This is the story of the baby that stole my heart. This is the story of how God taught me how to love and more importantly how to let go. This is the story of Esther.
During the summer of 2008, while I was on a mission trip in Costa Rica, God used the book of Esther to first call me to a life lived for orphans. Since then the name and story of Esther have always held a special place in my heart.
I arrived in Uganda on January 21st. On February 6th a baby girl was born to a young man and woman in a remote village 45 minutes outside of Jinja. Her mother died giving birth to her. Her family named her Esther.
3 week later she arrived at Amani and into my arms. She rarely left them for the next two months. I knew it was dangerous to let my heart love her, but I also knew that I was called to a life of love, no matter the consequences.
And there were consequences. When I left her to go to another orphanage there were times I thought my heart was going to rip in two, I missed her so much. I cried buckets of tears over her and prayed and prayed about how I could be involved in her life. I wanted to stay in Uganda and love on her forever, but I knew God was calling me home for now.
I’ll never forget the night I said goodbye to her to leave for America. I held her tightly to my chest and sobbed, struggling to pray over her through my tears. I bathed her sweet body and snuggled her into pajamas. I stood over her bed for minutes, trying to delay the last moment I would put her down. I whispered into her ears that I loved her, that I would pray for her every day, and that I knew God had a plan for her life. And then I put her down and I left.
The next few months in America were some of the darkest of my life. I worried about her constantly, I cried over her daily, and I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. And God said, “trust me… I’ll take care of her… I am the father to the fatherless.” Each day I struggled to place her in his arms, only to fail and try all over again.
In September Kelsey and I started Obukuumi sponsorship program where we worked to get children like Esther home with their families. I secretly dreaded the day when we were given Esther’s file. My worst fear was that we would be forced to send her back to an unsafe or unloving home. I’d also been told some things that lead me to believe that her home was not a healthy environment to return to. The night before Kelsey was scheduled to visit Esther’s home I was in a state of full-blown anxiety (yah God is STILL working on me with the whole trust thing…) but Kelsey loved her family and had nothing but praise for the home environment. Concerns I had before turned out not to be true.
Yet I selfishly was not happy for Esther. I didn’t want to lose our skype dates, the pictures, the updates on her personality and new accomplishments. I thought I’d let her go several times before, but I was forced to realize that I still needed to. Our God is faithful and he slowly over the next few weeks taught me how to fully place Esther in his hands.
Today Esther went home with her Jjaja (grandmother) and I can honestly say I am so excited for her. I still love her to pieces, but I don’t worry about her anymore, and I miss her less. I trust God that he will take care of her and that he has an incredible plan for her life.
This journey has brought so much pain, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I let myself love Esther with my whole heart and watched it tear to pieces when I left her. But I am coming out of this dark tunnel and I can say with full confidence that our God never leaves us nor forsakes us. God has and continues to walk me through this journey of loving and losing.
So when I lay eyes on the next child God calls my heart to love I’ll jump in head first, even though I know full well the pain that follows, because I have full confidence that God will see me through to the other side.
Essy girl- I love you. I miss you. I am so honored to have cared for you during your first months of life and so grateful for all you’ve taught me. I’m sending you kisses and prayers from America. Welcome home.