Encountering Christ in the Orphans

One of the great blessings of my life is being chaplain at La Salle Academy.  It’s hard to describe the joy I experience being with 1500 teenagers on an almost daily basis.  I see so much good in these young people.  Psalm 16 states, “You have put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful ones who dwell in your land.”  Truly, the Lord has put a marvelous love in my heart for the La Salle Community.

What follows is a very touching reflection written by Briana Hanson, a student at La Salle, who in July traveled to Blessed Assurance Orphanage in Montego Bay Jamaica.  Read Briana’s reflection slowly and prayerfully.  I hope you are as touched by it as I was. 

“Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to these people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’ ” (Isaiah 6:8).

I have always wanted to go on the Holy Apostles mission trip ever since the program began five years ago. When I was accepted, I realized just how much that verse from the book of Isaiah related to me. God was sending me as a messenger to Jamaica with the 2012 mission group to do His work and bring back my experience to Holy Apostles. Eight months of preparation and prayer led to this unforgettable week spent with the thirty-five children of Blessed Assurance.

One of the residents that I grew to love at Blessed Assurance was Kirk. Kirk is confined to a badly broken wheelchair: it is hard to wheel him around and he usually stays inside the gazebo the entire day. He cannot talk and can move no part of his body except for his left arm. Kirk tends to cry a lot due to the amount of pain his contorted body is in. It would break my heart to see Kirk cry, which is why one day when I saw him in the back room of the gazebo, lying on an old bean bag chair in his fixated position, I grabbed a book, laid down next to him, and read. He did not cry once as I read to him a long book about desert animals. Though he did not understand the words I said, he found comfort in my voice and presence. I almost teared up when Kirk found the strength to roll on his side so that his head was resting on my shoulder. For an hour I made Kirk forget about the pain that he has endured his entire life.

There was another boy that I grew to love named Austen. Extremely autistic, eight-year-old Austen cannot help but cry out and hit himself. He cannot walk anywhere without someone to hold his hand and guide him. Our last day at the orphanage, saying our goodbyes, Austen was in the corner of the gazebo alone, crying. I sat down next to him, held his hand, and sang “Thank You Lord,” my favorite song from daily prayer. I hoped Austen would calm down, but what he did next was a miracle. He stopped crying, looked up at me and smiled. He then laid down on my lap, completely quiet as I continued to sing to him. At that moment I wanted to stay by Austen’s side forever, for I was at peace. When it was time to board the bus for home, I stood up and Austen did as well, ready to follow me. Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. If I was holding his hand, I do not think I would have been able to let go.

Before I went to Blessed Assurance I would look at pictures of the children from past mission groups and think “Why God? Why did you make them this way?” But now that I have gone to Blessed Assurance, I think “Thank you God for bringing these children into my life.” These children are the most valuable teachers I have ever learned from. They are stricken with handicaps, obstacles, and poverty, and yet every single morning and afternoon they sing and dance and pray to God, thanking Him for giving them the strength to be alive for one more day. The children may need us, but even more so, we need the children. As I stand before you all as a messenger of God, I can faithfully say this: there are thirty-five angels here on earth, and those angels live at Blessed Assurance.

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3 Responses to “Encountering Christ in the Orphans”

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  1. Michelle says:

    What a beautiful reflection Fr Mike. Our youth group is looking for a mission trip to attend next fall. Can you send me info on how the kids can apply to attend?

  2. Abina Hansen says:

    What a beautiful reflection! As a teacher of Religion at LaSalle Academy, I am often moved to tears by the reflections of my students. What impresses me most is that they are only 14, 15 or 16 years old, yet they share profound insights about life and God’s loving presence in the world. It gives me hope for the future. Thank you for sharing this moving story.

  3. i am so unsure in entering in sisterhood what should I do?

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