There are some moments in life that you can never fully prepare for. This became clear to me when I found myself sitting in the dirt in a remote village in Togo, Africa, surrounded by flies and holding a baby. He wore no clothes and no diaper, he was wrapped in only a thin blanket. His mother handed him to one of the other missionaries as soon as we arrived, and eventually he was handed to me. When he was placed in my arms, memories from my trip to Honduras flooded my mind. Memories of sitting in that upstairs room at the orphanage, holding a baby that was far smaller than she should be for her age. As this baby, who also felt too light in my arms, looked up at me with curious eyes I saw that he was covered in bug bites, and there were flies all around him. He didn't cry about being held by a complete stranger, he just looked at me.
At that moment, I felt completely out of my element. Nothing I learned in thirteen years of school, nothing I learned in Sunday school or youth group, fully prepared me for what I was experiencing. This was one of those times when I had to fully immerse myself in the experience, and figure it out as it happened. It was a moment that I don't think I will ever forget, and I don't want to.
The thing that has kept me from telling this story for so long, aside from the fact that I know it is hard to hear about an unhealthy baby, is the simple fact that this encounter did not have a happy ending. There is no shiny bow I can attach to this package before I present it to you. When it was time for us to leave, I handed him back to his mother and walked away. I believe she was being the best mother she could be in the circumstances she was in and I truly admire her for that, but it was still hard to leave him there.
So what finally enabled me to share this memory that has been on my mind all this time? The simple realization I have been thinking of this encounter as a complete story, when in reality it is just a short chapter. I don't know what that baby's life is like today, or what his future will hold. Whatever happens I am thankful that I got to meet him, even though the meeting was brief. I hope that by sharing this short chapter of my time with him, the story of his life will be honored.