I met him the day he was born. I won’t tell his birth story – it’s his. It’s dark and tragic and holy and miraculous – miraculous that he made it, from that hut into the arms of our aunties on the base. Heart still beating. And I saw a photo of him – a newborn smaller than a book – the same day he was born, and with my body full of milk, I thought I need to feed that child. And then a few moments later, when my friend came to my door, his tiny frame wrapped in kapulana,saying he wouldn’t drink from bottle, I knew my premonition was right.
So I held him, and I wept for his beauty and his neediness and his heartache, and we played worship over his beating heart. I fed him with my own milk. And although my toddler was fast asleep in her bed, and my four month old was gurgling next to me, I thought I want to take him into my home. My home was overflowing and sleep barely threaded together into more than two hours at a time, but that is what I thought.
I daydreamed about it. I had always wanted to adopt, but I knew nothing of this desire until I held a mama-less newborn, rooting around with eyes shut. When my babies fell asleep, I would wander over to the baby house and gaze at him. One day in the baby house I heard him crying in the next room, and I must have looked ridiculous, holding my toddler’s hand, carrying my baby girl, and leaning over the cot to pick up the newborn to give him to the auntie. It was too much – always, it was – but I couldn’t see it then.
It wasn’t until one night, sitting at my kitchen table, I facedthe hard truth. In Mozambique adoption is both a marathon and a lottery – perhaps you will get lucky in the end, but in the meantime you must be willing to wait years. Perhaps you will not be lucky, but by then your heart hasknittedto your baby, and how could you leave him then? So you might stay twenty years until he is grown, because you can’t leave the country with him. I thought through all this and still resolved defiantly I could do that with God. But the thought of committing 20 years to a land I can barely survive in some days was too much. The floodgates opened and I wept.
Nine months later, we feel God calling us on.We are ready to leave. Weare so full of peace, so full of joy. It is good. We know God is leading us, and we are beginning to understand His process.
For 18 months whilst in Mozambique, at least one member of our family has been sick. That means someone’s either coughing or puking or infected or limping or hosting a worm. It’s been tiring. On not much sleep and in a hot little house. It has been hard. And along the way I’ve asked God to move in power, take our sickness away.Andthen I’ve woken up the next day, and Nick is still lifeless, eyes shut, on the bed. And Willow’s still coughing. And one night, honesty crept out in the quiet and I whispered to Nick why doesn’t Jesus do something? I feel like He is just watching.
Only now do I begin to see. I remember the times we wondered about moving on, but in the end I stubbornly held onto this place. I didn’t want to move again, and heart pushed itself deep into the ground of Mozambique. I forced my roots down in faith – which was beautiful and necessary for these last four years – but my heart became buried. It took months of sleeplessness and sickness to peel it back out of the dirt. To clean it and wash it and give it space to consider a new path. I don’t think God sent the sickness. He didn’t send the thieves or the worms or the power cuts. They all come with the territory of living here. They are part of the broken – stunning yet broken – package. But God, He came for my heart. And through it all, He was tenderly lifting my heart out of the dirt, cleaning it up, and presenting it back to me. And He said, it’s time to go, beloved.
I look at the baby boy now. “I thought he would be mine,” I silently whisper to God. My heart still aches over the gap I didn’t fill. But he is six months old, and he’s gaining weight. He has aunties that love him and brothers and sisters at the centre. He is smiley and he’s eating solid food. He’s eating solid food. And God tells me in Isaiah there is a better name than sons and daughters. My season with him was to hold him, to nourish his fragile frame, and to hand him back. And all the while, he planted a seed in me. A seed full of adoption and compassion and heartache and beauty and faith. And I will carry it with me always. As I hand him back.
I look at this season drawing to a close. “I thought this land was going to be my inheritance,” I silently whisper to God. This land of purple bushes, sleeping babies, wrinkled grandmothers, orange dirt, empty blue sky. But it wasn’t my inheritance. I am so full. To be honest, I am so relieved – to be released from this difficult season. My heart is full of peace. I walk around the base, and the sea breeze occasionally permeates the heat, and I smile at these children who I’ve walked with for four years. I know almost everyone I meet. And the baobab trees stand tall and grey in the sun, and I feel it pass through my hands. My season was to hold this place, to nourish the hungry, and to hand it back And all the while, this place planed a seed in me. A seed of joy and soft-heartedness in suffering and pure intimacy. And I will carry it with me always.
Oh Mary, your shoes are not comfortable. I travel between nations with dirty, cracked feet, like you. My legs ache as I carry my baby, like you. I am young and scared and exhilarated and tired and full of faith, like you. I don’t know where I’m going to stay, just like you. I carry a promise amidst all the bags and the questions, like you. I am in love with the invisible God, like you. And, just like you, I also have whispered in the quiet of my room, “Let it be to me as you have said.”