Answered Prayer

Posted Nov 05, 2012 by 9 Comments

I had been taking pictures all day. I was trying to photograph all of Mission to Ukraine in one fell swoop. I had seen children and therapists and teachers and doctors and I was getting tired.

But when I walked into this particular room, a cross between a one-room apartment and a preschool, I took one look and almost dropped my camera. I had to sit down.

In the past week, I had seen children with a range of physical and mental disabilities, some of them fairly shocking, but it hadn’t stunned me. I walked into Romaniv Disabled Boys Orphanage for the first time, and didn’t flinch at the smell. This past summer I had the chance to visit a slum in South Africa. I was moved, but not startled into silence.

However, seeing this young man shook me deeply. Why? He wasn’t making eye contact.

Let me explain…

Prologue

In High School, I contracted a strange and rather serious disease, and I was put on a form of chemo to combat it. This isn’t the full-strength-hair-falling-out kind of chemo. Instead, this chemo was psychoactive – it affected my mind.

Over the next year and half I watched myself transform from an easy-going, effortless honor-roll student into a bloated, shaking, stuttering child who ate his lunches in the nurses’ office because the cafeteria had too many lights and sounds.

It was horrifying. But at one point near the end of my ordeal I lost the ability to make eye contact. The concentration required for that simple act made it impossible to do anything else at the same time. So I just stopped.

The task of tying shoelaces on a model is a challenge, but Maksim attacks it with gusto.

I remember being at a movie theater, getting a ticket. Instead of looking at the cashier I had to stare at the counter, down and to the left. All I could think was,

“I’m different. I stand out. And everyone knows it.”

What Hope?

Which is why, in this tiny classroom in Ukraine, I felt suddenly overwhelmed. Here I was, five years and hundreds of miles away from that day, staring at someone who couldn’t stare back.

For a brief, blinding instant I wanted to shout at him,

“It’s OK! It won’t last! You’ll get better! I did…”

But he wasn’t going to get better. Short of a miracle, it wasn’t going to just “go away”. Maksim has Hydrocephaly, and he knows it. He knows who he is. He knows he is different.

Taking picture after picture I was tempted to despair. With my condition, I had a hope for a cure, the end of treatment, a return to “normal”. He didn’t have any of these. Where was his hope?

But then I started to really notice what I was photographing.

An Answered Prayer

In this combination house and preschool, Maksim was being taught how to care for himself through daily chores and simple tasks. He was being treated like he had the power to better himself, and that was exactly what he was doing.

Maksim excels at basic math and loves playing number games.

When I was sick, I got a lot of different reactions. Some people would pretend nothing had changed. Some people would look at me with pity or sorrow. They’d tell me how much my situation moved them, or how sorry they were for my illness.

Night after night I prayed for someone, anyone, to take a third approach. Not to pretend I was okay, but not to treat me like a helpless unfortunate waiting to be fixed either. I begged God to send such a person.

As I watched Maksim’s instructor Yuliya laugh with him, direct his hands and correct his speaking, I saw a simple message being spoken over and over again:

You’re not helpless

You’re not powerless

We’re going to work to make things better

Because I love you, and God does too.

My heart broke with a silent prayer. All I could think was, “thank you God, for giving him all that I once asked for.”

Dignity and Joy

After class ended, I talked to Yuliya, and she was ecstatic. She described when Maksim first came here; he made his mother get his coat and shoes, he wouldn’t clean up the room or speak more than a few words.

But today he proudly put on his coat and shoes himself. When Yuliya tried to help him put a table away, he said “no, I will put it away by myself”. An independent sentence, an altruistic action, and the dignity of a human who has been treated as if they were more than they appear.

Treated like an image-bearer of Christ.

Not Enough

This kind of love isn’t simply something Ukraine needs. This is something Indiana needs. This is something the United States needs. This is something the whole world needs!

And not just in clinics either. When I was sick, I wasn’t in a hospital. I was in a school, in a church, in a movie theater. And I prayed for someone like Yuliya for a long, long time.

With teamwork, patience, and a lot of love MTU is transforming lives.

At MTU, prayers are being answered. But I know in my own home this prayer is echoing in many hearts as it once did mine. People are aching, begging for this kind of love right now. And I think it’s time that I start becoming part of the answer myself.

When I return, I’m going to be looking for these people in a new way. I’m going to be looking for all those struggles that I used to dismiss with a simple “I’ll be praying for you.”

