One of my prayers during Journey was that the Lord would break my heart for what breaks His, just like Nehemiah’s heart broke for the Israelites after the wall of Jerusalem was destroyed. Nehemiah 1:4 says that when Nehemiah heard of Jerusalem falling to pieces, he sat down and wept and “mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” My heart before Journey had always hurt for others that were hurting, but never to an extent that I felt compelled to fall to my knees and weep for them or pray for them as fervently as I could. But when I met Clementine and her sweet daughter Cheryl, the Lord answered my prayer with immeasurably more.
Clementine works for the 410 Bridge as a community development coordinator in East Africa. She accompanied my team as we visited homes and schools in the first community we were staying in. As I spent time with Clementine, I saw Jesus so clearly through her. She is radiant with joy and depth and light. Her smile is contagious, and her willingness to open up and go deep in conversation with my team and me blew me away. In such a foreign country, I expected to be intimidated by conversation, but Clementine, along with the rest of the Africans I had the privilege of talking with, welcomed me into her life simply because of her love for Jesus.
As I sat with Clementine snapping peas during a home visit, she told me about her husband and her eighteen-month-old daughter, Cheryl. Immediately I asked her when I could meet Cheryl because, as the rest of my team knew all too well, I love babies. She assured me that I would not leave her community at the end of the summer without having met her daughter. My team and I left that community and returned to it for a few of our last days in Africa. Seeing Clementine and the Rejoice Project leaders again as I got off the bus felt like coming home to a family I’d been missing. We headed to another home visit and once again, I was with Clementine. My team and I sat with her and our other African friends in blue plastic chairs in a small living room with mud walls, sharing with one another about our lives. Clementine told all of us that she’s married and has one daughter who has had brain damage since she was born. I hadn’t known this about her daughter, and it made my heart long to meet her and love on her all the more.
Finally, on our last day in the community, Clementine brought Cheryl to our campsite. I held her and never wanted to let go. Though Cheryl was eighteen months old, she could not walk or talk, and her mental disabilities were clearly visible. I looked at Clementine as I held Cheryl, and her deep love for her daughter was shown through her eyes. Then, a few other girls and I gathered around Clementine and Cheryl and prayed over them, and for the first time, I saw an African adult cry. Clementine wept as we prayed for healing, for comfort, and for endurance for her and her daughter, and I could do nothing else but fall to my knees and weep with her. I cried painful, angry, and sad tears because Cheryl will be outcasted from society, she most likely will not have the proper healthcare she needs, and Clementine’s love and protection cannot change her circumstances. But in all of the hurt I felt in my heart, I saw Jesus and saw Him to the fullest. Like Nehemiah, the Lord was breaking my heart for what breaks His, yet He was showing me His goodness and beauty despite the brokenness of this world. Thank the Lord that Clementine’s love isn’t enough to change Cheryl because the Lord’s love IS enough. The enemy in this world will do anything he can to keep her broken, BUT God can restore her fully, and He is the One sitting on the throne. Though Cheryl may never be physically healed, Jesus’ death and resurrection gives her the hope of a beautiful life.
I said goodbye to Clementine that night and left the community the next morning knowing that I would never be the same. The Lord put Clementine in my life, and me in her life, to invest in one another’s joy and heartbreak and point each other towards the foot of the cross. Though I may never see Clementine on this earth again, I rest in the glorious fact that we will be together for eternity. One day we will no longer be separated by continents on opposite sides of the world, but we will be calling the same place our Home.