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Don’t Leave
By Kinsey Thurlow on February 19th, 2013

It was an unforgettable hello. How well I remember the day I traveled through the seemingly-middle-of-nowhere to make my first visit to this international orphanage. As our van rolled along the dirt road leading up to the orphanage, I spotted two young boys who were apparently on “watch duty,” having taken their posts several yards ahead of the orphanage gate. Patiently they had waited. But when, at last, our van appeared in the distance, they sprinted wildly to alert everyone of the arrival of long-awaited visitors. With great excitement, their voices rang out, “They’re coming! They’re coming!!” When we pulled in, we were greeted with smiling faces and loud foreign jabbering. Some, unable to contain their enthusiasm, burst forth with dancing and cartwheels.

Well, I must say, that though my friends and family love me, they never get that excited when I come to visit them.

Indeed, their greetings were extremely grand. And in appropriate contrast, their good-byes were dreadfully sorrowful and troubling.

I loved our comings and dreaded our goings. An ache stirred with increasing fervency as the day of our last departure drew nearer. Yes, I would miss them very much, but the ache was most prompted by the thought of how the children would respond as they saw our van pulling away for the last time.

The final day came. The closing hours among the children were filled with orphaned cries, their silent and spoken pleas sounding loud and clear—Please don’t forget me. Will you write to me? Will you come back again? Maybe one day I can go to America. Please don’t leave me as an orphan…

Unable to slow the hours, the end of the day came inevitably. We began our final goodbyes, which were unquestionably the most difficult and most dramatic I’ve ever experienced. Children screamed and cried. They blocked the door to our van and held to us tightly. One little girl held fast to me and wouldn’t let go. Two adults peeled her small frame off of me as she wept, fighting to hang on.

When we finally made it on the van, the children pressed their small hands against the windows and peered in at us with tears flooding their faces. As we began to pull away, they sprinted after us, their strong-willed legs carrying some of them for nearly half a mile as they chased our bus down the dusty road.

We left. Even so, part of me has stayed with them—their names, their unforgettable faces, their desperate requests to be remembered, and their echoing cries to be loved and to belong.

Remembering them now, these many years later, has caused me to further understand the significance of Jesus’ words as the time of His departure drew near. The cross only hours before Him, and His days among us on the earth coming to their end, He spoke to us a promise. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Fully aware of the cries that swell within an orphaned heart, Jesus spoke to silence those trembling fears—I won’t leave you. You won’t be alone. You belong to the Father. You will always be loved.

Yes, in His flesh He left Earth and ascended into Heaven. But still He came to us—by His Spirit, drawing even closer, living within. After His departure, He sealed us with the Holy Spirit, placing within us a Promise guaranteeing the culmination of our adoption as God’s own children. By His Spirit, He came to us, just like He said He would, and He put within us a glorious and assured Hope— He will come again, in the flesh, as our King. And after abolishing all rule and authority and power, He will hand over the Kingdom to our Father, who will then be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

And now, having received the first fruits of His Spirit, we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons (Romans 8:23).

No, we haven ’t been left as orphans. Ours are lives that have been swept into an eternal story—a story that tells of a Father in pursuit of the fatherless. It is a story of a love that reaches beyond our heart’s ability to grasp—one of rescue, sonship, restoration, and redemption. We are His, and He will never leave us or forsake us.

The Father has not left us as orphans. So may we, as His adopted ones, not leave these as orphans. The world’s fatherless children are to us natural pictures of mankind’s spiritual reality. The throbs of their orphaned hearts sound with cries not dissimilar to our own—cries to be loved, to belong, to be known, to be safe, to be wanted. And each cry, both ours and theirs, finds its answer in the arms of the Father of glory. We cannot answer the depths of their orphaned cries, but in being a picture of the Father’s love to them, we can then point them toward the One on the throne, so that they, too, can enter His embrace.

We are testimonies of God’s fatherhood, of His goodness. He has done something in us, and He wants to do it through us. What a privilege to be able, in some measure, to imitate the same expression of love that the Father has given us, that we could extend our hands and open our hearts to the orphan. May we, with His help and by His grace, not leave these as orphans. Let’s give them a new name as we have been given a new name— Sons and Daughters.

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February 19th, 2013
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