We Saw Them Become Orphans

It was our fourth time to Africa, but our first time to go as a pair.

Tim was hired by The Alliance for Children Everywhere to write some scripts, shoot some video, and edit it for a curriculum churches and schools will use back in the states that will help raise awareness and funds for their work in Zambia.

What does ACE do? Rescue children who would otherwise die. That’s what their website says, point-blank. They do a lot more than that, but that’s a pretty big first step.

About a week before the trip, I learned we’d be staying in The House of Moses, the rescue center for babies who’ve been orphaned or abandoned. I knew instantly I would fight the duality between loving that we got to stay there (because who doesn’t like to play with a room full of babies and toddlers?) and the reality that I would want to do so much more than stay there and play. I’d battle that instinct most of us have to want to make everything right, even things that are well beyond our grasp.

House of Moses

We were told it was likely we would see people dropping off abandoned babies. The house was small. We could be having dinner at the table (which is right next to the front door) and someone could come in with a baby that was found in a latrine. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened there.

For the most part, our time there was pretty low-key. Some babies got dropped off, and one who was adopted went home. A mother who was in the process of adopting one of the children would come at dinner time most nights. It was clear these babies had hope and a future.

Our last week, The House of Moses received 3 siblings. A toddler and newborn twins – a boy and a girl. The twins were only 3 weeks old and were only slightly larger than my hand. We learned their father died of HIV and their mother was in the hospital sick, likely because of HIV too. The twins stayed in the intake room, a quieter space with three cribs and 24/7 care.

Once they were sure the twins were healthy, we were welcome to hold them any time we wanted. Now, I’m one of those people who have an irrational fear of dropping newborns, but after a day or two, I pushed through and picked up the little boy. His name? Gift.

House of Moses

Days went by and I found myself in the intake room with the twins more and more. If I was sitting in the front room reading and one started crying, I could look down at my watch and see it was time for them to be fed. Some kind of maternal instincts of mine were awakened. I was no longer afraid. I could comfort them if they cried or get a nurse if they needed milk…all while praying their mother survived.

One morning, I went into the room and rubbed on their thin hands in just before we left. We returned from a full day of filming and we were told the mother passed away. In just a few short hours, these babies lost their mamma.

I went in to the intake room fighting tears, and one of the caregivers was feeding the little girl.

“The mother died,” she told me.

I reached down to put my finger in Gift’s small hand. “I heard.”

It was a raw and surreal moment, looking down at Gift and knowing he won’t remember his mother. I wondered what would happen to him, his twin sister, and their older sibling.  I started to cry.

I moved down and knelt on the floor in front of the caregiver and gently rubbed the back of Gift’s sister’s leg. “How do you do it?” I asked the caregiver. “How do you work all the hours you work and see so many babies lose their parents. The parents die. Sometimes even the babies die. But you’re here and you have so much peace and hope in your eyes.

Without hesitation and without a single tone of harshness or pride, she simply said, “Obedience and sacrifice. That is what God has told me to do and so I do it.”

I literally couldn’t say anything back; my throat swelled and closed like I was allergic to the emotion that was filling it. Instinctually, the caregiver knew and said, “They will have a good family one day. It’s hard now, but God promises to take care of them.”

I know she’s right and ultimately God will take care of them. But what do I do? What do we do? Where is our sacrifice and obedience?


I’m tempted to think big acts equal big sacrifice, but I’m beginning to believe that – except for the one big sacrifice that was truly the greatest – the opposite is true. What if it’s the everyday things that are hidden that are the greatest sacrifices of all? Making sure people have love, food, and that they know Jesus.

Maybe it’s as simple – and as unglamorous – as that.

And even though may be unglamorous, it doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.

In fact, I’d dare to say the things we don’t see are the most beautiful things of all.


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10 thoughts on “We Saw Them Become Orphans

  1. Heartbreaking story. But so much truth in this: “Making sure people have love, food, and that they know Jesus. Maybe it’s as simple – and as unglamorous – as that.” I agree with you, that’s generally where the beauty is, and we don’t typically see the names of those out there just “doing” in our conference lineups or on our book covers. So inspiring and challenging to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the quiet. Thanks for this, Anne. Glad you are back.

    • Emily,
      This organization works with Bethany (bethany.org) to facilitate their adoptions. To adopt from Zambia isn’t that expensive compared to other countries. One caveat is you need to live in Zambia for 3 months so the government can see you “foster” the kids. Hope this helps. Feel free to message me if you need more info.

  2. Awww Anne, thank you so much for this read. It was so raw and refreshing. I miss these writings. I used to have similar posts when I lived in Swaziland in 2008 as well. There were so many “gifts” the Lord gives when we are out there in that beautiful land. Oh, Africa, you are exceptional. I love the less connections to technology. That is a great gift in itself. I am going back to visit in August (thank the Lord) and Johnny pants is coming with me so we will get to experience it all together. I keep telling him I want twins, I wish those two could be ours.