3 Stories of Global Impact
By Kate Berkey - October 18, 2017
Posted in Adult Ministry, Partnerships, Student Ministry, Global Impact, Stories from NMC, Discipleship
Lavone Miller had always wanted her to go on the trip. His wife had such a love for children, and she had this way about her that made people feel loved and safe and comforted. No matter who they were, no matter their age, no matter their story—his wife had a way of showing unwavering kindness. After 37 years of marriage, he knew her better than anyone else, and he knew she would show deep love to the babies at the Africa Gospel Church Baby Centre. But she always said “no” to going on a trip. Her sweet spirit couldn’t bear the thought of pouring out such deep love to kids she would have to leave after a few days.
Yet, he persisted, bringing up the trip occasionally when they sat down for dinner or when an announcement was made about the next Kenya Global Impact trip. After a battle with cancer Lavone’s wife died in 2014, having loved those around her until her final breath. After 37 years of marriage, a new normal did not come quickly for Lavone. Slowly but surely, he found himself in a new rhythm of going to work and church and being with those he loved. And then one Sunday, he opened the bulletin and saw that familiar announcement—Global Impact Team to Kenya.
He had to go, for her.
The little boy by the fence was one of the first kids he saw at the Baby Centre. When they locked eyes, the little boy gestured toward the gate. It was an invitation to come inside, a gesture of welcome. It was a silent plea to play and giggle, to let joy ripple through their hearts. The little boy looked at Lavone with a silly grin on his face and motioned toward the gate again.
“Come giggle. Come play,” his face seemed to say.
That first day, Lavone didn’t go in the gate. He smiled at the little boy but kept walking. The next day, though, the little boy made the same gesture.
Come giggle. Come play.
The little boy’s name was Hirah, and his one-year-old self simply longed for someone to be silly with. This time, Lavone couldn’t resist the invitation. He went through the gate, stepping into joy and silliness, thinking of his wife, ready to share the same love, care, and kindness he had cherished for 37 years.
Brooke Lacher, now a senior in high school, was in the seventh grade when she first learned of the Baby Centre. She saw the babies’ faces and heard a few of their stories. Even then, she knew that she had to go visit the Centre someday. She longed to laugh with, play with, and hold the babies tightly. When her dad saw the announcement in the bulletin, he asked her if she still wanted to go. Her answer was an unwavering, “Yes.”
Never would she have imagined the beauty that she would come face to face with. The joy, peace, love, and care found in the walls of the Centre wrapped around her like a blanket, warming her soul and filling her spirit from the moment she walked through the doors.
The faces from pictures she saw in Nappanee took on personalities. The kids’ stories, some of which she had heard earlier, took on new depth. The workers who spent every day caring for the babies took on voices, and her worldview exploded with color and vibrancy and life.
James was one of the little boys. He was small enough to pick up and swing around, listening to his squeals of delight. Hers was the lap he crawled on most often, and after sitting together for a while, she would find his ticklish spots. Deep within his belly, laughter would well up and spill out in his smile. For six days, this became the thing they did. He would sit himself in her lap, and she would tickle him. And then laughter—always laughter.
And in those moments of deep joy, she remembered what her seventh-grade self had longed for. Now, she had a new and deeper longing when she thought of the Baby Centre—family. As she held James, tickling his tummy, she thought about his mom and dad, the ones who would become his forever family. And she prayed for them. She prayed they would come quickly. She prayed that their longing would be to laugh with, to play with, to hold James tightly.
Jacki Lacher was known as many things—wife, mom, daughter, aunt, niece, friend, mentor. Her life was busy and full of many responsibilities, but when her daughter, Brooke, asked her to go to the Baby Centre, she had to pause. Brooke reminded her of how much they both loved kids, how their passion was to love them and to help them grow.
So she trusted the Lord with the details and said yes to the trip. Of course she felt excited, but as the trip approached, she couldn’t help but think of all her responsibilities at home. She couldn’t help but think of her work, her husband, her children, the roles she daily filled. It truly was a step of faith, stepping onto that airplane.
When the team arrived at the Baby Centre, though, they were met with such hospitality and kindness. Because of the care of the Baby Centre workers and missionaries, Jacki was able to be fully present. She thought of all the work it took to host teams from the U.S. and was completely overwhelmed by their immense warmth as they took care of their American friends.
It was this kind of warmth that overcame even the most difficult language barriers. Hugs didn’t need a language. Love didn’t need words. Care and kindness and empathy could be communicated without a translator. This is what Jacki was met with every day at the Baby Centre, whether it was with Millie, the director’s wife, or Abishai, a two year old girl. Millie’s hospitality and Abishai’s hugs were enough to communicate a deep and profound kind of love that is often missing in our broken and bruised world.
During her final days at the Baby Centre, Jacki was struck by all the details she was so worried about before she left for Kenya. They were important details, things that she had to think through and make arrangements for, but now, they seemed much smaller. The difficulty now, it seemed, was not how things were going to get done in her absence. The difficulty was leaving the babies, the kids who had stolen pieces of her heart. The difficulty was leaving the warmth and hospitality of this special place. Truly, pieces of her heart were left with babies like Abishai, with workers like Millie, and with that brick building in the middle of Kenya.