Today I saw the dead brought back to life.
I also became a dishwasher.
This morning was our last morning at CFI. The last day is always bittersweet. This morning the parents (all mothers plus two fathers) of the younger children came for Family Day. This group is great fun, because we get to spend more time with their children and with them, and thus we feel we know them a little better.
We visited a bit this morning, and Michelle gave a short talk to say farewell. Mark presented the gospel, and then someone asked if the women had anything they’d like to say. Last year, I don’t recall any of the mothers really speaking unless it was to say a short “Thank you”. This year, four separate women stood to speak. They spoke at length and with passion. Eyob, the mother of Abraham (my favorite little guy at CFI), spoke through flowing tears. Peter interpreted her words. Translated, she said, “Even when our children are dirty and their noses run, you don’t care. You pick them up and wipe their noses and hold them and play with them and love them. You spend time with us and talk with us. No one does this for us. No one in our own community does this for us. Thank you. Because of what you do, we know you come from God.” Humbling. So, so humbling.
CFI then had a small ceremony for us. Each of us received a flat, round woven mat, that could be used for a hot pad, or as Elizabeth demonstrated for us, could be hung on the wall and used as a photo display. We each got a picture of her and Peter and Joshua to begin our collection. J We also each received thank you cards created by the children. One of the ones I received said, “Thank you for letting my great-aunt make a necklace.” Humbling. So very humbling.
We shared lunch together, and then said goodbye to the children and mothers.
The afternoon was to be spent organizing CFI’s storage room. While Nathan and Tim spearheaded that effort, the team members who had done manicures for the mothers gave manicures to the 6 staff. The two teachers, Mulu and Tigist were first, as the cooks were still cleaning up from lunch. As Tigist, the cook, came in to have her nails done, I asked if she was finished with kitchen work. She said no. I told her she couldn’t have her nails done until the dishes were all washed because the manicure would be ruined. She said she’d wear gloves. I told her that her manicure would still be ruined, so I’d finish washing her dishes. She looked at me as if I had three heads. She cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow and stood there a minute, trying to decipher what I’d just said. She asked me what I’d just said. I told her again. She said, “No.” I said, “Yes”. I invited her to come sit, and Elizabeth (from our team – we have two Elizabeths and two Tigists this trip) took over my station and started Tigist’s manicure.
I spent a good part of the afternoon washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Somewhere between 50 and 70 kids eat at CFI each day, plus all the staff and today our 11 team members. That’s a lot of dishes! And the pans they cook in are huge! It was great fun, because I’m fairly certain they didn’t think I could do it. They kept coming in to check on me. I’m not sure if they thought I’d drop from exhaustion or do a horrible job, but in the end they told me that I was a hard worker and had done a good job and that they were surprised! It was a humble privilege to serve them in this way.
After the storage room was placed in beautiful organized order and all the nails were painted and all the dishes were washed, it was time to say goodbye to the staff. We sat and talked for a minute, waiting on Ephrim to come pick us up. I saw someone walk by the front windows, and quietly, a young boy walked into the room. Everyone paused, silent, and then gasps went round the room. Everyone jumped to their feet and moved toward the child. It was Anatolee.
The child presumed dead, or worse, had just walked into the room. He was back at CFI – “my school!” – for the first time. The staff gently approached him, hugged him, stroked his face softly, and wept and wept. One by one, they took him in their arms and whispered quietly to him. Tigist, the cook, could not stop crying as she held him on her lap and spoke to him. His mother, barefoot, sat on the floor watching them. She beamed. She simply could not stop smiling the entire time she was there. At some point, the two teachers huddled together with him, talking softly. Then there were cheers. Apparently, they had been asking him if he remembered their names, and he had remembered Mulu’s. What joy! We left them together, mother, son, and school staff, and slipped quietly out to Ephrim’s van.
Honestly, at the orphanage, Peter had struggled to be absolutely sure that the boy in front of him was Anatolee. When we had returned to the guest house and looked at his picture from his file, it was hard to be sure. Even his mother, when she first saw the picture of him on Michelle’s phone had paused a moment. But in the school, in his own clothes, with his mother, he looked completely like Anatolee, the handsome boy in the photographs we had studied. Resurrected from the dead, he was himself again. It amazed me how circumstances so dramatically changed his physical appearance. He truly did not look like the same boy we’d seen two days earlier. And I can’t describe his mother to you. She radiated. She was more beautiful than words can describe, what pure, complete joy looks like. What a humbling moment, an incredible privilege to watch the lost come home, the dead be brought back to life. Once again, had we left CFI at the planned departure time, we would have missed them.
Thank You, God, for Your perfect timing. Thank You for the miracles You still perform. Thank You for the incredible privilege of watching You be God. Thank You for allowing us to participate in the amazing things You do. Thank you, God, that even today, You really do bring the dead back to life. Thank You for resurrection! Thank You!