Inspired to Action blog posts by Rebecca Pratt
During my one on one meetings with the children at our orphanage/safe home, something very unexpected happened.
I asked the little 11 year old girl in front of me, how she was doing. I asked her if she felt safe and protected here at the home, and at her school, due to my knowledge that she had watched her parents be brutally murdered in front of her,
I had to be very careful not to try to make this a big emotional ordeal, but wanted to see how she was doing in her heart. I told her I knew about her parents, and wanted her to know that we want to make sure she is doing okay, not just physicaly, but also emotionally.
She said she does feel safe here. I asked her if she still has nightmare’s about her parents death. She said, "yes, I will never forget". We talked about what to do when she has those nightmares. I told her how proud I was in watching her as a big sister to her younger brother and sister. I told her that her mother and father would be so proud of her as their daughter.
Then God did something I did not expect. God gave me a glimpse of this being my own biological child, and me being the one brutally murdered looking down at this conversation, with a caring woman speaking to my child. I felt like God spoke to my heart these word, “if you were dead, what would you want this woman to tell your child for you?" Oh my goodness, I immediately said in my mind to the Lord, “I would want her to grab my child in her arms and hold her, and rock her, and kiss her, and tell her how proud I was of her, and how much I love her, and that she is not forgotten or alone.
Then I felt like God spoke to me and said, “Then do this”. So I looked at this precious little girl, and asked her if I could represent her mother and rock her and hold her like her mother would have. She shyly said yes, and climbed into my lap, put her head into my chest and allowed me to rock her and kiss her as I told her how much her mother loved her and how she will always love her into all of eternity.
Without her being aware, tears were flowing down my face in deep emotion, as this precious girl stayed nuzzled into my chest. My translator started talking to me in English so this little one could not understand, and began to tell me to stop the tears, because this would not be good for her to see, I told her I was trying, but God was completely breaking my heart for this little one. She then also became emotional, and for the next few minutes we both worked hard to get our composure, with this sweet girl unaware of what was transpiring above her, as she was lost in this embrace of love.
This was just a fleeting moment in time, yet for the rest of the day, this precious girl clung to me every moment she could.
God re-reminded me the need for every child to be recognized as an individual. In the masses of children and need. Each child has a name, a dream, a destiny, and a story. Each child needs a special touch from God through our life.
The people in Benin are beautiful and have truly won over my heart.
I love to see the huge redemption story God is unfolding, as He works to redeem so many broken lives. The difficult thing about this country is watching so many people go through incredible pain and hardship in the name of culture.
If you talk to most locals up country in Benin, they will tell you their culture does not cause any pain, unless of course, you make someone mad. Then you better watch out. because you may be cursed or poisoned, which is a common remedy to their problems. Otherwise, they will tell you, their culture is beautiful and wonderful. Benin is known for being one of the most cultural african nations. You will notice right away that they love to dress to the hilt in their african material, even if just going to buy something in the street market. It is disgraceful not to look your best. The traditions of their ancestors are practiced in a strong way. There are beautiful things about this culture, but there are equally wicked and evil things, which brings me back to Benin over and over again.
Some may wonder why I regularly highlight the sad things in Benin and not all the good things. I have to say, due to all the injustice to children that I have seen happening here, I am driven to come half way across the world to fight hard for the many helpless ones who have become victims in the name of what is called culture. I would gladly stay in my comfortable home in America, yet I have seen and heard too much, and God will not allow me to stand back and do nothing. I desperately need people to help in this fight, and without telling the stories of the reality of so much pain inflicted on children here, I cannot get the help these kids need. At the same time, I have to also honor and love those in my path, no matter what country I am in, and for that, I do not look at any of those who practice these wicked things as terrible people, I look at them as just doing the only thing they have been taught. It is all they know. They do not understand why life is valuable. This is where the God element has to comes in, along with each of us doing our part.
Without understanding that there is a God who created each of us in HIs own image and takes great value in our lives, there is no concept of why a human life is sacred and valuable.
In the area’s where voodoo and witchcraft is practiced, it is accepted as cultural practices not to be disrupted. This is where no child’s life carries much value, and an orphans life carries no value at all. In their view, them becoming orphaned was destined by the gods, and therefore that child is destined to be in service to others for the duration of their childhood. Horrific abuse occurs to those children in those villages.
The good news is that In these efforts, we are seeing huge progress with each year that passes by. Not only with the children we are able to rescue, but by our shear presence, and others joining this fight for justice. We are making a huge difference as we represent the voice of every hurting child in each village we visit, and in every government office we enter. For that reason, I keep jumping on planes and working hours and hours to keep Orphan Relief and Rescue running, along with our small staff, volunteers and donors. We do this for the sake of the voiceless ones who need us to keep fighting for them in both Benin and Liberia.
