(Martha Kamara, Janet, Margaret, Joan and Ernest with Vivian)
Her name means "miracle." Not the name we call her everyday, but the one in the middle. The special one. It was given to her when she was no bigger than a grape deep inside of me in Africa.
In light of the last three years I often wonder if her naming was prophetic. If she is, in fact, my miracle child. I know that every mother thinks her child is special, but I don't think I am exaggerating too much when I say that Vivian Nora Kyamagero Laslo is an unusual type of child. It is as if she were hand tailored to participate in this crazy international life of service we lead. She never ceases to astonish me.
She is not a simple girl. She is always bursting with something. With passion, joy, anger or zeal. But her charisma draws in everyone...everyone. And her thoughts, words and expressions are so unique and captivating that she never needs to command an audience. The audience is always there waiting on her. Vivian lives as if the entire world were waiting to love her and waiting to be loved by her. And as I watch her encounter the world day by day it seems to me that she isn't too off base in her belief.
Africa, to her, is just another corner of the world to capture. And what an adventure it has been. Though she has been here before, she remembers nothing, and every experience is fresh and thrilling. Seeing Uganda through her eyes is marvelous.
Each morning as the light streams in through our curtains she is ready. Ready to throw on her dress, her crocs and her backpack to embrace Africa. There are no strangers here, only new friends to be had. She talks to everyone...regardless of whether they understand her English...or if they even speak English at all! She waves, she smiles, she dances. She doesn't understand that there are significant differences of language, culture and environment.
"Look, mommy!" she shouted on our first morning as a large bird of prey swooped over the roof of our guest house. "Can he come land on my finger?" And as we ate our first lunch on the veranda of the dining hall she laughed uncontrollably as flies swooped around, aiming for our bananas. She made up a song, "Bugs are everywhere." The lyrics are the same as the title and she sang it over and over smiling from ear to ear.
She sees no danger in wild African birds...or bugs...or monkeys. If given her way she would capture one and bring it back to our room. Thankfully there are some creatures she IS allowed to touch...the rabbits at Ranch on Jesus.
As soon as the Land Cruiser brakes inside the gates she springs from her car seat exclaiming, "Matthew, Matthew let's go chase the bunny rabbits." Matthew, the Kamara's nearly three year old son lives in awe of her, this domineering chattering white girl who holds his hands and won't let him out of her sight. It seems not even language or culture will keep two preschoolers from their games.
So together they lift their clumsy legs high, jumping over the dusty ridges and hills of the compound as they hunt for bunnies. The rabbits easily flee and the toddlers laugh and laugh as if nothing were funnier than a hopping animal. Or perhaps Matthew is laughing more at Vivian's laughter than he is at the rabbit...
The baby bunnies are easier to capture. I hear Vivian shouting so I glance up from my notebook only to see her walk proudly into the dining hall clasping a young rabbit firmly by the ears. I fear for the creature's life and chide the children to make sure she carries it properly. I also chide them NOT to let her go in the hen house again...please.
The children discuss matters among themselves.
'"Mommy," Vivian giggles quietly as if telling me a silly secret, "the kids are speaking SPANISH!"
She is utterly different, yet also somehow one of them...picking up "African Spanish" along he way. I have given up hope of being able to keep an eye on her every minute. I HAVE to trust. I have to allow her to go and run and explore and live. She has fallen down countless times, but each day when she returns to me covered...COVERED...in dust and band-aids she is joyful. I have to trust that the same God who gave me this miracle will preserve her as we do His will. Because she isn't just a miracle for me, but a miracle I hope to be used in the hand of the Lord.
JOY is Vivian's gift. She feels it in everything and she freely gives it away. Watching her spread joy to others is the joy of my life. What we are giving her, this adventuresome life, I pray will only increase her joy and make her a wise and loving lady.