We weren’t even supposed to be in an orphanage. In fact, two hours before I was holding that baby, I didn’t even know the place existed.
It was the summer after we had adopted our second son, and I had begun to feel the urge, or what I sometimes refer to as the Divine Nudge (and sometimes the Divine Nagging) to go back to Colombia. We had been given so much by Colombia and her people, and I knew we were suppose to stay connected, to serve in some way. We had been bumped while flying stand-by to Cartagena, Colombia where we were meeting a team of missionaries heading into a refugee camp for people displaced by Colombia’s 40-year civil war. We carried with us several suitcases bursting with sample-size hygiene items—body wash, shampoo, mouthwash, toothbrushes and toothpaste that we planned to pass out at the camp. After being rerouted and spending a few unexpected, but much enjoyed, days in Panama City, Panama we arrived in Bogota lugging the heavy suitcases with us. The rest of the team was to arrive from Cartagena the next day to spend some time serving a small Vineyard Church plant.
We spent the week working at the church, training and encouraging leaders and having services in the evening. Honestly, it was not my jam. I’m an introvert by nature. Aaron had gone along on the trip as more of a sabbatical and spent most of the time back at the hotel resting and reading. I went to the church every day with people I didn’t know to work with more people I didn’t know. I also didn’t speak Spanish, so most of the time I had no idea what was even happening. I spent much of the week asking myself what I was doing there, frustrated, not connecting and desperately wanting to cut the trip short and fly home to our boys.
On the last day of the trip we had lunch with our friend, Isabel. Isabel is a saint of a woman who walks with adopting couples as they navigate the very complicated, daunting, red-tape-paved road of Colombian adoption. Over the course of the previous two summers we had walked that road twice, and Isabel was now very affectionately referred to as Tia (Aunt) Isabel in our house.
Over lunch I mentioned we had all this shampoo and toothpaste. I was tired of dragging those suitcases from plane to plane and hotel to hotel. I had no interest in dragging them through customs, over the great-expanse that is the Miami airport, and then back to my house. They were an irritating and cumbersome reminder that I had missed the real purpose of my trip. I wanted Isabel to get rid of them—to set me free.
I thought she’d take the suitcases home, deliver the supplies to some deserving place in the city and that would be the end of it. Instead, she said she knew of a place that could put their contents to good use, picked up her phone, spoke briefly to someone on the other end, stood up and said, “Come with me.”
Isabel is 4’10 and might weigh 90 pounds soaking wet, but when she says to move, you move. She is what the Colombians call “El Jefe.” The Boss.
An hour later we were standing on the sidewalk outside of Hogares Luz y Vida. When the guard unlocked a series of deadbolts and the heavy, black metal door opened with a creak, we carried those suitcases across the threshold. When I sat them down on the concrete just inside the door I had no idea I had just traded the weight of Aquafresh and Pantene for the weight of caring for the orphan.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Drew Coffman