Luke 4:18,19 (NIV):
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
This past week, I was blessed to be a part of the team from Awakening who went to Peru. I will start by saying that God did some amazing things during this trip. I am going to highlight some of those things. As we landed in Lima, we were greeted by our contacts, Christen and Christian. Both have been serving on Young Life Capernaum staff for the past few years and it is so prevalent that they are doing the ministry of God. Because we were there working with Capernaum, our focus was on children with disabilities. On Monday, our team made the hour-long drive from Lima to Pachacutec, a tiny city amongst the shanty-towns. We were going to a birthday party for a precious three year-old girl. Because of her disabilities, her life was never celebrated; but her third birthday was going to be different. We had balloons, a cake, drinks and were surrounded by twenty other kids from the orphanage. This sweet girl was at the center of all attention for the afternoon.
On Tuesday, we departed from Lima and drove to Cieneguilla, the location where we would be holding camp for the children who would be joining us. Now, camp was a big deal. We were supposed to have thirteen kids joining us for the three days of camp. Because many of them were from orphanages and had disabilities, they needed approval from the government to come with us. The night before, we had gotten word that a few of the kids still hadn’t received approval and some were getting sick. As a team, we spent time in prayer, asking that God would change those circumstances. The next morning, by the grace of God, all children were approved and well enough to travel! Praise Christ! As we were prepping for these children to arrive the following afternoon, God was doing a big work in all of the hearts of those who were on the team. We all had different realizations, but two stuck out the most to me. First, these children are our brothers and sisters in Christ. No disability could change that. Second, it didn’t matter how uncomfortable (insect bites, stomach pains, etc…) we were. The circumstances of these precious children are constant. They’re always uncomfortable and they aren’t complaining. What an awesome reminder, right?!
Wednesday afternoon, camp began! None of them and none of us knew what to expect. As these kids pulled up, some were quiet, shy or to themselves. But by the end of the week, these kids were laughing, joking and loved being around us. Many of these children were unable to speak clearly and walk. That made it difficult for our team at the beginning. Most of us didn’t have experience with children in these circumstances. By the end of the first night, it was like second nature to us. Playing games, dancing or even wiping drool from their faces became more enjoyable as the days went on.
I want to share about one circumstance in particular. This young lady was the product of incest. She was, later, raped by her two brothers; both resulting in two pregnancies. This mom weighs forty pounds and wears a toddler-size three. She comes from extreme poverty and her disabilities only make her circumstances more difficult. When she was pulled up in her wheelchair, the last thing she wanted was to be at camp. She cried, threw fits and didn’t want to participate. By the end of the second night, she was beginning to smile and had no desire to cry. When we said goodbye to her on the last day of camp, we could see that God had done a huge work in her life already. She was smiling as she boarded the bus. Our contact, Christen, said she had never seen this young woman smile this much. How great is the God we serve?!
Throughout the week, we had “team time”. Every night we would come together, worship and share our testimonies. Many of my teammates had never heard the stories of the other members before. As the nights went on, it was very clear that we could see God’s work in our lives and it was a blessing to share in that with those who were on my team. To hear God bringing freedom from addiction, pride, eating disorders, sickness and death brought tears to my eyes. Those stories are some of the fondest memories of the trip.
So, what did I learn? Great question! We all need love. As I had the opportunity to love on kids who don’t usually receive love, God broke my heart for these precious lives. Lives in which disease, rape, death, abandonment and disability are what makes up their story, it’s impossible for God to not move through a person. As we spent hours playing in the grass, just loving these kids, I was reminded of the goodness of God. Through these situations, we don’t see any goodness. BUT, that’s why God is so powerful and so good. He knows what he’s doing. He has a plan and purpose for the lives of these children. In short, I learned that love goes a long way. If that means pushing a wheelchair, wiping drool, feeding a meal or even laughing with these kids, God is seen through the love of his people. When we love like Christ loves us, it’s impossible for us to not be changed. Be encouraged and quick to serve those around you this week.
Author: Nicole Presley