All the way from Zimbabwe, introducing The Rev. Dr. Cleopas Taguma Neuso! One of my students at/recent graduate of The New Theology School (of which I serve as the Dean). He recently asked me to share his project/dissertation, “Disability as Salvation in Zimbabwe.” So, here is his bio…followed by the text. Blessings. Dr. Hood
The Rev. Dr. Cleopas Taguma Neuso is a Baptist pastor in Harare under the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe. He is married to Georgina Nyaradzo with four beautiful children. He is a former chairperson of Harare Baptist Association Men’s Fellowship, former national vice president of Baptist Men’s Fellowship in Zimbabwe, and former board member of Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe’s schools. He has been involved in many outreach programs in rural Zimbabwe, where a number of churches were established. He is the founder of Tabgha Foundation, a registered charitable organization that seeks to meet the basic needs of the less privileged and vulnerable people in society. Apart from the pastoral duties at his local church, he is also a business school lecturer at a private college in Harare. He once worked in the civil service for close to fifteen years. He believes all work is divine. He is passionate about bringing positive change and transformation to the society through the Word of God and practical theology. He holds a Doctorate of New Theology from The New Theology School, a Masters degree in Business Administration from Midlands State University, BA in Health Sciences and Social Services from University of South Africa, BA in Theology and Religious Studies from Zimbabwe Open University, Higher Dip (Hons) in HRM (IPMZ), Dip in Training Management (IPMZ), Dip in Human Resources Management (IPMZ), Dip in Pastoral Studies from Domboshawa Theological College, and a host of other certificates. He can be contacted on his Facebook personal account, Tabgha Foundation page on Facebook or http://www.tabghafoundation.org
Disability As Salvation In Zimbabwe
The least of these as path of salvation
Rev. Dr. Cleopas Taguma Neuso
I would like to express my great appreciation to a man who made me realize my great potential in disability theology. This is also the man who supervised my BA degree dissertation. He is also the same man who encouraged me to embark on this doctorate degree. He is non other than Rev Dr M. Chirovamavi, a selfless man of God.
It is my singular honor to acknowledge and thank Rev Dr J. Hood, the Dean of The New Theology School for his brilliant and excellent supervisory competences on this doctorate degree. His patience, encouragement and guidance through out this program has been immeasurable. Dr Hood’s vast knowledge on disability and practical theology came very handy on this doctorate degree. He brought out some underlying disabilities issues that no ordinary man can ever think of. All what I can say is that this book passed through the capable hands on disability issues.
I would like also to acknowledge and appreciate all the people whom I asked for certain information that I wanted to use for this publication. Tabgha Foundation beneficiaries, you played an important role in this book, our experiences and sharing of life together made this book a reality. Am forever grateful and appreciative.
Last but not least, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to my family. To my wife Georgina, you have been part and parcel of my grueling academic journey. I wouldn’t be where I am today without your encouragement and priceless support. Thanks once again for proof reading this book and all the corrections. To my wonderful children, Tanaka, Masimba, Joe, Zvikomborero, and Mutsawashe, thank you so much for all the encouraging words and smiles. You kept me going by checking on the progress of this book. I really appreciate and love you my children.
This book is dedicated to all people with disabilities and those without. The book was written with you in mind. I would like also to dedicate this book to my late mother and sister. These two women will remain special to me as I proclaim the disability and practical theology through missional activities.
“I can’t see!” Slowly, I’d lost track of where I was at. I couldn’t remember how I got in. I couldn’t remember how to get out. I couldn’t remember…. The walls were closing in. I couldn’t breath. I was dying. In deep desperation, I looked to the heavens and screamed, “God! Get me out of here!” Something happened in that exact moment. Quickly, I realized I was no longer alone. I saw a man walking on the other side of the room. I screamed for help. Though he clearly heard me, he didn’t stop. Then another man walked by on another side of the room. Once again, I screamed for help. Though he clearly heard me, he still didn’t stop. The sight of two people who could help…and didn’t…tortured my soul even more. I was about to give up and simply die. I didn’t want to fight any more. Right when I was about to give up, another man passed by on another side of the room. Seeing that I was desperate need, the man stopped and sat down. There he stayed with me. Though the struggle was real, I incrementally regained my ability to move. Eventually, the man helped me to my feet. Together, we found the exit and walked free.
There were so many who simply passed me by. There were so many who were indifferent. There were so many who tried to talk me through it. There were so many who tried to medicate me. In the midst of it all, the ones who made the difference were the ones who lovingly sat with me through my struggles.
If you want to go and do likewise, I suggest you read this book.
The path of Cleopas Taguma Neuso is the path of the Good Samaritan.
The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood
Dean, The New Theology School
November 14, 2021
Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).
Nothing would suggest that l have got a speech impediment until l speak. That could have been the same case with Moses. To almost everyone l am a person without disability and yet I was born with an invisible disability. A couple of times I have missed great opportunities because of this impediment because of my lack of self efficacy then and partly on the ignorance of people who would have wanted to engage me. I strongly believe that a great number of people out there have been denied opportunities and services due to the stigma associated with people with disabilities. Not only that people with disabilities have been denied opportunities, services and access to basic needs but also those who are supposed to proffer these have also missed some spiritual blessings as well that comes with doing this for least of these as path to salvation. As l was growing up some people in my village would mockingly imitate the way l would pronounce some words and this would make me emotional and dent my self esteem. Even at school l wouldn’t be confident to participate in some discussions fearing that I would not be able to pronounce some words properly. The love and support l got from my significant others gave me the confidence to walk shoulders up. In classroom l was an above average student and that gave me an edge over those who were laughing at me over my speech challenges. Just like Moses, the least l can say is that l am not a gifted speaker. The good thing that l have realized out of Moses’ condition and mine is that eloquence doesn’t translate to greatness and action as alluded by deacon Stephen who insisted that Moses was powerful in speech and action (Acts 7:22). From the history of Israelites, the one who delivered Israel is the one who didn’t believed in himself because of his brokenness. God accomplished salvation in an unexpected way through Moses, as he has now done through Jesus Christ. Disability can also be an opportunity for salvation in Zimbabwe as this author will demonstrate on this publication
My late mother had challenges with mobility. For close to thirty five years she couldn’t walk around as she was supposed to because of severe arthritis. She had to be carried around using a wheelbarrow or she walked with the aid of a walking stick around our rural homestead or when visiting nearby places. Her condition prevented her from social participation, she couldn’t attend church services of which the local church is less than a kilometer away from our homestead. My mom’s life became confined to her rag mat under the verandah like the invalid man at the Gate Pool who had resigned to his mat due to the fact that no one bothered to throw him into pool until Jesus Christ demonstrated practical theology (John 5:1-18). Carter (2007) in agreement says, unfortunately, too many people with disabilities do not experience the same opportunities as others to grow spiritually, enjoy community, and experience relationship. As the last born child l became my mom’s helper. Helping her around, did some therapeutic intervention to both of us on our conditions. As I reflect back on how I helped my mom, that became the foundation of what am doing right now that is sharing life with the less privileged and vulnerable people.
Uncle John (mom’s brother) was born severely crippled with cerebral palsy. My mother demonstrated Ubuntu philosophy ( meaning “humanity”).. It is sometimes translated as “I am because we are” or “I am because you are” or “humanity towards others,” by asking her brother to come and stay with her after the death of their parents. No one was willing and forthcoming to take care of my uncle. I now understand why people were hesitant to look after uncle John. His condition needed someone to carry him around since he didn’t have a wheelchair, someone had to feed and clean him, someone had to take him to the bathroom. It wasn’t an easy job to look after him, it needed someone who had genuine love and compassion like the four friends in Mark 2: 1-12 who carried their friend to Jesus Christ and lowered him through the roof for his healing. I have dedicated most of chapter six to these four friends, I gave them names, remember in the scripture they are not mentioned by names.
