This was a rough day for me and one that I didn’t get to journal about until coming home, so things have been able to settle out a little more in my head and heart.
This was a day that started out so wonderfully just because I knew I was not going to have to get back on one of those crowded buses!! I know that we were all grateful that it would not be a travel day and that we could all just relax and enjoy the lake and our new friends. Plus, I slept wonderfully. It really is amazing what a good night’s sleep can do.
Breakfast came and went like normal and then we all met outside near the beach to have club. The kids (and their caregivers) just love it; the program team has done such a great job. During club we heard Michael Murray’s testimony as well as Gracious’s testimony. They are each others buddies and they both have cerebral palsy. Michael works full time at Summit, which the Malawians were astonished to hear, and is such a great guy.
Honestly, I think having Michael on this trip makes the trip. I don’t think that the families would have understood all that we are trying to say without seeing Michael as a functioning adult who contributes to his family and community. I am so thankful that he and his whole family were able to come on this trip; God has already used them so tremendously so show these kids and families how much they matter.
Gracious is still in high school, but I know that as a result of this trip he will have the confidence to do great things.
After club, the kids and buddies spent time playing on the beach and in the water while we (the support team) took the opportunity to talk with the caregivers again. Our first session with the caregivers focused on the idea that we are all God’s creation and he loves us and the “special needs” children just the same and that we are all valuable to Him.
Our second session focused on a firsthand testimony from John and Marie Murray. They are Michael’s parents and such amazing people. They have been tremendous advocates for Michael and have made sure that he has a pretty normal life so that he can live up to his full potential. You could see light bulbs going off in the caregivers eyes as the Murrays talked; it was absolutely amazing.
I did start getting frustrated at one point though, because we were trying to wrap up and one lady in particular kept taking over conversation and getting off topic. I know that she was just trying to encourage her peers, it’s really just an example of my Western impatience.
After our session with the caregivers we had lunch and then played by the water. It was really at this point in the day that I started to get really frustrated. Maliko refused to participate in anything and it was so difficult for me to see all of my team members playing with their kids and having such a great time with them. I really hadn’t developed any kind of bond with Maliko and was getting very discouraged. I kept trying to get Maliko involved, but he refused, so instead, his mom started playing the relay games which ended up being a lot of fun for her. Our team had some of the older kids and so we won most of the games. Finally when we started playing that game where you put an egg on a spoon and walk around without dropping it, one of the others (I think it was Steve) was able to get Maliko to play. I was so glad that he finally jumped in, but a little jealous that he would respond to others but not to me.
After the games were over Angelina went to sit on the grass with some of the other ladies and Maliko started watching the others play volleyball. I wanted to get him involved in some of the fun, whether it was the water or kicking around a soccer ball, but as usual, he refused. He was scared of the water so I knew that we wouldn’t be able to get close to the lake, so I just tried to get him dancing or doing anything that he would enjoy. He did start to loosen up a little bit, but then someone used the slingshot to hit him with a water balloon which set off the next cascade of frustrating events.
You see, even though he has poor hygiene habits, Maliko is fastidious when it comes to his clothing. He hates it when the slightest bit of dirt touches them, so just imagine what happened when he got a small wet spot from a water balloon. Actually, it wasn’t bad at first. He just brushed it off and then kept motioning to his pants to me, but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying. I thought that he might want his pants untucked from his socks, but that wasn’t it. Finally he got fed up with me not understanding so he took me by the hand and led me off of the beach and up to the hotel. It was then that I realized he was trying to get back to his room, but I didn’t have a key or the slightest clue as to why he wanted to go there so I started to tell him no and to try to stop him from walking off by himself. He started to get mad and I was getting frustrated when one of the hotel employees came to my rescue. He was able to translate for me and then sent someone to get Angelina. When she finally got there I was so stressed out but she motioned that she wanted me to walk with them back to the room, so I followed just trying to keep the tears from falling down my face. When we got to the room I really did not want to participate so I communicated that I would meet them back at the lake in a few minutes.
I walked away and back up to my room where I allowed myself to lose it for about 10 seconds before telling myself that I was not in Malawi for myself, but to make sure that these kids had a good time and understood how valuable they are to the Lord. It worked to stop the tears but I was still frustrated so I ended up walking over to Nicole and Brianne’s room to talk for a few minutes. Nicole was in a similar boat with her buddy, who is autistic. She was having a difficult time with not having bonded with him either, and was just emotionally exhausted. She and Bri were so encouraging and just what I needed at that moment. After our chat, I was able to walk back down to the beach and try again with Maliko—though still about as successfully as before.
At about 5 we were all dismissed to our rooms for some quiet time and to refresh ourselves before dinner. I used the time to rest and then grabbed a few minutes on the internet at the business center so that I could e-mail Andrew. I missed him so badly that day. I knew that he would have loved working with these children and families, and that he would probably do a much better job than me. I really wanted a hug, too.
Dinner came and went like usual and then we had club. We had to do club a little differently that night because we were pressed for time so we took the caregivers to meet with them separately while the kids met for club. Our discussion that night was about specific medical conditions that the children had and questions the caregivers had related to those conditions. The doctor that came with us, Kyle, did most of the talking and he did a really good job. It was so amazing to see one mom come to understand why her son had epilepsy; it was absolutely incredible.
While we were having a discussion with the caregivers the kids had a time of sharing. I really wish that we could have been a part of it because I saw some of the videos and they were so wonderful. Also, Maliko did something totally uncharacteristic! He got up on stage and started leading the others in “Up, up, Jesus! Down, down, Devil!” He also did some dancing and other really cute things. Kay (my roommate) taped it and I’m so glad because it absolutely filled my heart with joy.
I went from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other that day; at one point I wanted to go home and never come back, but by the end of the day, I could see how God was moving in the lives of these children and their caregivers and I was so grateful to be a part of it. Now I definitely want to go back!
At the end of the night, Kay and I decided to stay up since it was our last night of the retreat so that we could play cards with some others. Well, before I joined the rest of the group I decided to catch up on some journalling, but I ended up doing some back and forth upstairs and down delivering some remedies and medications as well. When I finally headed downstairs to join the group, Samantha and Katie who needed to borrow my converter. Well, I was tired of going back and forth so I just handed them the key and then joined the others to play cards. After about 10 minutes the girls still hadn’t come back and I started to get curious about what was going on, so I started going back upstairs. Well, I saw that our light was on so I yelled up, “What’s going on in there?” Then I heard them running out of the room and giggling. I turned the corner and walked in and saw this: