Blog written by Michelle Lam, recent UCI grad
Today was a day near and dear to my heart because we had the opportunity to spend time with kids and adults with special needs. Our morning started with a devotional about having "ears to hear" like Jesus by taking the time to listen to people's stories and trying to better understand what makes them who they are.
With open minds and open ears, we set off for our first stop of the day: a home for children with special needs. As Kurt, the missionary we are serving with, gave us a tour of the facility, we were greeted with smiling faces, laughter, and hugs. I don't know if I’ve ever seen such excitement in someone's eyes to be visited by a group of strangers. I loved seeing every single person on my team jump right in and engage with the kids immediately. They didn’t waste any time loving on these kids and it was beautiful to watch. The majority of these children have been abandoned by their families because of poverty and the lack of resources in this country. Many of them have both severe mental and physical disabilities and all of them are craving physical touch.
Some snapshots that I was blessed by today were: a dad on our team running while pushing two wheelchairs up and down the sidewalk and making sound effects (I heard he even did wheelies with them); a child giggling nonstop as one of our team members talked to her and tickled her; and another team member swinging with one of the children in his lap.
We also visited a center for adults with special needs today. Again, we were greeted with this tangible, genuine joy and many, many hugs. I can't fully describe what it feels like to walk into a place like this with so many people who have this uncontainable joy. It's such a blessing. While we were there, different people on our team played futbol, danced, and did face painting with the adults with special needs. I had the opportunity to have "ears to hear" as I talked with one of the employees. She just started working there two days ago, and already she is making plans to make the facility more cheerful by painting murals and Bible verses on the dorm walls. To her, this is not just a job; this is a chance to make a difference, a chance to love people who have been told they are not wanted and not loved. It was so encouraging to see her deep compassion and sincere love for these people.
Throughout the day, we heard stories of abuse and mistreatment more horrific than we could ever imagine. I cried more than once and even got sick to my stomach when I heard one of the stories. At moments, I felt angry and hopeless. But in the midst of all of this pain, we have the greatest hope of all in Jesus. Despite their circumstances, the people I met today reminded me of this hope as I watched them take joy in the Lord and delight in what He has blessed them with. I am so blessed to be a part of this team and I am thankful for what the Lord is doing not only in the lives of the Salvadorans, but also for what He is doing in our lives. We are blessed to be a blessing!