(This article was written by AGWM personnel in a sensitive region)
In the unforgiving heat of an Asian summer, I went on an explorative trip with a visiting pediatric physical therapist, planning for a short-term missions team to come the next year. We traveled first by plane and then spent five hours in a van, driving over unfinished roads to one of the poorest villages in the country.
The first few days of our trip were a hurried mix of visiting schools and orphanages, and having meals with local officials to explain why we wanted to help, and how we planned to do so.
Culturally there is often little place for children who are disabled, as it is perceived that parents’ financial prospects are hurt by having a child who cannot care for them in their old age. Many families felt it was a curse to have a disabled child.
When asked why we wish to assist those who are disabled or poor, our answer is always the same: we love them.
On this trip, that simple answer was enough for the local officials. We then ate our meal, sang songs, and agreed to meet the next morning to visit the final location.
The next morning I awoke and met the physical therapist and government officials in the lobby of our hotel to head out. As we drove, I discussed the logistics of having a team come out in the future. Our van rounded a corner and was met with a line of people wrapping around the small government facility. Hundreds of parents had heard that a doctor was coming, so they came early with the hope of getting some sort of help for their children. One family walked all night pushing their child in a wheelbarrow just to see the doctor.
My heart started to race; this was only supposed to be an exploratory trip. We didn’t have any equipment or medicine to help these families. The physical therapist and I decided to do the best we could and cleared out a small room in the government building to start seeing kids.
Then, amazing things began to happen.
As I struggled to translate and record the children’s names and conditions, I heard laughter outside. I looked out into the courtyard and saw a mass of kids laughing and playing with each other. For many it was the first time they got to play with other kids just like them. Parents also began to talk with one another, sharing different things that helped their kids and about how to overcome stigma in their communities. It was a time hope and peace — a respite.
Soon the morning turned to noon and the heat became relentless. Still mothers and fathers waited for their turn. Inside the makeshift exam room, the physical therapist and I started to tire. There were tears and messes, but we kept going.
Finally, the last child was carried in. The 4-year-old boy was wearing only a rag and was in constant pain, contracted from head to toe into a tight ball because of cerebral palsy. His grandfather had started walking at 5 a.m., carrying his grandson the whole way to see the doctor. “Please,” the grandfather whispered “Help him.”
The physical therapist gently placed the boy on the table and began to massage his joints to help alleviate some of the pain. She noticed that his little hands had been clinched for so long that his fingernails were growing into the palms of his hands. The grandfather became concerned when she began to work with the boy’s hands. He told me that his grandson was so fragile that when he had tried to move the boy’s fingers in the past, he accidentally broke one.
I reassured him that the physical therapist understood and would not hurt his grandson. She gently applied pressure to the boy’s wrist and his hand opened ever so slightly. She then worked her finger into his tiny palm, and his hand opened. The grandfather quickly reached out and held his grandson’s hand.
The grandfather’s eyes welled up with tears and he shouted, “It’s a miracle! This is the first time I’ve held my grandson’s hand!”
The therapist and I spent the next hour explaining different exercises that the grandfather could do to help his grandson. As they left that day, the grandfather scooped up his grandson with a smile on his face. He kept holding the small boy’s hand and saying to anyone that would listen, “It’s a miracle!”
On that hot summer day in Asia, the Red Sea didn’t part, no one walked on water, and thousands were not fed. However, I saw that the miraculous does take place as Christians use their abilities with godly purpose and love. We steward the daily opportunities to show Christ’s love, and we pray for even more opportunities to tell His saving story.