Compassion surprised the sponsors with a brief meeting with our children the night before our "Fun Day" and as the children trickled in I mentally checked off each of my girls as they came to me. Valery (check), Sara (check), Angie (check)...and we wait and look and wait and look...and Sara hollers, "Daniela!" And here she comes climbing over chairs to get to me. Bright smile on her face (check). We didn't have a translator for this time, so we took photos, smiled, hugged, I gave them all necklaces matching mine, more smiles, more hugs, and Daniela didn't leave my side.
The next morning at the dock, my girls trickle toward me one by one and we load up on the boat. Angie and Valery were first and ended up at the back of the boat while I was with Sara and Daniela in the middle. For a moment it felt like "old times" when it was the 3 of us on my last visit. When we reached the island, in the Ocean we went. Sara was tall enough to touch, but only Angie could actually swim, so Daniela and Valery were constantly in my arms. Full of fun and giggles we all got waterlogged. Sitting on a rock letting the waves hit us, Daniela showed me the 2 bracelets she was wearing-both bracelets I had given her. The thoughtfulness touched my heart.
After lunch, we decided to spend down time talking. Daniela showed off her English skills and then taught me a song in Spanish. She then showed me a dance she does at her project. I am so thankful for these special moments. When we returned to our hotel for gift time, Daniela once again proved to me why she grabbed my heart in the first place. Going through her gifts, she found a journal and told me she would write verses in it. She hugged her stuffed elephant and said she was hoping for a stuffed animal; she named him "Chepe." After her project director prayed for me, she said she wanted to pray for me too. My heart proceeded to melt with her amazing, heart felt prayer on my behalf. I couldn't keep the tears from flowing.
As we say our final "good-byes," take a final group photo, and give those final hugs, Daniela was still standing beside me. The translator tells me she wants the last photo. In my mind I hear "one last photo," so I bend down to her level and we take the photo. Our translator promptly turns off the camera and hands it to me. It hits me that she didn't say "one last photo" she said "THE last photo." Tempted to turn it back on, and snap a few more (yes, I'm a photo Nazi), the realization sinks in. I respect her wish and contemplate that kind of love. What did I ever do to deserve THAT kind of love? Who am I that she would want to THE LAST photo? Tears wouldn't stop as I left the room and headed upstairs. I still can't fathom the love that this little girl has for me, and I miss her daily.
THE LAST Photo
Thank You, Dear Lord, for this child and the amazing heart you have given her. Thank You for showing me Your unfailing love through the love of a precious child named Daniela. Amen.