On the third day, we transitioned from community-based care into the medical setting. Clinics in the DR have a familiar feel. Patients sit at tables, arms stretched out for exercises and modalities. Others lay on mats completing exercise repetitions. The methods the therapists use aren’t exactly what we do in our own clinics. The staff welcomed our input and the patients listened closely to our instructions.
Red tape exists in the DR. After waiting an hour for approval to get into the clinic and treating patients for only an hour, our privileges were revoked. We were asked to leave the clinic. Flexibility is a big thing on mission trips!
Leaving wasn’t such a bad thing. We got to visit an orphanage for children with disabilities. In the US, children with these congenital and developmental disabilities start treatment at an early age. This isn’t always the case with our sweet friends in the DR. Our training couldn’t prepare us for what we saw; rarely do these disabilities progress so far in the US. The children were joyful and well loved, despite their difficult circumstances.
I find my own humiliation in the midst of “I don’t know what to do” refreshing. It’s good to acknowledge that I am not an expert in these pediatric abnormalities. The tight joints and jagged postures baffle me. I have a few ideas of ways to help, but I can’t fix a single one of them. While I might be able to make them smile or alleviate the strain on a painful joint, nothing I have to offer will result in a lasting fix.
I don’t like the feeling of weakness in the face of such suffering. In the middle of my insufficiency, I find God is sufficient. He doesn’t forget a single child. He provides the care they need in the form of loving Dominican caregivers. When this life is over, he will hold them lovingly in his arms and watch them play easily, no longer hindered by their crippling diseases.In the middle of my insufficiency, I find God is sufficient.Click To Tweet
We worked with a precious child who revealed all of her personality with her eyes. Her eyes went from suspicious to joyful once we started playing with her. When we challenged her to do hard things to make her stronger, she showed her tenacity with the narrowing of her eyes. Toward the end, we asked her to push past her fatigue. She cut her eyes at us as if to say, “Are you kidding me, strange lady?”
The importance of preserving human life overwhelmed me at that moment. Her life is valuable, even if it isn’t perfect. She has a soul. She knows both joy and pain. She can love others and receive love in return. At our core, not much separates us.
Is Human Suffering Unjust?
What I see in the DR stirs up questions. Like the disciples standing in front of the blind man on the roadside, I want to ask, “Whose sin caused their suffering?” (John 9:1). In our humanity, our earth-bound thinking, we want to know why a good God would allow the innocent to suffer. It’s tempting to declare, “If God is just, he would rid the world of pain.”
It is dangerous to view God through the lens of someone else’s suffering. No one we met on our trip rejected God on the basis of their difficult circumstances. In fact, we found the opposite to be true. In this place of extraordinary suffering, we found people of extraordinary faith. Suffering often leads us straight to God. We find that he is our protector (Deut. 31:6), our comfort (Ps. 23:4), and our strength (Is. 40:29).
The answers don’t come easy as I turn these questions over in my mind. The truth is, none of us are innocent. We are all born with a sin nature (Rom. 3:23). If God were to give us what we deserve, it would be judgment. This is why we need Jesus. The Christian faith begins with injustice—the most shameful punishment given to the most innocent person. Through the injustice he endured, we find mercy.
After I returned home, my pastor finished up a sermon series, “Who Needs God,” with a message that spoke to the questions I brought home with me. If you would like to explore the topic further, I encourage you to listen as Steve McCarty shares more.