In August 2014 I experienced one of the most painful encounters with physical disability when my beloved sister Merenzia got her leg amputated twice due to diabetic complications. The pain she went through on the first amputation at foot level which was due to poor judgement or workmanship on the part of the surgeons at the local referral hospital was unbearable to her. On the first amputation as a family we even questioned the surgeon if he was sure that the infection had not gone beyond the foot level because we were suspecting that it had gone beyond that level. Our fears were confirmed within two days that the infection had gone beyond the amputated part. Because of the pain she had gone through, she flatly refused to go for the second amputation at thigh level. The medical staff, her husband and children couldn’t convince her for another experience with the theatre. I was the only last resort to convince her because we had our own special bond as siblings, her being the first born and I being the last born. After completing high school l stayed with her for a couple of years, I was more like her son which brought us more closer to each other. After a long counseling session with her, she eventually agreed to go for another amputation. Thereafter she became confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life until she passed on, on the 27th February 2021. My sister was a devout Baptist church member but since her amputation she never went to church. l will give more details about this on chapter two.
I am one person who believes in practical theology through missional theology. This book is going to examine some of the deformed theological beliefs and praxis of the faith communities especially in chapter four. Corner (2012) indicated that missional theology is a kind of practical theology that is disciplined theological reflection that is concerned with congregational practices and their faithfulness to the mission of God. Practical theology is critical reflection on the action of the church in the world. Practical theology seeks to guide and critique ecclesial praxis as the church strives to fulfill its role as the “the hermeneutic of the gospel,” which is the place where the gospel is lived and interpreted to the world through the actions and character of its participants, chapters five and six will deal with these issues. I am the founder of Tabgha Foundation, a registered charitable para church organization that seeks to meet the basic needs of the less privileged and vulnerable people in society. Through this para church organization, with our partners we are doing our level best to fulfill what the church has struggled and failed to do in discharging the demands of practical theology through missional work.
Reynolds (2008) points out that while disability has been present through the ages, and is clearly part of our lives today, until recently it was considered neither something worthy of social activism nor a subject calling for serious intellectual and religious engagement. Reynolds further on point out that, many churches and organizations have been found wanting when it comes to facilities that welcome and include people with disabilities. At my local church, the only facility that shows that we considered people with disabilities are the ramps and nothing else. This has resulted in not having people with visible disabilities in our local church. My dissertation topic for my BA in Religious studies and Theology was: A theological analysis of the obstacles facing people with disabilities in the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe: A case study of Harare Baptist Association. This research revealed that churches do not welcome and include people with disabilities. The Hermeneutics of liberation theology as guided by the Matthew 25 narrative has been missing in most faith communities. From the following verses, Jesus Christ emphasized that we should pay close attention to his declaration of the least of these as path to salvation : “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46). This declaration of Jesus Christ will anchor this book.
From the above declaration of Jesus Christ on Matthew 25, Tabgha Foundation is going to bring out that people with disabilities and those without can be able to know the real, enduring, suffering, faithful God, who loves them unconditionally. I have come to realize that people with disabilities call us (people without disabilities though traditional us with invisible disabilities we are regarded as people without disabilities) into acknowledging our own human brokenness and thus open up more radically to God’s grace to be sufficient to the least of these as path to salvation(chapter seven will talk about the sufficiency of God’s grace). Matthew 25 declaration should not be taken as charity case towards people with disabilities but as a way empowering them to fully participate in the social activities, life of the church and wider society (chapter three will be dedicated to the fact that disability is not a charity case and chapter five towards empowerment). This writer through Tabgha Foundation and this publication will strive to mentally emancipate and socially liberate people with disabilities and those who take care of people with disabilities from restrictive environment to public and religious access that have been erected deliberately and out of ignorance (chapter four has been dedicated to mental emancipation). As l write this introduction l received a WhatsApp message from Amai (mother) Wilson, telling me that they have been promised a residential stand, unfortunately it turned out to be a scam. Wilson is a 23 years old young man (Tabgha Foundation beneficiary) with motor neuron disease who is in serious need of comfortable and suitable accommodation and as well as a wheelchair. Wilson and his mum are always on the move from one lodging to another because of Wilson’s condition. That is the same situation with Amai Keith again, Keith is an 18 years boy who is like a 5 years boy in stature. Keith (Another Tabgha Foundation beneficiary) can not even talk, walk or move any of his body part. Amai Keith phoned me three weeks ago crying that her husband had deserted her because of Keith’s condition. Those people who accommodate people with disabilities should be applauded and recommended for practically embracing Jesus’ declaration on Matthew 25 and this is what l want to bring out as well from this book especially for Christians and how they have benefited on the salvation through their good deeds and how others have missed on salvation by not embracing Jesus’ declaration on Matthew 25. Beates (2012) noted that the problem is that Christian people generally have an inadequate understanding of God’s role in disabilities. True, most people do not know how to welcome and include people with disabilities.
While I shall leverage on my personal experience as someone with an invisible disability and my interaction with people with disabilities as the founder of Tabgha Foundation where there are six beneficiaries with visible disabilities, l will try my level best not to focus on my self and these beneficiaries but disability issues in general. The main focus of this book will be theological analysis of Jesus’ Matthew 25 declaration of the least of these as path to salvation as l try to challenge some African mythology on people with disabilities through practical theology. It is my sincere trust that this book will speak to everyone not necessarily people with disabilities since we are all broken before God and we need the redemption love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Discovering our brokenness
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
When we begin to do for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40-45), we discover this: we are the broken and the needy – Michael S. Beates
Brokenness helps us to see less of us and more of God’s grace. Brokenness looks out for the mind of God over any issue and helps us to prefer and see others through the eyes of God’s love. People with disabilities do not exhibit a lack of wholeness, an absence of something that taints negatively the image of God. Every person was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God even if expressed differently. I live with a disability, l have stayed with people with disabilities, l interact with people with disabilities but all that didn’t prepare me for what I saw and experienced in Chitungwiza, St Mary’s, a distance of 40 kilometers from Harare. I had earlier on been referred to four potential beneficiaries for Tabgha Foundation. Pamela Pamire of Tayaruka Foundation Trust had referred Tabgha Foundation to Keith, a potential beneficiary whom she said has got a disability. When Pamela mentioned the severity of Keith’s disabilities l just assumed that she was exaggerating. Tabgha Foundation couldn’t respond on time to meet the needs of Keith’s family because of lack of resources. When Tabgha Foundation finally got the food hampers for its existing beneficiaries and potential ones, l decided to visit Keith and the other three orphans from Hunyani Baptist Church one of our local churches. This was also an assessment visit on the eligibility of these potential beneficiaries for being bona fide beneficiaries of Tabgha Foundation.
When I arrived at Huruyadzo Shopping Center in St Mary’s, Mai (Mum or mother of) Keith came to meet and direct me to her backyard lodgings. She warmly welcomed me into their humble two roomed lodgings. After formal introduction, she then took me to her bedroom where Keith was lying on the bed motionlessly with one of his fractured leg bandaged. He had been discharged from Chitungwiza General Hospital the previous day. She emotionally explained that Keith has severe cerebral palsy, he doesn’t grow like other children of his age, he doesn’t talk or move any of his limbs. He is eighteen years old but he appears like a five year old boy. He puts on diapers. He eats special food which they struggle to get considering that both parents by then were not employed. Am saying both parents then because eventually Keith’s father ran away presumably from the challenges and myths associated with people with disabilities. Keith doesn’t have a wheelchair for mobility, his mother carries him around. What an emotional draining sight and experience. I didn’t need any further assessment for eligibility, what I saw and experienced was enough to embrace, love and take Keith on board. My own brokenness by the virtue of my sinful nature and speech impediment made it somehow easy to relate to Keith and her mum but not without serious self introspection. Mai Keith said when she gave birth to Keith, he appeared like any other normal child, but eventually he didn’t develop, that’s when she discovered that her child was not normal. Initially she was devastated and asked God why herself. She couldn’t separate her child’s condition from the pain and brokenness she was going through as result of giving birth to a baby with disabilities. She was heavily pained, like she had also been disabled. When I asked her how she coped then and now, she mentioned that her immediate family and organizations like Tabgha Foundation have been their pillar of strength.
