She promised an orange and gave me the moon
by Linda Manhardt –
Nine-year-old Valentine had a sense of humor! Walking home from the Friday evening meeting at the Training College, she asked me if I wanted an orange. When I replied “Sure,” she pointed at the low, glowing, orange Kenyan moon and giggled.
Valentine was a gift to my life.
We were on our way to market in the back of the college pickup truck when the women staff officers began to tease me. “Oh, Captain Manhardt, we are so sad! You have no husband.” I replied, “I am ‘just all right.’ My only sadness is that I have no children.” They all made understanding sounds and then the training principal’s wife’s face lit up and she said, “Captain, I know of a child for you.”
Two weeks later, little eight-year-old Valentine arrived from Western Kenya. The only word she knew in English was “mom.” Her hair was very short, she was slight for her age and she had never been to school. Her mother had died in childbirth and she had been living with an aunt. I was told that that her aunt’s alcoholic husband resented Valentine and threw rocks at her. There was little money to feed a child that was not his.
But now, with me, she would have a mom, a home, and clothes to wear. I loved her immediately and she became the daughter of my heart.
For two years, I raised her. She learned the alphabet, and very quickly, how to read. She was bright, funny, and a joy to be with.
One day, after the Easter service at the college, she came to me with a copy of the American War Cry. It had a picture of Christ’s wounded hands. She was very concerned and asked me to explain. As I began to tell her how Christ was nailed to the cross to save us, she went to the storage room and brought out a large nail. I pressed it into her hands, and her eyes grew big, and filled with tears. She understood. We prayed together. From that point onward, every time an altar call was given at the college, Valentine went forward. Oh, how she blessed my heart!
When I was sent home after three years in Kenya, I could not bring Valentine with me. I kept her in boarding school for several years, and when I went back to serve in Tanzania, she came to visit me.
A couple of weeks ago, I was awakened by my cell phone. It was a call from Valentine’s sister in Kenya. She had been trying to find me for over a year. Some Salvation Army officers had come to her village and she asked if they knew me. They did, and gave her my cell phone number. The Hodders must have visited Western Kenya, where she saw them!
She called to tell me that Valentine had died. She had been sent home from school and been diagnosed with “unstable aplastic anemia.” As she told the story of her illness, and how they tried to help her, we wept together. She told me how Valentine had renamed herself “Valentine Linda Manhardt” and always knew that I loved her. She died on her birthday last year—February 14, 2006.
Thank you Lord, for this precious life that you gave me to love. Thank you for her personality and stubbornness and humor. She was not just another poor little African child that died. She was my daughter. She was loved. She had a home and a mother, and she will forever have a place in my heart.