On Monday, the team took a trip to visit CCD (Christian care for Children with Disabilities), a site that the Bangkok team once worked with. After touring the facility, we went over to the government wards where they keep children suffering from Cerebral Palsy (CP), a brain defect acquired from birth, which in plain language, limits the person drastically from motor functions such as moving limbs.
Because of the religious and cultural beliefs in Thailand, a son or daughter born with CP is seen as merely a result of bad karma. Hence, little if any value is given to the newborn and they are discarded from the family. The ward houses rooms filled with these children of various ages, most of who are unresponsive to environmental stimuli, even touch, because they have lacked human interaction all their lives.
One of CCD’s ministries is to take some of these children back to their own facilities to play with them and work with them, giving them the social and environmental interaction they need in order to develop. But CCD only has room and staff for a few at a time, so most of the children are stuck in the wards all week.
When I first entered the ward, there was a potent odor (I figured it was due to the lack of bathing they receive). There were probably about 16 to 20 beds, with 2 children in each bed. They lie in their beds all day, 7 days a week (which is why their CP condition gets worse and worse as the days go by).
Some even had their arms and legs tied to the bed frame to keep them from hurting themselves or the other child on the bed they share. If I remember correctly, there were only 2 workers in the room, but even they didn’t interact with the children very much. As a result, little is done to improve the children’s condition on a daily basis.
As I went from bed to bed, I was very discouraged by how unresponsive the children were. I was upset with God because I knew he is sovereign, but do these children know that? And what did he expect me to do about it?
I thought to myself, “What am I supposed to do? There’s nothing I can do for these children, God!” I even cried out to God, “Why did you allow this? What did they do to be in this, almost non-existent state?”
The next thing I knew, one of the workers handed me a bowl of rice, meat, and vegetables to see if I wanted to try feeding them. I thought about it, then hesitated, and handed it back to her. I guess I was afraid that I might accidentally cause them to choke because they lie on their backs even when they eat. Then I realized they’ve been in that position all their lives, so eating on their backs is something they’ve mastered already. After seeing Janet feed them, I had to give it a try so I asked for the bowl.
I was disgusted at myself for hesitating initially at what turned out to be such a simple, yet deeply moving act of service. I gave it a shot and began scooping one spoon of rice after another, dropping them into the mouths of the 3 hungry girls in front of me.
Immediately after the first spoon emptied, tears began filling my eyes. I remember Janet coming over briefly saying, “How’s it going, Dave” and I pretended to be okay, making sure she didn’t see my watery eyes. But inside, I was somewhere in-between cursing God’s name and praising it for the simple lesson of compassion he was teaching me in that moment. Even now, I don’t really know what happened. I was moved! I think I felt God’s compassion. Those who know me well will know that having compassion is the one thing I ask God for the most, because I lack it so much.
David Nguyen is a student from San Leandro, California, and a participant in InterVarsity’s Global Urban Trek to Bangkok this summer. Read more about the Bangkok Urban Trek and the other Global Urban Trek teams at urbana.org.