I had heard about him from other people but it didn't prepare me for meeting him. A friend drove me out to his home which also functions as an orphanage and school.
He greeted me as I got out of the car. He was younger than I expected. He looked even younger than me. His face was scarred and it looked as though he is probably blind in one of his eyes. I wondered what kind of trauma he had lived through.
The building was, like many things in Africa, aged and desperate, but full of life. The building and almost every thing inside it would be considered trash if it were in America. But this isn't America...this is Africa and nothing is wasted.
He led me up to his office, which was the size of a large closet. I noticed boxes on the floor that I recognized my Man had used to carry gifts to them last CHRISTmas. Now they were given a new purpose: to store items for the children. Nothing is wasted.
We sat and spoke for several minutes. He lavished appreciation on us for coming to see them. I realized they don't get many visitors. When I told him that my girls and I wanted to help teach there on a regular basis, he was overjoyed. He told me that the children there are orphans who come from other countries. The have seen and endured unspeakable, traumatic young lives. It would be good for them, he said, to have someone else new to come in and show them kindness.
It was obvious to me that although they lack space and windows and electricity and pretty much everything else you need to have a school, the one thing they didn't do without was kindness.
Pastor Mike and his wife run the school with the help of several teachers. Nine of the children live there with them while the rest of the orphaned students are placed in families, with relatives or others in the area. He told me they would keep more of them but it costs too much to feed and clothe them all. He had ten children, he recounted, but one little girl recently got tired and gave in to her sickness. He wanted to show me her picture.
Then, he began to show me the house/school. We walked out of his office and entered a door on the left. It was the girls' room. There were two bunk beds and a full bed. It was organized and clean....and not one toy. We went to the boys' room next. It was the same.
We descended an open (OSHA nightmare) staircase down to the classrooms. Some classes meet outside on the porch and some have a small room in the building. Two share a room that also doubles as a sanctuary on Sunday mornings. Each class had a blackboard at the front and children sitting in order. Desks made for one student, served two. Desks made for two, served three or more. I stared down at one of the desks and it felt like it seared right into my memory. It was so worn and rugged it could hardly provide a flat writing surface. I immediately thought, I would have thrown that away. But nothing is wasted here.
Every class we entered, no matter the grade, would immediately rise and say together, "Good Morning Visitors. Good Morning Pastor Mike. Good Morning Friends."
The young Pastor would reply, "Good Morning children, How are you?"
"We are fine thank you, how are you?" They replied in unison.
He introduced my friends and me and told them I was the wife of their visitor at CHRISTmas. They all remembered and smiled as they made the connection. That was months ago. I guess they really haven't had many visitors. After all, TIA (this is Africa) and who cares about one more war-torn orphan? It's not that the people are cruel. It's just that there are so many.
As we stood in one of the classes I thought I wasn't going to be able to handle it. I could feel it rising up in my chest. I knew that an ugly, heaving cry was working its way out of me. My heart was too full. The children were too beautiful. The dilapidated building too wonderful. The scarred pastor too glorious.
Before I left, he brought his wife and his infant son out to meet me. Her name was Sarah. Princess. I held and cuddled his sweet baby boy and made friends with his wife for several minutes. I asked if this treasure in my arms was her only child. No, we have 9 others, she told me.
Of course she does.
I think about this orphanage, this gentle, precious man and his classes of children who know safety and love and order. All of it, all of them would be useless or at least excused from usefulness by this world because of their wounds, their poverty, their lack. But GOD has made something wonderful and rich and beautiful out of all of them.
after all--He's GOD and nothing is wasted.