Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.” This is the truth that Reverend Silverio unpacked for us today. He asks us to imagine every act of service we do this week as a loan to God and reminds us that on top of the blessings we receive just by giving of ourselves, we also are laying up riches in heaven that are not made of wood, hay, or stubble; riches that one day we will joyfully lay down at the feet of our Savior.
Today was the team’s first day of surgery and as planned we leaped out of the gate at full speed. Pray, sterilize, scrub, organize, position, count, check, roll, light, induce, monitor, insert, cut, burn, remove, adjust, sew, hold, cover, clean, repair, calculate, coordinate, concentrate, sit, stand, grab, search, translate, administer, and clear... I’m sure that I’ve missed a lot of what goes on in each of the five rooms, but needless to say surgery is a lot harder than washing your hair. There’s a lot more going on than rinsing and repeating. In the rush of the day the great impact of what is going on can sometimes be lost on the professionals who do this for their day-job. But behind every case there is a story of a life that was broken and is now repaired in one way or another.
Facial deformities such as cleft lips and cleft palates if left untouched can carry a terrible stigma in every community, but especially in small rural communities. Some mothers will even abandon their children because of the extra work and stress it puts on them. Such was the case for one little boy who our plastic surgeon Dr. Gregg Wittpenn worked on today. Abandoned by his mother, his aunt has taken charge of him, and it was only in her arms that this two year old felt secure after his reconstructive palate surgery. In the U.S. cases like this would be done in the first several months of a child’s life to maximize the benefits of the surgery. We were very fortunate to have the unusual experience of helping a set of six-month-old twins, both of whom had cleft lips (one of them having a double cleft lip).
One last story that was particularly touching from today is the story of Mariana. Mariana is a 5-year-old girl who was born with a cleft palate. Because of her cleft palate she very limited speech abilities – one example being that she can say “Mama” but because she cannot form the letter “P” without a palate, the only way she can say “Papa” is by holding her nose (and I thought I had a hard time talking to my dad…). Because she is a strong, determined little girl, Mariana was excited to be starting school this year. However, because of her speech impediments the school in her village could not provide her with the proper instruction and therefore turned her away. Can you imagine losing all hope of educating your child at age five because of something completely out of your control? On triage day when one of our lead administrators Marilyn Ewing made her rounds to the kids with crayons and pages from a coloring book she noticed that Mariana, at five, didn’t even know her colors. With her surgery today, Mariana is not only now on a path toward being able to speak, but also being able to go to school and learn and socialize and have a full life. These are stories of faith. As crazy as it might sound, these acts are loans to our Father in Heaven and we can rest assured that the interest on these loans will be paid in full when the fullness of time comes.