His body was bent and contorted in ways no body should be; every joint turned the wrong way, like a broken deer on the highway. Impossible even to sit in a chair, he was draped over a beanbag chair on his tummy to accommodate the spine that curved like an “S.” Although he was technically in his teens, he wore a diaper, and inarticulate sounds emerged from his mouth.
I raised my camera but it felt like a thin place between earth and heaven and I stopped, put it down. I couldn’t bring myself to capture the full picture of his poor, damaged body, even though I knew he was not aware.
Before we entered the special needs Orphanage in Nicaragua, I had prepared myself with these words, Lean into the discomfort. Mission trips bring out the flesh and the flesh hates discomfort. I wanted to move forward when my tendency would be to hang back, to reach out when my flesh wanted to draw away. So I knelt by the beanbag chair he lay upon and stroked arms and legs, talked to him by name. Gently I removed his shoes and began rubbing his socked feet. His movements increased along with the vocalizations, but I couldn’t actually tell if he enjoyed the contact. Someone that day had taken the time to put socks and shoes on these feet that would never, ever walk.
Nearby, another team member cradled what appeared to be an infant who was actually three years old. One by one, each team member moved toward those society shuns, offering a smile, a hug, words of encouragement. When the time came for lunch, the workers handed us the bottles. Miguel, who I was helping, could barely drink his bottle without choking. Even the smallest pleasure of eating was difficult for him, and I could not stop the tears from flowing. His life was no life at all.
We spent a week in Nicaragua with Project Hope, building houses, bringing meals to those in abject poverty, visiting orphanages, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and prisons. The need threatens to overwhelm me with its gaping canyon-sized gulf, and a seed of doubt tries hard to germinate with that one little question: Does it even make a difference?
But I have to believe it does. When the world is shouting and taking sides, maybe it’s more important than ever to shut out the din and focus on this one hurting individual in front of you. Maybe that’s the most important time to hand Jesus your little lunch and watch Him do the quiet miracle right before your eyes. We find Jesus in the pages of Scripture right in the middle of ordinary life, bent over a cripple, kneeling before a paralytic, serving a meal, washing feet. Working by his side, we see the miracle that others miss.
When the Supreme Court made a historical decision and social media lit up in controversy, I found myself several countries away helping to build a one-room house out of wood and concrete block.
And I can’t wait to get back.
Lord, when did we see you in need and help you?
Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40