More than words
When my older sister and I were little, we loved jumping up and down on her bed. My mom bought it from Sears. Or maybe the Spiegel catalog. I can’t be sure. What I do know is that it was beige plastic with a super sweet canopy. If I jumped high enough, I could touch the white billowy gossamer and feel the euphoric sensation of fake flying.
My parents didn’t care if we jumped on my sister’s bed. They cared more about when we jumped on the bed. One time, we enjoyed this random extracurricular activity just as my father was turning in for the night. Since my sister’s bedroom is directly above my parents’ room, the squeaking and creaking became too much for Daddy. When we heard him walking up the stairs, we both freaked out and hid under the covers.
He said nothing. He just looked at both of us and raised an eyebrow. We knew what that meant.
Moments after the eyebrow made an appearance, my sister dared me to take a few more bounces. There’s no way Daddy would come upstairs again. So I accepted the challenge because I respect my elders. Jamie would never get me in trouble on purpose. Please read that last sentence with a sarcastic font.
For the second time in a decade, Daddy came up the stairs and said nothing. He just hung his belt on our beautiful canopy. It was clear that heads would roll if we even thought about jumping on that bed again.
Sometimes, words aren’t needed.
Today we visited Dotroda, Arise Africa’s fully-sponsored school in the Matero compound. When our convoy rolled up through the gate, what felt like hundreds of children in adorable orange and brown uniforms swarmed all of the mzungus (read: white people). This must be what Taylor Swift feels like every single day. And Chris Harrison.
It’s really natural for your brain to send panic signals to your body in moments like these. Then you remember that these children may live in an impoverished community, but they have found sanctuary in the form of a mighty school that provides education, food and spiritual nourishment. Everything outside the school feels daunting. Everything inside the school feels hopeful.
Dotroda is light in the middle of a dark place. The students are adorable. The staff are rock stars. A beautiful woman named Brenda gives every bit of her heart and soul to each child. She knows the hairs on their heads. She knows each by name. And their siblings. The passion literally flows from this woman’s body.
The joy you feel in Dotroda is infectious. So much is communicated with just a look or touch. There’s a universal language that you just fall into when you’re serving.
Sometimes, words aren’t needed. You can say so much through:
- Dropping down to eye level in order to hear a story
- Candy — every kid’s love language
- Digital watches — bonus points if they light up
- Mirrored sunglasses
- Hand slapping games
- Cute pencil boxes featuring Minnie Mouse
- Hair braiding
- Piggy back rides
- Hand holding
I looked directly into the eyes of these kids and saw hope. I joined in their laughter. I received enough hugs to fill my bucket for the rest of the year. I held precious hands. I prayed silently over each face. I thanked the Lord for moving mountains and praised His name for transforming all the lives I saw before me.
Then I looked at the Arise Africa staff and humbly bowed my head. It’s not every day you meet a group of people who all live and breathe the words of John:
“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with action and in truth.” 1 John 3:18