That Five Letter Word


My getting to know Africa began in 2001.  I had just completed university and had started working in my first "grown up" job in Toronto.  It was an exciting time in my life.  I had moved into my very first apartment on my own (it was a REALLY small basement apartment) and was getting accustomed to my new city life commute taking the TTC everywhere. 

Shortly after beginning my work in Toronto, I remember watching a commercial on my tiny 14 inch television set that a family member so graciously had passed on to me.  I was sitting on my green grass (very ugly) colored couch that was also a generously used gift from family.  The commercial was about HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa.  I don't remember much of what all was presented in that commercial but I do remember weeping. 

I knew little to nothing about South Africa at that time.  I had no idea about apartheid, colonialism, slavery or any other of the painful or beautiful things happening in Africa.  Sure, I learned a little bit about slavery as a child in my small town primary school but it never really took root.  But that day, when I saw the commercial with staggering numbers of children orphaned because of HIV/AIDS my heart broke.  It wasn't the images of the children.  It wasn't the sad music playing in the background.  It wasn't the images of poverty.  It was that word.  One five letter word.  One word grabbed my heart and broke it.  ORPHAN.

Little did I know that my childhood would come back to haunt me.  I had struggled for so long during my childhood trying to find a place of belonging when my parents died. I grew up with many adults truly trying to make me feel included and secure but it never felt right.  As I heard about the 700,000 orphaned children in South Africa I felt a small connection.   That one five letter word would spark a connection in me to a continent that I knew nothing about.  It would bring me to my knees.  It would begin a 10 year prayer journey, a hunger for knowledge and a life time calling to serve a continent.  That day I began to pray for HIV/AIDS orphans would change my life and many others forever...