“It has to be in your heart”
Carmen’s 3rd and final trip blog from Africa
Last stop: Bungoma County, Kenya. I’ve come to meet John Opar, a Heaven’s Family partner and good friend. As a Polio survivor with slight-but-ongoing physical disabilities, John’s experience as one stigmatized has given him a compassionate heart for others who are disabled, which is why he’s become an advocate for them in his country. If you were to ask this God-fearing man how he can witness such suffering and despair on a daily basis, he would tell you what he has told me many times before, “My brother, it has to be in your heart.”
John and I traveled today to a remote Kenyan village to visit Richard Watome, a 24-year-old young man whom John met this past summer. Richard was born with multiple physical and mental disabilities and is unable to walk or speak. When John first discovered poor Richard he was severely malnourished and lying on the floor on a urine- and feces-saturated cloth. Richard has been hidden away from humanity for over 2 decades, permanently locked in a tiny room by his mother, Congesta, who struggles with alcoholism.
Quite possibly for the first time in his life, Richard now experiences comfort and joy sleeping on a new mattress and bedding that was purchased through donations to the Disabilities Ministry! Even more important than these wonderful things are for Richard, however, is the love and care John provides for him—ministry he is able to do because of our partnership with this servant.
As we progress forward with this case, John will identify this family’s most urgent needs and implement an assistance program, which will then open the door for opportunities to witness and disciple. Along with providing Richard and Congesta with a regular source of food staples, John continually and fervently prays for this family—as he does for every disabilities case he manages.
We will be seeking a therapist for Richard in the new year who can help him develop muscles he’s never had the opportunity to use. But with such limited resources, we must continually make difficult decisions so that we make best use of our funds. I am very confident, however, that John’s compassionate heart and fervent prayer will guide his decisions with wisdom and integrity.
Richard’s case is similar to that of at least a dozen cases we will be visiting over the next 3 days. The purpose of this blog is not to bring you sadness or guilt—it’s just that I am easily overcome with emotion. I just want to help you understand that poverty is so much more than simply being hungry and struggling to survive. It is also the tremendous desire for dignity and respect—multiplied many times over for those who, with a disability, are treated so neglectfully in the world’s poorest places.
Those of us who are more fortunate than our physically and mentally disabled brothers and sisters need to be love to them. When we make the mistake of shoving people like Richard aside because we can’t see their worth as a child of God, we have denied them their human dignity. This scars them deeply.
It is my prayer that persons with disabilities around the globe are recognized as human beings created in the likeness and image of their Creator. As the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, why was this man born blind; was it his sin or that of his parents?” …we must remember His reply: “It was neither; but so that the works of God may be displayed through him” (John 9:2).
I thank you for joining me on this journey and supporting the Disabilities Ministry with your continued prayers and financial support. We won’t be able to reach every single person, but we will press on and continue bringing smiles—one at a time! I pray you enter the new year refreshed and invigorated with the presence of Christ Jesus in your life.
Director, Disabilities Ministry