Monday, September 7, 2009

Jonathan

I hadn’t intended on starting off my new blog with such a sad post but I have to talk about this… For those of you who have been following my journey for some time now you may remember Jonathan, my Ugandan “son”. Jonathan arrived at Amani Baby Cottage the same day I did, recently abandoned and diagnosed as depressed by our nurse, constantly crying, refusing to eat, etc. Over the course of our three months together however, I saw God work a miracle of healing in his heart and I was even there to witness his first smile! Yesterday morning I found out that on July 25th, Jonathan died (you can read the whole story here or here). When I first read the news the pain I felt was so intense I could barely catch my breath. For those who have never mothered a child not your own, I’m sure it must be hard to understand why I would be so upset over a child on the other side of the world who I haven’t seen in over two years. All I can say is that for three months, that boy was my son and I have carried him in my heart ever since. I loved Jonathan with my whole heart and love like that comes at a cost; at times like this, that cost is pain.

Ever since I decided I wanted to become a social worker, and even more as I have become more and more involved with orphaned and abandoned children, people have asked me, “Are you sure you want to do this? Don’t you realize how painful it’s going to be?” I know that you cannot work with children like this without ever getting hurt but I have decided not to run away from pain. I am a Christian and as such, I have been called to suffer for Jesus. Philippians 1:29 says – “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him”. Now, when I think of suffering for Christ I think of persecution, imprisonment and martyrdom but what does that mean in our 21st century North American world? I used to think that verse did not apply to me but then, a little over a year ago, I read this post and this post on someone else’s blog and it changed the way I look at things. We often use the word compassion but do we know what it means? Directly translated, the word compassion means: “to suffer with”. Jesus was a man of compassion. He did not shy away from pain but entered into the suffering of those around Him, touching the ‘untouchables’, eating with society's rejects in their homes, crying with Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died. Jesus lived a life of love that cost Him greatly, a love that ultimately cost Him everything when He gave up His life for those He loved. Jesus chose love over the avoidance of pain. The thing is, as a Christian I am called to be like Jesus. What’s more, Jesus says: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). And so for me, suffering for Christ means suffering with the “least of these”, even when it hurts.

One thing struck me as I read the blog posts about Jonathan’s death. At his funeral, the orphanage director pointed out that Jonathan died loved. You see, Jonathan was abandoned as a baby and if he hadn’t been brought to a good orphanage he may never have known love. But instead he was brought to Amani where he was loved by volunteers like me, by the staff that worked there, and ultimately by the local family that adopted him. Jonathan died loved. Surely it would have been easier for his family if they had never taken this little boy into their home, they could have avoided all the pain they are experiencing now. But this is what Jonathan’s father had to say: “We prayed over the child we would adopt. That God would give us someone to love…” They chose love and for a once orphaned boy, orphan no longer, it made all the difference.

And so, with a brokenness that words cannot express, I will mourn and cry for this precious little boy whom I loved so dearly. And, I will continue to love wholeheartedly, without fear or hesitation, not holding anything back, no matter what the cost, because love is always worth it. Maybe this is the perfect first post after all because this is why I do what I do… Because of sweet little boys like Jonathan who deserve to know love.

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