Joining the dots
Daisyâ€™s world was small, albeit happy. The nine-year-old cannot talk or walk and her eyes do not focus properly. But she is much loved and well cared for by her mum, Joy.
Yet, Joyâ€™s life was difficult. Daisyâ€™s dad walked out of their Kigali home when their daughter was nine months old and the full extent of her disabilities, including a hole in the heart, was becoming clearer. Joy wanted the best for Daisy but felt powerless to provide it.
All that has changed thanks to Pastor Emmanuel and Pastor John, who are reaching out to mother and daughter through their work with APRECOM. They have brought a wheelchair, porridge and, best of all, friendship.
The two pastors have become passionate ambassadors for APRECOM, members of its advisory group, embodiments of its compassion â€“ after
attending a BCT training course last autumn.Â The training was for church leaders but Joy attended too, and was able to give a parentâ€™s perspective on why churches needed to engage with families living with disabilityÂ .
â€˜This lovely relationship shows what becomes possible when the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and aligns them with his,’ saysÂ BCT Director Susie Howe.Â ‘Barriers are broken down and we are free to see each other through his loving eyes.â€™
Hearts and minds
Itâ€™s not just the fact that these three have become friends through APRECOM and BCT â€“ through training made possible by generous people in the UK â€“ that is so unlikely.
Itâ€™s also the fact that when Emmanuel and John came to the â€˜disability inclusion trainingâ€™ that Susie ran last October, they knew so little about disability and the needs of disabled children.
Many of the church leaders who attended echoed beliefs widely held among their congregations that disability is linked to generational curses, witchcraft, ancestral spirits and divine punishment. Some associated it with the use of contraception or attempted abortion. But as the training explained that disability is caused by negative attitudes and discrimination, many repented â€“ and began to draw up plans.
â€˜Iâ€™ve been a church leader 35 years and I have not once heard teaching on this issue,â€™ said John. â€˜The time has now come! We must act!â€™
Both he and Emmanuel were powerfully impacted â€“ and even moved to tears â€“ by the training. Emmanuel said, â€˜Iâ€™ve never been to anything like this. My heart has been changed forever.â€™ This same work on disability inclusion with church leaders is happening elsewhere in Rwanda too: APRECOM recently met with about 60 pastors in Bugesera to talk about children with disabilities and God’s heart for them.
Slowly, powerfully, momentum is building. As many delegates said after the Kigali training, â€˜The fire has been lit and will not go out!’
APRECOMâ€™s relatively recent work on disability runs in parallel with its ongoing work to support families affected by HIV, which is going from strength to strength. Here too, people who have learnt to see themselves differently, as God sees them, are now reaching out to others to help renew their minds. Several former members of the Inshuti Nziza troop are now leading the Inshuti Nziza childrenâ€™s clubs in Bukora and Kajera, which have about 190 children on their registers.