After spending the morning working around AMOR, helping get stuff ready for our community health visits, getting things cleaned up from our dental campaign the day before, and collecting receipts and trying to track receipts for AMOR, I was quite tired. Then right as I was about to start my lunch, I found out that we had to make a sudden trip to Km 38–a two hour round-trip form Km 8. After returning from this voyage, I was not overly excited about the thought of going to the orphanage. However, I tried to keep my mission spirits high as we loaded up in the combi.
Once we arrived to the orphanage, we soon had a small crowd of kids flocking around us. Their excitement helped me to forget my tiredness and to enjoy interacting with them. For the first part of our time there we sang songs with them and acted out a Bible story. After that, we began to play little games with them. I was truly enjoying myself and having fun. Soon we moved outside to diversify our games more so that we could incorporate the different energy levels and abilities of the different kids. Many of the kids had lots of energy and were very excited about playing a game of soccer, while others who were unable to play soccer, were happy play figure games and sit around and talk.
I found myself playing soccer, learning that I was not very agile on my feet. However, it was fun just the same. It was not long before the ninety-five-degree weather got to me, and I really needed a drink of water. At this point, I went back into the building to look for my water bottle. I soon realized that one of the many kids had decided to hide it from me. I turned to one of the SM’s [Student Missionaries] who was playing with a couple of the younger kids, and asked if they had seen my water bottle–in English, I might add. They replied that they had not, and after standing there a little bewildered for a moment, I heard a voice from the corner of the room. In Spanish I heard someone say,”Your green water bottle is behind the door over there.” I turned to look for who had spoken, and there was a young man in a wheelchair who was sitting there, just watching everything. I could tell that he had some mental as well as physical handicaps, but somehow he seemed to know that it was my water bottle that had been moved. I went and looked behind the door, and there was my water bottle. I was a little shocked, to be completely honest. How did he know that it was my water bottle? That is still something that I still do not know the answer, but I did go and talk with him afterward.
His name is Leider, and although I had a very hard time understanding his slurred Spanish, I could understand his excitement to have someone pay attention to him. I noticed the chess game his lap, and as soon as he saw me look at it, he asked if I wanted to play with him. I told him I had never played chess before, but that I would be happy to learn. We then sat down at one of the tables and began to play. I can tell you that we didn’t play chess; I think we played something between checkers and chess, but it did not matter. The excitement in Leider’s eyes, and the smile on his face made every move worth it. He was so excited when he won, and I was just excited to have played with him.
I’m still not sure what the rules were to the game we played, but I know that for me, the game was only a means of communication, and a tool to build a friendship. It became so evident to me that so often I take the little things in life for granted. Here was a boy who couldn’t run or walk. He was the last person to get attention in the room because his speech was slow, and he was not the coolest person out there. But he really just wanted someone to notice him. He just wanted someone to care. The day that I felt that it was inconvenient for me to go to the orphanage was the day that someone there really just needed a friend. How often are we so focused on self that we do not see the need right in front of us?
Jeremy Holt is a student missionary from Southern Adventist University serving as a medical/Bible worker at AMOR Projects (South Peru Union Mission) through the NAD Office of Volunteer Ministries and Adventist Volunteer Service. This was originally posted on his blog on Nov. 1, 2015, and used with permission.