When I heard there was a “baby house” at El Shaddai Ministries, which houses babies to four years, I knew that’s where I would be every day that month. Having contracted baby fever long ago, it was the only ministry that I was interested in.
El Shaddai is a children’s home located in the Mnyokane/Ekufikeni valley in northwestern Swaziland. Their mission is simple: to take in children from the area who have been orphaned, abused, or neglected, to love them, and to give them a wonderful home.
The first day at the baby house, I was playing with several of the kids outside on the swing set. Often, it ended up being one American trying to juggle pushing at least four different kids on the swings, including the one that was across the playground. I can still hear the choruses of “Jen! Push me! Push me!”
As I was running back and forth, trying to keep up with pushing all of the kids on the swings, I looked over, and I saw him.
He was standing on the outskirts of the swing set, looking at the ground, then looking up at the kids playing on the swings, wishing he could join. His dirty white t-shirt was a stark contrast to his dark skin, and his eyes were round and moist with tears.
My heart melted.
I walked over to him with an outstretched hand, intending to lead him over to a swing for a turn. Instead, he reached both arms up towards me-the universal “pick me up”. I picked him up, and he grasped on to me tightly.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Musa,” he quietly whispered.
“Musa, do you want to play on the swings?” He nodded his head, and his eyes were wide.
I placed him on the swing, and pushed him for a full thirty minutes. We only stopped because it was time to go inside for lunch.
The next day, I walked into the baby house, and I had barely taken off my shoes before Musa came running towards me, arms outstretched, and gave me a bear hug around my legs.
We were BFFs from then on.
Every day was spent playing on the swings, singing endless rounds of If You’re Happy and You Know It and Jesus Loves Me, sliding down the slide, reading books, and rocking him to sleep when he got too tired to play. I made sure to tell him often that Jesus loves him.
I was falling in love with this little four year old Swazi boy.
One morning, I asked the director if any of the children at El Shaddai were adoptable.
“Not really,” she said. “We used to do domestic adoptions, but it ended up being harder on the children. They have already left one home and transitioned to the one here, and it is too much to ask them to transition to another.”
Of course, I was asking her with Musa in mind. My heart was a little sad, but I knew that the logistics of adoption, especially during the World Race, were probably not going to work out anyway.
On our last day there, I went by the baby house to say bye to the kids, and I saved Musa for last. We played on the slide one last time, and when it was time to go, I knelt down in front of him.
“Musa, it’s time for me to go. Always remember, I love you, and Jesus loves you.”
He looked back at me and said a quiet, but sure, “Yes.”
As our van drove away, past the baby house, most of the kids waved goodbye from their swings or their spot on the ground. Musa ran along the fence, stopping only when he could go no further.
Musa absolutely captured my heart, and I am so grateful for the short time that I was able to be in his life.
Has there been someone in your life, even for a short period of time, who has made an impact on you?