The other day, I saw a new type of bird. He was brown all over. There were 2 of them actually. One had joined in with the yellow birds eating the seed. The other brown one stood on a ledge on the other side of a half wall of glass that directly looks into my terrace, right by the bowl of food. Every once in a while the little brown bird on the side of the glass where the food was would look up from his eating and hop over to the bird on the other side of the glass. He would chirp a little, hop back and forth and flap his wings, almost as if he was talking to the other bird about HOW to get over the glass. This happened at least 5 times in the span of 15 minutes. Each time, the bird just paced back and forth looking in at the other birds and the food, but never flew in for the food. He just watched. This was a bit painful for me. I knew that I couldn’t do anything to get him to come over to enjoy the food. If I tried, it would just scare him away. So, I sat there, talking under my breath, encouraging him, willing him to fly over. I was no harm to him, but he didn’t know that, and so he hesitated, and waited…..FINALLY after about 25 minutes of just waiting, I moved back farther away from him and the food. And finally, he came and ate with the others. WOW!
This story reminds me of our walk with Jesus and how a lot of us enter into the church if you didn’t grow up in church. Maybe like I did, you become friends with someone who goes to church and they are different, but you don’t know why… Maybe someone invites you into that church and you kind of want to go because it looks good from a distance, but you are afraid to go in. So, for a while you talk about going. Maybe you ask your friends how it was and they tell you about this guy name Jesus who gave everything for YOU. Maybe that excites you and you jump right in to church like how some of those birds jumped right into to eating and felt comfortable and confident that I was not there to hurt them. But maybe you are that bird standing on the ledge looking in at everyone else. Watching from afar, but afraid to enter in. Or maybe you are the friends on the inside encouraging those looking in to come in and see how good it is.
My point is this…at some point, those birds had to decide if it was worth the risk to get the food. And the ones who took it, and continue to take it, now share this sweet little terrace with me where they feel free to hop around so close to me that I can almost touch them. They know this is a safe place. But it took some time and trust for them to feel this way. And so it is with those entering the church. They also need to take a step of faith to enter, but also a way to feel like it is a safe place to be. A place where they can be received well, cared for, and loved.
I tell you this because it is what God is doing through the things I get to do here with Camino de Vida, the church I serve under. I get to hear stories of lives changed all the time and now I get to be a bigger part of the story in a more tangible way. As most of you know, I get to do this in 3 different but related ways. They are: 1. By serving on a team of people who give the gift of mobility through the Free Wheelchair Mission. 2. Providing occupational therapy in orphanages and soon the therapy clinic that is currently being set up. 3. Starting a program for kids with special needs who enter the church on Sundays to be supported in the Sunday school program while their parents attend church. Since it has been so long, here is a brief update on all 3!
In 2015, Camino de Vida gave 2450 Free Wheelchair Mission Wheelchairs to those in need! I got to be a part of that! With every wheelchair we give, we also get to share about the love of Jesus! That means that if every person brought one person with them (which is typical), almost 5000 people heard about the love of Jesus just through receiving the wheelchair! The church outreach ministry’s focus this past year and this year is to reach the provinces of Peru as well as Lima. That means more trips away from Lima! Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Piura which is north Peru. We got to give 35 people wheelchairs there in partnership with a local telephone company who sponsored the distribution and whose employees were serving alongside the volunteers from CDV to give mobility to others. It was a lot of fun to be part of this team and I look forward to more trips this coming year.
I continue to visit one of the orphanages on a weekly basis to do therapy with a few kids. I have met and fell in love with the newest addition to the orphanage, a sweet little baby named Alejandra, who came to the house when she was just 2 months old after being abandoned by her birth mom in a well. Alejandra has microcephaly and cerebral palsy but that doesn’t stop her from being an incredible snuggler and brings joy to just about everyone she meets. I have begun, along with the PT who is employed there, to do some therapy with her in hopes that the early intervention will help her developmental milestones. I also continue to do therapy with a few of my favorites, Adriano and Sebastian! It is really fun to see their growth and progress even after being gone for a few months. My prayers for these kids is that the caregivers begin to see the value in our (the therapists) recommendations for doing things such as having Adriano be seated in a wheelchair instead of lying in a stroller and for any recommendations we have for the baby.
