Am I doing enough?
As a missionary and as a health care professional working with children with disabilities and their families I constantly ask myself “am I doing enough?”
As an occupational therapist I do rehab and work with the families as best as I can, but as a foreign missionary working with poorer families I often have many more resources at my disposal than the locals do. Should I be giving money or the specialized equipment that the families often need? When does helping hurt those I’m working with? When does giving cause dependency on foreign resources and take away the pride and self-satisfaction of hard work of those who are on the receiving end?
When I’m trying to faithfully do the work that I’ve been given another question I often ask myself is "Do I have enough photographs and stories to satisfy project donors and our financial supporters back home so that they might send more resources?” Is that right?
Every couple of weeks for the last year I have been going to see a little girl with cerebral palsy and work on standing, walking, fine-motor skills and other general day-to-day activities. A few weeks ago she was given a brand new, expensive wheelchair from a company. There were photos of her in her new wheelchair in the community newspaper and on social media telling her story and thanking the donors.
The next time I went to see her I asked her mom to show me how they used the chair. As they hadn’t been shown how to remove the footrests the mom had been pulling her daughter in and out of the wheelchair instead of getting her to just stand up and step out after the footrests had been adjusted. We spent most of our treatment time that day simply practicing getting in and out of the wheelchair. The chair was also too big for the girl; even with the adjustments the chair allowed, her feet didn’t touch the footrests and therefore she struggled to use the balance skills she had learnt to keep upright when sitting.
If the company who had given the wheelchair had measured the girl or asked someone who knew a bit about wheelchair sizing, it would have been much more helpful to the girl and her family.
Through this experience I learnt that photographs and appreciation for gifts are nice to receive, but they are not the end goal! The advice and practice I did with the family on how to use the wheelchair was important and what the family needed the help with most at the moment but still not the finish line. This girl is working towards getting into the chair by herself which will allow her more independence, and also prevent her mom (who works so hard) from developing back problems.
The end goal is not a new wheelchair. The end goal is not the photographs or appreciation. The end goal is not even my OT treatment. The end goal is for this little girl to grow in the abilities that God has given her and for us to be amazed as our creator God restores and renews and brings glory to Himself beyond our best efforts and silly mistakes.
Let those who are working in a foreign place for the long haul be encouraged; faithfulness and perseverance in the little things matter! Those relationships built over multiple years, that foreign language you struggle to learn, all those hours spent doing seemingly mundane things (like practicing getting in and out of a wheelchair!) that don’t necessarily get written about in newsletters or photographed for donors – these are the things that are worth it! Let us be encouraged to keep going because God is faithful.
“One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much…” Luke 16:10