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After my mother left the rest of my days were a blur. I can’t remember what happened next. The orphanage worker probably took me and settled me in. This was my new life now and I had to do what was needed to stay there.

The front area of the orphanage was big. They had a well cistern on the right hand side next to the flowers and other plants, and on the left hand side, there was a large tree with its branches hanging down almost touching the ground. Under the large tree was the sitting and greeting area. There were chairs underneath the large tree which made for good shade from the hot sun. This is where parents would sit and talk when they visited their kids, this is where new adoptive parents would gather to meet their new kids.

(⬇️the tree is right in the left corner)

Still on the right hand side, directly behind where the large tree and sitting chairs were, there was a wide open space. I could see water on the ground from where I was standing as I looked back. You may be surprised to learn what this was used for. This large space was where us kids would shower. Yup… shower. It wasn’t your normal American shower with hot water and bubbly scented soaps, instead it was a cold hosed down unscented soapy water kind of shower. They would split us into two groups (girls and boys) and put us at opposite ends of the cemented yard, and grab the hose that was connected to the water Spicket, and literally hose us down, like we were animals or something. I don’t really remember if we were given soaps. While we were getting hosed down. On the opposite side the boys were getting the same treatment. It was pretty crazy. It was not an experience I liked at all. It left me feeling vulnerable in an unpleasant way. It left me feeling exposed, uncomfortable and hurt. Even though I was only seven, it is a memory I remember too well.

Directly in front of the orphanage gate was the front porch. It was long with a few stairs leading up to the door. There was a door on the left hand side which led to the kitchen, and another door in the center that led to the main part of the house. Now I was pretty surprised when the door opened and I saw what I saw. I don’t know what I was expecting to see exactly, but it wasn’t what was in front of me. Instead it was a very large room.

As I looked I was surprised to see white toddler beds lining the entire right hand side of the room, from one wall to the next. There was 12 inches of space between each bed so you could get in and out. From what I could recall only the girls slept in that room. At the end of the wall, there was a bunk bed that fitted a twin mattress. My guess was maybe that was where the women in charge slept or the older girls. There were large windows right behind the bed I slept on.

(⬅️the window is to the left of the arrow)

At the end of the line of beds there was a pile of clothes for all to share. It almost reached the ceiling. It was full of traditional African clothes, American clothes and whatever they could find or whatever was given. The rule was nothing was ever just yours. You either shared it or you wouldn't see it. As I mentioned before, my mama had just gotten me this beautiful traditional African skirt and blouse which I was so happy to wear, but the moment I got there and changed, my clothes became everyone’s clothes. If it was special to you it was now property of everyone that lives there. You didn’t have anything that was just yours, it belonged to everyone to share.

I can’t recall what was on the left hand side of the large room, maybe it was the boy's side. There was also an upstairs level but I’d only been up there once. I don’t remember what it looked like. Further back in the house there were two other rooms: one for the toddlers and the other for the kids with special needs. The toddlers room had many beds and diaper changers. They also had their clothes and toys in there.

There were quite a few toddlers there (it was pretty sad). But what was sadder was walking into the kids with special needs room. It was something that was difficult for me to do. I loved the little babies and wanted to play with them but there was this feeling in me I couldn’t really understand or even try to put into words. I was almost scared to go in The room. I would often wonder why they were that way. Why was their arms, legs and the way they spoke and ate different from me? It was something that I didn’t know how to figure out so I rarely went into their rooms. Now that I’m older I think it was just a sad experience for me. It was hard to see how physically hurt and different the babies were. They couldn’t do anything for themselves and I didn't understand why that was their life. They didn't do anything to deserve it. But that was their opposition for their life.

As I look back (even though I didn't like the orphanage) the women that worked there treated the babies very well. They tried their best to take care of us and help us. Even though it was hard for me at times and I wanted so badly for my family to come, there were many kids who wouldn’t get the same opportunities and chances I was blessed with. I know God took care of then though.

I’d never seen someone that young go through the things these babies went through so it really freaked me out and made me sad. They had a lot of physical dysfunction that I just didn’t understand or knew how to process. I didn't like that they weren’t able to go out much, and couldn’t do anything for themselves, but I also knew that was the safest for them. I would often wonder why they were that way. It was something that I didn’t know how to figure out so I rarely went into their rooms.

The kitchen I didn't see too often. If I was ever in there it was to get my meal, or sneak more food because I was always hungry😀. I felt like I never had enough to eat. I probably spent most of my days hungrier than full. Because there were a lot of kids, the people needed to make sure we all ate and had a proper amount. And if there were ever leftovers, they were saved for the next meal. What you got was all you got. If you didn’t finish it or ate it and someone else got to it, you weren't allowed to get more no matter what. There were times where I thought I’d be smart and save my food, so at the next meal time I’d have double to eat. Sometimes it would work but other times someone ended up finding my hiding spot and eating my food- which left me missing a few meals during the week.