As l was driving back to Harare l was emotionally overwhelmed with Keith and her mum’s situation. In all that emotionally engulfing thoughts l blessed God for whoever was making Keith and his mum’s circumstances manageable through offering them accommodation and meeting their basic needs. Its not easy for people with visible disabilities to be offered accommodation. By offering accommodation and meeting the basic needs of the less privileged and vulnerable people, some people are being saved as declared by Jesus in Matthew 25: 31-46.
Growing up l didn’t take my stuttering as a disability until 2019 when I did my dissertation on people with disabilities. That’s when I started to understand more what it meant to be disabled in terms of both visible and invisible disabilities. After discovering that l was disabled l initially denied it and brushed it off because it made me feel incomplete amongst my colleagues but the more I read and understood what disability entails the more I accepted my condition. What made it easier for me to quickly accept my disability is that by then l had achieved a lot in terms of social relationships, l got married to a beautiful wife and blessed with four beautiful children who embraced me unconditionally, l had different jobs before without thinking that I had a condition, l had four diplomas, two degrees including an MBA and was almost finishing my third degree. I had also acquired some fixed and moveable properties. All this gave me confidence. I really wonder whether l would have achieved all that had l discovered that I was broken and weak well before then. Hence at times ignorance pays off. People still ridicule me here and there, but the following psalm is my consolation, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalms 139:13-14). The support l receive from my significant others and the word of God has made me accept my condition and gives me confidence. Many people tends to forget this African wisdom, seka urema wafa (literally translated: scorn disability when you are dead). This African adage now means a lot to me for l have learnt that disability can happen to anyone at any time. My sister and her brother-in-law quickly come to mind for they became disabled at an old age (will write more about them later in this chapter).
The first person with disabilities to be a beneficiary of Tabgha Foundation was Wilson and this makes him a special member of the foundation. Wilson has got motor neuron disease. Wilson came through a referral after I posted on my Facebook page wall that I was looking for potential beneficiaries. Here is a direct comment from Lisa Lunga Zachariah who referred me to Mai Wilson, “God works in mysterious ways. I remember the day l met Mai Wilson and Wilson. It was at Makombe Building (where passports are applied). She was wailing uncontrollably. Strangely no one was paying attention to a woman crying in broad daylight in public. I chased after her as she was quickly pushing her son’s wheelchair (which is in very bad condition). I introduced myself and she narrated the abuse she had suffered in the hands of some of the workers at Makombe. I was touched, a loving widow who is struggling to make ends meet being snubbed and abused in that manner. Our organization intervened, we met the Registrar General and she was issued with a passport within two days. That was last year (2019)!!!!! She had been asking us for a food parcel but we had been not able to give her one yet as we are currently overwhelmed with cases of vulnerable people in dire need of aid. God being God made a way as always. When I saw your post looking for a vulnerable family to assist in that area, l proclaimed that God is wonderful and swiftly recommended them. May God bless you for extending your kindness to Wilson and his mum. I pray someone comes through and assists him with a wheelchair as he really need it.” Lisa is a vibrant and liberal lady who believes strongly in feminism and the rights of a girl child and vulnerable people in general. Lisa also referred Tabgha Foundation to Mr Shereni, who was involved in a road traffic accident and got disabled on both legs. He now walks with clutches. He is a bona fide beneficiary of Tabgha Foundation. Recently his wife who once ran away from him is now back home.
Mai Wilson has become a sister through interacting with her and Wilson. She mentioned that Wilson was born with mild disabilities but they got worse as he grew up. She mentioned that she didn’t suffer the stigma and exclusion associated with women who give birth to children with disabilities. She pointed out that her late husband accepted and loved Wilson unconditionally even their immediate family has been very supportive. Now that the condition of Wilson is getting worse with age, this has complicated their situation since most people are not comfortable staying with people with disabilities. Accommodation has been one of their challenges as they keep on moving from one lodging to another. The more they keep on moving from one place to another in search of accommodation the more they feel incomplete and broken. Many organizations and some individuals are now taking advantage of their desperate situation to enrich themselves (will talk more about it in a chapter three). Their current land lord must be recommended for heading and embracing Jesus’s declaration on Matthew 25 because since I met Wilson and his mum, they have been staying at this same place.
August 2014 will remain one of the most trying months in my life when my beloved sister Merenzia’s left leg was amputated twice, first at foot level and within few days at thigh level due to diabetic complications. Life dramatically changed for me and those who were close to her. My sister was now confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Disability had visited close to home again meaning there was now a need to adjust ourselves emotionally as well as the physical environment of her home. The home wasn’t built with people with disabilities in mind. For most people as long there is no one with disabilities within the family, there is no need to include facilities for people with disabilities on the house plan. Ramps had to be put on the doors, there was also a need to adjust the restroom and bathroom for her convenience. Merenzia couldn’t adjust to many things and one thing that she completely failed to adjust to was to use the clutches, probably because of her heavy weight. It took her many months to accept her disability, which affected her emotionally. To make it worse she was no longer doing things that she used to do for herself and it resulted in many mood swings. Her situation was aggravated by the fact that the people who were taking care of her were not professionally trained and counseled on dealing with people with disabilities. As time goes on, with more knowledge on home based care of people with disabilities, things greatly improved and she accepted her new condition. But before her situation was managed, we were exposed of our own brokenness and weaknesses in dealing with disability. Many family members were affected by Merenzia’s disability by the virtue of her being the first born in our family and being the mother figure. Every relative who would visit Harare, would first be accommodated by her at house (Number 4241, 162nd Street, Warren Park D). This also became my home when I first came to Harare to look for employment. I have an emotional attachment to this place.
As time progressed, Merenzia’s health deteriorated because of her blood pressure and diabetic complications. Many times she would be hospitalized or she would visit the doctor. The costs became unbearable and it strained heavily on her husband and children. To make it more challenging at one time she suffered a stroke and it made her lose memory, speech and use of her arms. All this required extra financial resources to manage her situation. Eventually the family was emotionally and financially broke to an extent of failing to afford the costs that were needed for an urgent operation at a private medical facility. By God’s providence, we remained afloat to alleviate her painful medical condition until the day she was peacefully promoted to glory on the 27th of February 2021. No matter how draining was the situation, as a family we never gave up on her. One important message l want to bring out about the least of these as path to salvation is that its not only about providing material things to the broken and the weak but being there for them emotionally. Many times l would spend hours, if not the whole night or day being there for my sister, my brother in law and their children. Many times I would accompany my sister to her medical reviews where l would spend many hours waiting for her turn to see the doctor. A couple of times we didn’t return home with her after she would all of a sudden get admitted into the hospital. One of the longest day, was when my sister was transferred from a private medical facility to a government general hospital hoping that her situation would improve so that she can be operated on a government grant, we spend the whole night with my nephew and two nieces waiting for her to be admitted. Sadly that was my last day to see her alive and the next time was when I went to identify her dead body sleeping peacefully on her death bed. l felt completely broken and weak just as the day l received the devastating news of my mum’s death.
My brother-in-law Tony Maqolo became totally blind in August 2010. Initially he lost one eye due to an industrial accident at Zimbabwe Steel Company (ZISCO) in July 1996. This accident happened when the Zimbabwean economy was on a downturn. As time went on the other eye started to get strained. He was gradually losing sight on the remaining eye because of glaucoma. Due to economic situation in Zimbabwe then and the fact that he was no longer gainfully employed, he couldn’t get attended to at private medical facilities to rectify the problem that was now affecting the other eye. When he eventually went to Morgenster Hospital in Masvingo for assistance, it was too late and they couldn’t assist him. He eventually became totally blind. Apart from being financially broke, his family was totally broken by this tragedy. The family had to relocate from Kwekwe a small mining town in the Midlands province, to his rural area in Sanyati where l also come from. The good thing then was that his wife used to care of him, unfortunately she was diagnosed with throat cancer and tragically died on the 13th of August 2012. This meant that his younger sister, Aunt (tete) Grinnety was now supposed to care for him. It became a challenging situation. She was supposed to attend to their very old mum who had been incapacitated because of old age, as well as carrying out household chores including attending to the fields and livestock. Grinnety ended up putting a guiding rope for his brother to access the bathroom, restroom, bedroom, kitchen and under the tree for resting. Tony was a deacon at Torwood Baptist Church in Kwekwe. He was a devote Christian. His local rural Church (Lozane Baptist Church) was close to 10 kilometers away from their homestead. Almost every Sunday, Grinnety would lead his brother to church through his home made white cane. What a demonstration of Jesus Christ’s declaration of Matthew 25, the least of these as path to salvation. One good thing about his former church, Torwood Baptist Church in Kwekwe is that they kept on visiting him even in his rural to give him moral and physical support. I can imagine how Tony would have managed his situation without the support of his immediate family especially Grinnety, and the church. At times our brokenness is intensified by lack of support from those around us. Tony passed away on the 16th of January 2021. He was given a befitting send off worth of a dedicated man who didn’t abdicate from his salvation regardless of his disability.
