For many people who come to visit the ministry something interesting happens—on the first day there is inevitably a child on the street, at the school or at the children’s home with whom they make an unexpected connection. Something catches us…
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It could be their beautiful smile, mischievous personality or maybe the way they immediately ask “what’s your name” and won’t let you go until you answer about a 100 other questions. Maybe it's the way they run up to you and give you a high five, or grab your leg not wanting to let go and then hold up their hands begging you to pick them up. Maybe it happens when you do pick them up and they just lay their head on your shoulder and totally relax like they could spend the next few hours just like this—not moving an inch. From that point on, whenever they see you, THEY COME RUNNING and your heart melts. The connection has been made, and as you leave this country they will be on your mind and many times afterwards. There might even be tears that get shed on that last day before leaving the Philippines.
There is a child like this for me in the Children’s Home—"Toddler R". He is almost six years old but is the size of a 2- or 3-year-old. Most people who go to the home are drawn to R. His smile is contagious and within minutes of coming to the home, he is begging you to pick him up. He doesn’t talk at all and you immediately notice a big wound on his head. But there is one thing that especially stands out to you—he is SO HAPPY. You wonder what type of life he has had and what has made him such a happy child.
If only you knew the whole story…
"R" comes to the home
About five months ago "R" was brought to the Children's Home by his mom. He was a very different child, sick and unresponsive. As you can see in the picture here, he was extremely malnourished. Compare this with the picture above... Yes, they are the same child with only five months between the pictures. He was brought to the doctor for a check-up—double pneumonia, a collapsed lung and severely malnourished. We cared for him at the YMC (our ministry center) for three weeks with the help of many volunteers who were staying there at the time. Slowly R started to brighten up a bit at the YMC, but nothing like the transformation that happened after he was transferred to the Children's Home. It seemed like something happened inside of him. He finally had a family to truly care for him.
A few days later the mom notified us that she had an 11-year-old daughter that she wanted to give up to the home. This girl was currently running the streets of Tondo (the poorest area of manila). We immediately jumped into action because we know what would likely be ahead for a young girl on the streets without a family to care for her.
In 2009 our family was introduced to the Tondo area by Pastor Ramil. Ramil had so much love for these street kids whose parents abandoned them. I took this picture on the way to the train station as Pastor Ramil described how many kids who live on the streets in Tondo sleep during the day so they can stay awake at night; they know the risk of sleeping at night—likely being kidnapped and taken advantage of or even sold. He described to us how many times kids would just disappear and they had no idea what happened to them. You notice the cup with some change in it? This girl was taking care of her 2-year-old sibling by begging in the train station. We did not want this to happen to R's sister.
Not 1... not 2... but 3 children needed help
We were able to find R's sister in Tondo, but we knew that he also had a younger brother who was sick. We spent the day convincing the mom to let us also care for the brother. The sister was in reasonably good shape for living on the streets but his brother was not.
He was around 10 months old and we brought him for a checkup. We had an appointment for the next day to get the results. After leaving the doctor's office, the doctor called and said that we needed to get him admitted to a hospital that night or he may not make it to the next day. After trying two hospitals and them telling us they had no room, we finally brought him to a better hospital. That ended up being God's way of saving this child's life. The hospital had few patients there—primarily because the hospital was new and more expensive; this worried me a bit since we were short on funds. However, because of this there was no wait to get him in. Within minutes, the doctors and nurses were in high gear because his blood oxygen level was at 55%! Yikes. A quick search on the internet about blood oxygen and hospitalization shows how critical his case...
Patients with pneumonia and blood oxygen saturation less than 90% are usually hospitalized. Yet, results of new study suggest that the threshold for hospitalization should be raised to less than 92%.
This little baby had double pneumonia and active TB. He was admitted to intensive care and was in the hospital for over a week; he then lived at the YMC for another three weeks before being cleared to be able to live at the Children's Home. He is now thriving in the infant area of the Children's Home, enjoying his new "brothers and sisters" and bringing a smile to those who see him.
But this story goes much, much further back
God's plan and protection for these three children goes much further back, from before "R" was even born.
"R" has a brother named Matthew. I met Matthew when he was