by Jenny Marcelene
An El Salvadoran mother entered Love Link’s baby house, cradling a limp infant in pain. The infant resembled a skeleton more than a baby. The tiny ribs jutting out of her malnourished body could be counted. Not an ounce of fat existed to cover her emaciated body.
Bryna Wilson, Love Link summer intern, was shocked.
“Not even in photos had I seen a child so malnourished,” explained Junior Biology major Wilson. “I was surprised she had the strength to cry, but she was indeed able to sob weakly.”
Wilson didn’t expect the baby to survive, but she did. Love Link provided the necessary medical and nutritional support to save this little girl’s life.
Weeks later, the infant’s grandmother returned to Love Link. “Without Love Link’s intervention,” the grandmother said, her eyes brimming with tears. “My granddaughter would have died.”
SERVING THE LITTLEST AMONG US
Watching this infant’s story unfold during Wilson’s two-month internship drove home the vital, life-changing work transpiring in the baby house. Love Link is saving the lives of babies that many hospitals in El Salvador don’t have the time or resources to help. Malnourished babies ages 1 to 18 months are delivered to the center from local hospitals.
“Love Link gives the worst cases—babies who are literally dying of malnutrition—a chance to survive,” Wilson said. “Love Link also gives less severe cases—babies whose malnutrition causes thinness, developmental delays, and overall languishing—a chance to thrive.”
The amount of support necessary to care for severely malnourished babies requires ample time, staff, and resources—something local El Salvadoran hospitals cannot provide due to budget limitations. But Love Link stepped in to meet the needs of these infants and serve families in need of hope in the darkest of hours.
Every Love Link baby must be fed, bathed, and held. A trained medical professional must monitor each infant’s vital signs to ensure a baby remains stable. During Wilson’s internship, she was qualified to help monitor a baby’s vital signs because of her EMT certification.
Wilson recalled one patient who required intense monitoring. The baby was so severely malnourished that her body would go into shock when sleeping unless monitored closely. Wilson ensured the baby’s oxygen levels didn’t decrease enough to send the baby’s body into shock.
“Per the Love Link doctor’s directive, I intervened with repositioning and oxygen administration when necessary,” Wilson said.
This day and night observation was essential in helping the baby survive but wouldn’t have been possible at a local hospital.
“The most important thing is that the babies receive the best attention covering their needs,” said Gerson Roque, Love Link Director. “We always try to have the people who can do and bring that care to the babies so they can recover and be healthy.”
With a team of medical professionals and specialists, Love Link strives to “improve the physical development of children under two years old” in El Salvador. On staff, Love Link employs a nutritionist, physiotherapist, three doctors, four nurses, and five childcare workers.
The Love Link physiotherapist helps strengthen the fragile bodies of infants—another vital tool in restoring health to babies. Through the instruction of the physiotherapist, Wilson learned how to perform exercises to strengthen the neck muscles of infants. These physical therapy sessions help babies transition from milk to solid foods—and give them a chance to survive beyond infancy.
But the need is greater than their staff and resources. Love Link has a waiting list of three or four babies requiring their services and desires to continue to grow their baby house to help more families.
“We recognize that this is challenging and often heart-breaking work to love and care for these severely malnourished babies,” said Tiffany Crosley, Oakseed Director. “We hope to sustain the staff with prayer and emotional and financial support to allow them to care for the babies and minister to their families faithfully.”
For the past 30 years, Love Link has served more than 3,000 malnourished children from the slums of San Salvador, El Salvador, and trained families to care for infants at home. Through Oakseed’s crib sponsorship program, the specific needs of babies are met (special care, medicine, food, milk, and a specialist)—needs many families cannot financially afford but are essential to save a baby’s life.
“Love Link is much more than a medical ministry,” Crosley said. “It is an opportunity to share God’s love and the gospel’s hope with families who desperately need His intervention.”
Last year, Gabriela was devastated by how malnourished her son, Axel, was. Love Link not only stepped in to care for Axel physically but also met the spiritual needs of Gabriela. Through talking with Love Link staff about the gospel and receiving a copy of the Bible, Gabriela was connected to a local church to explore placing her faith in Jesus. Watching his son’s recovery and the change in his wife, Gabriela, Axel’s father wanted to learn more about Jesus. Not only has Axel’s health been restored, but his family’s spiritual health is also on the path toward healing.
Families with nowhere else to turn can find hope, not only in the medical services but also in Jesus. This all-encompassing view of ministry meets both physical and spiritual needs.
KEEPING NEEDS ON THE RADAR
During Wilson’s Love Link internship, God taught her one big lesson.
“I learned that I had underestimated the value of such little acts of kindness,” Wilson said. “God showed me in El Salvador that small things—like changing a diaper or playing with a lonely toddler—matter a lot more than I thought.”
As Wilson stepped into doing what needed to be done each day, her perspective about what mattered shifted. Wilson plans to attend medical school to become a doctor after college, but rather than stay focused on the big picture, God directed her gaze to care for those around her in the moment.
“I couldn’t fix anything permanently for those children,” Wilson said. “But I could fix the problems of each moment: comforting crying babies, coaxing kids to eat, and giving them their vitamins.”
Jesus highlights the value of little gestures of kindness and service, even giving “a cup of cold water” (Matt. 10:42) to children. Jesus sees our care for those often overlooked—and it matters to Him.
Just as Wilson spent two months as a Love Link intern this past summer, opportunities for college students to serve as an intern abound. Interns can step into a needed role as a part of the hands and feet of a ministry while acquiring practical skills.
“Thanks to [Wilson] ‘s commitment during her voluntary time,” said Licda Cyndi, Love Link Nutritionist. “The staff felt the support and her confidence even without speaking the same language to develop all the activities and duties with professionalism.”
Whether a student desires international, community service, medical, ministry, or other experience, Oakseed’s ministry partners and college students can labor together and benefit from an internship.
HELPING THROUGH INTERCESSION
A powerful way Oakseed supporters can walk alongside Love Link is through prayer.
“Oakseed’s partnership is a sign of God’s faithfulness and love not only to our babies but also to their families,” Roque said. “We can lean on and feel your accompaniment in prayer.”
Here are four ways to intercede for Love Link.
- Ask God to provide the resources necessary to care for an additional three to four babies.
- Pray for Love Link recipients to hear the gospel and connect to a local church.
- Pray Love Link can provide medical clinics to a new impoverished community lacking medical services.
- Ask God to sustain Love Link workers on the frontlines of caring for those in need and sharing the gospel with families.
Love Link serves the smallest among us in desperate need in the name of Jesus. Through meeting the tangible needs of communities in El Salvador, the lives of families are transformed one baby at a time.
* For more information about becoming an Oakseed intern, email firstname.lastname@example.org.