On the sixth day of the safari in Botswana I finally saw it.
When I say "saw it," I mean I actually took in what I was looking at and saw it for all its beauty and value.
I have no idea how many times it had come into my line of sight while I was looking for leopards, as it blurred into so many other brown and tan birds.
Our guide, Bella, stopped the truck and explained to my family that we were seeing a bird called the Kori Bustard.
Bella told us that even though she grew up on the Chobe River, where the Kori Bustard thrives, it was never hunted or eaten.
Because of their importance, only the Batswana royalty are allowed to hunt them.
We learned that the female bird raises her babies alone, in shallow nests on the ground. This is a remarkable feat on land where crocodiles, baboons, and a hundred other animals could eat the eggs.
We also learned that it is the heaviest bird in the world that can fly.
My mind wandered back and forth between the wonder of this special bird, and the news I had just received:
One of the 2021 graduates of Thistle Farms, Lena, was just found dead in her new home.
Lena was beautiful and smart, with stunning eyes and a gift for stories.
She ministered to people who were homeless at her new job and had dreams she still wanted to see come true.
Just then the bird gracefully moved from a stork-like walk into full flight with enormous wings lifting it above the Jackalberry tree.
The prayer came before I formed a word.
"Lena, fly where peace dwells and judgment ceases on strong wings that can bear you."
Growing up in an abusive religious cult, I wonder if Lena ever grasped that she was as sacred as the Kori Bustard. I wonder if the punishing God she prayed to ever let her know she was as valuable as this regal bird.
After more than 25 years of this work, I still wonder about so many of the women who have graced the steps of Thistle Farms.
Do they see their intrinsic value and love themselves? Do I? Do you?
We have to keep telling the story of how in love, grey storks become sacred birds, worthy and regal.
I will remember the vision of the strong Kori Bustard flying Lena home to Love.
PEACE AND LOVE,