I'm not sure if you've ever found a place in the world that opened up your heart and set it free; A place where you felt like the home you were always looking for; the place that made you come alive and cause your soul to sing.
Before March, I can't really say that I ever had that experience. I think I saw glimpses and shadows throughout my life, but this was different.
This was a place of cement floors and drafty ceilings; Of plain rice and meat for meals; A place of dirt, of lice, and the most basic of basics you have ever seen. But in this place, should you ever go there, you will find that you'll hardly notice those things.
What you will notice - what will capture your eyes and your heart and your soul - is the most breathtaking kind of beauty you'd only thought was reserved for heaven. A place full of those who are completely and utterly enveloped in the heart of God.
Lardee. Elisabet. Jose. Estevan. Camilla. Laura. Phillipe. Andrea. Alejandra.
These names I hope to never forget. They are the names of my little Colombian orphan friends.
Skin the color of chocolate or honey. Hands ready to take your own. Faces glowing to receive your life and love. Eyes intense to read every expression. Arms quick to reach up and be held.
Overall, they have nothing. A couple sets of clothes at best. A toy here or there. A bible. A worn out pair of shoes. A houseful of "brothers and sisters" bonded into a family not made by blood.
I wish I had the words to accurately describe every precious trait of each of these lives. Vibrant personalities; creative artistry; friendly warmth. What they were looking for from us was very simple: They just wanted us to be their friends. And somehow, in a period of just minutes, that is what we were.
In a very mysterious way, age, personality, nationality, and language were completely bridged. It didn't matter that we could not speak with our words; we could speak with our hearts, because the love of God poured out between hands in hands and fierce embraces; between sitting in silence or a game of tag; between animated hand motions or self portraits.
Even now, 6 weeks after coming home, I still don't have the words to really convey the depth of what took place in that little orphanage in Colombia. All I really know is that this place, full of those priceless little lives touched my heart unlike anything I ever expected or experienced before. There is literally not a day that goes by that I do not think of these little ones; my true, dear, and loving friends.
Perhaps the experience was so deep because I learned something of the intensity of the heart of God for His children. Perhaps it touched my heart so profoundly because I found a place to which I will return as absolutely often as I can. I really am not entirely sure.
But this one thing I do come home with certainty, and I hope to impart this to you: There truly is no other way to express the pure love of God than as James 1:27 describes, "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress..."
I can say from the deepest parts of my heart: few things in my life I look back on as having such priceless worth.
I think I really did leave my heart in Colombia.
And I hope that one day very soon I can go lose it there again.