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God's Favorite Children (#ServeOrphansWell)
by Rey Diaz
Posted on Tuesday, December 26, 2017
In the mid 20th century a Peruvian priest lived in a “continent in which more than 60% of the population lives in a state of poverty, and 82% of those find themselves in extreme poverty.”  Gustavo Gutierrez was in the middle of developing liberation theology, that would be controversial at best and Marxist at worst.  Yet it originated as a call to all Christians to examine carefully the biblical commitment to the poor, and it has had a lasting effect on the development of social ministries in the evangelical church.

One of the principle tenants of liberation theology is the idea that God has a preferential option for the poor, based on many passages in both the Old Testament and New Testament.  In my seminary days, I read a study that shocked me.  It stated that 75% of Jesus’ miracles in the four gospels impacted people affected by disabilities.

People who were mute

People who could not walk

People who were blind

People who were marginalized

Basically, Jesus ran the very first special needs ministries.  In fact, Jesus would tell us to have a party and “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…”  (Luke 14:12-14).

Ignoring the political implication of liberation theology, I do think we see a bias from God towards the orphan and vulnerable and refugee.   Does God truly have favorites? Likely not, as He is the perfect Father and does not show preference (Deut 10:17).  God’s love is an infinite ocean that never runs dry, so He has enough love for each of His children to experience more than enough.

Yet on the other side of that coin, God did choose Israel and then chose the Church to be His special people.  Maybe ‘favorite’ or ‘preferential’ are not the best words to describe the relationship between God and the vulnerable.  I’m not sure what the best word is.  Maybe it’s “penchant,” “inclination,” “attraction,” “proclivity,” or even ‘fondness.” We cannot ignore that God leans into the needs of the vulnerable – the evidence is plentiful throughout scripture.

I think we can relate in some ways as we serve orphans and vulnerable children.

Aren’t we drawn towards the children that are quiet? Shy?  Don’t make eye contact?  Sit by themselves?  Doesn’t your heart break a bit more when you see a child, created in the image of God, being labeled or marginalized or bullied because they are different.  Maybe that is how God feels when He sees children with special needs.  The key word is special.  These children are special in so many ways.  Yet they’re typically the first to suffer in our broken world.

Rescue Story 2

Micaela was one of the first children to arrive at Little House of Refuge. Her tiny body had been ravaged at the hands of male family members who were certain no one would ever discover their dark secret. Born unable to hear or speak, her silence was the perfect accompaniment to their repeated violent sexual abuse.

Miraculously, she was rescued and placed at the orphanage quietly tucked away on a hillside just outside of Xela, Guatemala. It was there that her body – and her heart – would start to heal.

Studies show that people with developmental disabilities are four to ten times more likely to be victims of acts of violence. And 50% of girls who are deaf have been sexually abused at least once. Abuse is more common among people with disabilities because they may not be able to tell anyone or may not fully understand what is happening to them. Research shows that virtually all abusers of people with disabilities are known and in a position of trust and authority. Micaela’s abusers were family members – men who delighted in her vulnerability.

Thankfully, someone fought for Micaela. And her life is being redeemed. She learned sign language, and testified in court against her abusers. Her hands became her mouthpiece.

When we serve children with special needs, we do it in faith that God works in mysterious ways.   Defending and advocating is only half the call.  The other half is serving them with quality education, spiritual development, and basic life skills.


The Down Syndrome Association, founded in 2005 by Irene Salazar and her husband Alfredo after their own son was born with Down Syndrome, offers not only educational basics but also specialized care, therapy, and life skills training for more than 40 students and 10 infants. The Salazars have opened their doors to children from extreme poverty. Students are provided high quality instruction based on their development level so that each child is given the greatest opportunity for success.

Raquel, is one of the students at the school.  Her story begins in heartbreak. Her mother, a widow with two children, was brutally raped. A daughter was born with special needs, and there was no support for the family in the poor community. Raquel’s mom tried to work with schools in the area to provide her an education, but they were all ill-equipped to help. After struggling to homeschool her daughter for six years while working to care for the entire family, Raquel’s mother heard about the Down Syndrome School from a neighbor and reached out to Irene.

Now, Raquel eagerly attends the school where she not only learns, but also gets to play soccer with her friends. Students at the Down Syndrome School are taught critical life skills – including cooking, managing finances, and even how to walk through difficult situations.

The two ministries mentioned above embody Isaiah 1:17 – defend the cause of the orphan.  And both these ministries reflect the heart of God.   That Peruvian priest recently said something that popped up in my research - "I hope my life tries to give testimony to the message of the Gospel, above all that God loves the world and loves those who are poorest within it."  Maybe we are most like our savior when we side with these children.

Renowned theologian and pastor Henri Nouwen spent the final years of his life in the Daybreak community, serving people with special needs.  He wrote that, in going from Harvard to Daybreak, he went from "an institution for the best and brightest" to work with people who are often most despised in society.  At Daybreak he wrote, "If [special needs people] express love for you, then it comes from God. It's not because you accomplished anything. These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self—the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things—and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I'm completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments."

Something spiritual and supernatural occurs when we serve these special children.  Their unconditional love towards us, their unadulterated acceptance of us, echoes the love of God every human longs for.

It’s become cliché to say, “those kids bless us more than we bless them.”  Yet Nouwen, who spent his life writing about the spiritual disciplines, said nothing helped him experience the presence of God like these special children.

So maybe they are not Gods “favorite” children because how can a perfect Father have favorite children.  But perhaps God leans in just a bit more when He hears them. Perhaps – just perhaps - God gets a bit more pleased when His church serves His special children.

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