See Bryan’s posts on our retrieval of Syalom from school (At the School…) and her house (Visit 5). Here are a few of my impressions:
Syalom was much bigger than I expected! As Bryan said, she’s probably older than her reported age. I immediately began worrying that the clothes I’d brought her wouldn’t fit.
I found out early in our visit to Syalom’s home that her mother has cancer (we weren’t told what kind), and she’s receiving treatment, thanks to Compassion. Often in urgent medical cases Compassion is able to provide money from their Complementary Intervention fund to help family members other than the sponsored child. In fact, Syalom’s mother had rescheduled a doctor’s appointment so she could meet us on the day we visited.
Later, as we learned about the kitchen addition to their house bought by extra gifts I’d sent, I realized at least part of that project was paid for with my friend Linda’s gift money. Linda also has cancer. Both Linda and Syalom’s mom seem to be doing well for now. I was touched by the connection between these two women who live half a world apart, both struggling with a life-threatening disease, both loved and prayed for by Syalom.
I had another bad moment at Syalom’s house when I realized some jewelry items (two watches, for Syalom and her mother, and a necklace) had been stolen out of the luggage at some point, likely in Jakarta. Thankfully the watch I’d brought for the father was still in the bag. But I felt sad and angry that the gifts seemed a bit skimpy (by my standards). It was another distraction, another bump in the road.
Syalom was very quiet for most of the visit, though she cooked us fried plaintains and patiently showed me how to prepare them. At one point someone in the crowd of women urged me to pin up my hair, because of the heat. I accepted a little green plastic butterfly clip from Syalom. Later, when I tried to return it, she smiled and said, “It’s OK.” I was delighted to squirrel it away into my bag. I still have it, and think of her when I see it in my drawer.
After the home visit we returned to the church. A team of cooks had prepared an enormous buffet lunch and we all ate heartily. I think the sweetest moments of the visit happened for me then, in that after-food lolling-about time. Syalom snuggled up close to me on the couch and we looked at the pictures on my phone and my camera. (I kept thinking, why didn’t I take any more exciting pictures?!) Syalom taught me a few words in her language, and I said things in English for her. We took some selfies.
Finally, about half an hour after the time I’d thought would be the latest we could stay, we began saying goodbye. Our Compassion host said he thought the pastor had wanted to talk more—I worried we were offending by rushing off, made apologies, felt pulled in many directions. Syalom’s mother kissed both my cheeks, then we did it again for the camera. I hugged Syalom. We got in the car and she came around to my window. She said something to the host.
“She wants to kiss you,” he said. And so she did, a gentle feather touch on my cheek.
I am very grateful for moments like that one. They erase all the fretting, the cross-cultural gaffes, the logistical difficulties, the risks and expense. They’re magic.
Thank you, Syalom.