Every once in awhile, I'll pull out the letters so I won't forget. I won't forget Benjamin's soulful eyes or Adah calling me mum or Christine's tears. I won't forget Rose saying "when you leave for America, you will pray for me and I will pray for you."
The first letter I received while in Kibera came from Adah and was addressed to "my lovely mum." She called me beautiful in that note - and reading over it brings tears to my eyes. The day she gave me the letter, we were sitting on a bench together, just talking. She grabbed my hand and looked at me.
"When you leave for America, will you forget about me?"
When she asked me, my heart broke. How many times do these kids meet missionaries only to never see them again? How many times do these missionaries leave Africa only to return to the normalcy of their lives? Forcing my tears to wait until later, I looked at her and replied: "no sweet girl. I could never forget you."
And it's holding true. Not a day goes by where I don't think of her contagious laugh or timid smile. When I get homesick for her, I simply pull out her note. Glancing at her tilted penmanship and the penciled in "i love you" written across a crooked heart, my soul explodes with purpose.
And then there's Christine. Clad in her wind shorts and bikers, she snuck in and took residence in my heart unannounced. Quiet, shy, unassuming - she literally came alive when you put on the music. Watching her dance and hearing her sing quickly became some of my favorite memories - but looking into her eyes as we sat and talked while in Kibera, I knew the hole she would leave in my heart was much bigger than dance workshops and laughter.
And I was right.
The letter from her came on the last day in Kibera. She handed it to me discreetly - a small smile playing on her lips. "I will miss you." she said, her eyes finding mine and revealing much more than a simple goodbye. I squeezed her hand and tucked the note in my pocket - to be read on the way home.
Reading it now, in the comfort of my bed and in the plushness of threaded sheets and AC and thick walls, the ache is palpable.
I miss her.
It's amazing the weight these dirty-lined pieces of paper hold. I treasure them more than I treasure many things - and I can't help but wonder if they know. I can't help but wonder if these kids - who occupy my mind - understand the effect they had on me.
And I hope Rose knows I'm praying for her.
And I hope Adah understands I haven't forgotten.
And I hope Christine realizes I miss her more than I ever anticipated.