In three weeks, I’ll be returning for the third time to the place I first saw our youngest two children— the place they called “Home” for over a year until they joined our family. The memories of those days are warm and dear in my heart. I think of the first kiss my new son gave me; the joy of seeing him bond instantly with my husband. I think of my new daughter asleep on my back while I painted at a benefit event. I think of the first time I heard their laughter. I think of their tears when we left. I think of the joy of returning four months later, never to say goodbye to them again. I think of the way The Archibald Project wove our story into a beautiful documentary that still makes me cry every time I see it.
But this time, I’m returning not as an adoptive mother, but as an advocate. I’m now returning to the place of dear friends—partners in ministry who--while they live on another continent, with a different language and with quite different life experiences--have become as near as family. They have taught me more than I could imagine since I first came to learn about this little organization called “Mwana Villages” two and a half years ago…
As I reflect upon the experiences that now shape my role as a Mwana advocate, I think of the bumpy drive through Henriette’s neighborhood and the stark realization of how easily child trafficking and family exploitation can take place. I think of the warm welcome by a Congolese adoptive mother and seeing the love for her new 12-year-old daughter. I think of learning the Congolese word for “mother to twins” (“Mangoudi!” which is a name of honor and always said with much gusto) and how one of the poorest families I’ve ever met bears that name with the same pride and joy as I do. I think of the meticulously made bed and swept floor in Jarel’s 8x10 hut (which he shares with two sisters). I think of the heaps and heaps of trash, and marvel at all I take advantage of when I look out my door in Alabama. I think of the women I shared conversations with, women who have themselves been orphaned, have been entrenched in prostitution, have fought for their children, and who continue to seek any means they can to provide. And I think...those women love their babies fiercely, just like me.
Honestly, I can’t wait to be back. I want to soak it all in, learning how I can advocate more effectively for these people and this place I love so dearly. I want to share their stories well. I want others to see and know and love and be moved to action. So I invite you to join the journey as we will soon be Congo-bound.