Monday, May 3, 2010

Gabriel II

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.
~Mother Teresa

I sat across from Sister Katherine and told her about you – about how people across the globe loved the children she cared for, had been praying for Gabriel and his brothers and sisters, and were desperate for a way to serve them. She smiled, warmly, gratefully. I told her we felt that we were supposed to – desperately want to – do something for them. I asked if we could fund a project, assist with anything they needed at the orphanage to help them love the babies.

Sister Katherine’s warm, grateful smile never left her face as she told me our project wasn’t possible. “We live on God’s providence and individual contributions.” Not our projects. For an instant I was crushed – it’s irrational, irresponsible even to refuse to accept our offer for a new playground, a new wing, something to make the babies more comfortable.

But the nonsensical calm and joy in the Sisters’ voices and faces as they wipe the crying children’s eyes and sing to them and laugh as they tickle them – the nonsensical peace and delight that radiates from them as they serve – there is a wisdom in this unreasonable joy. A wisdom that suggests that they do not live according to my theories about what is rational. In Sister Katherine’s grateful smile I read the suggestion that perhaps I should spend the next many weeks learning the secret behind their wisdom – a wisdom which produces joy amid extreme need – before trying to rush in to tidy up the need itself.

Sister Genet came in later, and shared with me a lot about Mother Teresa, who founded their order of the Missionaries of Charity. She explained how Mother was not afraid to ask for money when the poor needed it. But Mother Teresa said, “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” She insisted that people give themselves; money is just extra.

So I said that I understood, that I would keep coming back, that I would have faith that as we learned their wisdom, they might accept our extra. And I believe they will.

I will keep showing up for these babies, spreading our love to them. You will spread your love everywhere you go. And together, when we have given ourselves, we can give the extra.

Thanking the Sisters for their time, I walked down into the place where the children live. This time I spent the day not outside where the bigger kids are, but where the smaller ones live – the two and three year olds. There were five children on the left side of the room, children who were physically and mentally disabled. They were strapped to chairs to keep them upright, or secured in wooden frames, which I am not sure they ever got out of – there being too many children and too few hands. I spent the day with these five, taking you with me and showing them your heart.

They loved you. One precious girl, you should have seen her smile – the joy that ran into her eyes – as you lifted her out of her wooden box and held her arms so she could “walk” around the room like the rest of the kids, maybe for the first time. The sick baby, too, he loved you. Born too early and too ill, he was sweating a lot, and his tiny stick legs stuck out from his hard, distended belly as he moaned. But when you picked him up and rocked him for a long time, he was calm and peaceful.

As I held our ill, new friend, I heard the Sisters talking about how a baby had just been adopted, but I couldn't hear who it was.
Later, as I was preparing to leave I heard them talk about the adopted baby again: “She’s just been adopted, her family is coming for her soon, and they want to know if you can measure her feet so they can bring shoes. It’s Gabriel.”

It seems that I got the wrong name for the child who noticed and pointed and loved. He was not Gabriel. But she was – the one who was just adopted – the one whose feet would be measured that day, so a new, joyful mother who was preparing her room and her life and her wardrobe could know. So Gabriel could have, for the first time, a pair of shoes and a family of her very own. To hold onto, to touch, to cherish. To hold her and comfort her and protect her. To never be ripped from her.

I can’t help but think that your prayers this week, for Gabriel, gave her that gift.

Give yourself first. The money is extra.

Let us not doubt that miracles will happen here. They already have. Ask Gabriel.


  1. I'm overjoyed for Annuncia. There's no way that it's not a miracle that she was adopted this week of all weeks.

    I tried to find a website for the Institute of Orphan Advocacy but Google failed me. What can we do now? We want to give ourselves first but how?

  2. The tears that my heart has been holding for last week have overflowed. I think we understand that the gifts the sisters want must come from the grace of God. And that if you rely 100% on God all needs will be met.

    So, I ask as above. How do we give ourselves to help those so far away. With everything that hamstrings us here, what is the best way to share our love with the little ones you have alredy helped, Sister? Other than the love and prayers that we send to you and everyone in Rwanda daily, is there anything else we can do to help on the ground floor using ourselves as guides. I know that our prayers helped Annuncia. Would you show us more to pray for?

    Thank you, Sister, for making the world a little smaller and a little warmer today.

  3. Thank you for your compassion. Thank you for loving little ones whom others have forgotten. Thank you for being there for US!

  4. AMAZING!! Thank you Mandy, thank you for what you are doing to help us all be better people.

  5. I had a feeling that Annuncia was a girl's name, but who was I to question? Interesting how God is telling us in His own way that we are to LISTEN, WAIT and LEARN as part of our GIVING...

    Thank you Mandy for being our hands and arms and heart for the little ones who were left on the other side of the room.

