joy-in-sierra I arrived in Sierra Leone with some expectations since some friends had gone a couple of years before, but nothing can prepare you for what you see when you arrive. The kids and staff were all outside waiting for us and singing “Welcome … we love you in Jesus’ name”. They had spelled out “Welcome” in white painted rocks in front of their humble home. It’s an emotional first glimpse into the lives of these orphans. This is not my first orphanage experience. I arrived at an orphanage in Fuling China in July of 2005 to hold babies and give the nannies a much needed break, and I returned in March of 2006 to pick up a 9 year old boy who we adopted. God sometimes has plans that are different than ours.

This trip to Sierra Leone pulled at my heart strings just as much, only these children have the blessing of growing up with Pastor Rogers, the orphanage director, as their surrogate father. I was drawn to the spiritual maturity of the children and spent a great deal of time getting to know them and listening to their stories. Several teenage girls took me aside and asked me to be their mum. My teenage daughter was on the trip with me so my heart just broke for these girls. As much as they are loved and cared for in this home, they know that life will be very difficult for them as they grow older.

Something that made a lasting impact on me is an experience we had with all of the teenage girls and Mrs. Rogers. We gathered in a circle and asked questions of one another. One question that was posed to them was to tell us something they like about themselves and then something they like about the person next to them. They really felt uncomfortable talking about themselves, but loved saying nice things about their “sisters”. In Sierra Leone, they don’t have electronics and stuff to fill their lives with. So they take the time to pray and worship and read. They are poor financially but rich in spiritual values. I so want to be like them in that way!!! I vowed to change my ways when I returned home but our culture sucks you in like a vacuum. Some of the girls made bracelets for me and I have them on my dresser to remind me to live a rich spiritual life, like they do.

When I heard a team was returning in January, I had to write letters to my “kids” and let them know how much I love them. I received so many letter back as they expressed their appreciation for Americans and how we help them. They appreciate the water well they have and the pigs and their home and they know many people sacrificed so they could have these essentials. Giving towards this project makes a very broad positive impact.

I look forward to my return next year along with my daughter who went last year and another daughter who wants to meet all these wonderful children. Pastor Rogers, his staff, and New Hope Initiative are changing a corner of the world one orphan at a time and needs the support of people like us. Will you consider being a part of that change?

By Joy Nobilini