Before the age of 5, I wanted to be a missionary. No one remembers anything else that I ever wanted to be when I grew up but that. Around the age of 10, my church was sending a team to Kenya, and my dad encouraged me to show up to the meeting for those that wanted to go. Sadly, they said that I was too young, but that didn't stop my dad. He connected me with a missionary friend of his based out of Singapore. I sent out support letters to hundreds of people, and was able to raise around $5,000 which covered much more than I needed for my own expenses. I went with that missionary's adult daughter to Singapore. Once in Singapore, I went with that missionary to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Nepal. In Malaysia, we visited an orphanage relatively briefly where we were able to give them some of the funds that I had raised through support letters. I also spent a week in Nepal.
Nepal was the 6th poorest nation in the world at the time, where a common wage for working women was 200$/year. The kids in the Christian orphanage had 2 pairs of clothes each, which we are washing in the picture, and little else materially. They ate porridge in the mornings, and rice with sauce (a rather thin dall) at lunch and dinner. Their only meat source, a single chicken spread out throughout the whole orphanage once a month. It was so cold, that after the first night, I curled up next to the heater off the bed every other night; the kids didn't have heat.
Despite the lack of physical resources, they possessed a joy and love in an abundance that I had never seen before. They were the happiest kids I had ever seen, loving each other, me, and everyone they encountered to a degree that had previously been exclusively theoretical for me. This could only be described as the joy of the Lord, something not manufactured by religion, but truly born of God. We would play fight, but if someone was ever hurt, everyone would be legitimately concerned, including the aggressing party. On one occasion, I through gum to the kids from a balcony, and rather than the kids running as fast as they could to get all that they could, they walked instead, with quiet smiles. They then freely distributed the gum to each other so that all could have some without any direction from adults to do so. Of my first two decades of life, I can think of no week more important or joy-filled than my week in a Nepali orphanage.