“But Mom, I don’t know any of these people! It will be awful.”
“Kayla, we’ve been through this,” her mother replied. “You’ve been on the list for a mission trip for over a year. You want to help people? Here’s the perfect opportunity.”
Seventeen year old Kayla Myers just knew that she had the gift of helping. She was so sure of it that she told people about it – over and over again. But when the time came to step forward, she wasn’t so sure. Her mother knew that this wasn’t about the mission trip. If somebody didn’t give her a hard push in the right direction – schoolwork, Sunday school, whatever – she probably wouldn’t accomplish anything!
“And you’ve already committed yourself,” her mother continued. “You can’t back out now.”
Kayla let out a big sigh but she knew that, just like a hundred other times, she wasn’t going to get off the hook for this one.
After the plane landed at the Nairobi airport and their luggage was collected, the group drove, in two vans, to a remote village in Kenya. They gathered for a late meal as Betty Stein, their mission leader, laid out the plans for the next two weeks. “As you know, we are here to finish work on the school classrooms. And we have another blessing. They need some help at the children’s clinic for a few days. Kayla, I thought you might like to do that.”
Kayla replied with a quiet “OK.” What else could she say?
Mrs. Stein could sense the apprehension as they drove to the clinic. “There’s nothing to be worried about. Mrs. Wandi speaks very good English and she’ll show you what to do. You’ll do fine.”
When they arrived, Mrs. Stein and two nurses exchanged some native language instructions and she drove back to the school. Kayla tried speaking to the nurses but they didn’t understand her. She finally said, “Mrs. Wandi” and they took her back to an empty desk. Then she saw a wall calendar with a big red “X” marked in each of the next 14 days. It was obvious why Mrs. Wandi needed help – she wasn’t going to be there!
The rundown clinic consisted of a small office, a nurses station, a waiting area, and a large open room with about 30 patients, mostly babies, in it. Even though the nurses couldn’t tell her, a pile of diapers and a room of crying babies gave her an indication of what to do. She knew that crying usually meant an empty stomach or a full diaper, so that’s where she started.
The next day she decided to give the babies her own names. One was Prince, another was Alicia, but her favorite, one a little older than the others, she called Rambo. All of these babies needed food and medicine, but as she held them, some of them almost lifeless but others quivering from their insides, she thought that maybe they needed a healthy dose of love more than anything else. On her fourth day, when Rambo saw her, he reached out his skinny arms in the universal language. “Please hold me,” he was saying. She picked him up and thought she saw the corners of his mouth curl up. That seemed so strange because these little ones never smiled.
On her last day there, she saw a woman sobbing in the waiting room, her shoulders slumped and her chest heaving with her sorrow. She sat down beside her and hesitated at first, but then put her arm around the woman’s shoulders. The woman looked up at Kayla, turned and embraced her, and they cried together for God’s newest angel.
When it was time to leave, there were hugs and smiles with the nurses. They could only say “thank you” and “goodbye” but the meaning was still there. She went back into the nursery to say goodbye to Rambo, but she found him sleeping. She lightly ran her finger down his arm to his little fisted hand and whispered a special prayer for him.
On the long plane ride home, Kayla thought about how she could describe her trip. It was almost like “you had to be there” to appreciate it. If anyone asks about my Kenya trip, I’ll just say, “I think Rambo smiled at me.” Nobody would understand, but that was okay. She knew what it meant.
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