At first I didn’t think we could communicate. I met her outside of the missionaries’ house after coming back from the bush. She smiled sheepishly, and I smiled back. I reached out and rubbed her back. I found myself doing that when I met the children. It was my way of saying what they couldn’t understand through my words.
You are important. So I came here to meet you.
She had a large, full smile, and the features of her face were dainty and defined and beautiful. Jeweled braids fell precisely from her head and moved from side-to-side as she walked.
I began to ask her questions. She would just look at me and smile. So I tried harder with hand motions and drawing pictures in the air. But again, just a smile.
I asked her if she wanted to come and sit beside me on the bricks that were stacked nearby for the new wall we were building. She accepted, and we made our way over and had a seat.
“My name is Imelda”, she whispered.
“What did you say?” I asked surprised that she spoke and making sure I heard her correctly.
“My name is Imelda”, she replied.
And she became my first friend in Burkina Faso.
That afternoon, sitting right there on those bricks, I painted Imelda’s nails. I talked to her about school and her family and where she lived. Her English was limited, but it was good enough to get to know a friend better.
Each day Imelda came to the LAC where we stayed. She would ask one of the missionary children to go in and get me. I would come out, and we would spend a little more time together. It became our standard date.
The day before we were leaving I had one of the missionary children translate for me that I was leaving the next day. We took a picture together, and she asked if she could keep it. I told her I had no way of making a copy of it, but that I would send a copy to her with the next team from our church that goes to Burkina Faso.
Then she handed me this letter that she handwrote.
Some often wonder why people would travel that far and spend such money when there are plenty of needs here. And that is true. There are plenty of needs here.
But for me the answer is simple. God knew I needed a friend named Imelda who lives in Burkina Faso. He knew that only through that special friend, in that special country would my mind fully open to see his kind of love – a love so deep that he was willing to die for us just to claim us as his own.
God wants Imelda as his own. God wants me as his own.
Now, each day, she is a part of me. I pray for her. That she will know God’s love too. And eternity will be sweet as we sit in the sunlight and talk as I paint her nails.
My friend Imelda is important. So I went to meet her.