  6. Thank you for being our arms but also for so beautifully sharing your journey with us. You have made these sweet little people REAL and it is with that, that we can connect with them. Pray for them as individuals and know that we are helping even if that's "all" we can do for now.

    My twins were very high risk and they told us in my 11th week that they only had a 40% chance of survival. Everyone was stunned - as was I - but I had an amazing sense of calm that God was taking care of them. I always believed that God would literally hold them in his arms until (and if) we could. God's hand was ON THEM. If we cannot hold these sweet babies across the world and touch them and love them and in some way make things better from over here, then we can know that he sent your hands to be our hands and that His hand will be on them.

    I literally feel like I have no words for the emotion of all of this. God is good. Prayer works and miracles happen.

  7. Let us write love letters, then. Here's mine:


    "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1: 27


    Dearest Children,

    This is a love letter
    To you
    Because as we turn to help you
    You help us
    We seek to share what we have
    And you share what you have--
    Ever so much more valuable.

    We who are rich are poor
    we live in a world
    By our own houses and
    our own clothing and
    our own food.
    The things of this world form a cloud
    That hangs over everything we do and
    Everything we are
    Choking us and offering us only glimpses
    Of God’s face.

    But you
    You live under a sky that is clear and bright and
    Breathe in air that is pure and clean because
    You dwell in the house of the Lord, and
    Are adorned like the lilies of the field, and you feast on
    The Bread of life.

    For you know that every need God planted within you
    Within us--
    For shelter,
    For clothing,
    For food--
    Is all the same need
    Fulfilled the same way.

    A need for love:
    A love that only God
    Can provide.

    Teach us. Please.

    Love always,
    A poor friend

  8. Wow! Thank you for the loving the children for us since we are so far away. Thank you for being our arms.

    It will happen as it is meant to, the love will lead to the help, so wise are the Sisters there. It is so natural to want to swoop in to help, but I think it is God's way to move a bit more slowly and deeply like they said. It is already happening...just as it should.
    Thank you!

  9. Thank you Amanda. I love to see God's work in these wonderful small but really gigantic ways. I did wonder if they would take anything from us being that it was an Orphanage created by the wonderful Mother Theresa. And in a way I am happy they didn't rush to take our money or objects. The most important thing we can give is ourselves, love and prayer. You have helped me to remember this and for that I thank you!

    Much love to you and the beautiful children you touch everyday. I was taught growing up in the Catholic Church that when you prayed it was good but when you prayed as a group it was even better! So look what we did as a group praying. Let us never forget.
    Love, Aprile

  10. May the miracles keep coming in big and small waves both our shores, over all of our toes.

  11. The website for what I believe she is referring to as the Institute of Orphan Advocacy is They are based in McLean, VA and there is a little information on their website. Another reference to them can be found here: We will, of course, send them love and prayers, but Amanda, please let us know if there is anything else we can send to this community to help them.

  12. That's wonderful news. Thank You Mandy! I love the power of prayer!

  13. you are hugging my good friends' sons. their boys are there, and they are waiting for their letter...and i am waiting to buy them some shoes.

    grace and peace be with you as you work-

  14. Mandy

    Thank you for sharing with us. Thank you for shrinking this world. I can't wait to hear of all the miracles that unfold. I hope we can continue to be a part of them.

    Diane - beautiful love letter.

  15. Amanda, This is the most amazing news I think I have ever heard..fate brought you and Annuncia together..the same way I believe it has brought you to the advocate you met at the orphanage..YOU were meant to do great things.. together with our help WE are going to do great things for this community.. I just know it.. JB

  16. Sometimes, if we are very fortunate, we encounter someone whose vision and commitments are absent of guile and whose purposes are so detached and so elevated that they are not proximate to our norms or our thinking. You have had such an encounter with the good Sisters of Mother Theresa. You are a lucky one. Most of us never never hear of such people much less meet them. They will change the world their way, one person at a time and they give meaning to the the old chestnut, "each one reach one". You did good Panda, you reached one.


  17. Mandy, thank you for your beautiful words and actions. You are capturing in words a people of the world most of us will only know through you.

    I had the great fortune of attending mass with Mother Teresa in Washington DC years ago. Although I was half way back in the pews and very far away from where she spoke on the alter it was CLEAR that there was a holy aura about her - she literally glowed. When you described the sister you met I instantly thought of my experience which I hadn't thought of in years. I think these sisters must be on higher plane of love as Bubba says. Love infused with the Holy Spirit and then applied to the most needy of people.

    I can't believe Annuncia was adopted, but I can believe it to. All those prayers and positive thoughts moved the universe in just the way she needed.

    Keep going to the sisters - you will change others and you will be changed.

  18. It is amazing how God's love reaches so His presence is felt. How He hears our prayers and knows just what we are speaking about...even when we do not. Thank you for sharing and hearing and moving.

