The day we attribute to love, Valentine’s Day, all began with a priest during the Roman Empire who defied Emperor Claudius II. Claudius had declared single men would make better soldiers than those with wives and families; thus he outlawed marriage for all young men. Priest Valentine ignored the Emperor’s command and continued to perform marriage rites for young lovers; Claudius ordered his execution. Many years after his martyrdom Valentine was declared a saint for being willing to lose his life for the sanctity of marriage shared through young lovers—an intimate love he had never experienced in his own flesh.
In a culture such as ours, where the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is in our warp and woof, it is a hard-wrought challenge to relate to such selfless giving. Today, about as far as we go with the martyrdom of St. Valentine is taking time out of our busy schedule to scrawl a card to our mate or anxiously carve out time for an expensive date, trip, or jewelry. I, myself, am a hopeless romantic and must do my own work to excavate deeply under the bones of my preconditioned cultural expectations in search of the treasure of love that goes beyond warm fuzzy feelings. Although Valentine surrendered to death in the name of love, I seriously doubt he had gushy emotion around it; I suspect his state of heart and mind was much more akin to that of Christ’s in His lone night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Today, I invite you to taste a morsel of divine love by considering Hannan. I met Hannan on my first trip to Nuba Mountains of Sudan, seeking an indigenous leader. She was the first orphan I met, and we clung to one another like a self-spun cocoon about a worm, hoping for something beautiful to fly out. We did not yet have OFC, and all Nuban schools had been closed due to the heavy bombing. Children were literally hiding in caves. When it came time to leave Nuba, we had one empty seat on our private charter, and I’d saved it for Hannan so that we could take her to HFSS where she’d be safe, loved, feed, and educated. However, a high-ranking military commander showed up at the airstrip demanding he be given the sole seat we had left: Hannan’s seat. After hours of fighting the man for the rescue of an orphan, with his armed soldiers growing angrier by the moment at my defiance to their leader, here is a snippet of what I wrote to you:
“An hour earlier I couldn’t dream of many other sounds more lovely to me than the putter of our winged Caravan approaching our mountaintop airstrip, but more than the winds had shifted in the past sixty minutes. Now, the noise was as beautiful as the thud of nails being pounded into a coffin.
“I knew I’d have to leave Hannan behind. My only solace was that Lual Atak never forgets a promise, and he committed to do whatever it took to return and rescue Hannan.
“With the uniformed man barking orders to board the plane before the Arabs realized it was on the ground, we tore ourselves away from Hannan. I can’t quite describe the despair of leaving behind a helpless orphan on a dirt airstrip with a handful of machine gun-clad men who begrudged her a seat to freedom. (Click here for video.)
“I will never know if I did the “right” thing… So many more orphans waited for us at our next destination. We’d created a stir by questioning the uniformed man; he—and his many soldiers—were angry with us for daring to stand up for Hannan. We’d clearly lost the battle, for the day. Would Lual Atak be able to get her out later, or were the uniformed man’s words nothing more than a lie to lure us on the plane? Should we have just turned our eyes away from the injustice of it all? Did our defense of her actually cause Hannan to be hurt after we left?
“Once upon a time, I wanted to do good. Once upon I time, I thought my life could make a difference. Once upon a time, I believed anything was possible if I just tried hard enough, fought long enough, and trusted God.
“Not anymore. That Kimberly is dead. The nails of the promised death birthed from the sin of the Garden of Eden have crucified her.
“Today, all I know to do is cry out for the power of the Resurrection. I failed to save Hannan. By God’s might, I pray she’ll be delivered soon. My steps are those of a dead woman, who can now only wait for the resurrecting breath of Christ.
“What can we do in such a dark time for a helpless child some ten-thousand miles away? Pray for Lual Atak as he is trying to get her on the next plane, headed to a safe home, loving care, and a bright education at Hope for South Sudan. And, pray for Hannan to not lose heart.
“I will let you know as soon as I know anything.
“Love, your dead sister waiting, watching, and banking on the resurrection, k”
The beautiful news is that two weeks later, Lual Atak did succeed in rescuing Hannan, and while we did immediately place her in safety, school, and a loving enviorment, her wounds and trauma ran deep. At times, she resisted our help as mightily as we’d fought with the commander for her freedom. Lual Atak, Romano, many other staff members, and I worked night and day to help stabilize Hannan; she finally adjusted. Slowly-by-slowly, in time, she moved from “adjusting” to thriving. Today, her face truly beams with glory, springing from a true inner joy and purpose of life. She is both humble and helpful.
In December Hannan graduated High School with honors! I flew her out of South Sudan with me to Uganda a few days ago, and Romano has been able to get her placed in college where she is pursuing her life-long dream—to be a nurse.
Hannan is a double orphan, meaning both her parents are dead and she has no close living family members. The thing is her parents just “died”; with no medical care, much less diagnostic abilities, no one even knows what killed them. Hannan dreams of being a major part of the warp and woof of loving medical care for her people, writing a new history.
The odd thing is that, somehow, although Hannan has been with us for nearly seven years, she has continued to carry a certain pain of being “forgotten” year after year. Although I have blogged about her numerous times, she has never had a sponsor. Now with medical school, she is in desperate need of not only financial aid, but the kind of St. Valentine love that writes her, encourages her, prays for her by name each day and includes her deep into the DNA of their very heart and soul. While it may seem like a lot for Child Sponsorship, college in Africa is relatively inexpensive. So all we are asking is the $2,400 per year (or $200 monthly) to support Hannan’s medical education. MWP will continue to buy her clothes and pay for her transport, visas, medical care et al.
When time for the children to write letters to their sponsors came, Hannan asked me, “Who is my family?” I had to say, “I’m sorry Hannan. We don’t have one for you yet.” With a smile of hope and belief, she responded, “Then I am going to write one to ‘My Dear Family’ because I know God has someone out there waiting for me and then you will have the letter ready to give them immediately!”
That letter awaits a special Valentine. Maybe in honor of your beloved; maybe a shared gift of life between the two of you for the two…. Maybe a Valentine of love for yourself!
Please consider being St. Valentine for Hannan today, or share this message until we find her perfect match!