Friday, April 20, 2012

Leo Calls It Priceless

I'm still on an Anna-Jani-Leo-visited-the-orphanage-to-make-kids-happy high.

The day before we visited Father's House, I was freaking out. Originally, Jani and I had invited Leo and two other people. At the last minute, the two other people we invited to help us backed out. Leo and I weren't on excellent terms and I was too full of myself to ask help from him. Jani tried calming me down by saying that we would be able to handle the kids and that we would make it through. I shut up and decided not to tell her what I was thinking. What was I thinking? How on earth would we handle thirty little human beings? Sure, Jani and I have taught Sunday School since we were ten years old or maybe twelve years old. Yes, we (or I) have lived among poor children for a week or two during one summer. And yeah, we  have done summer camps almost all my life. But Jani and I have done all those things with the help of a team which normally consisted of three or more people. So in the wee hours of April 14, which was like a few hours before the orphanage visit, I was telling God to send Leo to help us. I guess God thought that my prayer was so amusing for he showed up.

The first thing I told Leo was, 'You are in charge of the games. And take pictures.' Later on, whenever I would see him not doing anything, I would yell at him to take more pictures! There's always this little voice I hear in my brain which tells me to take pictures, but another louder voice always tells me to just enjoy the moment. So I end up passing on the responsibility of taking pictures to other people. To enjoy the moment, I had to answer the kids' questions about my funny looking hair. A kid asked me if I was a boy. Another wanted to know why it was green. Jani also had her share of funny questions. The kids thought that she and Leo were siblings and when we said they were not, the kids thought that they were together. I almost gave the kid a high five for asking that question! (No, they are not together!) I do not really know what the kids were asking or telling Leo. In my opinion, they just loved him too much. Haha.

We played games! Leo calls it charades, but it really was like paint me a picture of something. So using our bodies, we had to form different scenes from the Bible. Yes, we're holy like that!  Jani and I split up to handle two groups. At first, the kids did not get the instructions at all so I was carrying the kids to their places and telling them what to do. Well, even when they understood the game, we still had to tell them what to do. It was fun because they were all into the game. Sure, they had no idea who was winning and who was losing (we were), but they were laughing and smiling. Even the smallest kid joined and the older kids would make sure that they did not fall down or they did not get left out.

Jani's group was more organized than mine. That's why they won! But really, they would plan and plan while we would just do and do anything. It was so cute because I recall hearing that little kid standing on Jani's shoulders telling another kid, 'Dapat manalo tayo!' ('We should be the ones to win!)  And they did win because my group messed up in the end when we had to make a pyramid. A tall pyramid. When they won, the kids were like, 'What's the prize?' That was when I realized that I had totally forgotten to buy prizes for the games! Good thing the kids did not really mind when I told them that the prizes would come later for dessert. I was racking my brain thinking of what I could give them when Jani's called her mom to please get us some lollipops to give the children. There was some pandemonium as we transitioned from one activity, the games, to the next activity which was arts and crafts. Duh. You cannot do anything with kids without them yelling, laughing, singing, running and doing all sorts of naughty but cute things.

There were two arts and crafts activities. I put Leo in charge of the easy one while Jani and I handled the more complicated one. The kids stayed with their game groupings. One group went to Leo's table and the other group joined me and Jani. For Leo's table, all the kids had to do was dunk a small marble into a tub of paint and then roll the marble around the tray. It's a pretty easy activity that I learned years ago. Usually, the kids enjoy doing this and want to make more than one work of art because they never know how it will look like until it is finished. I was outside with my group of children when I went to Leo to tell him that we had to switch groups already. I took one look at the kids in his table and I was like, 'I totally forgot that kids love paint!' They had paint everywhere! They were dunking their fingers in the tubs of paint. They were wiping their hands on their clothes. The floor had paint. The chair had paint. And I forgot to bring aprons. But they looked happy! I went to one of the staff of Father's House and apologized for not using my brain. And she was like, 'Don't worry! The people who wash their clothes are good at taking out stains!'

So what did the table of me and Jani have to offer? More paint! If Leo's activity required the kids to dunk the marbles in paint, our activity called for tissue paper to be dunked in paint. The hard part was that the kids had to fold up their tissue, dunk it in paint and give it to us to unfold. Oh boy did they have fun doing this one! We had to remind them that the way they folded their tissue affected their design. It was always fun to unfold the tissue to see what came out. When we ran out of tissue, they used paper instead. I found it hilarious that while we were helping the kids, the kids were asking us all sorts of questions about our life. They wanted to know about school, our families, what we watch, what songs we sing and dozens of other things. I had to make a conscious effort to listen to them and at the same time unfold their tissue without breaking it.

We did not have any more paint. There was no more tissue. There was still tons of paper. So I sent the kids to wash their hands. It was around 11:30am. I went to Jani and asked, 'So where's the food?' I think since my brain was running on three cups of coffee and tons of faith, I did not understand her when she told me earlier that the food was being cooked somewhere and that we would have to be the ones to get it. So when she told me again that we had to get the food, I looked at her and said, 'How?' I answered my own question by pointing to Leo and sending him out to get the food from Jani's mom. So while waiting for the food to come, we played more games! The boys and some of the girls played basketball and tried to get me to play. I ended up cheering for them with Jani. The little girls got some chalk that I found in my bag and went on to draw lovely scenes on the driveway. The older girls sat in their little bahay kubo talking and singing. 

Leo came back with the food at noon. It was rather quick! And then the kids helped us set the table by bringing out forks and cups. Since they did not seem to need help, I called Jani to accompany me to the kitchen. I told her that I had paint on my face and washed it off. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Leo doing something to the spaghetti. We went out of the kitchen, said a prayer for the food and then sat down with a group of kids outside. My body was so tired that I could not bring myself to eat lunch. I just drank some water and sat there trying to relax after carrying kids on my back and shoulders. I was starting to feel really sad that I would have to leave the kids for they started asking all of us when we would return. I just told them that we would return soon. We will. In fact, this visit was a super late fulfilled promise. Last September, I told these children that Jani and I would come back. And we did.

We had to leave. I was trying to avoid their thank yous and their hugs and their lovely parting words. Actually, I cannot remember if they gathered the children and sang to us or if they just said thank you to us as we packed up and prepared to leave. I usually try to stay away from getting a thank you from the kids because that just breaks my heart for so many reasons. I am not being modest and I am not trying to look good when I say that they should not thank me or Jani or Leo. But I should be the one to thank them for showing me that it is possible to be happy, to have hope and to show Christ's love to others even when they are without parents or family. I should be the one thanking them for making me realize that in Christ we are secure, we find our identity and we have a future. It's funny how much I learn about Christ every time my friends and I spend a few hours with the kids. And somehow when it's kids who teach you something or make you realize something new, that new thing stays with you forever.

That night, I had a messed up chat with Leo where he asked why I was crying earlier in the kitchen. And I was like, 'I was not crying! I was washing my face! I have an allergy which makes me look like I am crying.' I later admitted that I was crying. I realized that I did not cry because I was sad, but I was crying because it was overwhelming. You go spend three or four hours with kids and they change your life forever. How can that not make you cry? How can you not cry when your friends share that same love you have for kids? How can you not cry when the kids smile and thank you for your efforts when all you actually did was so little? How can you ignore Christ's call to feed, to clothe, to love those who have been abandoned? How can that not move you?

And yes, we decided to hang out with the kids on a regular basis. 

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,  you were doing it to me!' - Matthew 25:37-40 

{Oh yeah. I don't own the picture. Just grabbed them from Leo without permission. ^_^}

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