Timothy is a shy, soft-spoken little boy who is in my small group on Friday afternoons. He’s usually pretty quiet, but he always gives me a hug when he sees me and flashes me a smile that just melts my heart.
About a month ago, Timothy was a participant in the Bible Contest (you can read more about the contest here). When I asked him to recite the books of the Bible, I noticed that he seemed to be having some difficulty saying certain words. Curious, I asked the director’s wife if she had noticed Timothy having any problems with his speech. She told me that he’d always struggled with it and, though the other kids at the home could usually understand him, he did get picked on and made fun of at times. Hearing that, my heart just broke. I hate knowing that any child is being teased — especially sweet Timothy, and especially for something that isn’t his fault.
I made up my mind that day that I was determined to help Timothy any way I could. Now, in America, if I noticed one of my students having problems with speech, I would arrange for him/her to go to speech therapy; in Liberia, however, kids don’t have that option. There is no speech therapist at Timothy’s school and, as hard as I tried, I was unable to find a contact in the area who could give me advice. Disappointed, I started praying for God to send someone to help Timothy.
I had no idea that the someone would end up being me.
As I was laying in bed one night, thinking and praying about the situation, the figurative light-bulb finally went off. I remembered that I had brought a whole bunch of phonics materials with me when I came to Liberia, as I had planned on using them to assess reading levels in the kids. But then I realized that I had seen the same phonics materials used for speech lessons, since they help children practice letter and special sounds! It appeared I had found the answer. Quickly, though, my excitement faded as my fear and insecurity started to set in: There’s no way I can do this. I’m not qualified. I’ve never done this kind of thing before. It’s not going to work.
But then I heard Him — clearly. Distinctly. “I’ve never given you a task that I haven’t equipped you for.” And then I saw Timothy’s precious little face and that sweet smile of his, and it was such a gentle, beautiful reminder that the whole thing wasn’t about me at all. It’s about the God who loves Timothy so deeply and so fiercely, the Father who desires for His child Timothy to have every opportunity and chance to succeed in life, just like any other parent would.
So, for the past two weeks, on Wednesday afternoons, Timothy and I have been having “our special time.” (It’s very important to me that he doesn’t think I’m meeting with him because he’s in trouble, or because he’s different or has a problem, or because I’ve singled him out. I want him to know I love him, and I like spending time with him — and that’s why we meet.) We practice his speech with flashcards, by reading together, doing alphabet puzzles, or just telling stories and talking with one another. Timothy seems to be excited about our time, and he’s eager to “study” his sounds throughout the week (I’ve left some flashcards that I made with him, and he practices saying the letters, sounds, and words.)
Please remember Timothy in your prayers in the coming weeks. Pray that he and I will continue to bond with one another and build our relationship, and that he will continue looking forward to and being excited about our times together. Pray that, with practice and over time, he will be able to clearly communicate with his friends, his peers, his family — everyone he comes into contact with. Pray that his self-confidence will increase, and that he will come to believe that he truly can “do all things through Christ” who strengthens him. And pray that, above all, he will know that he is a dear, special child of God, uniquely created, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”