Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say anymore to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy. – Hosea 14:3
If I...have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb)...if I have lifted my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate: Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and my arm to be broken from the bone. For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of His highness I could not endure. – Job 31:16-23
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27
Flies swarmed all around me, their never-ending buzzing sending a tickling sensation across the back of my neck. The scent of warm manure and sour milk drifted in on the hot breeze that blew through the open doors and mingled with the smell of sautéing garlic, onions, and peppers that wafted in from the kitchen.
Two girls, almost too old to still do fidgety dances, danced about me, pulling excitedly at the ends of their hair or the hems of their shirts. Their eyes sparkled with hope and at the same time seemed to wince with the fear that their hope might be dashed. One of the girls dared to reach out her hand and wrap the ends of my hair around her finger. She held it for a fleeting moment and then flitted on in her endless chatter, not really saying what she wanted to say.
An eight-year old boy shuffled through the room. He slipped behind the girls, his mangled plastic "topochki" flopping loudly against the floor and the bottoms of his feet. I heard the sound of the toilet flushing "waterless-ly" in the next room and watched to make sure the girl who exited, returned with a bucket of water to rinse the stool. The second of the two girls before me reached out and took hold of both my arms, somehow managing to pull me into her little wriggle of a dance. Nervousness filled her eyes.
"I keep wanting to call you Mama, I keep forgetting." She seemed almost ashamed at her sweet admission. She bit her lower lip and blushed as she looked up at me. I looked beyond the thick, cracked lenses of her glasses and into the sea of hope that made up her blue, blue eyes. We looked enough alike that she could have called me Mama and no one would have questioned that it was so. But I could not—I could not grant her permission to do something that would tie her heart so tightly to mine, knowing that in a few short weeks I would be gone.
The day wore on and drifted into a hot and stuffy night. When at last the buzzing of the flies was the only sound left in the orphanage, I opened the two doors that led into the multipurpose room of the small structure and let the cooler night air float inside. I sat on the sofa that had been trampled with activity throughout the day, and thought back over all that had happened.
I thought over the quarreling and the struggling between the children. I thought about our constant battle to keep the flies out of the food and tried not to think about how close the open toilets were to the table. I thought of the inner struggles that I had seen in so many of the children that day. I thought of the girl's request. It was not the first time one of them had said it. In fact, it was at least the third time that one of the girls had said such a thing to me. I had heard the same remark made quietly among themselves as well. How desperately they longed for the love that life and its many sins and sicknesses had taken from them. How desperately I longed to show them that God is the only one who can ever truly fill that gap.
God had given me a month and a half with them, but I knew that there was no guarantee that I would ever have another chance. Daily, we studied the scriptures, learning that they must be the foundation of our lives. Learning to build upon them as the wise man built upon the rock. Daily we worked to apply the principles of God's word to everyday life, always stressing that we could never succeed until God had been made the Master Builder. But would it be enough? There had been little or no time to spend with the national caregivers, they watched and listened, but did they understand that the children's lives needed to be guided not just sustained? If only there had been three of me. If only there was more time. If only there were more that were willing to take up the challenge—the challenge to show them that there is a Father for the fatherless.