When a new child comes through our door for the first time, I often wonder what kind of an impact our community will have on his or her life. More times than not, however, it is the children themselves who make the greatest impact on our lives. Through them, I have learned what it looks like to be small yet incredibly brave, to have joy and laughter in the midst of pain, to take delight in simple things, to overcome impossible obstacles, and to have faith beyond what I can see. Did not Jesus instruct us to have faith like a child? Truly, “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
One child who has most recently brought light and joy into the Shevet household is baby Yousif.
While it has only been six weeks since he and his father arrived, it feels as though they have been here much longer. Perhaps it is because they stay in the room off of our kitchen and eat dinner with us every night. Or perhaps it is because Yousif’s piping voice fills our downstairs living quarters with shouts of “BAHBAY!” throughout the day. Regardless of the reason, both Yousif and his father have become a dear and integral part of our family.
It’s not uncommon to see their bedroom door fly open and find Yousif eagerly scooting his way across the floor to join us in our activities, especially if singing is involved. This boy loves music, particularly worship songs! And it’s safe to say “Xudaim Gowraye” (“My God is so Great”) has become his theme song. Every time we sing it for him (which is frequent), his face immediately lights up as he follows along with the hand motions, clapping and smiling at the end.
What makes this song particularly special is its simple, yet profound message: “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do!” This is a timeless truth carrying relevancy well beyond our childhood years. How good it is to have Yousif here to help remind us of that.
I have also observed the way Yousif looks up to his many brothers and sisters at Shevet, both literally and figuratively.
He studies our actions and sometimes even imitates them. I was pleasantly surprised the other night when our community sat down to eat. Before anyone suggested taking hands to pray, Yousif, who was sitting beside me, gently took my hand first, then his father’s, and bowed his head. Needless to say, my heart melted in that moment.
On a different occasion, Yousif was keen to follow Nick when he left the room, even though it meant making his way through the kitchen, across the dining room, and into the alcove by the restrooms. Unbeknownst to Nick, Yousif sat outside the bathroom door waiting vigilantly for his friend. When he didn’t emerge after several long minutes, Yousif took action by knocking on the door (with a little help from Jesse). It was a sweet reunion that also brought a lot of laughs.
While Yousif is learning many things from us, it is equally true we are learning from him, particularly in lessons of love. His love is primarily evident in the relationship he has with his father.
Yousif adores him, calls out for him, depends on him, and finds security in his arms. I believe it is this love which Yousif receives so freely from his father that allows him to open up his heart to each one of us. The trust and affection he demonstrates in the form of hugs, blowing kisses, and pats on the back are precious gifts. And many a passerby at the hospital has been warmed by Yousif’s cheerful smile and wave. May we look to our heavenly Father in the same way and find the freedom to lavish His love on others.
When I think of Yousif, the image painted in 2 Corinthians 4:7 comes to mind: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” Here is a boy with Down Syndrome and a serious heart defect—a boy who in the world’s eyes may not appear to have great worth. But if you look through the eyes of God, you will find in him a treasure beyond worth. His pure joy and love for life bring glory to God, and I have no doubt his impact on our community will last long after he returns home to Kurdistan.