As soon as the girls saw me, their faces lit up in recognition. They ran, tackling me around the waist and didn’t let go for the next hour. Despite the heat, they lounged on my lap, tucked themselves into the curve of my arm, rested their heads on my shoulder or knee. They occupied every inch of my free space.
Maison Bethel is a Catholic orphanage here in Lome. Bathed in sunlight, murals painted on the walls, the main room is covered in last week’s art project, paper butterflies. The wardrobe stands ready in the corner with clothing for kiddos of all sizes, toothbrushes lined up in the bathroom. Outside is a large garden, each plot has been placed in the care of a specific child responsible for tending the life that grows in his or her domain.
I visited last Saturday and had a great time. I befriended the older girls, ages 9-14 and they practically suffocated me as we crowded together in the humid coastal heat, singing songs in French and English, me listening to their rapid-fire conversations in Ewe while we finished our butterflies. They asked me many questions, and this week they remembered everything I had told them.
Mercy Ships visits each Saturday for a few hours, bringing along a Bible story and the ever popular activity box. I imagine they are used to goodbyes, but still they joyfully carried our supplies out to the car on their heads, standing in a big crowd on the road to wave as we pulled away. I hadn’t planned on going each weekend during my time here, but as Saturday drew near, God placed them on my heart.
They were so excited that I had come back.
Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the orphanage and they begged me to come. There will be dancing, singing and the most exciting, new clothes! I can think of few places I would rather be.
A few of the sweetpeas with their new teddy bears.