Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14
"It's not about the paint." Sean previously reminded us. Friday, at Hagar, reaffirmed that. During recess, a crowd of children built around Sean, who was sitting on the steps that lead into the school. Soon he was doodling on the side of a box containing our paint supplies. The children were absorbed in this as they watched him draw various animals and people. After each, he would say what it was and hand the pencil to one of them and they would draw. A few drew the cross with Jesus on it. So beautiful. We have no idea all they have known or suffered, but it is obvious that many now know their Saviour.
In the morning, one little girl, who had stood out to me the day prior, was there again. She wasn't in school and when asked why by the principal, she said she was waiting for her foster mom to pick her up so she could go and visit her home. The day before, she was reserved, shy and somewhat distant. But this next day, after all the other children had returned to class, she remained. She stood a little way off glancing over at Sean and the drawing box. I invited her to come and she did. That was the start of something beautiful. She interacted with us, hesitatingly at first, taking turns drawing.
The beauty was in the quiet simplicity of it. Barely any words were passed between us, but the smile told it all. She began to trust us and light up. In the end, she was like the wall we were painting - both were changed to be brighter and more cheerful. She must not have gone to her home because she was still there in the afternoon. She helped fill in the stenciled areas for the wall mural along with about 15-20 other children. We also taught her how to play hopscotch and took turns playing it with her. She loved that, and we were privileged to see that behind the quiet meekness there was some spunk! I will not soon forget her smile because it transformed her face. When she wasn't smiling, you could see the remnants of whatever she had experienced - the reason she was living at Hagar. But when she smiled, it erased all of it, as though joy was dissolving sorrow and was overcoming the darkness she had experienced.
I learned something that day. The day before, we had spent quite a long time preparing the wall with various background colours. Now, we proceeded to fill in the stencil shapes. The children who remained behind after the others had gone home for the day came to join us. They are the ones who live at Hagar, while others just come for schooling and go home again. So there I was trying to paint in flowers when these little ones, having procured a paintbrush, began painting all around us. They filled in the spaces too, but with a little less precision. At first I thought, "How are we going to fix all this? It will take ages!" Then I asked and Sean said we wouldn't fix it. I was so relieved and felt a little sorry that I might have missed this precious opportunity. A bit like the disciples who rebuked the children. But now I could just paint alongside these little souls happily enjoying the process. I looked at the rough, jagged edges of their work alongside our more fluid ones and I liked the contrast. I think it reflected that they, like us, are in the process of being refined and made beautiful...and that there is a kind of beauty even in the brokenness. They will take pride in that wall and maybe even remember, for a long time to come, that they helped those who came to show love to them for a couple of days.
It was difficult to leave. The children all gathered around us for a real send-off. They picked flowers from the surrounding tress and made sure they handed each of us a bunch. They hugged us and waved us off with big smiles. And if it is possible, our hearts jointly contained both sorrow and fullness of joy.