Firm Foundations Romania runs an international volunteer program in the Brasov State Children’s Hospital. Holly Winterrowd, who lives in Florida, came to volunteer for seven weeks this summer. This was her third trip to Romania, and she hopes to return again soon. After her second week of volunteering, Holly wrote this blog regarding her experience in the hospital:
What can be said about a diaper rash so severe, the child's skin peels off and blood seeps onto the crib sheet?
What words accurately convey the sight of babies desperately trying to pull themselves up and cling to crib bars in attempts to reach the arms of the grown-ups peering down at them?
What words set the scene for an infant quietly staring at the ceiling, a single tear spilling down its cheek, the only evidence of distress because it has learned its cries will not be answered?
What words describe the attachment issues when a toddler calls a just-met volunteer, "Mama"?
What language portrays the weariness and frustration of nurses who faithfully work around the clock, yet cannot hold every crying baby or interact with every wailing toddler because there are not enough hours in the day or hands to accomplish the work?
Those are some of the experiences from the past two weeks. It shouldn't be that way. But it is.
People can ignore. Indifference can be the order of the day. Yet reality remains, even if everyone on the planet refused to recognize it. It hurts. Hearts break at the sound of their cries. It isn't fun to witness pain, suffering, and sadness. Hiding from the suffering of others does not make it go away. Only by coming alongside is the burden eased.
Will every orphan find a loving, stable home? No.
Will many of the babies we hold at the hospital die young from disease and malnutrition? Yes.
Will every child grow up knowing they are valued and irreplaceable? Hardly.
Leaving it at that is exactly what satan desires. The deceiver wants us to be indifferent, close our eyes and stop our ears, doubt our actions have any real meaning, make excuses, and give up. It is overwhelming knowing many of the babies, statistically speaking, will not lead happy, balanced, healthy lives. I go back and forth with God all the time about this subject. I just flat out don't understand why millions of children are born into a lifetime of suffering. None of us get to choose where or to whom we are born. I was born into a white, middle class, American, Christian family. I could easily have been born to the lowest caste in India and died at the age of five from eating raw sewage to fill my growling stomach. Or I could have been one of the sick babies at the hospital where I volunteer, screaming until my cries became hoarse and barely audible. Instead, I was raised by two loving parents; never went hungry; always had a warm, safe place to sleep; enjoyed being a kid; was highly valued, disciplined, and protected; and was granted an excellent education. I did nothing to deserve any of that; nor did these babies do anything to deserve their current circumstances. I do not have it all figured out. I go to God all the time with big, aching questions. Some of those questions will never be fully answered this side of heaven.
This I do know, though. We must take action. Push back against the darkness. Set the world ablaze with light. Jesus said to give a cup of cold water in His name. He did not say, "Give every single thirsty person on earth a glass of water, and if you aren't up to that task, just stay home and forget it." He kept it simple and personal. One cup of water. One person at a time.
One crying baby snuggled. One diaper changed. One rash soothed.
That is what I hold on to when the doubt creeps in and I wonder if any of this even matters.
Will that person be thirsty again? More than likely.
Will that diaper need changing again? Absolutely (wipies are heaven-sent and whoever invented them deserves an award).
Jesus instructs us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. If I had been abandoned as a baby, I pray loving arms would have come to find me, even for a few hours a day. If I had kids and for whatever reason was unable to care for them, I pray kind people would welcome them into their home and reserve a space for them at the supper table. Love is not merely a word. It is action. And a broken heart is exactly what we all need.
For more information about volunteering with Firm Foundations Romania, please visit www.firmfoundationsromania.com.