Friday, December 22, 2000

In the Hands of the Potter

The Return to Burtalinovka

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Working at the orphanage in Burturlinovka is a challenge. The children that we do the program for range in ages from 5 to early twenties. Most of these have Down syndrome and various levels of retardation. The kids have a great time. We are a colorful bunch with lots of fun and unusual playthings. The game station is always the favorite. The autumn days were not too cold and the rain had given us a reprieve for the time being.

On the second day, while the rest of the team went on to the orphanage at Semiluki, three of us stayed behind to visit the bedridden and autistic children. Out of the three hundred and sixty cared for at the orphanage, our program is for only one hundred and twenty of the most able. The rest are in conditions that are seldom seen and little discussed outside the walls of the building they are in.

The autistic children are in two large rooms with mats on the floors. There were few toys and very little signs of any effort made to stimulate the children. They sat on benches rocking back and forth, their clothes nothing more than tattered rags. There were several attendants, but not nearly enough to give them a proper environment. One girl with cerebral palsy has been placed with this group. She remembered us from last year and excitedly showed off her new necklace and earrings. She struggled through the spasms, trying to communicate her obvious delight at our return.

There are roughly forty children housed in a strictly hospice situation. How they have managed to survive under the circumstances with such little medical care available to them I wonder. Many suffer from severe deformity in their limbs. Muscles atrophied, bones twisted into unimaginable poisitions.

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this? '"Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? Romans 9:20-21

It is a scene not easily forgotten. As I moved between the beds, fighting to hold back tears, I prayed for their comfort, I took joy from their smiles, and I thankged God that He was in this room long before I got there and that He will remain long after I am gone.

As I struggled with the condition of the children, I found strength in the workds of the Lord to His servant Jeremiah.

But the pot he was shaping from th eclay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. The the word of the Lord came to me, "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter dones?" declares the Lord. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand..." Jeremiah 18:4-6

These children could be viewed as broken, disfigured, worhtless, but the Creator of the universe is still molding and making them (and me) into the image of His pleasing. I see only what my eyes allow most of the time, but on rare occassions I consider it a holy privilege to see things through the eyes He has given my heart.

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. The Lord will protect him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness. Psalm 41:1-3