Today was our second day spending time with the older children of Bring Love In. Like teenagers anywhere in the world, they aren’t as immediately open to new faces as their younger brothers and sisters. Their joy is more hidden by time, perhaps like my own. It takes moments of levity to reveal it (acting out the animals from Noah’s ark, for example). I like interacting with excited little kids, but I can also put myself in the shoes of the solemn teen sitting in the corner with a friend, hoping they won’t be called on to speak in front of their peers.
A primary focus for me on this trip is capturing our experience through photo and video. During our days with the Bring Love In kids, I get to wander between our two classrooms, looking for the “right” shots. There are little tricks to finding those shots, like waiting until someone cracks a joke or makes a mistake while reciting in English, and the other kids giggle (even though we ask them not to). I scan the room for a smiling face, and reach out with my trusty 200mm lens to grab that moment and save it. However, I’m not just looking for the smiles. Those smiles are what most people like to see in a photograph, but truthfully the smiles are just one dimension to the beautiful faces of these kids. There is contemplation, melancholy, worry and warmth – the entire human experience existing in a soul who was born probably around the time I was in college. Man, I feel old.
At random times throughout the course of our day in the classrooms and on the playground outside, I remember… I remember that these kids have all had some kind of distorted childhood that brought them to an orphanage and then to their forever families at Bring Love In. I think about my girls back home and what they would have to experience if my wife and I were out of their lives through some difficult circumstance, and there were no family members around to take them in. Pretty painful to imagine. Then I snap out of it, and I’m back in the here and now, watching the expressions of the kids and wondering what they are thinking.
Our team of nine Bozemanites has resolved to focus on relationships and connections ahead of purely educating the children. It’s a tricky balance. Today it seemed to work. The older kids are warming up to us. They all have hidden dreams and talents. At lunch you can catch a glimpse of it on the muddy football (“soccer”) field at the school. I watched Hirut, a girl who was playing goalie for one team, practice her Bible memory verse with a friend while the ball was down on the other end of the field. Coincidentally, she is also playing the blinding light of God in our upcoming play about the conversation of Saul.
Tomorrow each class continues learning the ins and outs of the English language, and preparing for their plays on Friday. Our time is limited – just two days left with the kids. We’re trying to soak it all up. This whole experience is a relatively short moment in the lives of the kids and our team, but it will leave an undeniable imprint on our hearts and souls.