“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 1:31, NIV).
On this day, we saw a rainbow color the sky during the impromptu Americanos versus the Guatemalans soccer game. Little did I know of the promises that God would reveal to me on this day. It was to be a day of activities and fun on a well-worn soccer field among the many soccer fields in the vast expanse of soccer fields of this place. We walked by field after field of soccer games and hundreds of people of all ages gathered in bright and colorful uniforms playing “fútbol.” Finally there was a field open in furthest region of the gigantic soccer park complex.
Of course the age difference between the kids from Guatemala and the volunteers from America was of little significance and of no importance because the kids from the “Dorie’s Promise” orphanage have been bouncing the soccer ball off their head since the time they could walk. They also have been practicing footwork for about as long. So the eight year old girls and boys could easily bring the ball past most of the awkwardly flailing and falling Americans most of the time.These precious children seemed to find real delight in our desperate failures and the sound of laughter was almost as prevalent as the sound of the black and white ball being kicked about in every direction.
After the game, as we loaded twenty something bodies into a van designed for many less, I volunteered to sit in the very back seat with the ten-year old boys, just behind a row of girls in the ten to twelve age range. Little did I know midst the smell of the humanity of the many heated bodies that we were going to add the smell of taco and cheese flavored snacks and apple juice. For a moment … the tightness of the space and the smell of all of us piled together enhanced by the pungent aroma of the well-received snacks was a bit much. Yet as we started to move down the street lined with dozens of families and “fútbol” enthusiasts of every type and age … my mind seemed to be translating the context, surroundings and feelings inside of my heart towards a different understanding.
As the tired boys began to lean into me and as they lifted my arms up so they could snuggle even closer against me, I began to notice a sweetness in the fragrance of life and relationships on this ride back to the orphanage. Even as I was slightly embarrassed at the odor of my own humanness, the children’s thoughts floated on the joy of the day and having someone along to lean against desiring the security of being cared for. The girls in the row ahead sang along with the radio and the “Special Mothers” anxiously scanned the 15 or so children to see if any were getting carsick or bothering other children. Simple things outside along the way brought smiles, “oohs” and “aahhs” from the exhausted but excited youngsters.
I looked around and noticed the specialness of each child. I thought of their journeys of pain, loneliness and abandonment to be come to the orphanage and the journeys ahead in their lives. Their different expressions, emotions, smiles and unique looks and gestures made this captive group, a tapestry of rich color as vibrant as the Guatemalan fabrics in stalls and markets, we were passing by.
As the sunset began to set and cast its soft glow on the faces of the children. I realized the beauty and specialness of this Guatemalan journey to the soccer fields and back to the orphanage. God loves us all with deep and steadfast love, drawing us ever close to His side. His only concern and intention is to love us. God loves us fully and completely seeing and knowing everything about us. Through the Living Christ, He blesses us with the relationships that connect and fulfill us. Somehow in the crowded van after a day overflowing with activities with our new friends … there was a sweetness in all of this; as to the life God had blessed and given every one of us. He continually graces us by His love to experience joy upon joy. He often gives us joy in places where we might least expect it. My heart took in a hearty measure of this joy through His grace, He had purposed in this place and in this moment midst all of us tightly packed on this special journey back to the orphanage.