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  20. hey Amanda! Maybe you held our baby! We are awaiting a 2 year old little boy, our paperwork is in process in Rwanda. Thank you for loving the least of these and letting us into the orphanage where our children wait with your beautiful words!

    Thank you!!

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  22. Amanda,
    I have not commented on here yet, but I have been keeping up with your posts. I am speechless and sad and joyful and overwhelmed by your experience so far. Most of all I am greatful. I feel very blessed to be able to share in all of this. I will go to sleep tonight praying and thinking about the dear children you are sharing with us. Thank you for allowing me to follow. God bless you!
    XoXo Susie.

  23. We adopted our son from Home of Hope Orphanage in December 2009 at the age of 3. He had lived there since the approximate age of 9 months. Despite some medical issues and malnutrition he is thriving, happy, and outgoing. The nuns take very good care of the children even if resources are slim. My heart aches regularly for the children that we left behind. It is comforting to know that adoptions are still happening and that there are extra hands there helping out. Just a FYI, the person that you speak of is not the only person assisting families with adoptions in Rwanda. There are many POAs now doing similar work. Feel free to contact me if you would like to connect.

  24. When I read your 1st post about Annuncia, I admit my immediate reaction was, "How can we help? Could we get the church involved? We've donated toys for kids in Iraq..." The next morning, however, haunted by your beautiful story, I awoke thinking, "Those kids don't need toys... they need someone to adopt them and to love them." I was very pleasantly surprised, then, to see that you had written another story - about how Annuncia was adopted.
    Give them all a hug from me and our family. You are doing great things.

  25. Just another FYI to those posting here that they want to help. While the nuns at the orphanage do not want "public" fundraising done for them there is a way. Well two really great ways actually. Adoption is VERY expensive. While the government of Rwanda does not charge fees the adoption agencies in the US do charge large fees in addition to fees for US immigration paperwork and airfare. Our total cost with our whole family traveling with us to Rwanda was just under 30k. So if you want to help reach out to those families who are trying to adopt. Many hold fundraisers such as selling shirts and could really use the financial support. Also the best way to get donations to orphanages in Africa is for adoptive parents or humanitarians to bring the donations in their luggage when they travel. It is super expensive to mail things and most items get taken at customs unless they are split up in travelors' luggage. We brought 4 extra suitcases to Rwanda, totalling 200 pounds of donations that we delivered directly to the nuns at Home of Hope orphanage when we picked up our son. A small dent indeed but a start.


  26. Thanks again Amanda for the wonderful and encouraging post! (should have read this one before commenting on the last, because the importance of adopting these precious children certainly came out here!) So glad you met our former POA and dear friend - she is an amazing woman and I hope your friendship continues to grow as you share His love with these precious babies at HOH! Many blessings, and I wish I were back there hugging them too!

  27. Hi Amanda, I happen to find your blog by accident, although there aren't any accidents. I think God made this happen. We are in the process of adoption from Rwanda. When we started our process, we asked for only one child. However, lately I feel God is calling us to adopt two children instead, and we are approve for two with immigration and home study. This is the reason I happened to find your blog. I just had a friend come back from Ethiopia she is also in the process of adopting her second child. SHe was the one who forward me a blog of a family who adopted two boys last year from rwanda, and in that blog your link was mentioned. Everyday that goes by I think God is showing us that we should bring two children home. Thank you so much for writing down your experience it really means a lot to me. It is reinforcing that another child needs to have a mommy and daddy. Thank you, thank you greatlly. maybe will get to meet you when we are picking up our children.

  28. Amanda,
    As you are well aware, there are many families in the process of adopting from Rwanda. Your eyes, ears, heart and stories are very valuable to us that are waiting. You have provided a great picture of the orphanage and the situation there. THANK YOU!

  29. Hello...I came across your blog and was instantly touched by your posts. I am brand new to Kigali my self (just 1 week in) and would love to also volunteer my time. Could I get in touch with you?

  30. I know you're very busy ...just wanted to let you know that we're still here and sending good vibes to you.



  32. p.s. jtjrb is the Whitehouse family in Stafford, VA sorry could not get that in there earlier WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!

  33. Wow. I am not sure which is more touching, your words or seeing how your words are affecting everyone. Somehow it feels like you're taking care of a whole part of the world for all of us. It's amazing how just human touch and care can sooth an ill child. Something that medicines from anywhere would struggle to do. Mandy you are such an inspiration. Thanks for taking the time to tell all of us about your experiences.

  34. Wow. So glad to find this blog. I spent just two weeks in a little village in Rwanda building a house and it changed my life. A part of my heart is still there.
    I love that I can connect with Rwanda through you. Amazing!
    Thank you!

  35. I like this blog alot, will follow your posts in the future.Facinating article, it really makes someone think. I always like to read interesting articles like this one. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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