Seeing hearts, not the disabilities

OM International | Russia

We recently had a great kick-off to the Short Term Ministry (STM) summer season in OM Russia. We started the summer with an STM serving children with disabilities. A group of seven people from five different nations travelled to a part of Russia to take part in the “Butterfly-camp”. 

This camp is held in several places in Russia and started with one goal: to provide an opportunity for children with disabilities to hear about Christ. The hope is that each child will see His love not only in words but also in actions and that the children can just be a child, accepted for who they are.

The camp includes all the elements of an ordinary Christian camp: Bible lessons, crafts, sports, worship, and so on. This summer the group talked about the life of Joseph from the Bible and learned how God worked through his life. 

It was the first time that OM Russia took part in this camp and it exceeded the expectations of all of the team members. For each one of them it was a big joy spending time with the kids and taking care of them. The smiles on their faces brought so much joy and made them realise, that by serving others, they also learn more about God.

Each team member had two days of training before the camp started. In these days they learned how to use the wheelchair, how to move children from the wheelchair to their bed, and other important care instructions. There was a doctor in the camp and also some people with a medical background. The parents brought their children to certain pick-up locations and from these points they travelled by bus to the camp.

A smile to light up a room

Each child had one mentor to take care of them 24 hours a day. Olga* was one of the mentors and took care of Katya*, a 13 year old girl . Katya is not able do anything by herself and fully depends on others, but she always has a great smile.

 “I’m really thankful that God gave me this child!” Olga shared. “When I saw her in the beginning I was terrified. I was wondering how I could do that? She couldn’t move or eat by herself. I prayed a lot that first night. I was afraid just to feel pity for her. From the depth of my heart I asked God to give me His love for her, because I know she would feel the difference. On the second day I realized how big her heart is!”  

“Katya encouraged others while they were performing or doing crafts,” she explained. “she was always thankful and grateful. Her beautiful smile and laugh made my day, and not only mine. Step by step I have learned how to use a wheelchair, how to dress her, what to do when she wakes up during the night with a terrible pain, and all the other small things. Most of all I’ve learned to love her with my whole heart. By being with her, I also learned to be grateful for the small things and to see the hearts of people, not only their disabilities. Without trusting God and surrendering myself to Him, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

 No task too small 

Tracey*, who came all the way from Northern Ireland to serve in this camp didn’t expect to end up in the kitchen, but also had a great experience.

“I can truthfully say that there was no part of the two week mission trip that I did not enjoy,” Tracey shared. “I ended up as a member of the kitchen team. Although this wasn’t where I thought I would serve, I really enjoyed it and I know that any work done for God, whatever the task may be, is worthwhile doing. We also had some time to get to know the children during game time. It was just lovely to see the children excited and smiling and having fun. That will always stay in my mind.” 

By serving the kids, the team learned that these precious children don’t see their disabilities but they are focused on the things they can do and are thinking in terms of abilities. If they are not able to do something, they are happy for others who can take part and cheer for them. The team learned so much from their positive and grateful attitude. 

The most wonderful part of the trip for the team was watching the children getting to know God more and more.  Daniel* and Elnyr* were both mentors for Dima*, a 10 year old boy with Down syndrome. Looking back, Daniel realised: “I loved that God showed Dima through me and Elnyr what it means that God is his father. When I read from the book ‘Does God have a job?’, he listened carefully. When I finally came to the point, that God’s main job is to be his Dad, he understood it. I explained the point and when I looked at his face at that moment, he smiled and said excitedly: YES!!”

The OM team was very grateful that God gave them a chance to meet with these children and to spend time with them. Each team member was impressed and touched how God worked in incredible ways in the lives of the children, but also how He spoke through the children to their hearts.

*Names changed

Published: Wednesday, 21 September 2016
Credit: OM International
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