It’s important not to have moments of inspiration when listening to Celine Dion. It just doesn’t make you look good when you tell the story. But nevertheless it was while Celine was warbling about her heart going on that I let my head rest against the seat in front of me and allowed the moment I had found myself a part of wash over me. I was in a place called Moyamba in the hall of a Sierra Leonean boarding home for primary school girls and the questionable music was blaring from a large sound system sitting beside the stage. On the stage in an elegant dark blue dress sat one of this year’s national interns, Precious. At this moment however her internship was taking a back seat to something else...
Precious had just graduated from High School.
The intern team had jumped in to a poda poda (mini bus) and made the three hour journey of potholes, dust and jungle-whizzing-past-the-windows to join Precious for her special day. We were ushered to seats near the front as the ceremony got underway and sat with expectant grins on our faces. As the individual class prizes were being presented, the announcer reached the award for Christian Religious Education and it was too perfect. It felt inevitable. Precious didn’t disappoint and the loudest cheer of the day erupted from the pale skinned third row as our graduate strode on stage. The school band was even struck up by someone who got carried away by the excitement. This was something special and the cheer that reverberated around Harford School for Girls was but scanty recognition of that. Precious is the first child from our Children’s Home to reach this level of education and she has a story which should have made this event an impossibility.
But it wasn’t impossible. She had done it. Precious had just graduated from High School. And as we sat at the party thrown in celebration, a party which included insect repellant pyrotechnics, all the glory and honour was given to God. Precious’ Father, the Redeemer.
The wonder of the moment struck me as the DJ hired for the occasion busted out a daft sound effect and pushed play on Celine. I looked at the beautiful young woman on the stage in front of me. I thought about all the other kids in our home and all those at our schools and how much I want this moment for them too. I thought about their abundant talent and potential, the seeming limitation of their opportunities juxtaposed as it is with the limitless love of their Father.
As Celine’s voice hit a crescendo, I wondered and I thought and I prayed.
Sitting at the other side of the room were girls from the primary school where the party was being held. We had joined them for their evening devotions before the party, during which they had sung songs of praise and said their prayers together. However, the group of visitors sitting at the back encouraged them to draw proceedings out a bit longer by giving what Sierra Leoneans call ‘Contributions’ – little girls got up one after the other and sang solos. It was really sweet and soon the interns were getting in on the action, teaching the girls new songs and sparking something of a dance party. The girls’ thirst for fun and affection and attention and warmth...their thirst for demonstrable love...was incredible and really moved me. What has become known as ‘The Pre-Party’ was simply wonderful but served to remind us of the drop in the ocean quality of our little sphere of intern influence. It was like driving past shack after miserable shack on the road to Cape Town Airport after two months of building houses there. These emotions should never devalue what has been accomplished but they show us the stark reality that there is always more to be done...and more places to do it...