I’m going to smile when I see them. I’m going to treat them like they are more than they appear, a victory waiting to happen, a creation in the process of being made perfect, a reflection of God Himself.

Maybe, in some small way, I too can be an answer to prayer.

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Next Steps
    • Someone is asking God for you right now – waiting for you to treat them like an equal in God’s eyes. Chances are you’ve already met them. Think through those you know that have struggles, and how you can make a change right now to strengthen their feeling of being loved, not of being different.
    • Ask your pastor if your church has a ministry to serve adults and children with special needs. If so, sign up to volunteer. If not, perhaps it’s time to start one.
    • Who in your small group has been suffering? Consider, as a small group, planning a special evening of celebration just to say how much you appreciate them. Make it a surprise expression of love.
    • Mission to Ukraine offers transformative love and care, and they offer it for free. Consider donating to help them continue this ministry and expand it even further.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Brad Miller is a year-long fellow with WND. A student of Psychology, Biology, and Theatre, he's worked as an actor, teacher, balloon artist and last-minute fill-in guy for any number of projects. He loves camping and tinkering with broken and discarded things. Brad's passion in life is to unleash the potential in others.

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Comments

  1. Amy Sorrells said... 

    Reply

    November 5th, 2012 at 9:06 am  

    Isn’t it crazy when God holds a mirror up to you, in the form of the eyes–even the downturned eyes–of someone else? Someone like you? Someone like me? And suddenly, we know we aren’t alone. Our suffering wasn’t . . . ISN’T . . . purposeless, and neither is theirs. Indeed, suffering is nothing compared to the glory we will . . . and DO . . . receive, even now, through Christ Jesus, as we serve, touch, and hold Him in disguise.

    • Brad Miller said... 

      Reply

      November 5th, 2012 at 11:19 am  

      I couldn’t agree more. Suffering is never purposeless. It gives us a chance to grow and learn in ways we never could before, and gives those around us an opportunity to show their love for us in a new way.

  2. molly lawton said... 

    Reply

    November 5th, 2012 at 10:46 am  

    Brad, great story. Love your heart!

  3. Jil said... 

    Reply

    November 5th, 2012 at 11:09 am  

    Brad,
    How am I going to get back to work today? I am a weeping mess at my desk! So glad we got to meet your first week in Ukraine.
    Blesings,
    JILL

    • Brad Miller said... 

      Reply

      November 5th, 2012 at 11:22 am  

      oh no! But I’m glad you found my article moving and so happy to have met you as well.

  4. JimM said... 

    Reply

    November 6th, 2012 at 9:30 pm  

    “….treat them like they are more than they appear, a victory waiting to happen, a creation in the process of being made perfect, a reflection of God Himself”.

    Yes!! Beautifully written.

  5. Brenda said... 

    Reply

    November 8th, 2012 at 2:07 am  

    Well, I couldn’t sleep tonite and know Why. First I listened to Sunday’ s MSG about isolation and that led me to ur site. Which I have visited before and enjoy. However, I have a16 yr son who is autistic and deaf who happens to attend special friends . Often our family is isolated by what we can do socially and the last two days have been challenging. But I realize my daily msg that needs to be shown to him and his siblings… Your not helpless, your not powerless,we are going to work to make things better,because I love you and God does too! I am blessed and anticipate a victory waiting to happen, watching daily a creation in the process of being made perfect in God’s eyes. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing and giving me Hope!

    • Brad Miller said... 

      Reply

      November 8th, 2012 at 2:21 am  

      Wow. Thank you so much for your story. And if I may offer some encouragement, being here I’ve had the chance to see many different children with disabilities. Some receive daily love from their family, some receive very little care. The difference in outcome is absolutely astounding. While it may not always be apparent, I have every confidence that you have already transformed your son’s life in the love you have shown. I join you in looking forward to the day when that transformation is complete!
      God Bless.

  6. Tasha Simons said... 

    Reply

    November 18th, 2012 at 5:17 pm  

    “People are aching, begging for this kind of love right now. And I think it’s time that I start becoming part of the answer myself.” I see you opening yourself to be used by God and I’m sure you will continue to be an answer to prayer for many. Great article, Brad! I especially enjoyed hearing part of your story and how that’s impacted you as you love others in Ukraine. Warmly, Tasha

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