“Suffering children are safe in His arms….”
Okay, are you ready for a serious blog?
A couple of days ago we made the extremely bumpy trek in Debbie’s poor old car out to the Sandra Jones Village, about 25km outside Bulawayo. There are two groups of children who live here – ‘The babies’ (there were about thirteen between the ages of eighteen months and six years) and the older girls (twenty-three between the ages of eight and sixteen) – are the ones who will eventually, “hopefully”, move into Hotel Rio in September.
We went first to the babies home, where the children are cared for beautifully by two ‘mama’s’. Everything is extremely basic but the children are well-fed, warmly dressed and running around happily. When we arrive we are immediately swamped with the little ones climbing on us and holding our hands! One little boy (whose name I couldn’t pronounce let alone write) didn’t say a word to me but just led me by the hand all around the place. He looked about two years old but was apparently about three and a half. Most of the kids are like this – looking much younger than their actual age. This is due to being underfed whilst they were babies and also, often, HIV.
The children have some basic toys – a couple of little trikes and scooters and a swing set. At the end of our time there, this little boy let go of my hand and disappeared into the garden. He emerged a few minutes later and quietly pressed an orange flower into my hand! I gave him a kiss and told him I’d keep it forever! The next day in church (Andrew’s family’s old church – Bulwayo Baptist) we sang that song with the words “suffering children are safe in His arms…..”. I held back the tears as I realised that so many songs that I sing in Australia have an entirely new meaning here. There is this huge team of people – many different organisations; some Christian, some not, but all of them are “God’s arms” for these beautiful children. He has put us (by that I mean all humans!) here to fix up what has gone so horribly wrong.
Yesterday eleven of us once more jolted our way out to SJV to help build a fire-break, as there is quite a bad drought here and bushfire is a huge threat. Well, we didn’t end up making the firebreak, for whatever reason! We ended up (along with some lovely Irish people who had come to Bulawayo as part of a yearly project) taking the kids down to an open field and playing games with all the kids. We played volleyball and soccer and cuddled babies in between. The older girls danced and sang in a totally spontaneous way along a broken-down old wall – Andrew video-taped them because their sense of rhythm and natural musical ability is amazing!
Over the last few days, through talking with Morag and Debbie, it’s become apparent to us that each girl and baby has a horrific story to tell. One girl, who is now sixteen, was sold into prostitution by her family for six years between the ages of six (!!!) and twelve. Another was sexually abused by her dad. The little boy that I particularly loved was given rat poison by his mum who tried to kill him and herself. I know it sounds horrific to be telling you this, but almost every one has a story like this and there are many places like SJV across Bulawayo and indeed, across the world. Suffering Children are safe in His arms.