The majority of the kids were gone all last week, although there were still several around who had no place to go. Those who had travelled went to locations along the coast, to Guayaquil, and some beyond. They didn't begin to return until late yesterday afternoon.
So, for our last regular day with the kids last week, they planned a pretty impressive "going away" party. We were led into a room with a hand-painted poster on the wall (their gift to us) with all the kids names on it. Check out the spelling. They wrote our names phonetically to how they pronounce our names, and knew from previous interaction that one of us had a G, not a J. HILARIOUS. Fatima asked eagerly if they had spelled them right. "Pretty close!" We also had a little yarn stitch work thing given that had a G (for Jamie) and a J (for Geoff) on it, that I will cherish!
Geoff and I were both wrecks by the end. We weren't at all prepared to say goodbye, having only found out a couple of days before we didn't have that last week with them. We later found out that many would return by Sunday night, and made plans to come see them one final time. That allowed us the peace of mind to know they got "home" safely and to gather some parting gifts for them...and to get a few more hugs, of course.
The most encouraging part of the week, as I grieved the kids, was a group of our expat friends who expressed a desire to organize an effort to help the orphanage, with food especially, on a regular basis. They have been desperately low on food, and funds lately due to several issues that I'll spare you. On Saturday, Geoff and I took them up to meet Fatima and others at the orphanage. They had a great conversation talking about the best ways to be of help and everyone was really excited about the opportunity. With most of the kids out, we were able to take another full tour, as they showed the expats the housing and grounds.
When we went by the orphanage last night, kids were milling around the front gate waiting for us, as they knew what time to expect us. The two new soccer balls we had brought were quickly scooped up and the games began! We presented Fatima with the donated funds, much of which will be immediately used to provide food they desperately need for the kids this week. They have been worried about what would happen when the kids got back, and this was a direct answer to prayer. Between the donations of many of you from the States, and those from the local community of expats, I am prayerfully hopeful that none of "my kids" will go hungry again.
Long story short - it was heartbreaking to say goodbye. I've said lots of goodbyes in my life as I've left countries and people from around the world that I love dearly; and I do this not knowing if I'll ever see them again. The goodbyes yesterday were the hardest by far. Not because it's the freshest grief on my heart, but because I don't actually know if these kids will be okay. Others I have said goodbye to I only have to miss, but these kids I miss and grieve knowing how vulnerable they still are. Please continue to pray for them, to remember them in your hearts, and to take care of them by caring for your neighbors wherever in the world you are.
Here's a slideshow of the goodbye party last week, and a few from the most recent "Tour de Orphanage."