Reading sponsor letters and building relationships

(Written by team member, Debbie Wyne)

Day 5 Sintaro update, Feb 4, 2015

     Today is a great day! We continue with health assessments of the students, but decide to utilize some of the local help to assist us in doing some of the tasks.  This frees me up to do something new!  I am SO excited because I have the privilege of reading the sponsor letters to the children!  All 150 students have their costs covered by someone in our home church community, and many have written personal notes to their “kids”!  An interpreter is assigned to me, and each child gets some one-on-one time as I get to relay words of love and care from their sponsors. Each time a team visits from our church, we bring sponsor letters and have the children write notes or draw pictures to send back.  Last time a team was here, they took a picture of each child with their parent.  We’ve made copies of those photos and enclosed them along with their sponsor letters too.
     The children listened with rapt attention.  Their eyes light up when they see the photo of themselves with their parent.  In Sintaro Village, people don’t have mirrors, let alone cameras, so they don’t get to see what they look like.  I think they are fascinated to see a picture of themselves!  They also peer closely at the pictures of their sponsor families and it seems they are excited to be able to take their prized envelopes with them to really study all of their envelopes.
     It warms my heart to read the sweet notes.  Sometimes the letter will ask a question, and I’ll wait for an answer.  The littlest ones are very shy, but are warming up quickly.  The older ones seem to feel a little more comfortable interacting with us and are more apt to reply.  One question that I ask a couple of times is, “what do you like to do when you are not in school?” .  One little girls answers meekly, “running”, and several others tell me they walk to collect water.  It is sobering to realize that life outside of school carries so much responsibility for a 5 year old.
     In the afternoon, I have an interpreter named Joseph.  He speaks very fluent english and is clearly a Godly man.  We’ve already had conversations about his faith, and it is evident in the way he carries himself and interacts with such kindness towards the kids.  As I read comments like, “God loves you”, “We love you and are praying for you”, “May the Lord bless you and keep you”, Joseph is placing one hand on the child’s head and another over their heart to extend the blessing.  I often join him by placing a loving hand gently on the child’s shoulder.  These are sweet, sweet moments.
     Flies are a constant presence when the kids are around.  It’s sad to say, but you can tell a lot about the health of the child by the number of flies on them. As I sit reading the letters, with a young girl snuggled between Joseph and I, I have a moment when I stop and realize what it is I’m doing.  I’m in Africa!  I’ve got one of those fly-covered, filthy, big-brown-eyed kids leaning up against me (like you see in the heart-tugging commercials), and I’m not bothered in the least.  All I see is a beautiful, sweet angel of a girl who is hanging on my every word.  She is God’s beloved child, and it is a gift to sit with her, flies and all.
Reading sponsor letters to the children--a privilege and joy!

Reading sponsor letters to the children–a privilege and joy!

     I am the final station and when the students are done with me, they scamper excitedly off to return up the hill to the school for their eye exam.  At one point, I look up and see one of the children exiting the fenced area of the health clinic (where others just stand at the fence to watch the action) and they are surrounded by people who want to know all about the treasured letter and photos the students have received.  There is giddy excitement as they share with one another.
     We take a short break for lunch and continue with the same routine in the afternoon.  I am happy to report that I am feeling much, much better!  In fact, I even eat some of the food at lunch!  Today I have more energy and am feeling much more my normal self.
     After lunch, Kindri and Lori travel to the government offices several kilometers down the road for a meeting with some government officials.  I say a prayer over them before they leave and head back to my post.
     Once we have seen all of the children, we walk back to the school.  All of the kids are there and once they see us, we get the same excited and joyful greetings that we’ve become accustomed to.  I stand just outside a classroom and 4 older girls are there with me.  We are doing our best to communicate, when one of them sings a little ditty.  I hear her, make eye contact and then echo back what she has just done.  She breaks out into a huge grin and does it again.  Of course, I follow suit and soon all four of us are making silly noises and laughing.  I’ve always said that music is the language of my soul.  🙂
     After a few minutes, the girls are shooed back into their classroom.  I’m standing just outside and the window is open.  The students can see me and they begin peering through the window.  I decide it’s time to get really silly, so I start making faces through the window.  The entire class erupts in laughter at the silly white woman!  Inside, I spy the girls I had just been singing with.  I lean my head through the open window and make one of “our” noises, and they reply from inside!  Now the entire class is engaged with me!  I start quizzing them on body parts (in English) and they joyfully join in the game.  I wander inside the classroom and the fun continues.
     The teacher now comes into the class with me (he’s been helping with the eye exams).  He tells me that the class wants me to take a group photo and I happily oblige.  I ask if they would sing a short song so that I can video tape it.   The teacher doesn’t quite understand, so I try to pantomime what I want.  Next thing you know, my whole body is in the game and I’m singing and wiggling my body to show what I want.   The kids think I’m hysterical and they begin to mimic me.  The whole class is a wiggly, silly mess! I clap my hands one time, and in unison, they follow suit.  Oooh, this is fun!  What else can I get them to do?  I jump up in the air, and they all jump!  Whatever I can think of to do, they do it also.  Pretty soon I start putting moves together and we all end up with our arms in the air, scratching our bellies and making “ooh, ooh” noises, and I tell them they are silly monkeys!  Let’s just say that I am thankful no one had a video camera on me in that moment of pure joy!
Building relationships in Sintaro

Building relationships in Sintaro

     Too soon, it is time to go.  Kindri and Lori are back from their meeting and the group packs up and heads back to our hotel.  When I return to my room, I use the restroom and discover that my toilet is no longer working.   My first thought was how thankful I am that this didn’t happen when I was so sick a few days ago! I get resourceful and figure out that they had turned the water off at the toilet. Why?  Who knows.  This is Africa.  I turned the water back on and was back in business–no pun intended! Ugh, the wifi is STILL out.  Not only that, the power is out too. Fortunately, there’s still some daylight left and I’m able to take a shower.
     The team gathers for dinner (although Kindri stays behind to get some rest), and then we call it a night.  It’s been a good, good day, and I’m excited about what tomorrow will bring!