The only way I can describe my emotions as I stepped out of the World Vision vehicle on the little lane winding down to Mvumisi’s home is one close to how I feel when Caline my daughter is about to perform on stage. Excited, expectant, heart bursting with love mixed with fear of something going wrong…Would I be able to control my feelings, would he understand what was happening, would he like the toys I brought, would his family be receptive?
The dry dirt path took us between a dozen or so basic small homes. Washing lines flapped in the warm breeze and with each step we were joined with another child, grinning from ear to ear. I scanned their little faces wondering if one of them was that of my sponsored child. My adored Mvumisi. At the end of the lane a little blue house with an open porch, a small crowd had gathered. Mumsi from World Vision beckoned for me to follow her inside. My heart was beating as though it would jump right out of my chest. Was he in there?
It took a few seconds for my eyes to become accustomed to the little dark room. A bench lined one of the walls and a little cushion had been positioned on the end. For me? For him? I took my place beside the cushion while a mat made of wicker was laid down on the floor and a kind faced older lady slowly lowered herself onto her mat. Within moments the room had filled with our team, the World Vision project workers and then out of nowhere I saw him, head down, back against the wall. Mvumisi!
I searched for Mumsi – the Project Development Manager – for a cue as to what to do next. She came and sat down on the left of Mvumisi, I was on the right. In Zulu she introduced him to me, his sponsor. My instinct was to hold him close, hold him in my arms and tell him how much I loved him. How often his face would come to mind when I was working at the booth. How often I shared his stories and photos with other’s considering to sponsor. However I curbed my emotions and I held out my hand to him and slowly he put his own in mine.
Clumsily, I opened the sack of toys that I had brought from Canada. I found the little album of 12 photos of Caline, Zaven, Robbie, MC (dog) and Simba (kitten). Picture by picture, I shared who each person was and Mumsi translated in Zulu. He asked how old Caline and Zaven were. He thought Caline was pretty and a big smile crossed his face when he saw the photo of her in her ballet tutu. “Do you dance?” he asked me. “No I replied”. “The next time you come”, translated Mumsi, “he will dance for you, Mvumisi loves to dance”.
All of a sudden, Mumsi took my arm and said “Oh my goodness, in all the excitement we did not meet the family”. I stood up to be hugged by a young women, Mvumisi’s aunt. “We love you.” She said, “we love you very much”. A huge lump stuck in my throat and I hugged her back…”we can be sisters now”, I answered and she smiled back.
I looked to where the older lady had taken place on the floor mat. I kneeled beside her and said hello. I had brought her some gifts and as I took each packet of socks, tea towels, scarves out of the bag, she would clap her hands and then lift them to the sky. Her warm, wise face was so comforting and I had a huge urge to hold her hand when I noticed tears running down her face. Mumsi translated as she spoke…
“We are so blessed that you are here. Mvumisi’s mother is not here today. She has to work. Sometimes she is very sick and cannot work. It is very hard for us. His father left the family and abandoned the boy. You giving us all of these things and coming here is a gift from God. We thank you”.
With each word I felt my resolve to hold back the tears disappear, I look at my team for support and saw that they too were crying with the sincerity and warmth of the old woman’s words. Unable to hold back any longer I wrapped my arms around her neck and hugged her, lifting my head to wipe the tears from her cheeks.
I had only imaged this visit with Mvumisi, but I realized that I was part of this whole family. His Aunt took my hand and asked ‘When are you coming back to see us?”. “Do you want me to?” I asked. “Yes, but stay for more time”. Her English was good and she motioned for someone to take a photo of her and I together.
‘Can we go outside and dance together?” I asked Mumsi. She suggested it to Mvumisi who beamed and jumped up to lead us outside where we formed a circle. He disappeared again to find someone who could play some music. A little cheeky boy wearing just a pair of blue sweat pants started to dance around, enticing everyone to start clapping. The next thing Mvumisi had joined in. All traces of his shyness had disappeared as he danced for us and we all clapped and cheered.
Too soon, it was time to leave, and the community let out a lalalalalalalalala noise – apparently a cry of celebration for our visit. I knew then that I had to come back, and spend more time with this family. I held my grandma and new sister tight and promised that I would return and that we would dance again together.
As we took a last photo together, Mvumisi’s aunt introduced me to her son and then a little girl in pink, who was Mvumisi’s sister! As cute as buttons and still sucking on their lollipops.
Scarcely were we in the car and out of sight of the community when my heart opened and I could not stop the sobs. Almost as though my heart was overflowing with gratitude and love and wonder at the beautiful moments I had just spent with my new family.
As I type this, I am already dreaming of my next visit to Umvoti…..