I'll Remember [117 Trip Chronicles]

  We walked into the baby room on the second floor of the orphanage. Instantly, I was overwhelmed. The room was lined with cribs; there were so many cribs, and they were all occupied by a baby.

Some babies were sleeping.

Some babies were crying.

Some were laughing.

Some were feeding themselves.

Some were crawling across the floor.

Some were being held and bounced by the women who work at this orphanage.

Some were being held by our team members.

I didn’t know what to do or which kid to hold or play with. I had imagined this moment for years… but when I was living in the moment, I was paralyzed as I processed it all.

But then, one little girl caught my eye. She had the biggest, most beautiful brown eyes. She was lying face up in her crib, soaking in all of the commotion that was going on in the room. I walked toward her, reached out, and picked her up out of the crib.

At first, she seemed very hesitant toward me. Minutes passed by, and as I held her and rocked her back and forth, I began to realize that she began snuggling up to me, burying her face into me, and wrapping her tiny arms around mine.

But what I realized next, was chilling to me.

I noticed just how tightly she was clinging onto me.

It felt alarming.

I wasn’t just holding her at this point; she was holding me.

I have held a lot of babies in my life,

but I have never had a baby hold ME so tightly.

Even the babies and kids I’ve known for their whole lives, they’ve never held me back as tightly as she did that day.

In the moment, I couldn’t help ask the question, “but why?” There had to be a reason why a not-even-two-year-old was holding onto a complete stranger as tightly as she was.

So as babies were getting passed back and forth between our team members, I held onto her. And honestly, I didn’t want to let her go. In the middle of that loud, crowded room lined with cribs and filled with people, I wanted this sweet little girl to feel like someone saw her.

A few days before we went to the orphanage, a few of our team members had a conversation about the value in short-term mission teams visiting orphanages,

and specifically the value in holding babies during these orphanage visits. I remember before going to the orphanage, I was completely unsure about what holding a baby during a short visit would do.

Would holding a baby for an hour really do anything?

And if it did, would it do any good?

Standing there holding her, I felt like my questions were answered as she held me back.

I couldn’t help but recall the words of James, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress.”

I visited her.

I saw her.

I held her.

And her name was Etanesh, which means “sister” in Amharic.

The reality is that Etanesh will never remember that day and she will not remember me. I am not the hero of this story. In fact, I might never see her again. But, I’m convinced by the way she held me that she felt like someone saw her that day. To me, that is worth everything. It’s something I’ll always remember. She is someone I’ll always remember.

Maybe that’s what life is about.

Not to be remembered. But to remember.

We remember the big moments. The hard conversations. The hilarious moments. The embarrassing moments. The milestones. The moments of pure joy. The moments that rock our whole world. We remember the defining moments.

The moments we remember have the potential to shape the way we see ourselves, others, and the world. But it’s not only what we remember that’s important. It’s what we do with what we remember that is.

I’ll remember Etanesh and the moments at the orphanage that God used to rock my world. And because of that, I’ll pray for her life and for her future. I’ll continue to serve at Carry 117. And I’ll go back to Ethiopia to spend time with orphans just like her.

This is what I’ll do with what I remember.

What about you?