Reality is like a mosaic. The parts may be ugly in themselves, but the whole is beautiful. -Jonathan Edwards
The long awaited day started with carrying trunks up stairs, unpacking, and hanging happy pictures of loved ones on walls. Our morning had begun early and as the empty room took on the shape of her new home, the lump in my throat grew. That day spilled into meetings, orientations and nervous smiles…and, the lump in my throat grew even more. As the late afternoon sun shone brightly upon us, we gathered with 2,000 other equally excited and anxious college freshmen to listen to inspirational words from Stanford’s president. And then, time was up. It could not be stretched nor stopped. And it certainly could not be turned back. 18 years came crashing into one solitary moment. How did it happen so quickly? With her first students-only dorm meeting in minutes, it was time to say goodbye. Bob and I hugged Emily, unable to stop the tears, and left her at school. Would God give her friends, a family, and a place where she would flourish? We let our baby go on September 15, 2015.
Emily’s first year of college sped forward relentlessly, leaving us grasping at shadows as we boarded a plane back to the southern hemisphere a week later. We reluctantly learned to manage an 11-hour California-to-Kenya time difference to hear her voice. The distance became tolerable as long as I kept a countdown until our next time together. We spent Christmas with her in Kenya and took a spring trip to the US, but then a tearful goodbye found us again in late April as our family, minus Emily, flew back to Africa.
113 days would pass until Emily returned to us after completing her freshman year of college and 9 weeks in India. My eyes wandered frequently to the calendar, always counting down. Finally, the sun rose, the calendar flipped, and with great joy Bob, Will, and I rushed to the airport in Nairobi to get our girl on August 11, 2016.
Meanwhile, in the dusty city of Naivasha, a frail, terminally ill mother gazed into the eyes of her bubbly 5-month-old baby boy. The lump in her throat, the tears in her eyes, and the shaking of her fist at the cruelty of time came crashing together in one excruciating moment. Thursday, August 11th arrived for us all at the same time. Had she eyed the calendar, hoping for a miracle before the sun rose that day? For nine months she carried him in her womb. For five months she carried him in her weakening arms. But time does not slow down for anyone. It could no longer be stretched nor stopped. And, it certainly could not be turned back. With deep despair, she rushed quietly under the cover of the still, dark early morning hours while the city around her slept. She held her little one close for a final moment, smelling his breath, feeling his warmth, and then, after gently placing him on the steps of a high school, she turned and walked away. Her arms and heart empty, surely she begged God to give her son friends, a family, and a place where he could flourish. She let her baby go on August 11, 2016.
Weeks passed from the time this infant was found until a family emerged. With no home, weak and malnourished, he remained in a local hospital where busy nurses did what they could to substitute for his long-gone mother. The days rolled on and we at Naomi’s Village remained unaware of this life in need.
The sun rose in the beautiful African sky on September 15, 2016, without any indication that today would reveal God’s surprise. Unaware of the significance of this day from one year ago, the morning hours felt peculiarly slow and lonely. Time was too still, the house too quiet, and an inexplicable heaviness weighed on my heart.
As the sun reached its peak, these words appeared on my phone, “Did you get Anne’s message about the new baby?” Suddenly, time leapt forward with a whirlwind of activity. The Naomi’s Village team sped down the familiar road to Naivasha, and then tried not to run through the hospital hallways to get their arms around this baby boy, our newest family member.
A few hours later, with the backdrop of a setting sun, Baby Andrew’s homecoming celebration at Naomi’s Village erupted with song, laughter, dancing, cake, and paparazzi taking pictures. Joining in the celebration himself with smiles and coos, Andrew seemingly felt the answer of his mother’s prayer.
A visiting team of Stanford students, Emily’s friends, truly became part of our larger family that day by sharing in this homecoming. We gathered together for a quick picture with little Andrew, before I started the mad dash up the hill to get home before the coming darkness. As we held our newest family member, my heart ached for Andrew’s mother. Oh, that she would know God heard her cries.
Once safely home in my house, time slowed again; the quiet invaded, but the heaviness was gone. As I looked at pictures of the day’s happy homecoming, my eyes caught the calendar. September 15, 2016. It was exactly one year later and the faces looking back at me in today’s photos radiated family, belonging, and love.
Since Andrew’s homecoming day, Emily has returned to Stanford for her sophomore year and to waiting friends, this time without us. Andrew has settled into the NV baby room, welcoming all who come near with his bright eyes and rewarding grin. And I am left in awe of the One who is piecing together a mosaic of unfathomable wonder. One day the fullness of His handiwork will be revealed. On some days, like September 15, 2015, I catch only a glimpse of a dull shard, seemingly unconnected to anything beautiful, and I fail to stop and admire, seeing only the piece and its disconnected pain. On others, God shows me several pieces, with sparkling hues and interconnected edges, forming part of an image that says “Glory”. And it is on those days that I dream about the bigger Mosaic, the one I’ve yet to see, but will one day stand before and understand in full.
By Julie Mendonsa