I mentioned in the introduction of this book that my mom had severe arthritis which rendered her immobile. She became disabled before I went to school but technically I wasn’t aware that she had a disability. For the rest of my life l didn’t see my mom walking properly on her own without the aid of her walking stick or being carried around in a wheelbarrow. Due to my lack of knowledge on people with disabilities then, l didn’t regard her as someone with a disability unlike now when am enlightened on those issues. Due to my ignorance, l couldn’t fully apply Jesus’ declaration of Matthew 25. I could have bought her a wheelchair for mobility. I could have adjusted her bedroom and kitchen for easy accessibility. I believe this could have been the same case for the whole family, no one perceived her as someone with a disability but arthritis. Considering my mom’s case, there is a serious need of awareness campaign on what really constitutes people with disabilities. Even some old people are regarded as just being old people by the virtue of their chronological age but technically they are people with disabilities because of their incapacitation to do some things. As asserted by Gaventa (2015) that over time, understanding definitions of disability have radically changed. Most definitions and accounts of disability have been written primarily by those who control the delivery of service rather those with disabilities or their families. Hence the definition of disability by Conner (2010) who says according to World Health Organization (WHO), disability is an umbrella term, covering impairment, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. From this definition, which l totally agree with, many people with disabilities are excluded from many socio-economic activities out of ignorance on what is disability, hence those who are supposed to benefit and leverage on Jesus Christ’s declaration on Matthew 25 on serving the least and getting saved are missing it. If people become familiar with what really disability is. I believe it will result in many people being aware of their own brokenness and feel the need to be compassionate towards people with disabilities. Dealing with people with disabilities effectively at its best, needs someone with a disability, or someone who has taken care of or is taking care of someone with disabilities. This paradigm shift calls for all stakeholders on disability issues to view people with disabilities as people who can positively contribute to the society in different ways. Despite my mother’s immobility, she was full of wisdom, many people would come to her for advice. Her presence at home, dignified our homestead. Sadly, since her passing on the 9th of October 2009, things have not been the same at home in many things. Since her death as a family, we have now come to realized our emptiness and brokenness.
Uncle John who was born with cerebral palsy and was taken care of by my mum despite the fact that she had her own physical disabilities. I have now realized that, it requires someone who has experienced disability condition in one way or the other to truly appreciate and understand what a person with disabilities goes through.. Uncle John came to stay with our mom when their parents passed on. No one was willing to stay with him until mom volunteered to care for him. When mom passed on, it became an issue again on who was going to stay with him until his other sister reluctantly agreed to. He didn’t last long after his relocation from Sanyati to Makonde. I believe the environment became constraining for him. From what I heard, he was being neglected. If this had happened now with the empowerment and capacitation l now have through my knowledge on disability and Tabgha Foundation l would have alleviated the situation and maybe saved him from his demise. Uncle John exposed our brokenness and weaknesses as a family and community when it comes to dealing with people with disabilities. His case is one of the many situations that we took for granted as hopelessness and resigned it to fate, of which there was room for making it better. I believe some people will definitely be found wanting when it comes to serving the least of these as path to salvation considering how disability issues are put on the peripherals especially in Zimbabwe.
In conclusion, no matter how someone is disabled, people with disabilities still add value to people without disabilities’ lives in one way or another and vice versa. As mentioned earlier on in the introduction, we are all broken before God, hence there is need to love each other, complement each other as team members in a already fallen and broken world. Discovering our brokenness and weaknesses should not scare us or put us off but should be an opportunity to be saved and blessed, which should be gracefully embraced. One more key thing I want to bring home throughout this book is that being a person with genetic anomalies doesn’t make you an incomplete person amongst people without disabilities and that not every disability can be cured or healed Human beings are socially inherent, people with disabilities are full human beings unlike in other African communities where they are regarded as animals, cursed people, second class citizens or social outcasts who don’t deserve to socialize and interact with other people. People with disabilities should socially belong and be loved unconditionally. The next chapter will expound on social belonging and love.
People with disabilities needs love and social belonging
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Inclusion begins with presence. It is difficult to welcome individuals when they are not actually among you. Presence is only a starting point, not a signal to stop. People must be able to participate and access different locations and facilities. Sharing lives entails more than just sharing space – Erik W. Carter
Giving birth to a child with disabilities will bring out flood of emotions to the parents and immediate family. Most of these emotions and reactions are negative with far fetching consequences especially for the child and parents. From my interaction with mothers of children with disabilities, what they need is not only material things but unconditional love and emotional support especially from their husbands. Even people who get disabled when they are old, they need love. People without disabilities frown and despise people with disabilities because of myths and stereotypes associated with the origins of disabilities. Some people believe that disability does not just happen. Someone should have sinned against God or has been cursed or has infuriated the gods. This kind of mentality is not only found in African Traditional Religions but also in Judaism as demonstrated here: His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). With this kind of mentality, disability is linked to evil hence most people with disabilities are shunned and excluded from the mainstream activities and public events. In extreme cases, people with disabilities are locked and chained away from the public glare to free their care givers to attend to other chores or as a way of protecting people with disabilities from public ridicule..
Mai Wilson has been struggling with securing their own place of staying. In fact she prefers to call it ‘Wilson’s place of stay’ implying that the issue of accommodation has got more to do with her son rather than herself. She mentioned that they are always on the edge because most house owners are not comfortable accomodating with disabled persons. Whenever they are lodging, they are offered back yard rooms so that they don’t interfere with the day to day activities from the main house. Some of these lodgings are not even suitable for human habitation. The accommodation is given under strict conditions and one of them is to keep the child or person with disabilities away from public sight. Mai Keith always raises the same issue that getting accommodation and accepted like any other family is a challenge unless the house owner is enlightened on disability issues or is just a compassionate person who has embraced Jesus’ declaration of the least of these as path to salvation. When you deny accommodation to children with disabilities you are tempering with a sensitive area in the kingdom of God, listen to what Jesus is saying here, But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16). Most of these land lords who do not accommodate people with disabilities are missing out on the spiritual blessings (favor from God) that comes with the above declaration. Accommodation should be offered unconditionally. In some cases, the rental costs for people with disabilities are higher than those of people without disability. What I have experienced and gleaned from those people who are directly affected by disabilities is that they are discriminated based on disability, which is a criminal offence apart from missing on Matthew 25 declaration. As enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwean Section 83 (b) which mentions that the persons with disabilities must live with their families and participate in social, creative or recreational activities. People with disabilities have got the right to decent accommodation and other social belongings just like any other person but they are denied these because of their condition.
Africans are notoriously religious people and would want their faith to be nourished always. Attending church services is one important aspect of a fully functional family. Personally I can’t wait to go to any church service whenever I can because that’s the place l would be uplifted and edified by other believers and hoping that l will also do the same to them. Persons with disabilities have got spiritual needs that should be addressed and met by the church but the church is found wanting on this. The church may say that they welcome people with disabilities in theory but practically they are a closed system on them. Knowingly or unknowingly the church has put many obstacles for people with disabilities to attend their services. These obstacles could be attitudinal or structural or informational. Some believers have got a negative attitude towards people with disabilities, whenever a person with visible disabilities visit the church they are frowned upon, and that’s what persons with disabilities quickly notices. Once they feel unwelcomed, they will never come back again, then what a miss on the least of these as path to salvation on the church. Persons with disabilities may not be frowned upon but may not feel socially belonging because they are not fully participating in the service due to lack of facilities for them like ramps, best fit bathrooms, braille for the blind, sign language interpreter for the deaf people. I believe even if the church doesn’t have a church member who is blind or deaf for example, they should be proactive in terms having a braille and sign language interpreter respectively rather than being reactive. What if one existing member get disabled, can surely the church miss on salvation because it was not proactive. Get me right here, we are saved by grace through faith lest any man boast about his works (Ephesians 2vs8). On the same note, faith without works is dead.
