Our association with the special needs home was, simply, an answered prayer. There was no reason for the administrator of the home to meet us, let alone welcome us with open arms to the home. We had tried several times to connect with the special needs children through events and their school, but progress was extremely slow. We felt God wanted us to make a connection with these children; every year, we always had at least a couple of team members with experience with and passion for serving these wonderfully made people. So we kept praying, and last year, God answered in an amazing way.
Again, it was an association with a good friend who got a job working at the special needs children’s home who got us through the first barrier. When we met him last year, our hope was to simply introduce ourselves and let him know that our team always had people experienced with special needs children who wanted to learn more about what they were doing. Instead, the administrator treated us to a full tour of the facility including visiting each of the houses and each of the children living in them. As we expected, the kids were incredible. There was a wide range of physical and mental disabilities but nearly every child made some attempt to connect with us; some greeted us with “Konnichiwa!”, some smiled, some grabbed our hands. At the end of the tour, the administrator did what we thought was unimaginable: he gathered all the kids and staff together and we all to a photograph together. Normally, these administrators do not want the children photographed, but he really saw a genuine love from us and trusted us right away. Genuine, of course, because it came from Jesus. Our leader Mike, in a moment of inspiration, told him we would come again next year and have a BBQ for the staff and kids. He accepted Mike’s offer and that would be our ministry at the special needs children’s home this year.
But a couple of weeks before the team came from California, more exciting news came from the administrator. Could they invite the parents of the children to participate in the BBQ? This would mean a lot more food would need to be purchased and cooked, but it would also give us an opportunity to meet and share the love of Christ with the families of the children. God provided one of the men of our church, a professional cook, to serve on that day on a stopover on his way home from a business trip to India. Things could not have been better planned, but of course it was because it was God’s plan all along.
Our program consisted of a huge BBQ lunch which was so massive and so delicious many of the staff members were beside themselves. Why did this group of strangers come all the way from California to donate all this food and cook them a meal? After the meal, we had water games, which turned into a huge water fight. The California team, staff and children from the home all participated in getting each other completely soaked (which was fine on such a hot summer day). The parents watched from the sidelines and enjoyed seeing the interaction between their children and the staff.
After the games, we all came back together to put on programs for one another. The staff and some of the kids from the home put on a magic and skill show, with some funny magic tricks, plate spinning, and Chinese yo-yos. We decided to sing some of the Japanese folk songs that another team from California had learned to sing for the people up in Tohoku (the region affected by the tsunami in 2011) earlier in the year. The people were touched that we learned how to sing Japanese songs and many of the staff and even some of the kids joined in with us. However, we ended our set with “Kimi wa ai sareru tame umareta” which means “You were born to be loved”. So many Japanese don’t understand that their birth was not some kind of cosmic accident, but that God created them because He loved them. The fact that each of these children were made special in other ways underscored this message of love. One of the mothers of the children wept as we sang the song. And if the administrator of the home had any doubt about our love for the children and the helpers at the home, they were erased when he heard that song.
In the end, we exchanged joyful hugs with children and staff, and as we packed up our things, the administrator said very clearly, multiple times, “We are looking forward to seeing you again next year.” The doors that only a few years ago were completely closed to us had been thrown open wide.
I treasure the opportunity to share the love of Christ in this environment because I know if Jesus were in this town, this would be a place he would make time to visit. I also know that though we go for the children, the staff of the home, including the wonderful administrator, are also receiving God’s love. I believe these kinds of people have a greater capacity for understanding the gospel because they themselves give sacrificially to those who cannot fully repay them, just as God has done for us. We look forward to returning to this place and giving further testimony to the love of Jesus to these incredible people.
Please pray we can continue to develop and deepen relationships with individuals at the home and that they might desire to know more about the love of Jesus for them.