Another fascinating person I met at this east European fellowship was a young man from these parts. Sharp looking guy, bright smile, but probably the first thing you’d notice is that he is around 4’ 8” tall (about 1.42 meters). I learned later that he was born partially blind and deaf. But a hearing aid and an eye operation 5 years ago have made that side of his life better.
He shared his life story with all of us one night and it was touching and amazing. He wasn’t totally an orphan as he had his mom but Sammy was placed in an institution for special needs children when he was very young. He grew up there and, as you may know, this is not usually a happy, healthy place. And in parts of eastern Europe, these places are sad, gloomy places with often somewhat extremely poor conditions physically.
When he was 9, a young east European missionary woman came to his institution to do activities and have stories with the young people there. Sammy was especially drawn to her and they began a friendship that went on for years. She led him to Jesus and ministered to him spiritually as well as helping with his speech which had been slow since he didn’t hear well. From what I understand, Sammy was soon sharing the Bible stories he’d heard with other kids in the institution.
But then one day, unannounced, the missionary woman stopped coming to visit. She kept writing him regularly for the next years. But he never got the letters because of jealous people at the school who didn’t pass them on. Nine years later, when he was 18, his missionary friend came back. Of course this was a joyous time and also he found out she’d been writing him all that time.
During the years he was growing up and his missionary friend was not there, he had held on to his faith the best he could. But it wasn’t easy. He found some fellowship in local churches but this at times was a mixed blessing. For example he was told that his praying to Jesus would not do. He had to pray to “the Lord”. Things like that. I’m leaving out a lot of details in order to not make this long. But you get the picture that he had a very rough upbringing, both as a virtually orphan and also a special needs person.
I guess a verse that comes to mind for this dear brother is “that on the good ground are those who, in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit.” (Luke 8:15) I’ve been struck by how much he has “kept” the truth that’s come his way, even if it came sporadically and often tainted and faint through some of the channels and ways it came to him. But he “kept all these things and pondered them in his heart.” (Luke 2:19)
And now that he’s an adult, can you figure out what he has done with his life? “We comfort others with the comfort we ourselves are comforted with.” (II Corinthians 1:4) He was prayed for and loved and taught by a missionary when he was young and growing up. Now as an adult he feels he wants to do the same thing. He’s recently graduated from university with a degree in special education. He’s seen that he has a place of service right where he grew up, with the same kind of people and situation he’s come from, ministering to the young people in his city who come from the same background he came from.
He’s been through it himself and survived so he can be an example to others of growing up to be something of value and victory. And through all this, it’s the light and love of the Lord that’s been the deciding factor time and time again. Plus the love of a local national missionary who never gave up on him. The kids he ministers to often want him to come home with them when they go home so that he can meet their parents.
When he was sharing his story that night, I got a verse for him or that fit for him. “The people which sat in darkness have seen a great light and to them who dwell in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up.” (Mark 4:16, Isaiah 9:2) He’s become the Lord’s light to some people who really often dwell in severe darkness. Then later when he was sharing how he had struggled to speak properly when he was growing up because of his hearing problems, another verse popped into my mind for him. Paul said about himself when speaking to the Corinthians. “For his letters say they are weighty and heavy, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible.” (II Corinthians 10:10) Dear Sammy has a somewhat weak physical presence. But his spirit and heart have become strong through the Lord and he’s a strong and bright witness and blessing in his part of the world.