This year in my somewhat debatable either mid or late twenties, I have started feeling older. Really, like I am finally a grown-up. Now don't worry, this post is not for bemoaning my beginning gray hairs or wrinkles or need of a good solid night's sleep. No, the fact that time marches on is simply a reality I saw most clearly this summer, particularly in the children.
When I first went to Sierra Leone in 2008, I met cute little Mariama and our sponsor child Janet.
Mariama was almost still a baby. She wanted to be held all the time; she went through this phase where she wouldn't smile for pictures, and she didn't really talk in English. Three years later, she is a girl. A big girl, I might add who likes to assert herself and take charge in social situations. When I entered her village of Ngolala (pronounced Gwola like balla), she grabbed my hand and directed myself and the team straight through the middle of the village to her home. When we arrived, she bustled around and got all of us chairs to sit in (quite customary), passed out all the babies to the women (ditto), and then proceeded to change from her school uniform into afternoon attire. She also, I might add, directed who needed to take a picture with whom, making sure of course that she was in a plethora of shots. Quite the hostess with the mostess. And no longer that cute little baby I used to hold.
Then, there's Janet. When I met Janet in 2008, she was an incredibly cute 8 years old girl. She tagged along with me everywhere I went, held my hand constantly, and played ga-ga (a rock game akin to jacks) and hand-clap games with me galore. Now, she is 11. She is an incredibly, beautiful young woman. But as most 11 year old young women go, she is too old for hand-clap games and too young for serious conversation. She is, as well, maybe a little bit in that awkward stage. But I love her all the more and was glad for the particularly sweet moments we had toward the close of my trip. I was encouraged to here that she is going to church on her own, since 11 is such a critical age for such decisions of faith. She is on my heart and in my prayers as she continues to realize and decide who she is and what she wants to become. I have many fears and many hopes for her that seem especially pertinent given the fact that she is entering a new chapter of life.
Seeing these precious ladies grow is one of the things I am thankful for with the opportunity to see Sierra Leone again and again. For many people, visiting Banta once in their lifetime is an incredible experience that they (and I for them) are thankful to have had. To come once is to see God in a grander capacity at work across culture and to see new faces that you can call friends. But to come again is only that much richer. This could be another post in and of itself, but for now let me say that I am incredibly humbled and thankful that these girls do not stay stagnant on my fridge, forever frozen in time. Instead, they are dynamic, same as me. And as I change and God changes me, so He does the same for them. And I can bear witness to it.