“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4
Have you ever seen that Sarah McLaughlin animal cruelty commercial? Did it move you so much that you got up from the couch and adopted an abused shelter pet?
What about those commercials to sponsor a child in a far-away land… those commercials that tell you that for just $1 a day, you could feed and clothe a child in need. Were you moved to action?
I don’t bring this up to stir guilt or confession. I bring this up with the hope that it will make you think about what it takes to spring to action.
Today was a day that affected me deeply. Today was a day that I think will cause me to “spring to action” for a long time. Today was a day that caused me to desire to spring to so much action, that I became overwhelmed that all the necessary actions to change these lives in need would be impossible. It would take so much action to make a difference here… to make a difference with all my eyes have seen.
Let me explain…
My day started with Frensky’s therapy visit. If you read my previous blog post or have been keeping up with my updates on Facebook, you know that Frensky is the first child in the community that I have been seeing for therapy.
Frensky is 3 years old and weighs 15 pounds! He has club feet and is very spastic. He is also incredibly malnourished.
When I first met Frensky, his body was as rigid as a 2×4. He screamed with any change in position and reached desperately with his hands to grasp anything (hair, earrings, clothes) to feel stable. The only way I know how to describe it is like a kitten digging its claws into you for fear that it will be dropped.
I’m not sure that Frensky has ever felt safe or secure.
Today was his third visit of the week. I spent the initial portion of his visit working with him on the physical aspect of his disabilities, then decided to attempt to feed him. I had no idea if he could even eat. He is so tiny; for all I knew, he had never tasted food. He may have been living on sugar-water for all I know. I got a jar of baby food, took him to a quiet place, and then began to feed him.
Frensky’s body became very relaxed as he took small bites, smacking his lips as he swallowed. He allowed his once-rigid body to melt into my arms, and he gazed up at me the whole time, staring at me with his big, brown eyes. I choked back tears.
When I took Frensky back to his mother, Jean Jean, one of our translators, came back with me so that I could communicate the new therapy schedule with her and share with her that I had given Frensky some food. She misunderstood me, and told the translator, “No, I can’t feed him. I don’t have any food.”
I clarified with her what I had said before I left.
But what she said stuck with me.
I had another therapy visit scheduled in 15 minutes. I walked back to the house, came straight to my room, sat on my bed, and wept.
I pulled myself together to go get Cammie for her therapy.
While working with her, Carmella, a nurse that works for myLIFEspeaks, came and found me in the therapy room and told me, with what little English she knows, that she needed me to come with her. This was odd for me, as I don’t really know her that well, and I thought it odd she came to find me. I finished up with Cammie, and then headed out with Carmella, having no idea where we were going or why.
She told me that a baby had just been born and she wanted me to see him.
I found myself suddenly wishing I’d decided to be a doctor instead of a therapist. There’s so much to know… and I know so little.
Because of all the recent rain, the walk was long and difficult (especially in slippery flip-flops), and the sun was hot. When we finally arrived, Carmella led me into a little shack made of sticks with a metal roof. It felt like it was 110 degrees inside this dark house. Behind some makeshift mosquito netting in the back of the house was a young mother, still lying on the bed where she gave birth yesterday. She handed Carmella the baby, who handed him to me. Beautiful.
The clothes he was wearing were enormous on him, including socks hanging off of his tiny feet. I removed his socks… his left foot was turned inward. A club foot. Just like Frensky.
I could sense the mother’s fear. Children here with disabilities are often discarded, or kept away from public eye. They are also sometimes considered cursed. A surge of questions ran through my head, including whether or not this new mother thought that she or her child was under a Voodoo curse, and that is why he was born this way. I desperately wanted her to see her child like God does… as so worthy of love. As valuable and precious. I snuggled him and kissed him and asked her if I could take his picture.
If I had a translator with me, I would have told her that her child is a blessing from God, and that everything was going to be okay. I hope that she caught a glimpse of that through my interactions with her little boy.
I knew that he would need medical attention. And he will probably need surgery in order to ever walk. The “how” questions started churning in my mind. There is so much need. This baby lives in a shack with his mother. He needs surgery. Where will the money come from? How will they even get to the hospital?
I know that there are answers to these questions. But I don’t know them.
The fact that these questions even exist is overwhelming.
Carmella then told me there was another child she wanted me to see. She took me to another house, where a baby wearing only a shirt sat on a dirty front porch. With one look at him, I knew he had Down Syndrome. I picked him up, and his floppy body melted into my arms. So sweet. He smiled at me and I kissed his cheeks.
He did not have a parent at home, so I hated leaving him, but I put him down on a blanket on the porch with the other children at home, and walked away.
For some reason, what my eyes had seen this morning was too much to bear.
What I had seen knocked me over like no commercial or tour through a third-world village ever had.
There are so many needs. So many questions about how to meet those needs.
And only so much time.
One child is starving… another child is in danger of not only never being able to walk, but never being loved and valued by his mother… another sits on a dirty porch with no one to tend to him.
After I finished my work-day, I spent a lot of time in the village.
I took a walk and children ran to me and jumped in my arms.
I went back to visit and hold Frensky.
Children from the village played with my hair and twirled my toe-ring.
They laughed and sang my name over and over.
I witnessed a beautiful sunset.
God is good.
He holds the answers to all of our questions. The answers may not be available immediately, but I know that He will provide for our needs and that we can rest in His peace.
I am thankful that he has allowed by heart to be burdened for these people. I am thankful that He opened my eyes wider today. To see this need.
But I am also thankful that He provides a peace that passes understanding.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
My eyes have seen what the Lord willed for me to see.
I think He has opened my eyes to this great need so that I can one day marvel at His provision.
“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.” Psalm 72:12-13
I can’t wait for my eyes to see what He will do!
“Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9
“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10