Love…the raw, earthy, sustaining sort…takes many forms. Recently, on a single weekend, several of those bumped up against one another in a most poignant configuration. I was so arrested by the beauty of it, the range, that I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Here, a snapshot…
Friends gather to shower my lovely daughter and her little one to be with gifts, with wisdom, and with love. Laughter. So much laughter. Knowing nods from young moms as she is given an enormous coffee mug. “Oh yeah, you’ll need that!” Cheers and amens for the gripe water. Ooos and ahhhs over ruffles, and pink, and soft, and sugar and spice.
And finally, a prayer. Hands on. Hearts open. Interceding for mom, dad, and baby. And my daughter is reminded that she is part of a community of women who have her back. Who are seeking God on her behalf…on behalf of her daughter. Who promise to be there for her, with her.
This is love.
Just after I return from the shower, we load up the fam and head for the airport. Bennett, Kali and Kaleb Green arrive this day. They will sleep this night in their forever home. It has been a long journey. Longer than the thousands of miles from Ethiopia to Nashville. For them. For their new family. Arduous. Costly. And completely worth all of it.
Love has done this.
Before ever I saw Rafik, I knew him. His was one of those names that showed up over and over as Kelsey talked about her first trip to Malawi. His was the solemn, cherubic face that somehow made it into so many of her photographs. The first time I saw him running toward us on his tiny little legs, I understood why. Ken Morris, the missions pastor who has led so many teams to Malawi, has this to say about little Rafik:
For the past three years, this child, this person with the purest of loves, did more to disarm teams of reticent, apprehensive, cautious Americans than any other single person in Adziwa. Rafik would quietly walk up to any team member who had empty arms. He would get their attention and then, with the warmest eyes and biggest smile, fling his arms over his head. Without saying a word his actions announced to the American guest, “I’m so glad you’re here, I really want to be your friend. Please pick me up!”
On February 18th, in the Lilongwe Central Hospital in Malawi, 4 year old Rafik died.
Cause of death: “sores in the head”. Cause of death: Poverty.
Ken Morris again,
More than once I thought of Rafik and wondered what God had planned for this special young child. Would he be a teacher, a pastor, a community leader? I thought, “As we watch him grow up, there are some of us who could help him dream and consider options he otherwise would most likely never imagine.” Today I see that God had it in mind that Rafik would be the one to help us dream and consider options that we might not otherwise consider.
For many of us in America, the poor and vulnerable people of the world are little more than a statistic. For some of us, God has used Rafik to grab our hearts and connect us more deeply and personally with a community of orphans, widows and caring families who daily battle the many threats of poverty.
This too, then, is love.
Love is costly. Always. It is a cost worth paying. Always.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
~I John 4:7
*Shower photos copyright Angela Davis