“My New Friend Anna: Up… Up!”
Guest Blogger: The Missions and Media Guy – Michael Kline
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them,“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” – Mark 10:13-16
“Uncle Michael, Uncle Michael… Up! Up!” A small child, hair braided and face in a smile runs up to me and raises her arms in the air. I pick her up and she points. She looks at me and says where she wants to go, “I want on swing!” “I want to go to Aunt Rebek!” or in some cases, “I want to see a Benji (one of the Kwathu dogs)!” Who is this vivacious little lady leading me and my teammates around Kwathu in our arms? Well, allow me to introduce you to my new friend Anna, an inspirational girl who captured the hearts of our team, and one of the children being protected, loved, and raised at Kwathu Children’s Home. Anna was the first of the younger children to remember my name, and from the very first day, she called me, “Uncle Michael.” I say this as if it’s special, she knew everyone on our team’s name by the third day, and addressed us like she had known us her entire life! The first time she asked me to carry her was on the first day, and having Anna in my arms became a common theme on the trip. She loved being carried by pretty much anyone, but particularly by me and another one of our team members, Rebekah, or “Auntie Rebek,” as Anna called her.
Anna was always smiling, always looking for some mischief, and also I must admit, she could be a little bit sassy. If your sunglasses disappeared, or your hat, or anything else that she could find a way to play with, you know where to find it, in the hands of Anna running around the children’s home enjoying it. She would always give it back without much complaint, but if you couldn’t find it again later, you knew where it was! Her assertive and vocal personality also made her a leader to the younger children, even though she’s only 5! In that vain, let me tell you an Anna story I won’t soon forget:
7 Days In A Week
It was Thursday night, Day 10 of the trip, and we had just had an exhausting day of mostly office work. The eyes of our team members were glazed over, staring into the distance with looks making apparent the need for sleep. In this condition, we were waiting for a worship night when 5 of the kids including Anna ran into the middle of the room. After Anna asked us to pick her up a few times, She began to sing a song she learned at school: “Sunday, Monday! Tuesday, Wednesday! Thursday, Friday… Saturday!! There are seven days, there are seven days, there are seven days in a week!”
Then she repeated, but louder. Then more of the children chimed in, and they got louder, and soon, in the middle of a room full of exhausted adults, Anna was leading the children as they ran in a circle screaming the “7 Days in a Week” song. If someone tried to change the song, she would sing louder to get them back into place. Sometimes, she would even stop in the middle of the song on “Thursday” or “Friday” and just start all over again, getting the rest of the children to go right along with her! All of the adults were too exhausted to stop her, and I couldn’t stop laughing at the experience. This is the assertiveness and bold character that Anna lives every day with. Her joy is bold, so bold and assertive that other children, even a little older than her follow right along. This boldness would also be shown in the facing of her fears, specifically the fear of one of the puppies at Kwathu, Benji, or as I called him, “The Godzilla Dog of Kwathu.”
The Godzilla Dog of Kwathu
Benji. Say the name and you will incite fear in anyone under the age of seven at Kwathu Children’s Home. When they see this puppy, they scream and run in fear (like in a Godzilla movie, hence the nickname). The puppy has a tendency to chew on some of their toys, and sometimes try to bite. However, there is one child who is willing to boldly go where no other child goes, and ask to see, “a Benji.” That child… you guessed it… is Anna! Does she scream and run when he gets too close? Of course! But when she senses Benji in the room, she walks to you, and asks to be picked up and points and says, “I want to see a Benji.” Then you show Benji to her and she lets out a mix between a laugh and a squeal, smiling until you get too close. If you put her down, she runs away from Benji, but when the other kids run away in seemingly sheer terror, Anna seemed to run away in a playful way, screaming and acting terrified, but with a small secret smile on her face. That’s how she handled fear. She is always so much quicker to a smile than a tear.Which amazed and inspired me, considering the difficulties she struggles through due to the difficult upbringing she was subjected to before she arrived at Kwathu.
The following is an excerpt from Kwathu Children’s Home’s update last year in April, when they first received Anna: “Meet our cute little girl who recently became one of the newest members of the Kwathu family. Anna was admitted to Kwathu Children’s Home on the 18th of May 2015 through the assistance of the Livingstone Social Welfare office. She is a sweet 4 year old girl who unfortunately has been a victim of child abuse. In the past four years she has been physically abused by her mother who is a mental patient suffering from a condition called schizophrenia, and her father who is an alcoholic and has since abandoned the child. After being admitted to hospital for about 3 weeks, this little girl was diagnosed with moderate malnutrition, anemia, malaria and a wound infection which was a result of severe burns on her body. She also suffered a broken left arm in two places as shown by an x-ray result. This is one of the disturbing cases of child abuse we haven’t encountered for some time since our home opened.”
This is the life this joyful and lively little girl came from. She has healed from many of her wounds, but still goes to the hospital every week to rehab due to burns on her finger. Yet… after the abuse, the loss, and the suffering, she still trusts. This is the girl that is the first one to learn everyone’s name. This is the girl that runs to you, raises her arms up, and exclaims, “Up! Up!” asking you to pick her up and bring her places. This is the girl that loves and leads the other children around her in song and in play. This is the girl that boldly stands up to “a Benji.” And for one final encouraging story, this is the 5-year old girl that when I was so sick I was bed-ridden, she walked up to me with a big smile and said, “Uncle Michael! Uncle Michael! You look like you should go to the hospital with me!!”
Anna is just one of the children Kwathu Children’s Home has rescued and is raising to a hope and a bright future, walking with Christ. From abuse, disease, and a broken home she came, and to a loving home with mamas to love and guide her, 4 meals a day provided for her, an education to prepare her for a bright future, friends to play with, medicine to heal, and spiritual mentors to guide her in her Christian walk she arrived. Just as with the people bringing little children to Jesus in Mark 10, people brought Anna to Jesus Christ’s followers at Kwathu Children’s Home. Now, I hope you’ll join me in prayer that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide Kwathu in taking Anna, and other children like her into their arms, and continuing their ministry to bless them. It makes me wonder, when was the first time she told someone, “Up! Up!”? I expect that before she ever exclaimed those words, Christ was working in the mama’s, the staff, and the people everywhere who contribute to this ministry to take her in His arms and lift her, lift her up… up out of a broken home, and into a hope for a bright future.
Would you like to be a part of the hands that bless these children, or the arms that take them in? To Donate, click HERE to be directed to the Donation page of Grace Klein Community, then designate your gift to Kwathu Children’s Home. Would you like to serve on a short-term, mid-term, or long-term mission to Kwathu? Then e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.