Yesterday we volunteered at a primary school out in Olievenhoutbosch, a rural area south of Centurion. Our church had gathered presents for 1,400 children, and we put on a Christmas party for them complete with boerewors rolls, jumping castles and face painting.
I always end up getting stuck with the face painting, and I'm terrible at it. Everything I paint looks like it needs phsyical therapy. But I had my orders.
It was hot as I sat in the dirt and kids crowded around me. They didn't speak English and I don't speak Sepedi, so we had fun trying to communicate. Most of them wanted "South Africa" on their face, which meant that they wanted the South African flag. And as I painted their faces, statistics started running through my head...
1 out of every 3 of you will lose a parent to AIDS in a few years. Everything will try to pull you down and keep you from completing your education - crime, rape, prostitution, poverty, hopelessness. And you are the future of this country and I see the potential reflected in your eyes and I wish I could do more than just paint your face with "South Africa."
It was all I could do to keep from crying at their Christmas party (and wouldn't that be the worst - to take away the little bit of fun and joy they have?). So I prayed. I prayed for each one as I painted their faces beaded with sweat and dotted with tomato sauce and bread crumbs. God, protect them. Protect them so they can reach their full potential, so they can grow up to be who You created them to be.
I came home with a nasty sunburn, but it is my heart that is raw and sore as I type this. I ache for them. I ache for them so much.