Michael, appx. age 12/13, summer 2006
dream, and sometimes a bad one. Last night, I dreamed about my Michael, but despite that, it was not a good dream.
Like most of the volunteers, I came back calling the kids "my kids." After loving them so much, I couldn't help but feel they were a part of me enough to call them mine. But more than any other, Michael is my Michael. He was only 10 when I was there, and at the time, he didn't live at the orphanage. He lived with his mother and came to school at the orphanage. I never really knew him until the day he began throwing up at school. He asked for a cup of water, which he used to pour over his feverish head, then promptly proceeded to shiver uncontrollably. With help from a local villager named Patrick, I took Michael home. Michael was so ill, Patrick had to carry him on his back most of the way. I swallowed as I ran through the symptoms of malaria in my head.
I had heard stories from others about poverty, and even seen bits of it my self up to this point in Ghana. But Michael lived in poverty; to him, it wasn't a word spoken with disgust on the tongues of those who may or may not understand it. It wasn't poverty for Michael, it was life. I stared mutely around the mud shack, barely as big as my bedroom, glancing up at the sky through the bamboo roof. There was no furniture but a low stool. Patrick to laid Michael down on the concrete floor in the half of the room shielded by hanging clothes: the bedroom. Michael's mother, Grace, didn't speak much English, nor did her brother, who had helped take care of the family since Michael's father had died. Patrick was my translator, as I explained how he had gotten sick and gave them clean water. Then, I took a deep breath and asked if I could pray for Michael.
He was roused to sit on the one stool, looking ready to fall over as soon as he sat. I began to pray as Michael's small family stood over me. As I prayed for Michael to get well, listening to the gently murmured "amens" coming from his mother and uncle, I suddenly felt the greatest outpouring of love I had ever felt for this small boy. It was as though I was feeling God's love for him, and I knew that, whatever happened, everything would be alright.
When I returned to check on him the next day, I saw the first miracle of my life: Michael's beaming face as he peered outside, then ran to give me a hug. From that day, I loved Michael as deeply as though he truly were mine. We played together, read Love you Forever together, and loved each other. I helped his family buy food, and gave them money to start a small business selling banku. But then I had to leave.
Michael (far right) with his mother, uncle, and cousins.
As I stood crying the day at the tro-tro stop on my last day, Michael held my hand and cried too. The tro-tro came, and I knelt to hug my Michael.
"I love you," I whispered.
"Forever," he whispered back.
Since that day, I have had a constant subtle ache in my heart that reminds me to pray for my Michael daily. Not too long ago, I received a letter from him through another volunteer, asking me to help his mother build a house. Having just married and needing to get my husband through school, I had no money to send, and my heart broke trying to explain to Michael through a letter that I could not build a house for his family then.
And so, the source of my dream. In it, I was playing with some of the children when I saw Michael. Bitterly, he upbraided me for forgetting him, for not helping him. In his voice I heard anger, and his sweet face looked full of hate and loss. I woke up and wanted to cry, and have not been able to stop thinking about it all day.
There has to be a way to help my Michael. God made a way for him to be healed. God can make a way for him to soar out of his poverty. And I will find that way, because he is my Michael, and I love him forever.
Me with Michael, May 2005