Last week I spent 4 days at an orphanage. Night and day we ate, worked and slept in the building that is home to over 30 disabled children. I had a hard time sleeping at night; partly from my mind spinning from medical and therapy possibilities from the day past and for the day ahead, and partly from hearing crying children left unconsoled in their beds. This trip I was accompanied by a former GoCorps goer who is visiting my team to offer her expertise as an occupational therapist. She has been blessing the foster families and orphanages with her assessments and therapy suggestions.
There was a specific boy at the orphanage who, with braces and some basic therapy could be walking, talking and on his way to receiving something resembling an education. Currently his days consist of sitting on the floor, watching the few other children in the room that are mobile as they scoot or crawl around, watching music videos on the tv, and eating meals off of a small stool that the caretaker will place on the floor in front of him. Because this boy is older, maybe 10 or 11 and average size, he doesn’t fit into the small beds they have for the children; he sleeps on the floor in the same spot where he sits all day. On this trip we had the OT look at the ankle braces he had out grown, they were ill fitted and still hardly used. As we talked over the possibilities of re-fitting him for a new set and the chances of having them get used, we ran into the roadblock that is SO frustrating doing orphan care here. We realized that getting braces, fitting braces, buying braces, knowing therapy routines, finding resources or ways to make things work…these things while challenging are not THE thing standing in the way of disabled orphans receiving care and therapy. In my eyes the cascade effect goes next from having the resources and knowledge to give or do therapy to having people to administer that therapy. To put on the braces, to push the wheelchair, to stand up and sit down and do the dirty work of teaching someone to eat and use the bathroom. If there are funds to hire someone you might find people to fill these positions, but still we can’t be 100% sure that any therapy will be done, done correctly or done enough once we leave the facility. And then what? What happens if or when this kid can walk, can talk, can eat and go to the bathroom independently? If he doesn’t walk, we don’t have to follow him around and expend energy teaching him what to do and not to do. If he doesn’t talk, then we don’t have to take the chance of him saying he deserves a life better than the one he has. What happens is that people have to face the fact that this kid is a person.
The mountain that is the disabilities issue in this society is daunting. Voiceless children are abandoned, society turns on the weaker member and the elderly are forgotten once they are no longer contributing to society. While this mountain is daunting, it’s the mountain God has asked me to live on. Slowly, one day at a time, I am learning the lay of the land. I hope that in my lifetime I would get to see this nation be one that not only accepts its disabled but supports them to be a thriving part of society. While there are tangible ways that I do get to “help” when I visit the orphanage, the MOST important investment I know I can make in my time here is not going to be in time, money, resources or even knowledge. The most important investment for me to make here is in the church, where it’s not all about me or the problems or how I and others can “help” but it’s about Jesus! I want to invest in something I know changes hearts, and that is God’s unending love and the redeeming blood of Christ. This world is a broken place and I don’t have the fix, you don’t have the fix, no one has the fix even though try, try, try we might to find it. Luckily God loves us all so much that He has offered something infinitely greater than a fix, He has offered us salvation into an eternity of rejoicing. I want the people of this nation to know this kind of love, because maybe then the cascade effect will look like the church growing and transforming then spilling into society, then maybe the society would be one that loves the fatherless and sees the disabled as equal brothers and sisters worthy of love and respect.
** want to know why I used “help”? Read the book When Helping Hurts by Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert.