Eight days.

Eight days was all it took for my heart to be forever changed. A piece of me is now taken. I am mending and filled with gratitude for the memories, but I want to let you into a private part of my heart; a two month (and counting) journey of heartache.

Physical, emotional, and spiritual heartache.

A few months ago, I started to visit the local government hospital to pray for sick patients. Entering into their worlds in a scary and painful time, bringing a taste of hope and life through Jesus’ love. As I met many wonderful people and their families, we chatted in my limited Dinka and their broken English. I met a tiny, tiny baby and a sick mom. One look at this child and my heart was smitten. His big brown eyes and tight grip on my finger. From then on, I went back to see him daily, sit with his mom, bring her food, and hold him.

Eight days later, he was gone.

Then heartache took over. Grief. I pushed it away the best I could. The pain, the loss I felt, and the aching in my heart and arms of wanting to hold him one more time. Then anger. The times I did talk to God, all I could say was how I wasn't ready to let him go, asking why did He let me love this baby if he was going to take him away, and stating I can’t do this—loving people is hard.

It’s all TOO hard.

But, I am so grateful for a God who is patient and gentle; so gracious and loving. I slowly crawled out of the grief that consumed me and turned to walk to Jesus. As I slowly journeyed through it, my heart of deep hurt and sadness turned to gratefulness.

I am abundantly grateful.

Grateful that I walked into the hospital the day I did to meet this sweet boy and his mother. I am grateful that from the moment of first holding him—when his back was stiff and arms tightened because of the pain he was in—he relaxed and melted into my arms as I held him more and more. I am grateful for the time spent looking into his eyes and holding onto his tiny hand, wanting him to know he was seen, known, loved, valued, and wanted. I am grateful for the days I had of speaking life, prayers, and singing to him, ‘Jesus loves you’ in Dinka.

I am grateful that I entered his mother’s life when I did. When she was alone, in great pain, and unable to help her baby. When she lost yet another child to sickness. When her heart broke and we sat and cried together holding hands, mourning this sweet boy. I am grateful that I walked into her life to be in her corner; to see, know, love, and feel with her, and say she is worth it. I am grateful that the story isn't over.

I honor your life baby, David Lual. You were a tiny boy who took a big piece of my heart. Thank you for teaching me how to love in the good, the bad, and the hard.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis