyes, her longing and need for someone to pay even a minute of attention to her...they broke me...she broke me...the little children of Africa broke me...
Moment number 2:
All week long we went to different schools to play soccer with kids, do Bible stories, and sing songs. It was all filled with so much life and so much joy! But on Saturday we went to the hospital in Migori - definitely NOT a place filled with joy and life. We went there to hand out Bibles and to pray with people...little did I know that that would be the most difficult thing I did all week.
How do you talk to people with no translators to interpret? How do you give out Bibles when people don't even know what they are? How do you pray for someone when you don't know what to pray for - healing or just comfort through the pain? How do you smile and show hope when what you are seeing is breaking your heart to pieces?
The hospital really shook me up. I was completely unprepared for what I saw and everything I experienced. It was like a real picture of what their life is so wrapped around, and that's death. Death is very real to them. So to be put in a place that was so opposite from everything we had been a part of - life, love, joy, and hope - was eye-opening.
Moment number 3:
Right after we left the hospital we went straight to a second orphanage in Migori. Thats when a lot of my confusion and heartache took place. Now how am I supposed to go from such a state of shock and heartbreak to a place of joy and fun and happiness for these kids?! I was NOT okay with any of it.
So for the first little while we were there I laid low. I handed out lanyards and made bracelets for the little kids. I didn't get involved because I was emotionally drained and weary.
But of course, God was at work.
He sent me two angels.
Two 16 year old girls came and sat beside me - Alice and Esther.
We talked for at least an hour: we talked about school, their lives, my life, what college was like, boys, faith and trust in Jesus Christ - you name it, we talked about it. They were so smart. They had such big dreams and expectations for themselves. And most of all, they believed in the power of prayer, the power of love, and the power of God. It was just what I needed, and God knew it.
As we were leaving we gave all the kids hugs goodbye, and I probably hugged Alice and Esther 3 or 4 times each. But as I made my way into the van, after hugging several other children, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and Esther just wrapped her arms around me and hugged my neck. She whispered in my ear, "Melonie, I will never forget you."
I didn't get a picture of those girls, and like with the other kids, I may never see them again in this life. BUT - those two girls changed my life just as much as I might have changed theirs. And the same thing holds true - I will NEVER forget Alice and Esther.
Moment number 4:
We had many unforgettable nights. We had bonfires. We had a movie night. We sat in on their nightly devotions. We played checkers. They taught us Swahili...all of the nights were memorable, but this one night put the icing on the cake.
After we had our "feast" of chicken and rice with the kids, they went in to watch a movie, and we stayed behind to have a little meeting. When we walked outside when the meeting was over and the sun was long gone, we were just stunned by the brilliant night sky. I have never ever seen so many stars in all my life, matter-of-fact, I didn't really believe that many stars existed. We were so overjoyed at the sight that we just took off running into the field, away from the lights of the center. And we just stopped. What a glorious sight!
We each found our own little spots in the field and we just spent some time with the Maker of all of it. Some sang, some danced. I just laid there. I began to talk to God about everything - that day, the whole trip, his incredible blessings, and many lessons. I was so awe-inspired.
And just as I opened my eyes I saw a shooting star dance across the whole night sky.
I was so amazed that I couldn't do anything but laugh. That's right, I started laughing! I couldn't believe my eyes. At that moment, the reality of everything hit me. I was in Africa, laying in a field, looking up at the heavens just glittered with stars shining God's glory! I have never felt so small, yet so important in all my life. I'm looking up at a universe that is far bigger than I can even wrap my mind around, yet the God of it all SEES me, and KNOWS me, and LOVES ME!!!
How could it be any better? The answer: it couldn't. It didn't need to be. God made that day absolutely perfect. He made the day before it perfect, and He has made every single day since then...perfect.
These moments changed my life! They've changed it in different ways, and definitely in different times. I am not even close to understanding everything that happened, everything that I experienced. And to be honest, I'm not quite sure how they've changed me yet. I do know that God works in incredible ways. He proved it in Kenya, and He proves it everyday.
Some things are only meant for the eyes to see. They can't be captured. They can't be described. But they can be remembered. They can be treasured. They can be felt, deep down in the depths of your heart. And what a wonderful gift that is.