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"I am not a mistake"

Miriam Knowles working with a child and mother in the occupational therapy unit at Neema Crafts

In September 2017 Church Mission Society supporters responded generously to an appeal featuring the work of Neema Crafts, including the new work that Miriam Knowles is doing in running a therapy department at Neema. Miriam has shared with us how God is starting a new story for disabled children through the work of the therapy team:

I want to share a story of working in the communities and seeing how amazingly God moves. We went to join one of our children, a little boy who is disabled, at his church one Sunday with one of our Neema staff.

The boy’s father is a minister and he and his family had been struggling with people saying bad things about them as a family and about their church because of the boy’s disability.

Things such as, “If you go to that church your children will become disabled” and “Where is their God if they have a disabled child and he cannot heal him?” It is tough when you live in such close community. They are godly people and love their son and yet were finding themselves being persecuted – even from people within their congregation – for not hiding him away!

On the Sunday we visited, the minister had invited people from a couple of sister churches in the Iringa region. We spoke about who we are in Christ, that we are all created equally, that it isn’t a punishment from God that a child is disabled nor is it because a mother cheated in pregnancy or that it’s the devil’s child.

We talked about how cerebral palsy happens and how it affects people in every country. We talked about the reason we are doing this work and how we truly believe that God loves every single person.

The staff member who came with us from Neema then stood up and gave his testimony. He spoke about how he had contracted polio when he was a child and that he cannot use his legs and so moves around instead on his hands and knees. He has such assurance and confidence, and talked about how Neema had given him hope, taught him skills and how the work he does in the woodwork department is so good that his work is sold in the UK. His opening line was, “God does not make mistakes and I am not a mistake; I have value just like anyone else.”

It brought tears to my eyes. I don’t spend a lot of time with the adults at Neema as working with children and going into the communities takes so much time but it was amazing and a real privilege to hear what being a part of Neema meant for him.

Both during and after the service we asked people if they knew of any other disabled children and adults in the community as we would love to see them.

Everyone said “no” (this is quite a large village!). So we left, but a couple of days later the father of the child who we knew called us to say thank you for being a part of their service and told us that attitudes had already started to change towards them.

Even better was that he had discovered seven disabled children in the village and had visited them all at their homes, explaining to their parents what we do and how the Neema team could come and visit their children.

We were so excited as this is someone who has a heart not just for their own child and situation but for others in their community. It really helped us to take heart that others also care. Following this, we paid a day’s visit to the village and saw each of the children and their families. It was such a blessing.

Praise God for the work that continues to increase and unfold in the communities and villages and that more children are getting treatment. Please continue to pray for the work we do in the communities and villages.