Thursday, October 30, 1997

The King Replied...

... whatever you do to the least one of these...

“Thank You Lord, I just have one more day of rising early and putting on this grease paint and the grin that I must wear in front of these hurting, sick, and very needy children. You have really put me to the emotional test this time. I’m not sure that my heart can take another day.” So began my prayers this third morning in Jerusalem.

In the preceding days of our trip to Israel, we had crisscrossed the city making visits to hospitals, schools and orphan homes, seeing well over a thousand children. During the months of arranging our time, I had no idea how physically and emotionally demanding the reality of the schedule would be. The International Christian Embassy arranged our visits for the day. The first would be to a Christian school in Hebron, and the last an orphanage outside of Bethlehem.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction… James 1:27

During the drive back from Hebron, we began to hear the story of the Jemima House (pronounced Ye-mee-ma, meaning warmth and tenderness) from Ed Vollbehr, its director. He related how he and his wife had come from Holland over fourteen years ago to help at a home for the blind. Upon arrival in Israel however, their original plans changed. As they made themselves available to where the Lord had need for them, they discovered a whole new area of ministry. They began to assist handicapped and severely retarded children. Children who had been cast off and abandoned by their Muslim parents and society. As word of their care and love for these children spread, neighbors, other caregivers, healthcare workers and even complete strangers would approach them about this or that child they’d heard of, or one that had been left behind. They even received calls to simply provide a loving environment in which an abandoned desperately ill child could die. They always opened not only the door, but also their hearts. Giving, showing and teaching where possible the unending love and mercy of their Savior.

He showed me two people who started out simply to serve Him, and now were parents to over 34 children. Children ranging in ages from 1 to 21 with very serious medical, physical and emotional needs. I sat humbled, under God’s mighty hand. My day had begun, with the grumblings and moanings of one pushed to the limit. I had no idea what limits were. I had a break from the emotional strain coming within the next few hours. They had no break on the horizon. Each day brought its own demands, and some days brought another phone call or knock on the door “there is a child… can you help?” We questioned Mr. Vollbehr on he and his wife’s obvious endless supply of patience. He replied “ the Lord has given me NO patience, that way I have no patience to lose”.

We arrived at the home, and gave our impromptu performance. Using a range of mime, merriment and music we entertained the children, then spread touches, hugs and pats amongst them. Afterwards, we joined the Vollbehrs in their apartment above the dining hall. Gracing their walls, were pictures of their seven now living with Jesus. We shared a lunch of melba toast, cheese and lemonade while animated ambulatory children made their way in and out of the room.

Beside the table a rattan chair cradled a tiny paralytic named Aya (meaning sign in particular of God). Her raspy breathing was frequently interrupted by fits of coughing. There was a tube in her nostril, Ed and Helen explained, to aid in her feeding. A separate machine sat in the corner to help drain the mucous from her lungs. Although she was three years old, her body was no larger than an infants. Her limbs were twisted, and paralyzed. Her blind eyes open to the room, offered only a blank stare to the people loving her into the Kingdom to come.

They asked me if I would like to hold her, and placed her limp, unresponsive body in my arms. I gently held her for over half an hour, until she had an epileptic seizure and was taken from my arms and tended to by Ed.

Later, Norma related how thankful she was they had asked me and not her. She couldn’t understand how I kept back the tears, holding this frail and dying child. I have often questioned the quote “God will not give us more than we can bear” (taken from 1 Corinthians 10:13) until that day. In meeting the Vollbehrs and seeing all that was required of them physically and emotionally to care for so many in such need, their testimony of faith, and even in simply holding this child, I came to understand that He does give the strength and the grace, for each moment and opportunity that He presents to us.

I remembered well what Jesus told His disciples.

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

As I looked down at the child in my arms, I thanked Him, for letting me hold Him that day.