The final recorded healing act on Luke 18 vs 35-43, exhibit the of behavior of not accommodating, respecting and recognizing people with disabilities. An unnamed blind person cried out for mercy as Jesus was passing through but “those who were in front” (vs39) rebuked him. They told him to be quite. The funny part those leaders of apostolic band who were rebuking this blind beggar believed that Jesus had more pressing matters to attend to, not knowing that attending to the broken and weak was one key mandates of why the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, as clearly mentioned here, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4vs18). Jesus being Jesus Christ, stopped and asked for the man to be brought near, healed and restored his sight. The narrative says, the blind man followed Jesus thereafter, praising and glorifying God. How many broken and weak people out there in our communities have been denied an encounter with Jesus because of the same attitude of those who were with Jesus as he approached Jericho? Its so disheartening to realize that, those who led the way for Jesus were on the forefront of rebuking the blind man to access his salvation. Of which Jesus made it clear earlier on that the banquet table of the Lord would be full of, “the poor and crippled and lame” (Luke 14vs22), yet the followers of Jesus wanted to keep away the social outcasts and marginalized people from Jesus. On close analysis, this is still the same attitude and behavior of the modern day church. Why is the church still ignoring and marginalizing people with visible disabilities? These questions and more will be answered in the Chapter Four.
When my mom became disabled, that was her last time to attend church services and other social activities in the village. No one bothered to come and carry her to church or attend some social activities once in a while. These small gestures of helping an incapacitated person to attend a function may appear to be insignificant to an ordinary person but they mean a lot to the receiver. My mother would always express her frustrations due to her immobility, how much she missed going to church, how much she missed going to the shopping center or just visiting other people. My sister Merenzia was a devote Baptist church member but from the day her leg was amputated, that was the last time she entered a church building for service. What a loss for her church as mentioned by Jesus on Matthew 25 declaration. In our local church there are quite a number of elderly people who can no longer walk to church but l have observed that those who have got the capacity to bring them to church are not doing so. If those who have got the capacity to bring them to church would know what they are missing in terms of spiritual blessings they would make it their priority to bring someone to church. Church leaders especially pastors should make sure that these elderly people are brought to church. Even if it means that a budget has to be set aside for that ministry, let it be so. There is also a need to host social functions or recreational activities for persons with disabilities as well as for the elderly people so that they can feel loved and belonging socially. As l am writing this chapter l have just returned from attending Merenzia and Tony’s joint memorial service, every speaker praised Tony for attending almost every Sunday service whenever he could. But the most credit was given to Aunt Grinnety for leading Tony every time they went to church. Ooooh how much Aunt Grinnety benefited from Jesus’ Matthew 25 declaration. Lozane Baptist church should be praised for welcoming and making Tony belong to the church. The members who testified on Tony said apart from being a deacon, he was always punctual and a Sunday school teacher. Tony once intimated to me that his church was one of the few places where he really felt recognized as having something important to share. Apart from making it easy for people with disabilities to visit the church, how many churches intentionally make any effort to go out there and look for such people to bring them to church? Many times, the church is found wanting. The parable in Luke 14 of the great banquet, Jesus clearly demonstrated it for our understanding, how disability is part and parcel of kingdom of God. What Jesus demonstrated here should be a rude awakening for those who shun away people with disabilities from the kingdom of God.
After realizing that the incapacitated beneficiaries of Tabgha Foundation can’t miss both the Word of God and church services, the Foundation demonstrated practical theology through giving out 26 food hampers accomplished by a brand new Bible. The food hampers will be finished but the Word of God will last forever. It is my sincere prayer that whoever will read the donated Bible will experience the agape love of God and be directed to the eternal Source who is God so that their needs are addressed adequately or the right resources can be raised. I have received many powerful testimonies of how Tabgha Foundation has alleviated some challenging situations the beneficiaries would have been experiencing through the timely food hampers distribution. Tabgha Foundation, once every year since its inception hosts a luncheon (koinonia) for its members just to share life and relax. This is done in line with the parable of the great banquet (Luke 14).. I have just realized that fellowship in a relaxed environment is good for mental and physical health. Some of the members of the Foundation no longer have immediate family members to take care of them, so they really appreciate these outreach and get together programs. As mentioned earlier on, people with disabilities are shunned from social activities. Resources permitting, plans are underway to take the beneficiaries of Tabgha Foundation for a whole weekend out to enjoy themselves. Do people with disabilities today feel welcome at church functions like Christmas parties or other celebrations? Many times, that’s not the case. Hence l have intentionally through Tabgha Foundation decided to have these luncheons which I have since named Tabgha banquets, hoping that in so doing we are fulfilling the least of these as path to salvation.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013, Section 83 sub section (d) and (e) states that the State must take appropriate measures, to ensure that persons with disabilities realize their full mental and physical potential, including measures to provide special facilities for their education, and to provide State-funded education and training where they need it respectively. Yes, that is what is enshrined in the constitution but what’s on the ground is totally different. Wilson attended Jairos Jiri Primary School in Southerton, a private institution for people with disabilities. When he completed his grade 7 in 2012, he couldn’t proceed to Danhiko for his high school because of financial constraints. To make matters worse, that’s the very year his father who loved him unconditionally passed on. On top of the school fees, Danhiko wanted 75 USD per month to pay the person who was going to take care of Wilson. Mai Wilson couldn’t afford it, eventually Wilson dropped out of school. As for Keith with his severe cerebral palsy he didn’t even attended school and to make it worse his father was not supportive unlike in Wilson’s case where his father was there for him. Lack of education is what makes the situation for most people with disabilities more difficult when it comes to employment and self-generating projects. Most people with disabilities are not professionally trained to be absorbed into the main stream labour market. Lack of academic and professional qualifications makes people with disabilities desperate and destitute, and end up being exposed to emotional and physical abuse. In some cases persons with disabilities end up being taken as charity cases and being given temporary hand outs instead of sustainable and long lasting hand up like what Peter and John did to a man who was lame from birth, the lame beggar was looking for a hand out from Peter and John but Peter gave him a hand up as demonstrated here, Then Peter said, “Silver or gold l do not have, but what l do have l give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). This book will dedicate Chapter Three and Five to not taking persons with disabilities as a charity case and empowering them respectively. If the Zimbabwean government and the civil society are really serious and concerned about disability issues, why do they not practically prove it by improving the lives of persons with disabilities. This is one sector of the Zimbabwean population that is walloping in abject poverty. The least of these as path to salvation mantra is not seriously being exercised across the Zimbabwean national spectrum. The Zimbabwean populace has become so selfish, greedy and individualistic of which as African we uphold Ubuntuphilosophy. As Zimbabweans, if we are to benefit and leverage on Jesus Christ’s Matthew 25 declaration, we need to revert back to the basics of Africanism and preach Afro-christo centric gospel, which embraces everyone regardless of social standing. As Africans our hallmark is love and communalism.
Sports and recreation is one area that the church has been found wanting. People with disabilities are not considered and accommodated when it comes to recreational activities. Of which there are so many gifted and talented people amongst people with disabilities. Almost every weekend, people go out to watch or participate in different sports disciplines including pastors and church members. Some churches have set aside a day for sports but a closer look on the activities of that particular day, you won’t come across anything to do with people with disabilities. Government and private institutions have come up with sports and recreation programs for persons with disabilities but they are still lagging behind on this critical aspect of socialization. I believe the secular world should learn from the church. Things being equal everything should start with the church but the church has abdicated from its fundamental responsibilities and left it to people who are not ordained for it. Out therea lot of individuals and institutions are willing to partner the church in advancing and taking care of needs of the less privileged groups in the society. I established Tabgha Foundation, a para church organization to complement the efforts of the main church in its endeavors to advance the kingdom of God on earth through proclaiming practical theology through missional activities. Right now l am working on registering a sports academy that will house various disciplines for both persons without and persons with disabilities.
