Lazare's Orphanage

One of my good friends, Michelle, has been faithfully going to a local orphanage called Lazare’s Orphanage.  Hearing her talk about the kids and her experiences made me want to go and visit.  So this past Saturday Hailey and I were able to get off the ship to go and visit these amazing kids.  The orphanage is about an hour from the ship but still within the boundaries of Conakry.  The start of this orphanage came when God called a Guinean man named Lazare to give orphans a home.  He currently has 31 kids, over half of which have AIDS.  Most of those with AIDS have lost their parents to this disease.  They now must deal with this awful disease but also makes it much harder for them to get adopted.  Most of the other children still have parent(s) but due to certain situations (finances, school, violence, etc.) are unable to care for their children and are at Lazare's for a period of time.  
As we drove away from the ship Steve, the team leader, pointed out the many ‘signs’ of protesting that cluttered the roads.  Big and small rocks were scattered all over the pavement.  Burnt tire piles continued to smoke from the protests the day before.  Piles of wood sat waiting to be pushed back on the roads to continue the protests.  Every time these demonstrations occur, besides the risk of injury, people are unable to go to work and/or school, marketers are unable to sell, and the overall economy is damaged.  

What are these protests about?  Government problems with a mix of tribal issues.  Since arriving in Guinea I haven’t been able to get out much but I have definitely been aware of the cycle of protests that have been going on throughout this outreach.  As I looked at these different markings sprayed over the roads, these protests became more of a reality to me.  Everyday I move around safely on my little ship when there are people 5 miles outside my door that are dealing with all of this.  I was frustrated with my ignorance to this daily turmoil but mainly my heart ached for all those affected by these protests.  “God bring your peace and love to this land”
Finally we arrived at the door of Lazare’s orphanage.  As we stepped through the big metal gates Hailey was quickly swept out of my arms by a 6 year old girl.  So with my arms free I was bombarded by little excited hands wanting to be picked up.  My eyes quickly fell on one little boy who lay off to the side of the courtyard. He lay belly down with a thin layer of dirt covering his clothes and flies swarming around.  After giving some hugs to those around, I went over and picked up this little guy. My dear friend Michelle came over and introduced me to Jojo or Joseph.  As soon as she said his name I remembered the many stories and pictures that she had shared with me over these past months.  As I held him in my arms I noticed the glaze in his eyes and the limpness of his body and realized that he was one of 100’s of babies throughout the world born in poor conditions, with limited oxygen, resulting in brain damage that permanently disables them.  To make matters worse these children don’t have all the amazing resources that we have to care for children with special needs.  For example physical therapy, wheelchairs, speech therapy, and nutritional resources.  So instead these kiddos are left more handicapped then they need to be.
Jojo! Picture taken by Michelle C.
Little sweet Jojo is 2 years old.  Michelle explained that when Mercy Ships first started coming to the orphanage he was malnourished and couldn’t even sit up.  But after some months, with the help of a PT on board and some extra instruction to the staff, he had fattened up and was able to sit up independently.  Praise God!  Jojo is just another reminder to me about all that God is doing here.  May we continue to pray for Jojo and the long journey that lay ahead of him.
I handed Jojo over to Michelle as Hailey tugged at my skirt to get back in my arms.  We walked around visiting all the kids and everyone was really excited to touch Hailey’s hair (this seems to be an attraction for people of all ages).  Then Steve called everyone together for a Bible story time in the courtyard.  Hailey sat happily in front of me completely engaged by all the faces that surrounded her.  As soon as Hailey was out of my arms (again) I had a line up of children yearning to just sit on my lap.  One by one (or sometimes two by two) my lap became a place for these kids to get some extra love and a cuddle.  As I cuddled with each of these kiddos I couldn’t help but think of the amount of hugs, kisses, and love I pour on Hailey each day and how little of that these kids get.  I got a bit sad but then God reminded me that He is their Father and that he loves them even more than I love Hailey and that he POURS his love upon them and has great plans for each and every one.  
All 31 pairs of eyes sat attentively listening to the Bible story presented.  For a country built on over 85% Islam it was great to have these kids hearing about Jesus.  For the kids that still have a parent and/or those that may get adopted, how great to think about these kids not only being a part of a family  but also that they might be a seed in bringing their parents to faith in Jesus.  May God continue to guide and protect these kids and the plans that He has in store for them. 
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans”
 James 1:27 (NIV).

Hailey says, "Support even just one kid!"

*I'm not sure if you have ever thought on supporting an orphan financially and/or adopting but if you haven't I pray that if nothing else this post will make you consider the possibility.   If you decide that you want to then go and talk to your church, friends, and/or me to get connected.  

 Right now there are over 143 million orphans around the world.  That number is overwhelming to think about but if you can put a name and a face to even just one (or ten) I pray it will touch you to want to become a part of their lives.

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