on Monday, May 2, 2016

Editor’s Note: Jordan Stewart lives on the NOBTS campus and serves as a writing intern for the Office of Public Relations.

FIRST-PERSON -- After a short week of spending time loving on children, I never expected to come back home broken hearted. I spent the entire 17-hour plane ride back to the states crying, wishing I could have stayed.

I had the opportunity to go on my third international mission trip to Lesotho this year. This 10-day trip was designed for a team of six from First Baptist New Orleans to work alongside Brett and Allison Barnhill who serve with the Reclaimed Project. This non-profit organization reaches out to equip local churches to care for the orphans in their community by launching Orphan Care Centers in the African nation of Lesotho. These centers give children a chance to hear the gospel, receive education, emotional support and counseling when they need it, and learn important life skills.

Once we arrived in Lesotho, the team went to two care centers. We spent the last three days in the Khokhoba village spending every chance we got to give the children the one-on-one attention that they need.

One girl stood out to me. The seams in her red plaid dress were ripping, because it was way too small for her to wear. I remember walking into the care center and she was just there, staring at me with her big, brown eyes. I walked over and greeted her. The translator told me that her name was Motsilisi and that she was twelve years old. Unfortunately, Motsilisi’s parents passed away when she was a little girl. She is able to stay with a family in her village, but only works around the house doing chores and isn’t welcomed as a part of the family.

It took a while for Motsilisi and the other children to become comfortable with us… but when they did, we all had a blast. We were able to share with the children the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den. They loved being able to act out the story and learn that as believers we can trust that God sees our faithfulness and will reward us. We were also able to teach them daily hygiene  like how to brush their teeth.

Motsilisi and I became the best of friends during the two days that we spent together. On our last day, we played a matching game with cards that we brought from America. Although there was a language barrier, we worked around it. I learned that Motsilisi was very intelligent… she won almost every round. She was so smart and was able to remember the order of the cards better than I could. The sound of her laughing at my failure brought me an overwhelming joy.

Being able to see the children laughing and having the best time playing with us was incredible, especially knowing their stories. Although these orphans have had terrible things happen to them and around them, you would never know because of their kind, loving spirits. They were more than satisfied with everything we brought to the care centers, even though the items were bought at a very small expense to us.

I was blown away at how much the children enjoyed play dough, bubbles and paper airplanes. They could spend hours upon hours coloring and building paper airplanes. I know that it wouldn’t take long for a twelve-year old American to get tired of coloring and flying airplanes outside.

On our last day in Lesotho, we went to the Marketplace. This event is where the ladies from the village come with all of their crafts to sell to the missionaries who are apart of Reclaimed Project. Once their paper-bead necklaces, hand woven baskets and bags are bought, they are shipped back to the United States to be sold. This is one way Reclaimed Project supports their missionaries on the field.

During Marketplace, the gospel is shared to the women. They are also taught basic financial skills, such as budgeting. Every woman that attends and sells their crafts donates 25 percent back to the Orphan Care Centers in their community.

Reclaimed Project’s desire is to truly “equip change makers to be the change.” By selling their products, the women are able to create a sustainable income to rise above poverty.

A lot of the things that the orphans experience in Lesotho are not okay. It is not okay to have no home to go to. Lack of a suitable education is not okay. Sexual abuse is not okay. Hunger is not okay. Not having a chance to ever hear the gospel is NOT OKAY.

Whether it is Africa, Korea, or America… even New Orleans, people all over the world experience things that are not okay. As Christians, we sometimes feel that our efforts to solve these problems are just too small, like they are not great enough to make a difference… like they are just a drop in the bucket.

Allison Barnhill, a missionary serving apart of Reclaimed Project, has insight. She says, “In my flesh… in my humanity, with my two hands… I can do nothing. But God…the way maker, the difference maker, the life changer, the immeasurably compassionate, infinitely capable, unbelievably loving, timeless, unchanging, everlasting, GREAT GOD..He CAN. He CAN make a difference.”

During my time in Lesotho, God opened my eyes to see that there are way too many problems in our world. I absolutely love Lesotho and my heart desires to spend time with Motsilisi and all the other orphans again, but I know that there are huge needs right in front of me. Our efforts might not seem like much, but we can know that our GREAT GOD can make the difference.