by Leigh McGruder

In just a few days, I will be on my way to my favorite place on earth.

Three summers ago, my family was vacationing all around East Africa. While in Tanzania, we were driving around to kill a few hours before a flight when my mom spotted a sign that read “Imani Orphanage.” She asked our tour guide if we could go spend time with the kids. We got there and immediately were swarmed with hugs by kids ages 3-15.

These children absolutely made the trip for me. I couldn’t stop thinking about them when we left. We traveled for another four or five days and then came back to spend a few more hours with our new friends. We gave them clothes, toys, snacks, polaroid pictures and all the love we could.

Two years later, last summer, we went back to Africa to see new things and to spend three whole days with the kids that had stolen our hearts two years earlier.

As soon as I landed in Africa, I was so anxious to get to the orphanage. We spent nine days traveling and seeing amazing sights. I loved all the experiences and beautiful sceneries I was blessed by, but my patience to get to my kids had just about run out.

This was my instagram post the day that we were reunited.

“He will quiet you with His love.” Zep. 3:17. Upon our arrival into Tanzania where we planned to spend 3 days at the orphanage we came across 2 years ago and we have kept in contact with since then, we were surprised by these beautiful faces at the airport..the past 2 weeks in Africa seeing animals and sights were a blast, but I knew that seeing my babies again would definitely be the best part. as soon as I saw them standing there in their little dresses my heart exploded..tears just poured out of my eyes, I’ve never experienced such an overwhelming joy.. Then I ran up to hug and kiss all of them and the tears just wouldn’t stop..I was so happy.. “He will quiet you with His love.” What a picture of His beautiful, overwhelming, unending love.

I have never been so overcome with joy in my whole life, and my joy came out in tears.

Oh and I might of fallen in love with a boy named Sedekiah…

He’s pretty good at doing push-ups. ?

The children I have built relationships with there are worth more to me than anything. I have learned so much about life and love just by watching these children. I’ve seen contentment on a whole new level. Here in the States, we are content when we have a full tummy, new clothes, and happy people around us and sometimes that’s not even enough. But if one of those is off, then we are having a bad day. Any little thing can throw off our whole day, because we let it. In David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, he says that we all operate on “default settings” and think the worst in frustrating situations because it’s easier than being positive. We pity ourselves when we have bad days, and we would rather everyone else just have a bad day with us. We are simply selfish and lazy. It’s the way we live. The world revolves around us and even if we have the motivation to wake up with a smile on our face, as soon as someone or something annoys us, that motivation is gone. At Imani, the orphanage, I was shown how content these children are with so little. They have a hole in the ground as a toilet. Dirty undersized or oversized clothes are passed down from child to child as everyday outfits. A bucket of limited water to wash with, I’m not even sure if they own soap. Plates of rice and vegetables are licked clean at every meal, even by 3-year-old Sedekiah. I watched him start to cry when the woman behind the window to the dark, smoky kitchen didn’t give him all the spinach he was expecting. Once she gave him more, he proceeded to use his unclean hands to eat his vegetables. Not a scrap of food was left on that plate. On another day, we were about to go to church with these children and I was watched all the children put on the nicest clothes they owned. I saw one child washing shoes in the distance. One child was rubbing Vaseline on his dry rough skin to make it shine. Then I hear the distinct cry of my baby Sedekiah, the youngest of the orphans, and I run to him and scoop him in my arms. I hadn’t seen him this sad all the time I had spent with him. I took him to one of the women that helped around the orphanage and put Sedekiah on the cold concrete ground of their room lined with bunks against every wall with canopies being used to keep the mosquitos off the children’s skin at night. I watch as Sedekiah starts to search through a small box of clothes like he is looking for something. The woman tells me that he wants to look nice for church but he doesn’t have any nice clothes that fit him yet because he is the youngest boy there. Sedekiah continues to become more distressed. My heart broke. I go sit on the steps outside and watch these beautiful children that have been so unlucky as to have to grow up in these conditions. I feel so sick inside. Why does Sedekiah have to be malnourished, covered in scabies, and sad because he doesn’t have nice clothes to wear to church with his brothers and sisters while I’m here not worrying about anything of that sort? What stupid complaints can I have now? None, I can have no complaints. I see Sedekiah come out of the room wearing a pink shirt and jeans with flowers embroidered on them, happy as could be. He found some clothes to wear to church. It didn’t matter to him they were completely clothes for a girl. He was happy, and his joy was contagious.


“Love is the power”

I can’t wait to share the stories and photographs.