Ever have one of those moments where you look around and you’re struck with a massive magnitude of meaning? A completely unexpected moment where something mythic unfolds right before your eyes?
I had a moment like that a couple months ago in Kenya. Now, every missions trip I’ve been on has been filled with occasions that have stopped me in my tracks. A church filled worship service in Poland , a mountainside prayer night under the stars in El Salvador, a prayer moment with a father and his kids in Trinidad. So many memories of pivotal God-orchestrated intersections with beautiful people.
A recent moment at the Amani Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya ranks among the top most memorable and humbling experiences of my life. After three days of working, sweating and playing with over 100 kids, we had the opportunity to show the kids a movie on the “big screen”. Many of these kids have never seen a movie before. About 50 of these children are orphans. The rest live in the surrounding community. Most of the orphans at Amani have been rescued from nightmare situations that no child should face. These kids are parentless because of violence, AIDS, alcoholism, drugs, abuse and abandonment. Their stories rip your heart in two. But thank God they have found an oasis at Amani. It’s truly an incredible place of healing, safety and hope.
So you can imagine how I felt when we got all these precious kids packed into a large room and started showing the feature film, Finding Nemo.
Finding Nemo. An animated movie about a son who is taken from his father and his father does everything possible to find him.
And we’re showing this movie to a bunch of orphans.
I literally didn’t think about the connection until about 10 minutes into the movie. I sat on the concrete floor with 6 and 7 year old Kenyan kids all around me and the scene played out right after Nemo is taken by the butt (boat). His dad, Marlin, is in a total panic (rightfully so) and kept saying over and over again “I gotta find my son! I gotta find my son!”
I remember looking at the faces of these kids. These ones who have been abandoned and forgotten by their fathers. These ones who should know the strength of a father’s love and feel the safety of a father’s presence. These innocent doves who lost their fathers to AIDS or drugs or “street justice” or the lure of extremism.
“I gotta find my son! I gotta find my son!”
I sat there doing my best not to break down. I had to look away a few times. I felt such deep pity for these kids. I even felt a tinge of anger. Who would abandon or hurt these kids?! Any kid for that matter?! I even started to doubt our movie selection. Maybe we should have shown Bambi, a movie about a son whose mother is shot…nope. Or we could have shown Toy Story, a flick about toys trying to make sure they get to stay with Andy, their beloved owner….nope. ‘Maybe this was a mistake. What if this upsets these beautiful kids?”
But as I kept looking around, every kid in the room was locked onto the screen. They watched as this desperate father looked for his lost son. They laughed at the funny parts. Heck, they even laughed at the not so funny parts! They followed the story to very end and in that scene where Nemo is finally reunited with his dad, these kids clapped.
They clapped for the father who found his son.
Do those kids deserve to have a father in their lives? Absolutely. Do they long for the presence of parents? More than most of us can imagine. But if I’ve learned anything at Amani, it’s that our Father in Heaven is truly a Father. I’ve witnessed firsthand a group of orphans come to know God as “Abba Father”. Most of the kids at Amani would think more than twice if they had the opportunity to leave and be adopted. Amani has become a place where the Father has found his sons and daughters and these kids are home.
I walked away from that room with a renewed esteem for my Heavenly Father. I was lost and He found me. I was an orphan of sorts and He adopted me. My Father found me too.
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!”
– Romans 8:15-17 (The Message)