Healing doesn’t necessarily needs Jesus’ presence, a person can be healed from a distance (not every impairment can be cured or healed). Most people with disabilities suffer from loneliness and rejection. On Luke 5vs12-13, Jesus healed a man with leprosy. This leper clearly falls into the category of the disabled and social outcasts. Leprosy leaves a person’s body deformed, even limps falling off. In almost every society. People with leprosy are put in secluded places (musasa).Their food is left by the door, there is no contact with the outside world. The spatial distance of people with leprosy from other people results in social rejection. As mentioned earlier on, regardless of any condition, human beings are socially inherent, they want love and socialization. People with leprosy do not have that luxury. Religious and social norms do not allow them to mix and mingle with other humans until they are certified clean of leprosy. In Luke 5, Jesus defied all social restrictions for the emotionally and physically secluded person by touching him. Jesus first, offered emotional healing for the leper through touch, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man” (vs13). Emotional healing is what is needed by most of the people with disabilities before experiencing physical healing. They do miss the touch and closeness of other humans. Of which when God the son encounters the broken, he does total healing like in the case of the leper, his emotional healing was followed by physical healing. This incident of Jesus and leper demonstrates one of the numerous occasions where Jesus deliberately ignored social and religious restrictions for the sake of meeting the broken, the rejected and social outcasts. In so doing, Jesus was exercising that faith without works is dead. Jesus didn’t only give him existential salvation through physical healing, but also touched his inner person by bringing him into the community of God’s people through unconditionally love.
In conclusion of this chapter, I want to bring a crucial aspect that some people who are broken or disabled are duped into about healing. There are times whereby a person may have a divine encounter but remain not healed physically but spiritually and emotionally. This was demonstrated by king David who served as a type of Christ, prefiguring Messiah when he invited Mephibosheth for a luncheon (2 Samuel 9). This was out of pure compassion and love towards the needy, disabled and social outcasts. Mephibosheth regarded himself as a dog. Mephibosheth did not get better physically. He was crippled on both feet and he was not healed of that. He remained physically disabled. David showed us that as believers we are supposed to identify and relate with people who are on the peripherals of the society. The ones whom the society rejects should not be a liability to those who uphold Jesus’ declaration on Matthew 25 of the least of these as path to salvation. Even in that case where people with disabilities are not able to offer anything in return or bring anything on the table like Mephibosheth and remain disabled, they should not be regarded as a charity case. The next topic expound on disability as a charity case.
Disability is not a charity case
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:2)
The ways in which disability is socially constructed in contemporary society can be seen as, from top-to-bottom, economic. Disability is an object of charity rather than part of the social contract, the disabled body must be made productive or expendable, exhibited or warehoused for profit, the disability itself must be easily monetized – Jay Timothy Dolmage
This chapter is not there to discredit or discount all acts of love, benevolence and giving towards the less privileged and vulnerable people in society. Many lives have been transformed by genuine and generous giving by individuals and organizations like Tabgha Foundation (Am not blowing my own trumpet). Another charitable organization that comes to fore when genuine love and sincere philanthropic activities are concerned is that of Baba (meaning father) Jairos Jiri. Baba Jiri’s work charity model was replicated by several organizations in Zimbabwe. Baba Jairos Jiri’s charity work model hinges on the following pillars, Ubuntu, observe the environment for opportunities to helping, provide help using your own physical, financial and other resources, encourage and treat people you want to help as your friends and family, outside help, start and sustain a charity organization. My own charitable organization Tabgha Foundation has modelled around most of Jairos Jiri’s work charity model. Through my philanthropic activities l have encountered some scrupulous and con people out there who are taking advantage of people with disabilities to line up their pockets in the name of helping the needy. Disability has not only been taken as a charity case for profiteering the purse of those people taking advantage of the impoverished situations of people with disabilities but as a liability that requires to be taken care of as a charity case. The mentality of perceiving disability as a hopelessness situation has misled and misguided some people to think that there is nothing good or beneficial that can come out of people with disabilities. This chapter is going to radically correct some of the misconceptions about disability as a charity case.
Zimbabwe is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Some individuals have taken too far their corrupt tendencies by registering their organizations as trusts, foundations or private voluntary organizations just to benefit themselves instead of meeting their objectives. Recently one of these suspected bogus organizations approached a Tabgha Foundation beneficiary with the intention of securing a house for him. Soon after raising hope for this person with disabilities who is in desperate need of accommodation, they started demanding some upfront payment of money as part of commitment towards the project. I quickly intervened asking their sincerity in helping this young man and his mum who are not even making ends meet on daily basis. This organization purports to be a Christian institution, l even asked them if they really understand the following Jesus’ declaration, The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for mm’ (Matthew 25:40). They were far off from understanding what this declaration entails and how much they are likely to miss on the spiritual blessings of this promise from Jesus. I questioned their genuineness in helping the needy. I encouraged them to view things from persons with disabilities’ view or else they will never understand what persons with disabilities go through especially if someone tries to take advantage of them. I advised the young man and his mum to immediately stop dealing with this organization, which appears not be registered with the deeds office because they failed to produce their registration documentation.
Power and strength has given some people a false sense of security of thinking that they can do whatever they want whenever they meet people with disabilities. Yes, people without disabilities may have power and strength over vulnerable people but its temporary. Nothing lasts forever. Some church leaders and politicians are the most culprits here in abusing their superior positions to feel for the less privileged and vulnerable. Some of their benevolence acts are not genuine but are done to secure their positions and political aspirations. In Zimbabwe, this is more common towards general national elections and church leadership elections. Whatever donations are given to the needy during plebiscites euphoria, it is for vote buying not to alleviate the situation of receivers. These purported philanthropists are only visible during election and campaigning period. Once their selfish needs are satisfied, that’s the end of their interaction with the vulnerable people. This manipulative practices should be stopped hence forth. This can only be decisively stopped if the vulnerable people are made aware of the shenanigans of these scammers and mentally emancipated on not regarding themselves as always receivers and charity cases. When organizations and individuals extend a giving hand towards people with disabilities, they should not do it from the stand view of superiority and power for the inferior, weak and helpless, no, but from the position and understanding of being blessed to bless others. All people are equal before God. Many persons with disabilities are being led astray by some church leaders and politicians by being promised heaven on earth through the proclamation of deformed prosperity gospel. These wicked and scrupulous people are at the receiving end of this verse, “Cursed is anyone who leads the blind astray on the road.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deuteronomy 27:18). Genuine and total Gospel should be ministered to the total person not just focusing on one aspect. Yes, hand outs can be timely interventions but long lasting and self generating projects should be advocated for.
Pity is an emotional state of being that has resulted in most persons with disabilities being regarded as charity cases. I am saying so because people with disabilities are perceived by benefactors as the least of these who are in needy, helpless, hopeless and can’t offer anything in return. Most streets and urban centers in Zimbabwe are dotted with people of varying degrees of disabilities. Out of pity these people with various impediments are regarded as though they can’t do anything for themselves for survival, they can’t help themselves hence charity cases. Feeling pity for persons with disabilities, disempowers. The benefactor is perceiving the condition of person with disability from his or her own view not that of the receiver. At times, what the receiver want is not a hand out but a hand up to be taken off the dangerous streets of Zimbabwe. Feeling pity for someone can be equated with being sympathetic, benefactors should be empathetic and compassionate. Jesus was always compassionate towards the less privileged and vulnerable people. Whenever Jesus encountered persons with infirmities, he would never leave them the same, whether healed physically or emotionally. King David did not feel pity for Mephibosheth but transformed him emotionally and socio-economically. At Bethesda, Jesus asked a question that should be on the lips of many benefactors, “Do you want to get well? (John 5vs6), of which many people rarely asks that question they just give hand outs. That empathetic and compassionate question was unfortunately wrongly responded to by the man who had been blind for thirty eight years. I believe despite this seemingly common response from the less privileged and vulnerable people, the invalid man wanted to get well but unfortunately he had now put his trust and hope in people instead of in Jesus or he had given up hope of being healed. At times desperate situations results in wrong mentality. The issue of mental emancipation will be expounded in the next chapter. The man with disability was never the same again after Jesus has been compassionate towards him. The followers of Jesus, especially here in Zimbabwe, we need to do likewise when we meet the needy. Be compassionate towards the needy.. Zimbabweans are slowly drifting away from their hallmark of Ubuntu philosophy. The benefactor does not have to be the center of attraction when a need arises but the transformation of the needy. Unfortunately in Zimbabwe, benefactors are taking centre stage and all the attraction. In all this life changing encounters through the benevolence acts of the benefactors, all the glory and honor should be directed to God who enables us to advance his mission on earth through practical theology.
