Thursday was field trip day for our group and for the kids at Rancho. We spent the morning at the beach in what seemed to be tourist hub of the city. There were hotels and vendors and all the things you’d expect to find at a bustling vacation destination. We made our way through an outdoor mall, and as we passed the sign reading “Beach Access”, we looked up to see the bluest sky meeting the bluest water. This picture doesn’t do it a bit of justice, but here it is anyhow:
This view was the backdrop for our last day of quiet time and small groups. We talked about God’s grace and some noted their doubts and honest wrestlings while others testified of his faithfulness. We gazed out at the waves and marveled at how something could be so beautiful and so dangerous at the same time.
Maybe your faith journey has been a little bit like that. Maybe you’ve been up and down, endured some storms, and wondered if you’d ever reach the shore. Maybe you’re there right now. One of the most daunting parts of being a Christian is growing a depth in your soul that allows you to hurt and hope all at once.
Later on, we would worship together (like we did each evening of the trip) and come to learn that a family member of someone in the Kansas group had passed away tragically that day. We prayed and prayed that night. We prayed for peace and comfort for the family. We prayed for God’s will to be done. We prayed for hope.
Several times throughout the week someone from Back2Back would say this about the kids at Rancho: “We never want to get fixed on what a child will never be able to do. We want to focus only on the one next step God wants us to help them take.” A prime example—Little Victor.
Victor is a 14-year-old boy who has spent most of his life at Rancho de los Ninos. Four years ago, at ten years old, he weighed 22 pounds, and his development was basically that of a newborn. His body refused to process food, and he spent all of his time laying on a mat, staring up at a fan. No one would have seen it coming, but Victor’s life would soon change in dramatic fashion.
A pediatrician was on a trip, much like the one we just took, and he figured out that Victor’s development had been stunted by this condition because his body was unable to turn food into nutrients. His body suffered; his brain suffered—everything suffered. The pediatrician urged the folks at Rancho to get Victor into a hospital and have a surgery to clear the blockage in his intestine. The doctors at the hospital said they could do the surgery, but they also went on to list all the things Victor would never be able to do. They said he would never roll over on his own or be able to hold himself up. He would never have the core strength to do much of anything they said.
After the surgery, it wasn’t long before Little Victor was processing food and making huge strides. For the first time, caretakers noticed that he could stretch his legs out—previously he had them twisted up like a pretzel. He used to carry a lot of pain in his stomach and would always bring his knees up to his chest, but now he’ll lay flat. He is lifting his head up and looking around. He is getting up on his elbows and sitting up all on his own.
There is a lot more to Victor’s story beyond these physical developments, but there’s something you need to pay attention to—there’s hope for Victor. We hurt because something happened in this 14-year-old boy’s life that made him only just now able to roll over on his own, but we are hopeful because just a few years ago he couldn’t do it. Doctors doubted it, but by simply doing the next best thing for Victor, the people advocating for Victor were able to help him in significant ways. Here’s a shot of him being sung to by one of our group members:
We’d like to summarize the theme of our trip briefly with this statement, knowing that the width and breadth of it has the capacity to hold the hurt we feel for these kids, the hurt we feel for orphans and vulnerable children who don’t have adults advocating for them and taking care of their needs, the hurt we feel for the many mistakes we’ve made in our own lives—we know it doesn’t fix any of these things, but it can unravel the kind of power the hurt holds on us.
Hope is real, and it doesn’t stop when we don’t get our way.
Keep hoping. Take that one next step you know God wants you to take, and you might just be surprised how he shows up.