Hope and Purpose in Suffering
Blog post written by Hilary Cook
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” - Romans 3:5
In the two days that our team has been in this country, we have been in directed contact with many people who have suffered much. However, we've been overwhelmed by the fact that the Salvadorian people are people of great character and perseverance. This morning our team loaded into the bus and the back of Kurt Ackermann's (Founder of Sus Hijos) truck to visit another orphanage.
I had an opportunity to get to know one of the women who cares for the kids. The kids call these ladies "tias" ("aunt" in Spanish). With the help of one of our translators, I learned that the orphanage has been around for many years. Many of the kids in the center get taken in off the streets or are placed here after being deported back to El Salvador from the States. Others are rescued from abusive home environments or prostitution. When I asked this “tia” why she decided to work for an orphanage, she answered simply “Amo a los ninos" ("I love these kids"). Because she loves the kids and because she is a woman of character, she has been working in orphanages since she was 18 years old. I was touched by her love for the kids and her hope in the midst of suffering.
This morning one of our team members gave a presentation on sexual exploitation to fifty girls as well as the orphanage staff. It was a powerful and interactive time. Please pray that their lives are impacted and that each young woman is empowered to make the right decisions for their future.
We had a delicious lunch break at The States Diner, a restaurant which was opened last year by Sus Hijos to provide employment for kids from the orphanages. I loved meeting the servers and seeing the hope in their eyes. When kids turn 18 in the orphanages of El Salvador, they are kicked out of the centers. The Sus Hijos transition program provides housing, jobs and life skills for kids who would otherwise be hopeless.
This afternoon we toured a special needs center for children who are not able to thrive in other orphanages. Again, I found myself overwhelmed as immense suffering met great character. The men and women working there were so kind, patient, calm, loving and joyful as they cared for, cleaned up after, and loved on those precious children. I found myself constantly in awe of their strength to continually serve the kids day after day. I was there only for a few hours and it broke me.
During our morning devotional, we were asked a question that so many people want an answer to… Why is there so much suffering in the world? I believe there could be many answers to this question. Maybe it’s because we live in a fallen world where horrible things happen. Maybe God allows suffering so that we build up endurance, which builds character, which produces hope that one day Jesus will return and take all the pain away.
However, there is a question I find myself more frequently asking… Why am I not one who suffers like some do? I have had my fair share of trials and struggles, but it doesn’t seem fair that I have been blessed with such a privileged life while others wonder if they will even eat today. When I asked God this question today, the answer was clear. The reason that I was given a salary job with benefits and vacation days in Orange County is so that I can come to El Salvador and serve the least of these. It’s this trip. Every comfort, commodity, gift, and talent I posses was given to me for the sole purpose of glorifying God by using them to love and serve His children.