The orphanage playground consisted of tires stuck in the ground and a new metal slide that had only been built the week before. Large dirty pigs walked about the grounds. About 20 feet away stood the wooden outhouses, marking a line between forest and home. Stench and gurgle sounds drifted through the playground as the outhouses were being pumped directly into the forest behind them. Little children ran around the growing sewage pool playing tag.
As soon as the children saw us, they immediately stopped whatever they were doing and ran to us, grabbing our hands or jumping on our backs, nevermind that they had never even met us before. They knew we were there to hang out with them, and they were not going to let time pass without having our attention.
It seemed at first that the orphanage consisted of only of boys, but I soon came to realize that there were many girls. What would probably be long blond hair had been shaved short and their clothing hung loosely like the boys. They were not easily noticable, and that was the intention. Girls in orphanages must be inconspicuous or they risk being raped.
One girl grabbed my hand and held tightly by my side the entire morning. We could not communicate with words, but it didn’t matter. All she wanted was my love and attention. Unfortunately, I cannot remember her name…I think it was Anka or Anna. About half way through the day, she figured out that I was married. As quickly as she learned this, she ran over to Josh, with me in tow, and grabbed onto His hand. With a big, toothy smile she gazed up into our eyes and called us “mama” and “papa”. For a day, she had a family. My heart broke knowing that we could not provide her with a home, but we could show her love.
As I began to leave for the day, Anka pulled me off to the side and had me kneel down in front of her. She motioned for me to open up my hand. With clenched fist, she secretly placed something into the palm of my hand and then nodded for me to look. There rested a small piece of candy that she had gotten from another missionary earlier in the day. This had been a gift to her and I could not take it. I shook my head no and gave it back. Just as insistently, she shook her head no and tried to give it back to me. I called over my translator and asked her to explain to Anka that the candy was a gift to her. But my translator looked me straight in the face and said “no”. I was a little taken back, but then her next words would shake me up even more.
“Lindsey,” she said, “YOU don’t understand. Anka owns nothing. She has not one thing to call her own; until she was given this piece of candy. Now, this is the only thing she owns and she wants to show you her love by giving it you, to let you know that you are special. You have to take it.”
Humbled, I took her gift.
I haven’t seen Anka since that day. She’s out of the orphanage by now. If I could ever see her again, I’d remind her of that day and let her know that she gave me the best gift I have ever received.