“We Need to Do Something About That Child”
No roads lead to Panjang. This collection of tiny bamboo houses with thatched roofs hides behind dense trees and grasses in the mountains of northeast India, a day’s walk from the nearest town. It’s a lonely place.
By Felisa Needham
And sitting on the muddy ground in front of one of these humble homes was David, no more than two years old. Mud covered his legs, his shirt was tattered and full of holes. Mucous dripped from his nose, and tears had made little tracks in the dirt on his face. He sat alone.
When David was just a tiny one-year-old, militants shot his father to death while he foraged for food in the nearby forest. David’s mother descended into severe depression. Her health spiraled downward, and she soon died.
From then on, David lived with the only family he had left—his elderly grandparents. But they struggled to care for him. His grandfather couldn’t climb fruit trees and forage as easily as the younger men.
Moreover, a serious ear condition left David with little to no hearing. He couldn’t understand them, and he didn’t know how to communicate with them. They treated him like he was crazy.
Pus leaked from his ears, and the stench was so strong that others did not want to be near him. They avoided little David if they could.
David felt isolated, pushed aside, unwanted. He didn’t understand why no one seemed to want to be around him. He, his village—they were broken.
From brokenness to wholeness
When sin entered the world, brokenness held its hand. Humanity’s relationships with God, self, others, and even creation were never again the way God designed them.
Separated from the God who satisfies, people strive to fill the void in their soul any way they can. We pursue wealth or power. Where poverty oppresses, people become desperate and vulnerable to exploitation, or even seek to exploit others.
Sometimes, to soothe our own insecurities and personal brokenness, we push others down or erect walls between ourselves and others—often without realizing it.
In David’s case, his community distanced itself from him, unwilling to deal with his uncomfortable presence. They covered their ears to the cries of the suffering, dirty, and downtrodden among them.
But God in His great love does not want to leave us in such a state. Jesus showed us the path to wholeness when he was asked to name the greatest commandment: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’” (Mark 12:30–31a).
He calls us to put Him first, then also to love one another. The cracks in our souls begin to mend when we find our home in God. Then the great blessings that come with a healed relationship with God spill over into our relationships with one another.
Healing and wholeness take place when broken people come together and give themselves to God and to one another, providing a sense of belonging and shelter for one another. Thank God—that’s what happened to David.
One day in 2011 some Indian missionaries found their way into Panjang. One of them, T. L. Angam Haokip, noticed David sitting on the ground. As he approached the boy, he resisted the urge to turn back because of the offensive smell that filled the air. Instead, the sight melted his heart and filled him with compassion.
T. L., fighting tears, bent down, sank to his knees, and wrapped his arms around David. The missionaries moved on later that day, but the image of little David and his tear-stained face persisted in T.L.’s heart and mind. As they left, he said to his companions, “I think we need to do something about that child.”
Several months later, T. L. reached out to David’s grandparents. They shared about their difficulties in caring for David. In fact, they were desperate to find another home for him. So two-year-old David came to live in the children’s home of T.L.’s ministry. God was starting David on the path from brokenness to wholeness.
David left behind his life of isolation and entered a household of 30 brothers and sisters—also adopted orphans—with a mom and a dad. It was not the easiest transition, but after a period of adjustment, little David discovered that he was in a place where he was valued.
His new siblings became playmates and friends. They knew the same kind of brokenness from their own backgrounds, but they showed him the special love that they had experienced since coming to the home: the always-there, never-stopping love of Jesus.
Papa T. L. carefully cleaned David’s ears whenever pus would leak out. He took him to the doctor for regular treatment. Soon the infection healed, and David’s ears stopped leaking. Meanwhile, his new family patiently communicated with him.
In the togetherness of the home, David’s brokenness is turning to wholeness. He’s a quiet little guy who doesn’t say much, but his ready smile says a lot. Once seen as useless, with no hope for a future, David now attends a nearby school along with some of his brothers and sisters. He recently passed his exams and looks forward to beginning third grade soon.
No longer isolated, David lives a joyful life. His days are filled with singing, playing (soccer is his favorite), meals, school, homework, small chores, Bible study, and prayer.
All it took was for someone to see this little boy as Christ sees us—with love and compassion. When T. L. knelt down and hugged David in all his dirtiness, he mirrored what God did when He came as Jesus: He bent down, humbled Himself, and showed His love to us, despite our brokenness and shame.
You can help other children like David experience healing and Jesus’ love on their journey from brokenness to wholeness by giving here .
Felisa Needham is ANM’s lead child advocate.