Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Victoria

I once co-wrote a book about Uganda. In this book, the lead character meets and falls in love with a precious 9 year old Ugandan girl. She loves this girl and this girl adores her and never wants her to leave. When the lead character gets on the bus to head out of the village, she weeps.

I wrote that - their mutual weeping - 2 1/2 years ago.

I lived it on Wednesday.

One of the great surprise joys of the conference was our gaggle of kiddos. They came out of the woodwork almost immediately and each one of our team ended up with a special little buddy for the weekend. Abby had sweet precious Rhoda.....Kylie connected to Rhoda's big sister Amina mom had Aaliyah - one of the cutest little ones ever - who quickly asked "Will you be my new mama?"

I....had the most wonderful 9 year old little girl in the entire world....Victoria.

Victoria is the 3rd born in her family, but both of her older brothers have left home leaving her as the oldest child in the home. She told me that her mama wasn't at the conference because she is "lame" - meaning that her hands and legs are both damaged, leaving her unable to do any of the work in the home. All of that is left to Victoria. She cares for Aaliyah and her other siblings, fetches the water, cooks the food and does the cleaning.  Where is her dad? Victoria tells me with a shaking but resigned voice "he is not a nice man. he is a drunkard" She tells me that he doesn't hurt her physically but is very unkind to her and makes her heart sad.

She is by my side at all times. The only time we are not together is when I am speaking. When I arrive at the site, I am greeted by the fiercest hug one can even imagine.

Victoria asks me in a quiet voice if I could be her mama or at least her auntie. I say that I'd love to be her auntie and lead her away to a quiet spot to pray together. She weeps the entire time but says that Jesus wrapped her in His love.

As the days go on, we draw closer. I look forward to arriving to my hugs from Victoria. I look forward to how her face just lights up when she sees me.

She is a precious. She finds babies around the site and carries them around causing them to giggle in her arms. She watches a blind man sings and leans back in my arms, asking if I will please help him. She hears a speaker comment that she'd love flowers and immediately asks if we can go pick flowers in the field for her. She has a servants heart and a strong exterior that cracks during worship causing her to weep before her Lord.

On Wednesday morning, we settle into our spots on the ground....Victoria in my arms sitting in front of me....other littles surrounding us and creeping under my arms so that I might hug multiple kids all at once. I see that she is struggling. Finally, she looks up and hesitantly asks "When do you leave again?" I remind her that this is our last day and then I have to head back to America. She pulls herself up tighter, breathes deep in an effort to control her tears and nods ok. "When do you come back to Uganda?" she asks with tears in her voice. "Probably about a year" I say with tears already streaming down my face. She nods and leans back into me, pulling my arms tightly around her.

I keep her near to me throughout the day on Wednesday. Touching her head, whispering truth into her ears at any given chance, praying over her. I tell her that she is beautiful and loved.

When she wants to leave early so as not to cry, I tell her that if she will wait, she will be the last one that I say goodbye to before boarding the bus. She stays around.

Finally, I know that it can't wait any longer. It's already 4 hours after we had planned on leaving. Goodbyes are taking place all around me. People are pulling me by the hand for one last hug, one last whispered need, one last prayer for the suffering of their families. I find Victoria and pull her to the side, tears streaming down my face uncontrollably by now.

I hold her and tell her that if she EVER needs a hug, if she needs to feel the love that she has felt this week that she can go into a quiet place with her Jesus and ask Him to remind her of fierce hugs and of truth that is true even if I am not around to whisper it.

Pastor Moses Okwi (not sure how to spell that :) walks over, places his hand on her shoulder and mine and says "Brandi, I take responsibility for this girl. I promise to follow up with her". I nod and smile and offer tearful gratitude. I call Rita over and tell Victoria that Auntie Rita lives in Soroti and will check on her too and that she can talk to Rita about anything.

She shakes as she sobs in my arms. I lose it completely. People are watching us with compassion. I vaguely think to myself that I should try to compose myself a bit. I know it's futile and give up trying. I am weeping. I am holding her and not knowing how I will let go. In the back of my head, I remember writing about this in my book so long ago. I remember weeping as I wrote it, imagining the pain. I am living the pain.

Victoria holds tight for another minute, asking me to come back, telling me she loves me. I tell her the same.

Right before we said eyes ringed red with tears
Eventually, she lets go and walks away - her shoulders shaking as she heads towards her painful home.

I board the bus, weeping. I know I should be a strong leader and help the others process as we drive away from the city and the people we now adore. I can't. All I can do is weep. I have no clue who will take care of her tonight. I don't know how she is treated or spoken to. I don't know how much work she has to do. I don't know how protected she is. All I know is that I love her and I am driving away.

This never gets easier. How do you walk away? I cling to the truth that my Jesus is still with her.

I know Rita and Pastor Okwi will follow up. I know I will do whatever I can to help her. I am comforted by the fact that we are buying Rita a printer and she can print letters off and bring them to Victoria. I am anxious for the day when I will hold her again. Today, however, I cry as I write. I cry and ache to hold her again and tell her she is loved. I beg the Lord to speak loudly to her of His joy in her and how much He cherishes her. I ask for the Lord to bring others into her life to protect her and speak of her value to her. And then....i cry just a bit more.

This isn't easy....but I do know that it's worth it. My heart may be broken, but it's worth it for a little girl to have spent 3 days getting her little love tank filled, hearing from Jesus and knowing that she is loved.

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