For my 50th birthday I received the most precious gift. A dear friend took the time to put together this picture collage of the kids whose lives my husband and I are a part of. It began with the Conley kids (Kelsey, Noah, Hannah, Joy and Providence). As our friendship grew with their parents so did our love for their children. The younger girls always snuggling up to their “Uncle” Doug while they would act (and still do 😉) as if they don’t want to give “Aunt” Debbie a hug though I get one in the end. When Joy was born, Doug was the one that could hold her while she would immediately start crying when I tried. Joy was five months old when we left for South Africa to serve as missionaries. A few days later from our leaving she would be diagnosed with leukemia. We were able to spend time with her when we came back for furlough in 2013. Once again, Doug was her favorite but she slowly warmed up to me and I treasured every moment she would get in my lap on her own. She died on New Year’s Day in 2014. We were back in South Africa and watched the funeral through Skype. We are very thankful for that furlough time we had with her and the family.
A few months after we arrived in South Africa, we began to pray that God would give us a friendship like the one we had with the Conley’s. He answered the prayer by birthing a wonderful friendship for us with the Mahlaola’s. At that time they only had a little boy named Tikfah, then came his sister Phoebe. Tikfah and I became quick buddies. We would get more attached when his mom was in the hospital having Phoebe and he would stay with us. He would try to teach me to roll my “r’s” when speaking Shangaan and I got him to start saying “What’s happening?” since that always seemed to be what I would say. Phoebe was also more inclined toward Uncle Doug but she loved her Auntie Debbie too.
Upon our return to the states, the Dethrow’s loved on us and let us spend time with their kids (Athan and Aletheia). We have watched Athan grow into quite the baseball player. I love the moments when Aletheia out of the blue will say: “Miss Debbie, I love you.”
Later, after our church’s Mission on Purpose auction and the purchase of the date night certificate Doug and I do, we began to get to know Jameson and Tali Dryden. When Doug and Jameson are together it is suddenly me watching three kids. While Tali and I are reading or playing with toy makeup, the “boys” are playing hide and seek or flying a drone into the ceiling fan!!
Lastly, came almost a year-old Shiloh Gordon. It is exciting to be a part of a newborn’s life! Hopefully we are here long enough to see him become a godly young man like his father who serves as an Elder at our church.
We love these children. We love their parents. We are thankful that they have entrusted us with special times to spend with them.
I encourage you to make your own collage of children. There are children in your church or perhaps in your neighborhood that would love some special attention from an adult outside their family. Organizations like Big Brother or CASA are also an option for involving yourself in a child’s life.
While the parents of our “children” probably consider us a blessing, we are way more blessed by these relationships than we could ever be a blessing. They truly do fill our hearts with greater joy.