Happy Thanksgiving! In honor of today and all we have to be thankful for, I'd like to add another story from my friend Margo who travels to Rwanda. She travels because of the love of Jesus. The story she shared (below) was written by a young friend Marissa, who asks the question "Does love have a color?" It's a great, inspiring read.
When I came into the sitting room one afternoon, she was sitting motionless on the sofa looking straight ahead, with her little legs sticking straight out in front of her. “Who is this little person?” I asked myself. I had seen her in the house only briefly since I had arrived at Pastor Stephen’s home in Rwanda three weeks before for a 6 ½-week visit under the auspices of Hearts for the World International (HFTWI).
I learned she was the 3-year-old granddaughter of Grace and Jacki’s sister, Mary, and her name was Marissa. I was hoping we could make a connection, but she wanted nothing to do with me. In fact, one evening when she was leaning over the edge of the loveseat to watch TV, I sat down at the other end to see what she would do. Honestly, if she could have moved any further away from me, she would have fallen off the end of the loveseat!
Spoken language was not going to be very useful, either. Although I greeted her in Kinyarwanda, I learned her native tongue was a Ugandan dialect, which I did not know at all. She knew almost no English and very little Kinyarwanda, and my Kinyarwanda was at a first-grade level.
She would come into the sitting room every afternoon after her nap. Unlike American children, she had no toys, books or games with her but instead would play with the various doilies on the furniture or the errant threads or ties on her clothing and be in her own world when the adults would engage in conversation around her.
My heart went out to her and I wanted things to be different for her, so I prayed about ways to bridge the gap. It began with photos I took one morning when she and the children’s nannies and household help were singing along to praise music. Marissa was very pleased with the photos.
Then I thought of using pictures, and, though many will vouch that I am not a good artist, I drew a picture of her and put her name by it. When I showed it to her, a smile broke out on her face, and earlier that day she had reached out to touch my hand to find out what white skin felt like. That was a big step for her and trust was building. When we said good night that evening as she departed for Mary’s home, I spread my arms out wide, and with just a little encouragement from her nanny, we shared a hug. I also learned to say “Marissa is a sweet little girl” in Kinyarwanda.
Other things came to mind to show her my love for her. I bought her a slinky caterpillar, a toy just for her. When it fell apart because it was given to the baby to play with, I must admit I was jealous for Marissa, because this was her toy, something that was to be her very own. If she wanted to share, that would be a fine thing. She liveso touch my handictures, alvery pleased with thee to bridge the gap. It began with p in a culture in which so very much is shared, and I truly have no fault with that, but in my Western mind I wanted her to have her own toy, too.
Then a new thought came to me. I bought a book, a child’s first ABC’s book with stickers to be pasted in by the English words and pictures. That established a pattern. Every afternoon that I was not away we had our book time. It was a time of sitting close and learning together, of laughter and love shared, and she was a good little student. Every evening when it was time to say good night, I would open my arms, and we would share a big hug and we also started greeting each other that way.
One afternoon when she came in, I was playing cards with two sweet girls, friends of Stephen’s boys. She spoke with them a bit sharply, and her nanny told me that she said, “You cannot have her. She is my Margo.” Hmmmm.
So, what did little Marissa remind me of and teach me? God finds ways to bridge the gap between us and him, with his son, Jesus, being the utmost gift of all. When we want nothing to do with him, and I definitely did not at an earlier time in my life, he will not give up seeking us and reaching out to us. He very much wants to develop and maintain a personal relationship with us. He wants to spend time with us, and as we come to know him and love him, we, too, desire to spend more time with him and want to know him more. He also is very patient, compassionate and creative and he is our advocate and is jealous on our behalf. He watches out for us, wanting good influences in our lives and not neglecting time with him with too many other diversions, and his special book for us is the Holy Bible.
I am so thankful to God for his abundance of gifts, and especially, the tremendous gift of his love. I am so very thankful, too, for the special gift of a little girl named Marissa. When it came time to say good-by to her, my tangible gift to her was her book, which I had been keeping in my room each day for safe keeping. Marissa is now back in her home in Uganda. I know that if we meet again, and I certainly hope we will, that we will open our arms wide and hug each other immensely. If that is not to be, we shall do so in heaven. Even more so, I know our arms will be open wide as we greet our Lord and he greets us , when the time comes for each us who call him our Savior and our Lord to go to our eternal home.