For those of us who hang out at Lutheran Churches, and lots of other churches too, summer brings VBS (translation: Vacation Bible School). This year our home church in the US started the summer off with a one day VBS designed for special needs children and their families. It was a beautiful event, run by volunteers from age 14 through 74, some with expertise in working with special needs children, and all with a heart for this new ministry. We heard over and over from the parents, "This is such a great experience; there are very few opportunities like this."
It was great. Great for parents to have a little personal time outside under the trees or chatting with one another. Great for each child to be accompanied by his or her own new teacher friend for special time in music, art, recreation and games. Great for everyone to gather together for a Bible story. Great to be in a safe place where love was oozing out all over the place.
I have been thinking about what the parents said: "great" and "very few opportunities like this." And I have been thinking about another great experience in a place where there are very few opportunities. I've been thinking about a special little boy.
William lives in El Salvador. He has cognitive delays, and in El Salvador the public schools do not have places for children like William. I met William in a little kindergarten, which had been started by a caring woman who, like the VBS volunteers, has created a place where love oozes out all over the place. She said that children like William usually cannot go to school, and usually end up in the street begging in order to survive. She gave William a place. She gave William a dedicated teacher friend. She gave William an opportunity.
William graduated from kindergarten. I'm not sure where he is now. I hope he has a safe place to be. I hope he has a teacher who loves him. I hope his parents have found an opportunity for him, because, just like all children, William is special.