Saturday, June 16, 2007
I left my heart on the Yukon . . .
I can’t remember the last time I felt so exhausted. I quit counting the times I dozed off on the plane today. Speaking of planes, we flew into KHBC camp from our village yesterday on a float plane, took a two hour boat ride today to Tanana, then caught a small plane to Fairbanks and just arrived in Anchorage via Alaska Airlines. (It was a very cool flight. The pilot flew us over Mt. McKinley—you could almost make out the climbers near the summit).
Anyway, we didn’t sleep much in the village—and I doubt we’ll catch up until we get home. The combination of the sunny weather, the energy of the kids, and the knowledge that God was at work around us kept my adrenaline pumping. I’ve been able to unwind a bit today as we put the outreach behind us, but every time I awaken from a cat nap, I find myself praying for the children . . .
Chelsea, who is seven, is a beautiful little girl. She listened to the lessons and answered our questions. She was so sweet and well-behaved that I told myself that she might actually live in a home where she was loved and cherished. Protected and encouraged.
That illusion ended abruptly when we overheard her 15 year-old brother calling her every terrible, degrading name he could think of. Slut, whore, idiot—these are the tamer ones—the hateful words crashed down on her as she helplessly wept. A team member confronted her brother, who only repeated his tirade.
Ironically, our lesson that day had been on treating others with kindness. Her brother had watched intently and even memorized the Bible verse.
I ran into Chelsea down by the river yesterday and she invited me to her house. She led me across town, down a dirt path, to a run-down two-story house. She skipped into the mud room and returned with her “mother” in tow. Carla is actually Chelsea’s grandmother, who is also raising her two brothers. I’m not sure where Chelsea’s real mom lives, if she’s even still alive. From the stories I heard last week, grandparents often end up raising their grandkids because their adult children are dead--or off partying.
Anyway, Carla was friendly enough and even told me a bit of her story. She pointed to a bare patch next to her garden and told me that was the site of their original house. When I asked what happened to it, she told me it has burned to the ground—with their 21-year-old son inside. The tragedy took place years ago, but the grief was fresh as she told me of his plans to join the marines and make a good name for himself.
I hugged her, and told her I’d lost my son, too. She looked a little startled when I said I’d pray for her—for comfort and for strength to finish raising up her grandchildren.
She thanked me, and Chelsea and I headed back to the rec hall I’d called home for a week. I told her she was beautiful, smart and a real princess. I gave her a beaded bracelet I’d brought with me and told her to remember I was praying for her whenever she wears it.
I told her I loved her, Jesus loved her, and that we’d be back next year.
Chelsea has the most amazing smile . . .