In a culture where conformity is almost necessary for survival and the competition for resources is instinctive, those who are different, weak or suffer from misfortune are quickly marginalised and cast off without the hope of a second chance, compassion or love.
But because of people who fear our God and wish to love as He loves, hope can become a reality and transformation a daily part of life.
Sarah* is mother to a nine-year-old boy with a physical disability. He is unable to walk steadily on his own without a walking frame. But Sarah is reluctant to let him use the walking frame as it would mark him out as a ‘crippled’ person. Sarah has struggled to come to terms with her son’s condition and holds on to the hope that he could be totally cured one day. As a result, Sarah carries him in her arms wherever they go, causing her stress and exhaustion.
Sarah and her son live alone in the city with no connection to family or friends. Her husband is in prison and they are far away from family support. There is negligible government assistance available, and schools can refuse a child enrolment because of their disability. Not only does Sarah need to manage her son’s therapies by herself, she lives in constant fear of debt collectors. In a society where marriage and children are upheld as every woman’s happiness, Sarah is ostracised by those who were once her friends and by strangers who throw insults when they see her son struggling to walk upright. There were many days when Sarah would lock herself and her son at home, avoiding any contact with the outside world and not knowing when or how relief might come.
By chance, Sarah heard about a group of local Christians who had set up a resource centre specifically to support children with disabilities and their parents. This group, in turn, has been supported by the work of Interserve Partners.
Sarah reluctantly attended one event. She was overwhelmed by the support, love and understanding shown to her. For the first time she didn’t feel despised or discriminated against. Gradually Sarah started to smile more, chat with other parents and, most importantly, enjoy her relationship with her son. As Jesus’ love surrounded her, she began to see her son for his strengths rather than his disabilities.
It would be so wonderful for Sarah, and for the people ministering to her, if this was where her story ended. But the road ahead is long and at times very uncertain. Sarah will need to continue to struggle against battles both from without and within. I feel privileged to have had the chance to share, in a very small way, a part of Sarah’s life and the lives of those who continue to minister to her.
The author is a psychologist who recently served with Interserve in East Asia
*Name has been changed.