When we were accepted to be a part of the Jordan Youth Corps Project, we both had our expectations and apprehensions about the nature of the work we would be doing over the next 10 months—working with mentally and physically handicapped children and young adults for the YMWA Center for Special Education. Amber, having worked with children and adults with similar disabilities, was very excited and energetic about the opportunity. The only thing she worried about was the language barrier that we would have to face. Darren, having never before worked with these types of disabilities, had some mixed feelings. Some of the questions he asked himself were, “How well will I handle this?” and “Will I be able to relate?”
On the first day of work, the teachers were surprised that the volunteers were a married couple and were very excited to have both of us at the center. During orientation week, there was a need for an art teacher, and Amber, being ready and willing to help where needed, volunteered for the position. Working in the art class would at least make communication easier: if not with words, then with visual aids. Darren was assigned to the wood shop because he had previous experience.
Our first day with the students was quite amazing! We walked through the door to them using the few English words they knew, most wanting handshakes and some giving us hugs. Some kept asking us where the past volunteers were. The center works with about 170 students who vary in age from 6 to 40, all with different degrees of disabilities. Some of the deformities that come with their disability were at first surprising to see, especially for Darren. As one can go most of their life without seeing more than a few people who are severely disabled, the number of students was also a bit overwhelming. Working with disabilities and considering their causes can be uncomfortable, so the traditional culture seeks to hide these special people from the public, associating disabilities with fear and shame. We find the same attitude in the Jews of Jesus’ time: “And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man or his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him’” (John 9:2-3). That is why this center is such a rare and special place here in Jordan and why public awareness and acceptance are such important goals.
What about Christians—what should our response be? For us, it should come down to this: Every man is special, every woman unique, every child the child of God. Through Scripture, we know that all men are made in the very image of their Father, and that everyone who has ever lived will have the chance to be adopted into His spiritual family through His Son Jesus Christ. How much of a spiritual disability does our human nature impose upon all of us? How far are we below our amazing potential at this time? Yet God’s love and attention for us never wavers. Because of this, we must show love, have respect and give dignity to all of the children of God.
As time progressed we fell into a routine and a level of comfort with the teachers and students. We have developed relationships and friendships with staff and student alike, such as that even the barrier of language hasn’t been a hindrance. Of course we have our favorites, but most of the students are great. When you enter the center, there is something so innocent and childlike that you can’t help but to smile. Each student’s personality adds so much to create this special atmosphere.
We can’t help but wonder what their world must be like and what it could have been if not for their disabilities. As tragic as this is, it has made us think a lot about the day when they will be whole. It’s a facet of the second resurrection and the Kingdom of God that we never really thought about before—not only will the blind/deaf/lame be made whole, but so will the mentally handicapped. It’s a very hopeful and emotional prospect, made all the more powerful because many of them have multiple disabilities. At that time, their lives will be renewed, their minds made whole, their bodies healed and (most importantly) their hearts opened to the Spirit of God. Until then, all mankind is incomplete—without God’s Spirit, none of us can reach our full potential.
As we finish our time here, we know that we will miss everyone, but we can’t wait to see them and serve them again in God’s Kingdom!