Over the next week plans began to take shape for a mega church service. There was a couple who had recently become Christians and wanted to get married. They also wanted to be baptised, along with two other church members, including Lizzie - one of the house mothers from the orphanage. Not one to keep things low-key, Gerrit asked the six married couples in the church if they would consider renewing their wedding vows - the answer was a resounding yes. But still, he wanted more, so asked if there were any parents who wanted to have a thanksgiving / dedication for their child. At the final count there were 13 children and babies to be dedicated!
Three of the children were from Asiphé - the youngest was Leroy. As I'd been spending so much time with him over the week, Janet asked me if I'd mind holding him through the service, as they'd be brought to the church in the car, so he wouldn't have his supportive chair in church. Mind holding him? Of course I would LOVE to hold him! I would be honoured to hold him!
That Sunday morning we were up early to get the church building ready, and to help sort the refreshments. The church slowly began to fill and there was a buzz of excitement about the place. Then there was a tap on my shoulder - it was Bryn - could I come out to the car to carry Leroy into the church? I hurried outside and over to Bryn and Janet's car where Janet was in the back with Leroy and the two youngest mobile girls, R and N. I reached in and pulled Leroy up towards me and snuggled him in to me. We then went into the church building and found a seat.
Leroy was dressed in a black and white track suit with the Durban Sharks rugby team emblem on the front. Unplanned, I had managed to dress to match, with my black skirt and black and white t-shirt! He was quite interested in what was going on in the church - it was a rare occasion indeed for him to leave the orphanage, other than medical appointments.
The service started, and Leroy seemed to really enjoy the music and singing. After the worship, the marriage took place, to great applause. Leroy snuggled in to me and fell asleep, stirring briefly through the clapping. Next came the renewal of marriage vows for six couples who were church members. I leaned back in my chair to study my precious bundle. Tiny tight curls of very dark brown hair were spread over his head - so so soft to the touch. Velvety brown skin on his face, with rosy cheeks - I guess he was quite cosy snuggled up to me.
Another rumble of applause roused me, and I again tuned in to the service. Gerrit was now talking about the children in the church, and before long he invited the 13 children and their parents and carers to bring them to the front. As I walked forward, I realised that there were almost going to be more people at the front, than were left in the congregation, but it was only as Gerrit invited people to gather round each child to pray for them, that I realised I would be the main person praying for Leroy. Judy, one of the church members, came to stand alongside me, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief. This precious boy needed high quality prayers - I wasn't sure I was eloquent enough in my prayers...
Judy prayed first, a lovely, articulate prayer, asking for God's blessing on Leroy after thanking God for his precious life. Then she fell silent and I started hesitantly to pray. I prayed for health for him; I prayed that as he grew, he would prove the doctors wrong, that where they'd said he would be "severely mentally handicapped" he would be an intelligent little boy; I prayed for him to be cherished and loved; I prayed for him to know a mother's love, to have a family's nurturing; I prayed for a future for him where he could thrive, not just exist, not only survive. I prayed big prayers for him, my faith growing as I spoke; my hesitance turning to confidence. And as I prayed, I could feel tears coursing down my cheeks, and my heart was pounding in my chest. And then suddenly I was overwhelmed by immense, fierce mother love for this baby, taking my breath away; searing painfully through my heart. In that moment, although I didn't realise it, my life changed; my son's future and mine became divinely intertwined. This was the beginning, the start of the fulfillment of God's bold and wonderful plan.
Gradually, I became aware that people around us were returning to their seats, the service was moving on to the sermon. Wiping away more tears, I managed to make my way back to my seat, carefully cradling my son, who had slept through the whole drama, oblivious to the momentous moment we'd experienced together. As I sat there, Janet came over, and held out her hands for Leroy. They needed to take the children back to the orphanage for lunch and nap time. Reluctantly, I passed him over, as he opened his eyes, disturbed from his sleep. And then they were gone, and I was left with empty aching arms, trying to work out what exactly had happened, and wondering how it was possible to love a child so powerfully, so overwhelmingly, so fiercely, when I had only known him eleven days!