Poverty has made people with disabilities susceptible to be treated as charity cases and open for abuse by scammers. Persons with disabilities are poverty stricken so that they are not better positioned to decipher the genuineness of benefactors. These benefactors are taking advantage of the socio-economic challenges in Zimbabwe to come up with charitable organizations dangling donations to the unsuspecting less privileged groups. The Zimbabwean systematic poverty society has not made it easy for people with disabilities. At times these persons with disabilities have no option but to accept whatever they are being offered in the name of donations out of genuine love. A poor person has no bargaining power and has got limited choices. The Zimbabwean government should through the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and other registered charitable organizations like Tabgha Foundation be active and visible in alleviating the situation of people with disabilities otherwise the scammers will keep on capitalizing on the discrepancies being created by the absence of genuine care givers. The Zimbabwean government should come up with effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to regulate the operations of foundations, trusts and private voluntary organizations, and non governmental organizations. The church should also proclaim the Gospel of honesty, integrity and transparency because there are also some para church organizations that are not towing along the lines of true Gospel. Right now in Zimbabwe, due to economic downturn it’s a dog eat dog situation which implies the survival of the fittest. With that kind of situation you can imagine how people with disabilities are surviving and managing. My guess is good as yours. No one cares about the next person. This second greatest commandment in the Bible is no longer being followed by the majority in Zimbabwe: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39). I have come to realize that most Zimbabweans are no longer true neighbors to persons in need. There are so many people who are in need around us but there are no longer good Samaritans out there. We need true Samaritans, who will sacrifice their own resources to improve the situation of the less privileged and vulnerable people in society, not these fly by night organizations and individuals who are enriching themselves at the expense of the needy. Where have the Samaritans gone? Tabgha Foundation just like Baba Jairos Jiri’s charity model, they are modelled from the good Samaritan story especially where Jesus says to the expert of law, “go and do likewise” on the following verses, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37). As Zimbabweans are we being good neighbors? I believe we are drifting off so fast from this great commandment. What are we doing for the least of these as path to salvation. If Zimbabweans don’t change their mentality towards people with disabilities, definitely the majority will miss out on salvation.
Earlier on when I talked about pity l mentioned that people with disabilities are perceived by benefactors as the least of these who are in needy, helpless, hopeless and can’t offer anything in return. I want to strongly dispute this improvident kind of thinking about persons with disabilities. People with disabilities can offer many tangible and intangible things in return only if they are respected and regarded as any other human beings. People can do many kind gestures whilst they are not kind people. People can do many lovely actions without love. These are things that can be easily picked up by people with disabilities or those who take care of them. In that case then don’t expect anything in return from persons with disabilities. The vulnerable people will never reciprocate goods or services until they believe and trust you as a genuine and sincere philanthropist or organization. I have experienced and appreciated this reciprocal relationship with the less privileged and vulnerable people in my numerous interaction with them. Mai Wilson gave Georgina (my wife) a fleece fabric when she least expected it, not mentioning the avocados we have received from Wilson several times whenever I visit him. Gogo (granny) Gambe a widow and very old lady, who is a beneficiary of Tabgha Foundation, surprised me by blessing me with a fabric cloth soon after presenting her with a food hamper. Some beneficiaries even go out of their way to phone me and appreciate our efforts through Tabgha Foundation. What a humbling experience. All this shows that people with disabilities should not be viewed as receivers only but also as people who can offer something in return. The least of these also want to benefit from what Jesus said on this, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Let me give you an important lesson l have learnt here, don’t ever make the greatest mistake of refusing whatever you would have been given by people with disabilities and care givers. By refusing, you are portraying a superiority complex over them and not being part of them. If you want to go further and do well in the special needs ministry, you have to be humble enough and come down to the level of the marginalized people. There is a local saying that says, kudyira chirango (courtesy eating) even if you don’t like whatever you are being offered just take it in for the sake of acceptance and belonging.
The following verses are some of the most misquoted ones or misunderstood ones when it comes to giving the needy, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4). Genuine and sincere philanthropists have been accused of being bogus when they take pictures and videos of the their charity work. Yes, there are some people who take pictures and videos for show casing to the public. These people will be doing right things for the wrong reasons, giving to the needy in order to be praised by people. Some of these people could be doing it out of ignorance. The tragic irony is that they would receive their reward of public and professional acclaim but would miss on the least of these as path to salvation. Some people have taken these verses literally, these verses are there to emphasize the reason and necessity for giving. Giving should not be a show casing or public recognition. Giving is about the intent of the heart, if it is done from the heart it is done for God, and not for praises. The taking of pictures and videos should not always be taken as doing right things for the wrong reasons. These pictures and videos can be taken for accountability, honesty and transparency purposes to other stakeholders, for records management purposes or just encourage others who may be contemplating to partner special needs ministries. A very important point to note in taking pictures and videos of the less privileged and vulnerable people is that of respecting their privacy and dignity. As service providers, pictures and videos of recipients are not taken without their consent. If they are not comfortable with them being taken pictures or recorded or filmed, respect it and that should not be the reason to deny them services or goods due to them. The other misunderstood verse I will explain in the last chapter is Romans 8vs28.
Having said all that about disability not being a charity case, we need to take cognizance of the fact that there should be respect for those individuals and organizations who are genuinely into philanthropic activities wholeheartedly. At the same time we need to be wary of wolves in the sheep’s skin, who are taking advantage of the less privileged and vulnerable people to enrich themselves. All stakeholders in disability issues should be on the lookout for those ones who want to tarnish the good names of organizations like Tabgha Foundation, Jairos Jiri Foundation and others who are genuinely concerned with needs of the less privileged and vulnerable people in Zimbabwe. As mentioned earlier on some people with disabilities, care givers, society, and scammers could be doing whatever they are doing wrongly out of ignorance, hence the need for mental emancipation. The next topic will dwell on mental emancipation.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3).
There is no pity or tragedy in disability, for It is society’s myths, fears, and stereotypes that most make being disabled difficult – Joseph Shapiro
Perceptions and beliefs towards disability are different from one society to another. Myths, stereotypes, fears and other social beliefs on the causes and nature of disabilities have been peddled since time immemorial across African societies. Generally, disabilities are linked with everything which is negative and evil. In some societies in Zimbabwe, the following are some of myths and stereotypes associated with disability. Disability is caused by sin especially in the Christian community. Disability is caused by witchcraft, some diseases and disabilities can only be healed by having a sexual act with a disabled person. The best traditional healers are persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities brings bad luck. Disability means inability. Every disability should be healed. These myths and stereotypes have also affected people with disabilities to an extent that some are now believing them to the detrimental of their socio-economic life. This chapter will help to demystify some of these myths, stereotypes and fears associated with disability especially in Zimbabwe. Both people with genetic anomalies and those without need to be mentally emancipated from these myths and stereotypes associated with disabilities.
