Up early and ready
to go, we were filled with anticipation for the day ahead and eager to see how
God would show His love through us and to us. There was a difference today
though as we headed out for Kosovo, there was an underlying somber feeling within
the team as this would be our final day with the children of the
community. Children who had filled our
hearts with joy and taught us that even in the harshest, most unimaginable
conditions there is still hope because of God’s love. There is still joy because of God’s
love. There are blessings in life
because of God’s love and they are not the things we have, but the
relationships we have. These young
children have shown us a different perspective on how to view life. They have taught us to see life through the
eyes and heart of children who have so little, but yet are rich in more ways
than we can imagine. Our time with them
had passed in the blink of an eye, but yet left a lasting mark on all of us.
Like each morning as we arrived at Kosovo the bus was buzzing with conversation, we were ready for all that God would put before us and ready to pour into the kids all the love that we could in the coming hours. You could feel the energy in the team as we pulled in, unloaded, and headed to the library. When we arrived the room was dark, and we immediately knew flexibility would be needed as there was no power. There was a blackout and the school would be dark for the day with only the light from the sun sneaking through the windows which were coated in a film of dust. Without a second thought flashlights and cell phone lights came out. We all jumped in to ensure everyone had what they needed and were ready for the day. As our team shuffled around the room, lights shining, it was all I could do for a moment to stop and soak it all in. We were the light in this moment, the light in the darkness, preparing to bring His word and love to the children that have stolen our hearts.
We had formed bonds with the students in Kosovo this week and today our final experiences with them left lasting impressions on everyone. There were very meaningful actions that rocked some of us in more emotional ways than we could have imagine. The innocence in the children’s faces as they were personally prayed for while warm water was poured over their feet as they were washed by our team, just as Jesus had done. A moving and truly spiritual moment was taking place bringing many to tears as the impact of this small act swept over them. The light in the children’s eyes Illuminated our room as they prepared to pose to have their image captured. Kids circled up, almost piling on top of one another, mesmerized as they watched a picture of themselves, a reflection they have rarely ever seen, appear before their eyes. We couldn’t help but to smile as we were just as excited as they were, but our focus was on their reaction – these were priceless gifts given to us by each child. God’s love filled the room and brought light to the darkness as they called out to Him in worship, praise, and laughter. Their voices permeating the walls, echoing through the walkways as they sang out “Jesus Loves Me” or danced the “Hokey Pokey.” Their small voices sounding so large as they sang out or laughed from that place deep in their belly. These were beautiful sounds to hear throughout the building. You couldn’t help but to sing along or desire to stop for a moment to join in on the fun simply to be filled by the love in their voices and laughter. These moments in time, and others like them, don’t come around every day and we learned that this week, but especially today, that you must be willing to slow down and experience these small gifts as they are happening, as it is in these moments when you truly feel God’s love.
As our final class of students exited our rooms shouting thanks and praise to us while proudly holding up their framed photos I couldn’t help but to feel a lump in my throat followed by mixed feelings of sadness and joy. These young people had made an imprint on my heart, they had changed me in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I didn’t that day and still today don’t quite know what this change means, but I trust that God will help me to understand in good time. In this moment there was a mix of emotions swirling through me. This chapter in our journey had come to an end and our time was drawing to a close, but this meant I was closer to the time when I would get to see the joy & wonder in my own children’s eye, I couldn’t help but to let the tears roll down my cheeks. I had been missing them all week, but it was not until this moment when I truly felt home sick wanting to simply hold and hug my boys, all three of them.
The emotional roller coaster ride was far from over as I prepared to officially meet Silas, the 10-year-old boy that we would be sponsoring. We had connected during the week through craft projects, fist bumps and high fives in the halls of the school. The anticipation and experience of talking with him was heartwarming and heartbreaking simultaneously. During our time together learning about one another and coloring a picture of Noah’s ark I was quickly reminded of how grateful I am for the things I have, as well as the difficulties he faces at such a young age. I know the sponsorship to help Silas through school will be huge for him, but I believe it will be just as big of a blessing for our family. I cannot wait to get home to talk to the boys about their new friend and write our first family letter to Silas.
Hours had passed since the start of our final day at Kosovo and things were wrapping up, but the day wasn’t over yet. In true Kenyan culture the students and teachers had organized a celebration for us to show their appreciation, love, and to praise God through worship with us one final time. Over more than two hours we danced, sang, and celebrated all that God had done through us this week. There was laughter. There were hugs. There were tears. It was humbling to have them repeatedly thanking us one by one by name, sharing how greatly we would be missed when we were gone, and that we will always be remembered in their hearts and by God for the way we shared His love with them.
“We are privileged to be with you.”
“We pray that you come back.”
As much as they felt our impact and love, our team felt theirs. They were thanking us for our gifts of time, love, and sharing God’s glory, but if you asked anyone on the team they would say we were the ones who were blessed.
And like that it was over, in the blink of an eye or the flash of a camera. We exchanged our final goodbyes, shared hugs & tears, and prepared to leave the school for the final time. As I made my way to the bus I was warmly greeted by a young girl and her friends. She and I had spent time chatting all week when she was with our team. She wanted one last hug and as she wrapped her arms around me and looked up she smiled sweetly and said “Alissa, I will miss you! Do you have to go?” In that instant her friends joined us for a final group hug and I was overwhelmed as they told me “they miss me already” and “thank you” repeatedly.
It was all I could do to not be swept up in the raw emotions of the moment. I gave them a final hug, said my goodbyes, and was one of the last ones to load the bus. As we pulled away students and children in the community lined the roads waving, shouting goodbye, and sending us off just as they had each day before. On the bus ride home we all chatted, but that somber feeling was back in the air. God had changed us, altered our hearts, in ways we cannot event begin to understand or realize at this time. Though we can trust that in the coming days, weeks, months, and years this experience and His love that we felt with the students of Kosovo will have a profound impact on how we choose to live our lives.
It isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning...
Who we are and what we value.
How we live and how we love.
The beauty that others see in us just as we saw beauty in the hearts of these children.
It’s just the beginning!!
God is good, all the time!
All the time, God is good.