We just had our last day of medical clinics for the year this past Wednesday. We visited a small island off the coast of the Southern part of Bougainville island called Rantan. God could not have prepared a more lovely day for our clinics to end on. The island was small, lovely and peaceful with a total population of 80 people.
As medical coordinator, I don’t always get time to just sit and engage with the children. Although, this particular day was running so smoothly and peacefully that I got the chance to “play”. And yes, I do mean play.
When we bring our team out to a location, we provide not only medical care but community engagement as well. This could mean anything from installing water filters to health teachings to preaching to simply playing. On this particular day, I was the one who took a moment to play.
I ran around in the dirt, carried a toddler on my shoulders, and played “patty cakes” until my hands were raw. The bright and smiling faces were enough to remind me that every day of this past 6 months had been worth it.
I spent some time playing with one little boy in particular. He was about 4 years old, and I could tell that his cranium was a bit oddly shaped. From the side, you could tell that his little skull was a bit “flat” for lack of better word.
As I spent time with him, I quickly noticed 2 things about him. The first being, he had more joy in each moment he lived than I have had in my whole life combined. The second thing, he couldn’t speak.
His grandma almost immediately noticed me playing with him and came over to explain to me that he was mute. He understood my Tok Pisin, the local language, just fine and had no other neurological impairment, but could not speak back. He only made noises, mostly laughter and yelps.
The longer I spent with him, the more his grandma shared his story with me.
He was one of 5 children. His parents had taken his four siblings and moved to Buin, a bigger town and less remote area. He was left on Rantan to be cared for by grandma.
The longer I played with him, the more I became changed by the joy that he carried. He had been left and forgotten by his immediate family and yet he seemed, unphased. The only thing he cared about was playing hand slaps with me and bursting into screams of joy.
Even though he didn’t utter a single word the whole day, I believe what he communicated with me was more than I have heard in all of my 6 months here. He communicated hope and joy.
About halfway through our game of slapping hands, another young child walked up with a dead sardine. My sweet little joyful boy must have really liked this smelly sardine because he took it with a huge grin on his face and stuck it right in his lap.
I remember thinking to myself, “Well…alrighty then..”
The sardine only lasted about 10 seconds in his lap before he decided that it was the perfect present to give me and slapped it right into the palm of my hand. And ya know what? I guess I always wanted a dead smelly sardine gift from a joyful mute village toddler because to my surprise, his gift brought me joy.
I think sometimes we let the circumstances around us determine whether or not we walk in the fruit of the spirit of JOY.
That day I saw a boy who was able to find joy in literally anything and I was reminded that JOY is not an emotion. Joy is a GIFT from God that has the power to invade our souls should we choose to accept it.
Regardless of your circumstances, will you accept God’s gift to you of JOY? Will you let your heart be filled with the fruits of the spirit?
Medical Coordinator and YWAM Ships Kona staff
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