I love children. I love teaching them, hugging them, wiping their tears, sharing their smiles, and seeing them play.
Every year we take soccer balls to the children here so they will have something to play with. You saw on the blog a few days ago their old soccer ball, which was made of plastic bags tied together. The truth is that they play so hard with their one or two soccer balls day in and day out that they wear them out each year before we arrive with new ones! This year Robert brought them lacrosse sticks, and every day at 10:30, when it's time for recess/PE, the kids run to grab sticks to play lacrosse! I'm not sure who looks forward to it more-- Agnes' children or mine! ;-).
Today we arranged with the teachers to have some time in the classrooms with the children doing art. Currently, their art education consists of the teachers drawing a basic object on the board, and the children copying it. They are graded on how perfectly their drawing (of a cup or chair, etc) matches the example. We went in today armed with LOTS of donated art supplies ready to have some fun! First of all, we took water colors, and not only had they never painted before, but the idea of using water for paint was such fun for them! We showed the how the paints worked, gave them some paper, and said, "paint whatever you want to!". And they didn't move. They stared at us. Paralyzed.
They've never had the freedom to just draw and create. Even when we've sent supplies before, they have used them for their schoolwork. This was different, and we were determined to free them from this state. At first, they began drawing for us the things they had been taught: cup, chair, etc. We praised them every time paint or colored pencil hit paper! Then it happened... One child drew US... A van full of smiling (white!) faces. They all giggled and we began to see them loosen up a bit... Through their art! I was telling a teammate today that I have a total fascination with children's art-- how it progresses, how they value the process, what it shows about them, etc. To see children, some of whom are 11 years old, experience free art for the first time was a complete wonder for me! Eventually, we got some amazing self-portraits (my favorite type of children's art!). Here is what's incredible: our children see themselves all the time. There are mirrors all over our homes. We even buy mirrored toys for our babies. We take pictures of them constantly and frame them. Every time they walk past a window they have the chance to examine themselves. These children have none of those things. Aside from the pictures we take and show them, they honestly don't know what they look like. This means that their self portraits are true treasures because they show what they IMaGINE that they look like. I have only roughly 8,000 pictures from today, and I can't wait to show you! Stay tuned for our plans for the art that didn't get hung up in their classrooms with great pride!
We also finished praying over the beds at the orphanage today. It is incredibly emotional, as I love each of those children like my own, and am so moved to hear and see others praying for them, and to spend time begging God to watch over them, and letting Him lead my heart to specific prayers for each child.
I also got to kneel by Jen's bed and pray with her. A woman with my same name, likely my same age, born to almost polar opposite circumstances than my own. Powerful. Why did God choose me to be the one born in America to a loving family in a home with clean running water? Have I made him glad He did?
Children need to play. Not with expensive games or toys, but with lots of creative freedom. Whether they are inventing new rules for a "football" game, or drawing, they need the time and resources to do it.
Today we let the children at Agnes' Children's Care and Primary School BE children. Praise God for caring enough about the little things (and little ones) to make that possible.