Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Kids' Music

Listening to the orphanage band is like magic to me and I sometimes feel like I can’t get enough of it. The kids create their own songs – Clara writes, Domingos makes arrangements for all the instruments, and everyone else collaborates. At least four times a week the band practices well into the night and I think this has got to be a treat for the neighborhood because our sound system is not quiet. The kids sing in a style with the sweetest melodies and warm African beats, all in Macua, and all to God.

One night I heard the kids practicing their music and ran to take pictures of the saxophone for my dad. But once I was sitting in the little open round concrete hut in the midst of them I found myself overcome with emotion for the kids and their singing.Earlier in the afternoon someone had brought Victor a copy of the newspaper which had an article about the orphanage in it. At the end of the article were little stories about three of the kids. Victor read each story aloud and as soon as he started with the first one, about Gabriel, I found myself completely crying. Victor and I ourselves have already told his story to people many times, but I felt like I was hearing it for the first time as it was in first person. When Gabriel was a baby his parents died and he was left with his sister who had a baby the same age. His brother decided to throw him into a latrine to relieve the pressure on the sister. After Gabriel was rescued by a neighbor he lived with a string of relatives who abused him, accused him of stealing things he had never touched, and left him to die of starvation. At age 10 Gabriel was rescued when another relative brought him to the orphanage. At the end of the article Gabriel says that today he is 19, doing well in school, wearing nice clothes, and eating all he could ever want. When I think of Gabriel today – I can not say enough good things about him. He is gentle and kind, has a huge instant smile, and is fiercely loyal. He protects younger kids and takes every responsibility seriously. He is a hard worker and a good example to others. In our little English class he is always calm but has complete enthusiasm. He is handsome and his clothes are always clean. When he plays soccer he somehow has the ability to go all out 100% against the older kids without ever trampling over the little ones.

Less than an hour after being overcome with emotion as I heard about Gabriel being an innocent little child, imagining him left to die as if he were worthless, I am sitting in the round concrete hut (with the grass roof – my favorite building here) in the midst of the kids music and here is Gabriel, who is kind of like the sound man (who sets up the equipment when the kids perform), singing and dancing back and forth with the others. Then I see two other teenage boys in the orphanage who love the singing so much that they have somehow become part of the band. They are both singing their hearts out, first standing in the doorway and then dancing with the others. It is the kind of thing where for the rest of your life you will remember this time with such fondness that you will just ache to be there again. The music is so beautiful – if anyone who ever reads this were here in this hut with me right now it would be impossible for you to say that you’ve ever heard music more beautiful. The melody is beautiful and haunting and maybe even bitter sweet and the combination of Clara’s voice and Domingos’ arrangements are perfect. These practices have been going on every night since we returned from the U.S. and I love it. The warm breeze comes in through all the large open-air windows. The music is in Macua and it’s all to God.

There are three girls singing plus now these three boys. Another boy is playing keyboard, another is playing guitar, a girl is playing bass, another boy is playing drums, and Domingos is going back and forth between the saxophone and another guitar, which I think he is like a genius at.

I am looking at the other two teenage boys and crying all over again because both of them came here literally from living homeless in the streets. Kids who live in the streets spend their time begging, rummaging through trash (and nothing touchable becomes trash here because everyone’s hungry and will even suck the marrow out of a bone before discarding it), wearing one piece of garbage clothing until it literally disintegrates and falls off, and may never have put on a shoe or a pair of underwear in their life. That’s what it means to be a street kid here. It’s basically unthinkable. I am looking at these two boys and thinking about where they would be right this minute and what they would be doing if they were not in this orphanage. They are here. They are Christians. They are passionate. They love God and people. They are loyal to the death. If Victor were to give them the worst punishment you could imagine in the morning they would still defend him with all their heart and strength the same night. And they are adorable. One has had a hard week. Yesterday the staff made a special Macua drink for all the kids and he took a lot of it and drank it even when the kitchen people tried to stop him. He got in big trouble and is now still recovering from this whole episode and its consequences. This morning my brother (who speaks Portuguese and has been in Mozambique more than I have) called us on Skype and I brought a little group of kids in to talk. After all the kids went out, the boy I am talking about came in, sat in a chair facing the laptop, and talked to my brother, looking at each other back and forth through laptop screens, for over ten minutes. This was one of the best, most valuable skype uses ever.

I can look at every person in this room and be emotional. One girl’s parents died of AIDS and when she and her little brother arrived here several years ago, they were so skinny and diseased that the staff thought they wouldn’t make it through the month. Now they are healthy and strong. She is gorgeous and her voice is amazing. Her personality is outgoing and soft and fun and enthusiastic. Even though she is a tiny 12 year old Victor has found her at times fasting and praying on her own ambition. She is delightful. Another girl’s parents died when their house collapsed on them in a storm. Before they died, leaving their children orphans, another boy’s dad was a well known chef , anothers was a policeman, and anothers was a beloved pastor. I can not even fathom the love that these parents must have had for their precious children and the horrific nightmare of the parent dying and the child being left at the mercy of whatever. Now they are here and they are in this little room singing their hearts out, playing their instruments, singing to God. They are all beautiful and handsome and strong, wearing nice clothes, and free from abuse, hunger, and fending-for-yourselfness. They sing like angels. I can’t believe I get to be part of this.
The band performing at the International Crossroads Music Festival in Nampula in May.


momsi/Nonni said...

So very exciting!!!Tell everyone Ashley had another Baby Girl. I need to know how to set up my Skype so I can call??Love ya Momma Nichols

Jenna Marie Howard said...

I just wanted to stop by and tell you thank you for caring for orphans. Your witness and story is an inspiration! As I have read through your blog I am encouraged that I am not alone in this fight to help orphaned and abandoned children. I am the Director of Public Relations for a non-profit organization called World Orphans. We build church based orphan homes all over the world and our mission is simple E3 to reach each church…each child…each community. I would love for you to take a look at our website and let me know if you have any questions. ( thank you again for your heart and words that you have written. I hope you will have a glorious blessed day!
Jenna M. Howard
-Director of Public Relations