Beating an orphan to death and burying them in the back yard with no questions asked, is not okay. Cutting up a child’s face in a painful voodoo ceremony, is not okay. Using an orphan or abandoned child as a slave, is not okay. Female circumcision is not okay. Taking a child bride is not okay. Selling your child into trafficking is not okay. Poisoning a loved one or co -worker to die or get sick, is not okay. Sacrificing children to appease the gods, is not okay (this is now outlawed here, but still occurs). The only things mentioned here that you can go to jail for, are the human sacrificing or poisoning, if someone tells on you and they can prove it. Even then, most are afraid of being poisoned or cursed themselves and won’t tell.
I must make a side note here, that not all of the area’s of Benin are the same. There are different area’s where the things I share about are not practiced. What I share does not represent the whole of the country, yet, in the areas where we work, and in many villages in Benin, it does in a very real way. There are also many local hero’s who are in this fight for justice as well, and for those, we regularly join forces to support and help them in their efforts.
For the lives of the innocent, we will keep fighting, even if it is not culturally acceptable to question these things.
Late Friday night the house mother of our orphanage/safe home in Benin, came to me with her bible in hand, and asked if she could talk and process some things with me. With a stack of sponsorship letters I needed to finish writing for the 19 of our 59 kids who did not receive a letter from their sponsors, I realized what stood before me needed to take priority. I stopped what i was doing and committed to be the listener she needed in that moment. Knowing I had a deadline for the letters to be given out in the morning, along with my translator who was coming at 10 am, I had to intentionally switch my mind to this precious lady who has devoted the last 3 and a half years to being a mother to our 59 children.
In her broken English and lots of hand motions, she shared with me some of her struggles for about an hour. We then prayed and handed it all over to God, I shared some thoughts with her that I felt God was asking me to tell her. This brought her to sweet tears, as she felt like these things were exactly what God was trying to speak to her about, yet she just needed confirmation. She then took my two hands in hers, with tears dripping down her eyes, and thanked me for listening and praying and speaking life into her.
I then got back to my letter writing, grateful for that beautiful God moment, having a keen sense of awareness that I almost missed God in that moment through being in my focused work mode.
I am reminded that through the mundane tasks we have to accomplish, there are spiritual moments intertwined in and through it all, as God is so eager in every circumstance to bring a touch of Himself to others, through our lives.
May we never get too busy to miss these beautiful moments in which God intends to bring healing to those in our path.
As I hit Paris on my layover to Benin, my social encounters come to an end, as I said hello to the French speaking Countries I would be in for the next 12 days. Rarely do I find anyone speaking English at this point in my travels.
When I boarded the plane I asked the woman next to me in my few known French words, if she spoke English, she said no. So my next seven hours were spent in silence.
This has become a common occurrence in my travels to Benin. This never get’s any easier. I listened to my French lessons on my earphones, and used the rest of the flight to sleep, as I had lost one full night’s sleep, and was quite exhausted.
The discomfort of not knowing the language, and my questioning again of why God asks me to work in a country where nothing is personally comfortable, rose to my mind. I fought these negative thoughts, and told the Lord, I am His. I will continue to do whatever He asks, even if I am completely out of my element and comfort zone. I committed once again my hands, my feet, and my mouth piece, however He wants to use them. I am making myself available to whatever He wants to do through my life.
My friend, and Director of the orphanage/safe home we have brought into existence, picked me up at the airport and we had a wonderful time catching up, as English is her first language.
The next day we took the long, hot and bumpy road up country to where our kids were waiting for us, and where my friend dropped me off for the rest of my trip, as she does not live at the orphanage, I then had my translator meet me the following day to begin the work part of the trip with child profiles and updates, sponsorship letters, and all my Government meetings. Which brings me to today. (Friday).
As I arrived, the hugs and kisses crossed all barriers of language, even though it was initially awkward to find adequate words to say except hello, and how are you.
After Eating and taking a much needed nap that first evening with the kids, I went outside my room to face the awkward language barrier again. I was immediately embraced and mobbed by children who wanted hugs and love.
That is the one thing I could do.
They pulled up a chair for me, as they stroked my arms and put their hands through my hair and fought for my lap. We did our usual practicing of French words for me, and English words for them, and had fun just hanging out together into the night hours.
I began to thank God for each life rescued in front of me. 56 of the 59 kids in this home have no parents alive. The little 5 year old girl who was standing in front of me had watched both parents be brutally murdered in front of her. The 15 year old girl who stroked my hair was rescued from being married off at the age of 13 to a Muslim man who had many other wives.
One redemption story after the next flooded my mind, and all I could do in that moment was to thank God for this incredible privilege of allowing me to be apart of this work.
This morning I awoke to kids singing praises to God in their morning devotions at 6 am, In my own quiet time, I listened to the worship song called, “Dance with me.” The words hit home as God reminds me that He wants to dance with me even when it is uncomfortable. He will lead, and He wants me to follow in this beautiful dance with Him.
The words to the song echo in my mind “Won’t you Dance with me, oh lover of my soul, to the song of all songs. By your love you have captured my heart. Won’t you dance with me.”
God is echoing these words to each of us every day. “Won’t you dance with me?”
May my answer always be, “Yes, I will dance with you, my Lord.”
Where you lead, I will follow, even when it is uncomfortable.
Psm: 143:8 NIV: Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.