A little bit of background first: every Tuesday we spend the day in Syrian refugee camps. We travel with a partner ministry, and our Arab interns put on a Bible-themed skit. After that we hang out with the kids and put up giant inflatables that they play on for a couple hours, and then we pack up and go. Here’s a little bit about last week.
Some people are great with kids. They can be surrounded by 25 kids that speak an entirely different language, and it still takes only three minutes for them to organize a game where everyone’s having fun and building relationships. I’m not like that. I’m more inclined to stand in the corner paralyzed and whispering “God you brought me here for a reason. Please help me figure out what that is.” This time, it was Wahla.
Somehow, maybe as a virtue of being quiet and a little confused myself, I always tend to attract the shyest little girls. When I was little I hardly spoke at all, so connecting with the ones that fly under the radar is extra special for me. This little girl started following me around after I took her picture and showed it to her. They all love the camera, of course. They pose with thumbs up and arms in the air with no prompting at all. But she loved it especially.
Everyone speaks exclusively Arabic, so the program, the announcements, and everything else are in Arabic. While we watched the skit about Jonah and the Prodigal Son she sat on my lap. Touch is huge because these kids are so rarely shown love that way, and they love to sit on your lap and hold your hand and stand pressed up against your legs. I taught her how to use my camera. Even though her hands were too small to hold it up and push all the buttons, she had every function down in five minutes and started taking pictures rapid fire. I’m going back to get her outta that camp because we’ve got a tiny photographic prodigy on our hands. She learned the sounds of the camera and how that connected to what it was doing, and she was a pro. She took this picture, isn’t she amazing?
Then we practiced counting in my language and her language, and we learned how old each other were and the inflatables went up. After a little bit of trepidation, her little FOMO (fear of missing out) kicked in and she decided she needed to experience what all her peers were raving about.
I helped her take off her boots, almost every child in the refugee camps has their shoes on the wrong feet. These are the details that break my heart, because no one is teaching them which is which or paying attention to see that they have it wrong.
We stood in line and I lifted her into the hole in the inflatables and watched her climb up and over into the next opening. She was much too little for this, the kids were taking her over on either side. She landed in the next section and saw me watching her through the netting, and she ran over and held my hand through the mesh cause she was scared. So we hung out like that and had great time. Her face was pressed against my face through mesh while all the older kids ran past her laughing and screaming.
She came out and went back in, and I stood by her mom watching her and holding her shoes. And holding her shoes everything made sense, because I felt like the luckiest person in the world just being able to watch her play.
Through a translator she said she wanted to come home with me and I told her I loved her and I missed her already and my heart shattered into a million pieces that haven’t come back together since.
Pray for Wahla. Pray that angels stand on either side of her so she can’t even be lonely or sad or hurt, and pray that someone tells her which shoe goes on which foot.