Bolivia #3: Break My Heart

Yesterday we toured an orphanage for kids ages 5 and under. Our plan was to stay for two hours, play with kids, provide a mid-morning snack, and then leave. The front of the orphanage is beautiful, behind walls covered in purple bougainvillea. I stepped into the main building and all was quiet – the children were outside in the back play yard, waiting for us to come in.

As I was at the back of our group, I had a bit more time to look around. The laundry room was filled with baby sleepers, cloth diapers, little boy pants and little girl dresses. Just like all the ones I washed for years as the mother of young children. It was familiar, but overwhelming in the amount of daily wash. The machines never stop running and the clotheslines were full of baby blankets drying in the sun.

I went outside, and immediately a little girl lifted her arms for me to pick her up and claim her. Our team of twenty could not hold all 80 children who were desperate for attention. I could see swarms of children around the guys, begging to play ball, or be picked up, or pushed on the swings. Some children, who were not brash enough or, perhaps, had given up asking, were playing alone on the sidewalk.

One little girl kept taking her ‘tia‘ to chain link fence where a group of toddlers were wandering, contained, safe from the bigger kids.  Her little brother was in that group, and she kept stretching her hand through the fence to hold his hand. All she wanted to do was be with him, and the fence kept them apart.

I played with my little girl, showing her my starfish earrings, lifting her up and down in a game, and laughing with her. Three years old, beautiful, lively and smart. I wondered where her parents were, why she had been abandoned, neglected, a victim of a violent home, or whatever else had led her to be all alone in the world.

After our two hours, we gathered our things, and made our way back to our bus. On the way, I asked to see the baby room. I knew there were babies somewhere at the orphanage, but I hadn’t seen them anywhere. I was taken into a room lined with cribs, where 31 babies are cared for. I was told that the orphanage prepares 1100 bottles every day for infants and bigger babies. I wondered how the staff could hold and feed 31 little ones every day.

Then I learned the hard truth. If one baby is picked up to be comforted or fed, then the baby becomes accustomed to that and will cry if it is not picked up again. And so, no one is allowed to pick up the babies to feed them or to comfort them. They stay in their cribs, and if they cry, they cry. The staff is too small to love on babies, to look into their eyes, to smile at them all day, and respond to their needs beyond basic survival.

I often hear, “Break my heart, God, for what breaks Your’s.”

My heart broke when I saw the baby room. I thought of all the years I held, fed, played, soothed, bounced, comforted and fiercely protected my babies and little ones. It’s what babies need and it’s what adults are supposed to provide. These little ones are now safe from abuse and neglect, they are fed and kept warm. But they are not celebrated, adored, cherished or told they are valued by the actions of a loving caregiver. They won’t learn to attach or to form relationships in healthy ways.

And yet, they are created in the image of God, rescued from horrible situations, and so, there is hope. There is always hope.

I don’t understand the injustices of this big world, why God has not yet rescued us all from the messes we have made. I am helpless to make a difference in the lives of these 31 babies, or the 80 children in the play yard.

Or am I?

I have been given great riches: education, influence, power, voice. I am asking God to give me His eyes and His vision for what I can do.

What breaks your heart? What riches do you have that you can bring to the table to make a difference in this world for the broken and the hurting?

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2 thoughts on “Bolivia #3: Break My Heart

  1. Mary, I am so touched by this beautiful post and hope many people can read it. God is breaking my heart just reading it but I also know God can use the short time you had with the children to give them moments of affirmation and love and through your writing, to move more of us to action on behalf of children. God bless you and know I am praying every day for your team and these children.

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