Mukendi waved his arms dramatically and added some dancing as he directed the choir. I could tell by the applause and the number of people who stood up to join the dancing that the rag-tag group of kids was a big hit in the church service. This was the Ditekemena choir, made up of kids in the Ditekemena program for street kids. They were wearing all the wrong clothes, but their faces were radiant and they were incredibly attentive and behaved during the service.
After the service, Ruth and I joined the group of kids on their long walk back to the center where they are currently living. All 23 kids made a single-file line and made sure that no one was left behind. One of the older ones helped the others to cross the street one at a time. We headed down a narrow path into the valley and crossed a small river before heading up the other side to the center.
It was a hot afternoon and we were glad for some shade when we arrived. We joined the kids for a big plate of beans and rice for lunch, and then told them we wanted them to teach us some of their games. They proudly showed us the games they had – some home-made, like a game like “mancala” with holes made in the dirt – and others donated by kind folks like a couple of frisbees and a checker board. The older boys played soccer, and I enjoyed sitting with the younger kids cheering them on. Kanku, a young boys who is handicapped (probably because of polio) and had been sick recently, was eager to participate and even sang me a song! Then Tatu Francois, one of the care-takers, told the older boys to take a break and give the younger kids a chance to play. The girls and younger boys played together, and they really went after the ball with gusto!
Ruth and I were sad to have to leave – it felt like a short visit! But we had to get home before dark and had a long walk back across the valley to catch the bus. One of the most striking things about this group of kids is how well-behaved they are, given their difficult backgrounds. They have only been together a little over a month, but they act like family and play together incredibly well. Pastor Manyayi, their director, said that when they first came it was a struggle to get them to obey, but that they have made a dramatic change in a short time. Even so, taking care of 23 kids is not an easy task, and their care-takers are often exhausted by the added strain of sick kids or added responsibilities that come up. Please pray for these kids, that they would really know God’s love and that God would protect and provide for a bright future for them. Pray also for the staff, for God’s peace and strength to fill them as they seek to provide a safe place for the children.