[I was able to get 6 of the 9 to pose for a picture]This past Tuesday was a national holiday in Liberia (Happy Birthday J.J. Roberts!). Although we could have taken the day off, some of us decided to make it a jam-packed day of long car rides and kiddos! We set off for the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy (MCFA) in Charlesville. After more than a year of planning and talking about getting some of our kids moved to the school, I was able to visit the school for the first time. I wanted to see the place, but more importantly, I wanted to see the 9 kids who moved there! What a great reunion! The 9 kids used to live at the same orphanage as Koiboi, and were moved to one of our core homes after the fire. They moved out to MCFA after I left Liberia in July, so we haven't seen each other in 7+ months!
There were plenty of smiles, laughs, big hugs, jumping into arms and "Auntie Ashley, for longs". All of the kids looked SO happy and SO healthy! We toured the school and had lunch, but after lunch, we went into the dining hall and spent time with all of the children, who were drawing and coloring. It was SO much fun! I had the chance to sit down with each of the 9 kids and write them special little notes in their artist pads and then read them their note. We drew Spidermen, cows, bubble letters and wrote letters to Auntie Elena.
And then there was my conversation with Patricia. Patricia is 8 years old and used to do all of the cooking at the old orphanage (yes, this place really was horrible). I would always ask her what she was cooking that day. I used to sit with Patricia and talk as we sliced eggplant or peeled pumpkin. But on Tuesday, I said "Patricia, I can't ask you what you're cooking anymore because someone is cooking for you." She looked up at me and gave a huge smile. I said, "Patricia, now you can go to school and learn and play with your friends." Patricia gave another huge smile and grabbed my hand.
Before we left, I gave the kids stickers and showed them photos of their friends from their old orphanage. They were giggling and waving at the photos on my camera. Then we took some photos for me to show their friends who were moved to 3 orphanages around Monrovia--talk about virtual pen pals! We talked about how great their new home was. When I asked, the kids all told me that their favorite thing about their new home was "learning" or "going to school."
The stickers I gave them said 'Rejoice in the Lord' and as we were piling into the truck to leave, the 9 kids were singing "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." It was a beautiful picture of rejoicing...and rejoicing always. As we 4-wheeled it down the sandy road, I couldn't help but rejoice in such a huge answer to my longstanding prayers! And then I began to think about God's faithfulness--it took a long time to get those kids out of a horrible situation, but God never left them and never forgot about them. He is holding them in the palm of His hand. He has plans for those children--plans to prosper them and not to harm them, plans for a hope and a future.