My in-laws are currently in South Korea teaching ESL and Heidi called us the other day to relate a heart-wrenching occurrence that happened to her. In Korea, though not officially a one-child society, they take great pains to produce what is considered the perfect child. According to Heidi, everyone gets extensive pre-natal testing performed and the abortion rate for any kind of abnormality is near 100%. It’s not a religious or moral thing there, it’s not considered murder, it’s simply cultural way of life for them. From what i understand, the government doesn’t officially sanction abortion, it just simply turns a blind eye to the hundreds of thousands of abortions the hospitals and doctors perform each year. No questions asked. Heidi explained there is a huge education gap and experience gap within this culture with all kinds of disabilities, Down syndrome none the least. You simply don’t see anyone with it. They are kept hidden, locked up, and the general public is somewhat fearful of them. Those who do slip through the ‘cracks’ of the testing are shunned. There is an assumption that this population is in pain, they suffer, are unhappy, and unable to contribute to society.
But back to my story – Heidi had met up with one of her students one day who was confessing that she and her husband had bad news. They were pregnant and had just received the results that their baby would have trisomy 21. They were devastated and had made preparations for the abortion in a few weeks. She spoke with high hopes for the next child, that maybe that one would be better. Heidi had a decision. What to do? Knowing that the education gag is immense, she did all she could think to do. Explaining that she has a niece with Down syndrome, she whipped out her phone and opened Facebook (because, you know, who wouldn’t have the presence of mind to do that during such a heavy conversation?!?)
Heidi showed this lady pictures of Anna. Picture after picture after picture. Pictures of her smiling, laughing, being held, being loved, being celebrated. This woman saw, for the first time in her life, a child with Down syndrome being included, loved on, taken care of, and cherished. By everyone. Picture after picture with literally hundreds of people. (Anna has no shortage of fans and pictures all over the internet…) No one seemed scared of her, no one looked uncomfortable, no one shunned her. Young and old people, men and women, other disabled friends, people in all walks of life were pictured celebrating her existence. She saw pictures of Anna happy, content, interactive, healthy, and most certainly (even at her young age) giving just as much love back as she receives.
What Heidi perhaps could not bridge in educational facts and figures, Anna did by just being Anna. No words required.
The lady broke into tears midway through and kept repeating, “She just looks so happy. She is healthy! Everyone loves her.” And slowly her realization of the precious life inside began to take shape.
Heidi left the conversation, not having tried to talk her out of ending the baby’s life, or re-educating a dulled cultural vision. She simply told her she’d be praying for wisdom for them. She simply did what she could to show what a life with Down syndrome can be – that these precious souls are worthy of life and are worthy of living. No words required.
It is no surprise that my heart aches for those babies whose lives are taken from them for a diagnosis that is not well-understood or accepted. In America, in Korea… anywhere. God’s heart aches as well. It must bleed endlessly for the little lives he’s takes back to be with him in heaven too soon. But he is at work as well.
God doesn’t need words, he doesn’t need us to have all the answers. He just needs us to be open to let him do his work through us.
Maybe through Facebook. Maybe through blogs. Maybe through pictures.
Words not required. Anna sure doesn’t use them yet! He’ll get it done still.
And by the way, the couple came back a few weeks later and told Heidi that they changed their mind. They’re keeping the baby.