We get to see the impact of our ministry in a number of ways, but I often have a sense that there are ripple effects of which we only get tiny glimpses.
I've had several opportunities recently to help children with special needs and their families access needed medical services. In each case I've seen a little testimony to the value of every human life through the winsomeness of these children coupled with the devotion of their foster parents in the presence of others who happen to be around. In one such case, a baby was referred to us by one of the hospitals here. He was born with a cleft lip & palate and, for that reason, he had been abandoned. While in our emergency care program (the first step for children referred to us where a child is cared for by a temporary substitute family while permanent placement options are explored) this little one had surgery to repair his lip. A foster family was identified for him and their first opportunity to meet him was taking him to his follow up visit at the hospital. I hate to say it, but I had just a little bit of anxiety. Would they accept him? Would it be difficult for them to see past what his own birth mother found too "different" to accept? My fears were quickly relieved! They were doting on him from the first moment they took him into their arms. Also, some of the hospital staff remembered him & were so pleased to see him with his new foster parents. They were very encouraging to them. As in other situations, it became known to bystanders that these parents were CHOOSING to love and care for this child. Accepted, Belonging, Loved, & Empowered - these are the words that form the acronym ABLE and it is so exciting to see children with special needs having these experiences. Even more exciting to see that it can spill over beyond the child's family to have a subtle, yet significant impact on their community.
Another situation which I can barely write about without tears did not take place at a doctor's visit, but at a funeral. One of our dear little girls who had cerebral palsy recently passed away. If she had lived in the U.S. she would have received her nutrition through a tube going directly into her stomach because her motor problems made eating/swallowing such a constant struggle. But that wasn't an option for her here, and it was an ongoing battle to get enough food into her to meet her needs while, at the same time trying to guard her against chest infections due to having food enter her lungs. Finally, the battle was too much for her. It was a difficult loss, yet through it, the value of her precious life was broadcast to the whole community. Some who have not had the blessing of knowing a child like this dear little girl might be surprised that it would be such a loss, but her grieving foster mom made it evident how greatly she would be missed. All of her foster parents' adult children traveled to be at her funeral because she had been such a significant part of their family. Even though she had never spoken a word, her life and death gave witness that her life mattered - she had made a positive difference in the lives of others.
This is obviously not the full message of the Gospel, but it is certainly one element of it. No matter what their situation or how they might be viewed by others, human beings matter, ultimately because they matter to God. I believe that the children and families with whom I have the privilege of working have the power to change people's perspectives and to be, in their own gentle, quiet way, ambassadors for the unconditional love of Christ.
ABLE Program Technical Advisor
ABLE Program Technical Advisor