I haven’t blogged in a long time. Most stories seem too personal or feel too vulnerable. Even now I am questioning this, but as I ponder on Priscilla Shirer’s words, “engaging in God’s will is not always comfortable or convenient, but it is worth it” I think that even sharing our heart and being vulnerable it can be in obedience to God.
Meet Elizabeth an 8 year old student from Escuela Especial that over the last year we have had the privilege to get to know. She always greets us with a giant smile and a big hug. She's almost non-verbal, but communicates by pointing a lot. She is always willing to help, participates and listens intently.
Her glasses have been broken for quite some time and despite the constant gluing by her family, they are unwearable more than they are useful. On the first day of school we saw that they were still broken (from last year) and decided to see what we could do to help. The next day I spoke with her mom and she explained that she was due for an eye exam in January, but do to financial hardships they weren’t able to go or get a replacement pair of glasses. We spoke a little about the details and told her I would let her know what we could do.
After checking with an organization here that helps with eye glasses, they directed me to the local eye doctor who I have previously seen for my glasses. I made the appointment and let the mom know I would meet them there.
While we were waiting for the appointment we made small talk and then mom began to share a little bit more about their story. Who I assumed was mom is really Elizabeth’s aunt. Her mom has the same diagnosis as her, she is non-verbal and since birth of Elizabeth the aunt has done her best to care for the two.
Just a few minutes after we were called in for the beginning of the eye check, the cheerful little girl that I know became timid and scared. After several minutes of coercing her to begin, the aunt stepped out and she allowed me to sit with her for the exam (to all my essential oil lovers I even pulled out my peace and calming oil and told her it would give her special powers to get through the exam).
After the exam the doctor called me in her office privately to get my thoughts on the situation. What I wanted to say was we care about her education and feel that glasses will help her in school so that’s what we’re doing, getting her new glasses. I thought it was that simple. I was concerned about which glasses would be best to prevent breaking and if we had the money in the budget to get them for her (just to give an idea on cost differences- the same frames that are $20 in the States are $135 here in Honduras). The doctors exact words to me (and in English because she’s bilingual which is amazing) “her glasses are the least of my worries…”. I mentally checked out for a few seconds trying to process her words. I brought a girl to the eye doctor for new glasses, but that isn’t what we are discussing.
The doctor opened her complete file and began sharing her complete medical history with me. Her diagnosis, brain scans, needs for further testing, problems she had in utero and what her future held medically speaking. With each piece of her history the weight felt heavier and heavier. The questions started racing in my mind. The therapies, exams and care she needs seem so unobtainable. She doesn’t have health insurance. Even if she did it wouldn't cover therapy. There are no government assistance programs. Her aunt is doing her best but is not only taking care of this sweet girl, but her special needs mother as well.
Suddenly glasses didn’t feel like enough.
Earlier in the day I met a new 14 year old student, confined to a wheel chair and whose physical disabilities cause him great pain. Due to lack of therapy (the closest free therapy service is 2 hours in bus from our city) his ribs are almost touching his hip. He used to make the trip, but his family hasn’t been able to in 6 years.
Another 8 year old who just had surgery 3 months ago to stretch his feet, which gave him the ability to walk. Yet he is awaiting another surgery to stretch his elbows to allow him more motion in his arms. He just started kindergarten this year.
A 14 year old who is starting his first year of school because he is confined to a wheel chair and the local public school couldn’t accommodate him. A 20 year old who is deaf and only completed classes through the 4th grade because for the past 4 years her family hasn’t been able to provide $60 a month for transportation and tuition.
The list goes on and on. Real children with real needs.
We rushed out of the eye doctor to make it to Connor’s karate class in time and I sat there and tried to process the day. I felt overwhelmed, defeated and helpless. I texted Joey to fill him on how everything went. His response was simple and just what I needed to hear, “it’s not up to you to fix it, just love them. We do what we can do, step by step.”
The next morning I picked up my Bible study and it was in Judges where God thins Gideon's army from thousands of men to 300 and brought victory. The same day we had several people ask us how they can be praying for us. The weight still feels heavy, but God is faithful and we are not alone. You all are our army, fighting with us, standing in the gap.
There is so much that we want to do to help the AMAZING teachers, students and families at Escuela Especial. In just 2 weeks we will be building a play set for them. Ideas of therapies, parent education and empowerment and life skills classes. With all the weight of the needs of the children, a play set seems like not enough.
But it’s a step.
It will not only provide fun for the students, but will help develop social and emotional skills, physical growth and will be an extension of the classroom where the children can learn through play.