Seeing Elizabeth Smile

Last month, I found out how to turn this sweet girl

...into this smiling, radiant one!

And all I had to do to see that smile was get on a few airplanes and go meet her. There may have been 3 or 4 vaccinations, some typhoid pills in the office fridge, and a month of anti-malaria medicine, but it was worth it to see the face of the child on my refrigerator door light up when we showed up in her village from the other side of the world.

It was our second full day on our Compassion Sponsor trip to Rwanda, and Mike and I had been told at dinner the night before that we were going to meet our sponsor child, Elizabeth, on this morning. We woke up on the shores of Lake Kivu that day to birds calling riotously from the trees, and had our coffee and croissants on the hotel grounds with the resident cranes.

After breakfast, we grabbed the polka dot backpack that our kids had helped fill for Elizabeth and headed to the bus for the short trip to the Compassion Child Development Center she attends. Warm greetings from Pastor Etienne and the staff at the Center awaited us as we exited the bus, and then, we saw the children.

I had unofficially named this trip Hug All the Kids in Rwanda, and it was finally time! Rwanda loves her children, and it showed in the happy faces of all who came running. The children wanted to hold hands, sometimes two or three at a time would be on each side of us. Some stroked their soft hands down the light skin of our forearms, and ran their fingers through our long, smooth hair. All the children keep their heads shaved, so our hair was often being touched.

Elizabeth was not yet at the Child Development Center when we arrived, so we had time to interact with the staff and other children. I’d heard that the children love to see themselves in camera phone pictures, so I took off my sunglasses and put them on a boy nearby and took this photo:

Soon, I saw someone waving me over from across the schoolyard, and I knew my girl had arrived. I broke into a run, dropping to my knees in front of this child in the purple skirt and top. This is what I came to Rwanda for. Operation Hug All the Kids in Rwanda was now simply hug THIS child of Rwanda.

It's been a month since we got home from Africa, and I am just now beginning to find the words...