We could have carved their names on a tree, “Linda loves Rusty.” They had a bond of love at first sight. It made no difference that they lived worlds apart. Rusty had been abandoned and we never knew how old he was, we estimated about three months. He was chubby cheeked, smiled easily and took his bottle in a single gulp like he had been starved. He was definitely Linda’s little love.
When she walked into the infant room at Neema Village, Rusty’s eyes went to her and never left her face. If she picked up another baby he would frown until she picked him up. Then the sun would come out on those round baby cheeks.
Since Rusty was an abandoned baby Social Welfare would wait six months to make sure no family member came forward to claim the baby. As the months passed and no one came to claim Rusty, it began to look like he would get a new family. And we were excited that there was a wonderful family waiting to adopt him. It was a good plan.
But Rusty’s adoption was not to be. His birth mother called her sister and said, “I have a baby at Neema Village, if you want him, go get him.” Once a family member contacts us the adoption is off.
The volunteers and I (pictured above) went to visit him shortly after he went home to live with his aunt. On Linda’s next trip to Africa she couldn’t wait to go to Rusty’s home for a visit.
As soon as Linda came in the door, Rusty came right to her, grabbed her around the neck and would not leave her arms until toys were brought out.
His new home was a bit disappointing but at least it was not a mud hut. His aunt loves him and does the best she can for him but it was pretty sparse with rough cement walls and cold bare floors and no toys for the boys. So we brought toys.
His aunt is hard working like most mothers in Africa and supports the family with a small vegetable stand in Moshi pictured below.
It was disappointing to lose the adoption family for Rusty but as Social Welfare said, we cannot keep a child from his family just because they are poor. Most Africans are poor! We have placed over thirty Neema babies back with an extended family member. And just like with Rusty, we love to go out to their homes and check on them. When they go home we place their pictures on our wall at Neema so we will never forget them.
But Linda’s heart was touched with Rusty’s living condition and decided that she could help. On our next trip to see the family, Linda and Emanuel, our driver, bought paint, brushes and linoleum and hired a couple of neighbors to come help paint the gray cement walls into a soft yellow.
It warmed the room when they put the shiny green linoleum down so the boys did not have to play on the cement floor.
In one day Linda had transformed the room into a bright and cheerful playroom for the baby she loved.
I know we can’t do this for every baby we put back into their homes but who can stop love at first sight!
Linda had brought a Blessing for the house too, a transfer to put above the door.
I think the scripture fits Linda ’s heart too don’t you? “Blessed are the pure in Heart.”
And May you be Blessed too!
Michael and Dorris