By: Laura Stump
Today, before the older kids got home from school, I had a moment to spend time with Makaphutu’s three youngest residents. Nothing out of the ordinary—some jumping around in the grass, kicking around a ball and (of course) some hugs.
It started with Mpho, famous for throwing her arms up with abandon at any passerby. I scooped her up, and she instantly wrapped her little arms around my neck, gave me a kiss on the cheek and rested her head on my shoulder.
We rocked back and forth like this for a minute until Siyanda, never wanting to be left out, started tugging on my shirt. I set Mpho down, who jumped in a circle still giddy from the hug, and I lifted Siyanda for his turn.
I set him down, and the two pushed Kabelo forward, insisting he receive a turn as well. But the moment I finished and set him down, Mpho’s little arms shot up again, and the others formed a line behind her.
Oops. We cycled through the hugs several times, each one a little better than the last until we were all belly laughing.
I’m having trouble putting my finger on the reason why, but my everyday experiences at Makaphutu leave me elated rather than happy.
I feel present, joyful and full of compassion to share. But at the same time, the truths I learn nearly every day shake me.
More than Sad
The children at Makaphutu come from a variety of “backgrounds”, “circumstances”, and “situations”. I’m so accustomed to hearing these words that they don’t carry the weight they should.
In my mind, the translation carries the message, “It’s not for you to know,” so I don’t ask.
But after two months, I’ve heard a lot—and the stories aren’t sad, they’re horrific.
“Situations” doesn’t prepare you to hear stories of children living alone on the streets. “Backgrounds” doesn’t prepare you for stories of abuse and neglect of toddlers. “Circumstances” doesn’t prepare you for stories of rape—sometimes by family members—of young children.
Behind each of the beautiful smiles of these children, lies a story of some level of trauma. Some “situation” landed each child here in this orphanage—many of which stretch beyond abandonment or death of a parent.
These aren’t details we like to dwell on (rightfully so), but they are important to understanding whyMakaphutu exists.
This place is not only for raising children, but for healing them.
Creating a Culture
“We want to create a place so full of love, to create a culture of nurture, so that even when a new child just arrives, they’re instantly embraced by it,” emphasizes Nic Addison, director of Makaphutu.
Since coming to Makaphutu one year ago, Nic and his wife Melissa have worked tirelessly toward that goal. They spend time with the children individually, hold daily devotionals with the house moms and pour themselves into every aspect of Makaphutu.
Nmbuso, a Makaphutu social worker, and Zandile, the office assistant, similarly commit themselves to the well-being of the children. The staff set a high standard for the many short and long-term volunteers who move through Makaphutu.
And with as much chaos as there is on a daily basis through the office, they all find the time each morning (well, maybe not until noon—but they find it!) to sit for a devotional and prayer, seeking the Divine counsel and strength that makes running a place like Makaphutu possible.
The more I see, the more I understand the irreplaceable role of God here.
It’s true that Nmbuso’s training in social work has equipped her with skills to help a child process past abuse, but it’s her open-mindedness and grace that allow children to open up to her.
Nic may be skilled in management and finance, but his humbleness and trust in God helps him make wise decisions for Makaphutu.
The work here is not of this world, and the result is a space of love that transcends the suffering endured by so many of these children. The staff does not face these situations alone.
Emily, Nic and Melissa’s daughter who is a part of the Makaphutu family, recently shed some light on this topic for me:
Jesus has been with them in their suffering. I know that when I enter that space, I’m stepping into Jesus’ compassion for that person that already exists. I’m able to be a part of that.
Not of Humans
That compassion is becoming clearer and clearer to me. For no logical reason, being around brokenness isn’t draining me—it’s filling me. Daily, I hear more about some tragic, borderline despicable “situations,” but this place holds no less joy.
There’s an intangible presence here. There’s a reason hugs fill my eyes with happy tears. My compassion is melting into the much larger, more powerful and redemptive love Jesus is pouring out.
Thinking about the incomprehensible brokenness surrounding me and seeing the simultaneous joy and life—from the exciting to the mundane—in the Makaphutu children, I’m awed.
I think this can’t be the work of humans alone, but nonetheless, I’m humbled to know people who are gathered together with limited resources, powerful compassion and dozens of broken children saying, “Well God…do your thing!”
The result—while not without challenges—is sacred. I’m learning the strength and frailty of my human compassion—how far it reaches and where it falls short. It’s not my compassion or any human compassion that restores broken children.
It’s Divine love, encompassing our own, that truly heals at Makaphutu.
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