Since I came on staff with Back2Back, I have shared the piece of their vision which is to be a voice for orphans. However, it has not been until recently that I have understood that being their voice goes so much further than writing blogs, sharing their stories, raising money for their well-being and defending their cause. I have learned that far beyond being their voice, we are called to seek out what has been lost and return it to them- among the many things that have been lost or taken from these children is their voice. I no longer want to simply be their voice but rather to give them opportunity to use it and be heard and in turn use my position to amplify their voice.
For some time, the voices of our kids have been silenced…
They cried and no one came. They were hungry and there was no food. They cried out for rescue and no one responded. And every time that they spoke up and were not heard, the lie that their voice is not valuable was reinforced.
It is for this reason that many of my sweet kids consistently throw tantrums instead of using words to express what they need. It is for this reason that many of them shut down and retreat into silence when they feel afraid or threatened. And it is for this reason that it is so important for us, as trusted adults, to return their voice to them, giving words to feelings, giving options so that they have a say in what will happen next, asking for their words when their behavior is screaming for attention.
In every intentional interaction that I have with these sweet kids, I have the opportunity to remind them that their voice is valuable and when they use it, I will hear them.
A simple and practical way that this plays out is on the playground. Each time that a sweet little one wants to get up on a swing and have me push them, I ask them to use their beautiful words to ask for what they need. And each time that a small voice responds with “Will you push me please?”, I emphatically reply “Yes, of course! Thank you for using those beautiful words!” as I push them on that swing and listen to them giggle.
Sweet Vicky is 3 years old and her voice has been silenced by many factors, among them neglect and developmental delays. Even her deepest sobs are silent- so much so that you almost wouldn’t notice when she starts to cry. The first sign of her voice was audible laughter a couple months ago, a beautiful sound to my ears. Yet, as beautiful as it was, I knew that a 3 year old should have more to say.
This week, I lived a miraculous moment right there at the swingset. There were 4 kids in a row on the swings, including Vicky, and I walked back and forth down the line, responding to their voices asking nicely to be pushed. The only exception was Vicky as I always push her gently without awaiting the sound of her voice, because it simply has never been used. But this day was different. Out of the blue and clear as day, I heard a little girl’s voice:
“Jenn, will you push me please?”
“YES!!” I responded more animated than ever. “I would love to push you! Thank you for using those beautiful words.” My face must have expressed all of the joy I felt, because she burst into a giggle, and continued to repeat that short, clear phrase for the rest of the time on the swings.
Praise Jesus! Your voice is being set free and I hear you Sweet Vicky! You are valuable.