The many faces of a child

He stands 3 feet tall, with big brown eyes, a goofy grin and full head of curly black hair…waiting in expectation for me to chase him around the room. His delighted giggle erupts into the air as I lunge toward him and he bounces away, laughing with glee as he attempts to evade my reach.


She stands shyly in the corner, wearing her pink zip-up hoodie as she gazes around the room. She catches my glance and gives me a tiny smile as I walk toward her. She looks up at me as I say hello, and something deep inside of her eyes tells me she really needs to be hugged and loved on today.


He wears a yellow shirt that is caked with mud and his head is covered in dirt. He’s obviously spent the whole day rough-housing and playing outside. His grin is one of the silliest I’ve seen and the sparkle in his eyes tells me he’s a mischief-maker. All I have to do is lock eyes with him and he knows it’s game time. He tries to avoid me but I grab him before he can get away and tickle him until he is breathless.

 


He’s dressed all in black…the one with the obvious attitude…barely acknowledging my existence when I tell him to sit down and listen as my teammate tells them a Bible story. He shuffles his feet and doesn’t pay attention for anything, instead turning his focus to poking the kids on either side of him. Yet when it comes time to worship and it’s time to sing the part of the song that he knows, his voice is the loudest in the room and his whole face is scrunched up as he exerts all of his effort into singing the song.


We pass them on our drive down the mountain. They wave at us excitedly from cornfields and green pastures. They herd cows and goats barefoot, dressed in rags, covered in Swaziland’s red dirt. They build makeshift goal posts with branches and spend the day playing football and running around with sticks in hand.
We’ve seen more children on their own this month then ever before.

 


Each child, no matter where they come from, longs for attention and yearns to be loved. The heart of El Shaddai is to provide a safe, loving, caring home for each of them. The Lord is at work, but it takes time. The Swazi staff at El Shaddai are being taught how to love, as well. They’ve each grown up in a culture where kids are not cared for and are often considered a nuisance. In Swazi culture, the children are not loved or cared for in the way Americans think is natural.

When Charmain took in her first baby and began talking to the little one, she was ridiculed.
“You don’t talk to babies,” she was told.

There is a major difference between the children living here at El Shaddai and those elsewhere in Swaziland. Children are meant to play and laugh. Each of them has a distinct personality and voice. Each of them receives love in a different way. They NEED love. Yet in a normal Swazi household, a child could be left in the same spot for hours and not move an inch. They are looked upon as burdens and cared for nonchalantly, almost as an afterthought.

The children of this country are the next generation. The Lord cares for them. He hears their cry. My prayer is that each of these precious little ones will know how much Jesus loves them, and even in the midst of painful family situations, that they will grow up as a redeemed generation and teach their own children how to love.

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