Don’t let his disability fool you. Although born with a disfigured back and right hand, Ildephonse Bigrimana of East Africa didn’t let his handicap hinder him from sinning. He cared for no one other than himself, and his selfishness culminated with his discovery of his girlfriend’s pregnancy. Disowned by her disgraced family and fired from her job in their rural town in Burundi, she turned to the man whom she thought loved her. He also turned. He turned his back on her and their unborn child—and ran.
Moving from his village to Burundi’s capital city of Bujumbura, Ildephonse hoped that he could leave his problems behind and make a decent living by begging. People would only need to see his grotesque right hand, he thought, and the money would surely flow into his cup.
Things didn’t go so well, however, in Bujumbura. The selfish man found that selfish people don’t give to beggars, regardless of their obvious deformities. Two years of begging left him homeless, destitute and miserable.
One day, however, Ildephonse had an encounter in the market place that would forever change his life and destiny. When he approached a certain shopper to ask for some coins, the man told Ildephonse that he wanted to give him something better than money. That got his attention! Unbeknownst to Ildephonse, that unusual shopper was a Heaven’s Family national missionary named Bienvenu Bizimana. In the market that day, Ildephonse heard the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time, and he repented of his sin on the spot, choosing to submit his life to Christ.
Ildephonse’s life began to drastically change as he was discipled by Bienvenu. After some months, he received a small business grant from Heaven’s Family’s Christians with Disabilities Fund, with which he purchased a tiny house and some grocery items. He now sells his goods there by day, and by night he sleeps in his own home instead of on the streets.
Ildephonse, however, knew there was something he still had to do. He had to make things right with his former girlfriend, Odetta, and his child whom he had never seen. So he journeyed back to his former village, found Odetta, and begged her for forgiveness. She granted it to him. Then he publicly apologized to her parents. He not only told them how Jesus had changed his life, but also told them of his love for their daughter. With a small dowry in hand, he asked permission to marry her. Amazed at his transformation and the respect he now had for their daughter, Odetta’s parents gave their blessing.
Soon afterwards, Ildephonse led Odetta to the Lord, and she was baptized. Bienvenu married the couple last month, and they now live together in Bujumbura with their two-year-old son, Samuel. All their needs are met through Ildephonse’s business, and they are serving the Lord and reaching out to others.
Ildephonse the selfish man is no longer selfish—all through the grace of God—which was administered in part by other formerly-selfish people who also turned from their selfishness. (That’s you!) On behalf of Ildephonse, Odetta and Samuel, thanks so much.