The therapy room at the community center is ALMOST READY!!!!! Thanks to some very generous donations, I was able to make a huge order of equipment. We received the first shipment and are still waiting on the second. We have been working towards putting together policies and procedures, as well as a plan to seek out families in the neighborhood where the therapy room is located to offer the services to them first. The hope is that when we reach these families and offer therapy services, it will be the first step to showing them the love of Jesus. We hope to offer an ear to listen to them and arms to hug them. After time, we hope we can invite them to the church services that are held every Sunday in the same building. My dream is that we can find local therapists to share their time and talents at this therapy room so they can give back too. We will start with myself and a dear friend who is a pediatric physical therapist here in Lima. She will volunteer time when she is not working her regular job. I am so excited to see where this goes. We are so close to getting it off the ground. Thank you for your continued prayers on this project. Pray that we can find more professionals who want to serve, as well as all the logistics stuff to be completed on time. Starting a clinic was not something I learned in my career and with everything here, there is a large learning curve.
KIDS HD (Habilidades diferentes -different abilities) is the name of the program serving alongside the children’s ministry, helping kids who need extra help receive the support they need during the children’s program while their parents attend the service. As of right now, we have launched 3/5 locations with 20 volunteers and anywhere from 10-17 kids present at all 3 locations each Sunday!
We have also been able to support 4 children with different abilities attend and integrate into a one-day summer day camp fieldtrip with all the other church kids WITHOUT parents! It was the first time that all 4 of the kids had the opportunity to participate in something like this, because the parents felt confident that their children would receive the one on one attention the needed.
I could go on and on about all the amazing things God is doing with this program including bringing volunteers right to me without me even trying to search, to having incredible leaders and volunteers who are dedicated to these children and their families without me needing to teach them how to do it, and the fact that every week new families are bringing their kids because they heard now they have a place. I could go on and on about all the dreams and hopes I have for this ministry, but for now, I will just leave you with one story.
A month ago, a new sweet little girl names Milagros (which means Miracle) came to the church with her parents. She is 2.4 years old and she captured my heart the first time I saw her. It was the first time her parents came to Camino de Vida since before she was born. I don’t know their whole history, but the little I did learn was that her parents were coming to church before, but after Milagros was born with many medical complications and development delays, they never returned, until now. The first day she came to the day care of the children’s program, I was there. They called me and told me she was new. So, I went to meet her. All the volunteers in the room didn’t really know what to do with her, because she wasn’t like your typical 2-year old. She couldn’t walk, or sit up by herself, or talk. They didn’t know if she understood or not. So they kept her in her stroller and gave her some toys. I was able to come in, and quickly took her out of her stroller to show them that she didn’t need to stay in her stroller. We played on the floor like the other kids and then when they did a little art project, we did it too. I think that day opened the eyes of the other volunteers to see that she is a child too, but may just need to play or do things a little different and with a little help. That day, when Milagros left, I asked the parents if they would come back the next week. I may have been a little over excited about it all, but I REALLY did want her to return. They said they weren’t sure, so we waited.
The next week they CAME BACK! I was there again to receive her and this time with a volunteer from our special HD team. Her parents seemed happy to see us there again that day. The 3rd visit, we were able to talk more with the parents. We learned that Milagros DOES understand and even shakes her head yes and no when asked questions. We learned that she likes to roll on the floor and prefers air conditioning (don’t we all). Her parents now have come to look for our HD volunteers to be with Milagros while they attend the service. I don’t know yet how the parents feel or what their journey has been up to this point, but it is exactly families like hers, why we are here loving these children and helping the parents have peace of mind that their child is safe and cared for while they receive a word from God.
So, trying to tie all this together, parents and families who have someone who has special needs may sometimes feel isolated or alone. Like no one understands or there is no place for them there. They may be like that bird looking in from the outside hoping to have some of that birdseed too. Once these parents make the step to enter the church or make a step to seek help for their child with therapy, we want to be there to receive them well and show them there is a space for them. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this here in Lima, Peru. Thank you for supporting me, so that I can help support others here. Your support and prayers are literally changing hearts and lives every time I have the chance to get to do the things God brought me here to do. Thank you!