I was the kind of kid who knew all the rules and tried hard to keep them. I wasn’t interested in breaking the rules or finding ways around them, but… I also was a very curious kid. I mean we were locked behind medal Barbwire gates every day with no way out so there were times where I wondered how can I leave without being caught or getting hurt? I never tried but I definitely thought about it. I don’t remember if anybody else tried leaving but I wouldn’t be surprised.

The orphanage was very Christian based. That’s why the orphanage name was “Acres of Hope”- to give children a new and better life.

From the activities we did, to the songs we sang, to the praying during the day, it was cool. Each time I look back on those simple moments (even though my circumstances were difficult) I’m grateful because it started me on my path of getting to know God and turning to prayer and song for relief.

One of my favorite activities we did was coloring. We would sit on the front porch with crayons and markers and just color for a while. We even had a few coloring books that had pictures of Jesus Christ in them. I remember coloring this one picture of Jesus and I liked it so much that I kept it on my little toddler bed. I loved that that picture of Jesus was right there next to my head. I would look at it at night when I prayed and it was cool to me. No, I did not understand the whole concept of what Jesus’ purpose was, but for some reason the picture on my bed made me feel good!

Some nights we would sit out on the front porch and sing Christian songs and dance. I loved when we did this! It was so much fun! The sky would be dark and sparkling with stars. One of my favorite songs we sang was “Mary don’t cry”. It is a traditional African song about the birth of Jesus Christ. We would sing it almost every night and it made me so happy! I still remember it till this day.

Every once in a while our parents would come and visit for a little bit, not exactly sure how long they’d stay. I only remember my mother coming to visit like three times. I loved it when she came to visit me but I also didn’t because I knew at the end of the day she would have to leave, and that was so hard for me. I honestly can’t remember what we did when she came. I don’t think we were allowed to out of the gate, so we probably played games or just talked.

All of our visits are a blur to me.

I do remember enjoying her company but not what we did. The first couple of visits we had were pretty good. It was hard to say goodbye but I did it, until that last time-

I don’t know what happened but next thing I know is I’m crying. I cried to her that I didn't want her to leave. It was so hard for me. I think somewhere in my mind I was hoping since I’d been so good, that If I cried enough that she would feel bad and take me home with her, but it didn't matter how much I cried, I ended up staying- and because I did cry, my visits rights with her were cut off. I was not allowed to see her again. It was one of those experiences in my life that I will never forget. One of those moments that just broke me and made me feel like I didn’t matter- made me feel like it was all my fault. Of course after a long time I got over myself (kind of) I learned to move on and deal with the way things were. That day that experience taught me that crying was bad, that it was a weakness. And if I ever wanted to move on and not be held down by my emotions, I had to act like everything was just fine, that I was okay and there was nothing the matter. That day at seven years old was when I learned how to act like a robot and just move on.

There came a time where I was mad at my mother. I was mad at the orphanage workers, I was mad at the kids there and I was probably mad at God at some point. There was so much anger and hate in me that I was closing myself off. I was purposefully allowing my anger and hate to get the best of me because it seemed better to be angry than try and find hope in my circumstances. It was too hard to try and get that motivation, But it’s amazing how when I decided (many many years later) to let go of my anger and hate, the relief I received from God was satisfying.

I didn’t understand why I was at the orphanage in the first place, so that last experience just made it worse. But now that I’m older, I better understand why God had me go through what I went through. It was very hard but I can honestly say <now> I’m grateful for that trial. I’m grateful God loved me enough to let things happen the way they did. If I hadn’t gone through what I went through (despite how painful) I wouldn't be the person I am today. My past gave me experiences that I needed to make me the person I choose to be.

After living in the orphanage for a while, they ended up moving me to a different location. It was maybe a mile down the road from the first one. It was the same name and everything but just a bit smaller of a building. I’m not sure why they moved me down the road, but I lived there up until I was adopted.

An important lesson I felt like God was trying to teach me in my orphanage experiences (and now) was/is to “Bloom where you’re planted”. That even though my situations and circumstances are always changing and things don’t always go the way I hope and plan, that I should do what I can with what I have. That I should keep looking forward and make roots wherever I end up.

I think by now we all know and have experienced how hard life is, and that nothing goes exactly how we plan, and that things will always be changing. That is just how life is, but how amazing it is that God never leaves?

How amazing is it that He always stays the same?

Our world could be flipping upside down and spinning the wrong direction but God doesn’t move. He is with us through and through. You never have to worry about Him leaving you.

This truth has been the reason why I’ve been able to “Bloom where I’m planted”.

So for all of you who’ve had hard life situations and who’ve felt lost, forgotten and just lonely at any time in your life you’re not alone. I want you to know that God is not punishing you. He is not teasing you and certainly NOT leaving you. Just keep “Blooming where you are planted” and you’ll be surprised at how beautiful of a person you’ll become.

Thank you for reading my story! I hope it’s allowed you to think about your life and the different circumstances you’ve been through. I hope it’s given you a hope that God will come through for you and is aware of you!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and story of how you've been able to “Bloom where you’re planted😊

Stay toon for My orphanage experience prt 3!

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