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Only five years old, Arnoldo already knew about rejection, denial and disappointment. It’s a hard lesson for a child whose only desire is to be normal. Through no fault of his own, the low-income Venezuelan boy was born with a disfiguring cleft palate.

Arnoldo with his cleft palate ... and afterward (Photo: Operation Smile)

Whenever he could bear playing alone no more, he would go outside … but his mother recalls how he would duck and cover his head — since it hurt so much to be stared at.

But the kindergartner loves to play baseball and would gather up a huge amount of courage to join the other village kids — because they teased him mercilessly — despite his ability to throw and catch … and an deep love for the game.

But the little guy is a Christian. Every night before going to bed, Arnoldo would ask Jesus for a miracle — that he could look normal. That he could be just like any other child in his village.

Of course, he doesn’t realize it, but he is an exceptional kid who will always stand out because of his love for life and yearning to succeed. All he wanted as a 5-year-old was to quit standing out because he looked different.

Here, actress Roma Downey from the TV series “Touched by an Angel” tells how one day Arnoldo’s prayers were answered. During an Operation Smile medical project to Barinas, Venezuela, he was one of more than 160 children selected for surgery by volunteer British doctors.

“I feel joy, much joy,” says his father. “I thank all the doctors. May they keep performing this good work, not only for my child, but for all the children who need it.”

Here is Arnoldo’s story, told by Roma Downey:

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