In Africa and Zimbabwe in particular, nothing just happens without a cause especially on death and disability. Disability at any stage of life development calls for serious self-introspection and consulting traditional healers or prophets to find out what could have caused disability. The belief is that either the person with disabilities or someone close to that person has angered the supreme being. Someone has crossed the path of supreme beings or has violated the norms and standards of the sacred spiritual world hence the infliction of disability. All this is attributed to sin. Someone has to confess his or her sin to be forgiven and get healed physically. Fox (2019) pointed out that conflating sin and disability is one of the main theological barriers that people with disabilities face in joining church communities. Instead of welcoming persons with disabilities in the church, they are being shunned off hence missing on the least of these as path to salvation on the church. Jesus’ response on John 9 vs1-3 has helped so much on this misguided understanding on the causes of disabilities. The narrative opens as the disciples asks Jesus whose sin, the man or his parents that caused him to be born blind? And Jesus answered, “Neither” of them sinned. Jesus’ response broadly repudiate the connection between sin and disability. While in John 9, Jesus breaks the link between sin and disability, there are some people who still hold on to the link between sin and disability based on John 5 when Jesus healed the man by the pool at Bethesida. After the man is healed, Jesus tells him not to sin anymore, so that nothing worse would happens to him. Yes, there are some times when disability is clearly the result of sin and disobedience toward God, like in the case of Samson’s blindness. Personally I believe either someone has not sinned or has sinned, God’s glory must be displayed at the end of day. God is both all-powerful and all good. People must bear in mind the broader teaching in the Bible, that, “neither is God the author of sin, nor violence offered to the will of creatures.” You may now be asking why create some people with disabilities? Firstly, as previously noted, God creates some people with disabilities simply for the sake of his glory (all things are created by God John 1vs3 and for his glory Isaiah 48vs10-11). Secondly, God creates some people with disabilities to show us our own brokenness and our need for his grace. Lastly, God creates some people with disabilities because such people present the believers with an opportunity to serve people with genetic anomalies unconditionally as a way of fulfilling the least of these as path to salvation
When my sister’s leg got amputated in August 2014, there was a strong belief from some family members that she was bewitched despite the fact that her amputation was due to diabetic complications. There were consistent calls to visit traditional healers or prophets to find out why she was bewitched. I kept on praying for her, believing that her disability was an opportunity to show us our own brokenness and to serve her unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. Her husband believed in syncretism. No matter how the medical personnel explained to him that it was all about diabetic complications and high blood pressure, he kept on suspecting that there were some spiritual forces behind her amputation and other related ailments. Occasionally my brother in law would tell me that he has called a certain faith healer (madzimai the title given to female faith healers from white garment churches) to come and pray for my sister (this is called kushandira, technical word for such services). This madzimai would leave her with some charms and anointed water to use at prescribed intervals. All these rituals would give her false hope and security because her condition never improved significantly. I remember few weeks before she passed on, when she was admitted at a private medical facility, a certain lady who had visited her sick relative who was also admitted in the same ward with my sister, advised me to urgently get hold of a certain madzibaba (the male title from white garment churches) in Dzivarasekwa who would easily deal with my sister’s condition or else we would lose her. All these calls for other interventions other than the medical one were clear signs that my sister was bewitched. What I have learnt from all this is that some people may became physically disabled because of certain conditions that could have been medically dealt with. The other reason that makes Zimbabweans resort to faith healers or traditional healers is that the medical costs have skyrocketed in private medical facilities. The general government hospitals are now dilapidated and no longer have medicines. Some fake faith healers and traditional healers are taking advantage of the economic downturn in Zimbabwe to offer cheap and temporary relief on those who seek their services. There is serious need for enlightenment on certain medical conditions that may result in disability if not addressed urgently. Yes, bewitchment is common across African societies but not all disabilities are a result of it. There is a senior pastor within the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe who walks with a limp. There are some rumors that goes around saying that he was bewitched by one of his deacons at his former church. Some disabilities can be avoided especially my sister’s case only if she was attended to early before the infection had spread. Some people will miss it on salvation due to lack of understanding on some of the medical issues by directing people to wrong facilities.
As I am writing this chapter, a few days ago on the 08th of October 2021, Kheshow Thubelihle aged 26 years, who is the owner of Kheshow Investments in Kwekwe, became mentally disturbed and acted violently whilst at his residential place. He was then ferried to Johanne Masowe (a popular white garment church) shrine for prayers. Whilst at the shrine, Kheshow became violent, uprooted trees pushing stationery vehicles and the church congregants managed to subdue and tied him with some ropes. Later on during the night at the shrine, whilst other church members were asleep he woke up and untied himself, got into his vehicle and drove off to his house. Upon arrival he found his wife not home and he armed himself with 3 spears, 1 axe, 1 kitchen knife and one hoe handle and proceeded to his relative’s residence. Upon his arrival he smashed the front dining room door using an unknown object and gained entry into the house. From there he started his gruesome murdering spree which resulted in six people dying on the spot and the seventh victim dying upon admission at the hospital. The deceased included four children who were under four years. Upon my close analysis of this unfortunate incident, I would say if Kheshow had been taken to psychiatric hospital, maybe these killings could have been avoided. But due to the belief that any mental health problem is caused by spiritual forces therefore someone should be taken for prayers. I believe with the security and medical intervention, Kheshow wouldn’t have escaped. Mental health disturbances are now prevalent in Zimbabwe especially considering our current socio-economic challenges. Yes divine intervention is needed but at times people should be real and practical, go for medical assistance rather than being superstitious.
Some people are mentally warped to an extent of believing that having sexual intercourse with a disabled person will cure some diseases or exorcise them of certain evil spirits. Of late, there has been a wide spread of wrong information that if you have a sexual act with a disabled person or an albino you will be cured of HIV and AIDS. What a pathetic and horrible way of thinking. Currently there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Different institutions and other stakeholders are doing tremendous job in educating people on these myths associated with HIV/AIDS. These misguided elements in the society should be arrested for violating the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. This is a pure rape case with clear intent.
Some myths and stereotypes postulates that persons with disabilities are hosts of evil spirits because who ever want to get rid his or her bad spirit or luck or incurable disease much deposit it or dump it into a person with disability using various rituals. The most common one is having sexual intercourse with someone who has got genetic anomalies. A number of people with disabilities have been sexually abused. If there are some people who are still doing or contemplating doing it, please be warned that you are committing or about to commit a serious criminal offence.
In many parts of Zimbabwe, it is believed that the traditional healers or black magicians with the most dangerous traditional medicine must be someone with a form of visible and queer disability. This reminds me of a certain traditional healer from my rural area by the name Chikwedeya, he walked with the aid of a walking stick decorated with black and white colors because one of his legs was shorter than the other one, he had no front teeth, he rarely smiled, he was dark in complexion with dreadlocks, he stayed in musasa, he didn’t put on shoes or formal clothes but would wrap himself with black cloths. He didn’t use scented toiletries. He had no family or relatives, no one really knew where he came from. There were many conspiracy theories about his origins. Some people said he had come from Mozambique and some were saying he was born in Zimbabwe by Mozambican parents who left him when he was a young boy. Many people believed that he had super natural powers to heal any form of disease. Some people would travel long distances to seek his services. At one time there were skirmishes at his residence when one of his clients returned after three months demanding his refund because his child had not been healed from his mental health condition after being assured that within few days he will be fine. This incident triggered other people who claimed to have been duped by Chikwedeya to come forward and profess that they didn’t get value for their hard earned money or other resources they had given him for his services. My father who was the paramount chief then had to intervene and advised Chikwedeya to stop his suspicious services if he wanted to remain a resident of Sanyati. After few days he left our village and after that no one heard of him though some people were saying he committed suicide in Gokwe and others insisting he was alive and still practicing.
Such myths about people with disabilities have been difficult to remove from people’s minds especially for those who follow and practice African Traditional Religions. People need to be empowered and educated on some of the suspicious people like Chikwedeya. People need not take advantage of the least of these in society. Some people will not enter heaven for taking advantage of the least of these.
Some societies in Africa, Zimbabwe included still uphold the belief that persons with disabilities brings bad luck. With this kind of mentality, most people with disabilities are hidden away from the public. In trying to hid them from the public glare, they end up being chained on trees at the backyard or locked up in squalid environments. This is done so that the family with a member who has got genetic anomalies is not discriminated against or denied some social benefits. In hiding people with genetic anomalies, they are also denying them opportunities of social interactions and relationships which could result even in marriages. This kind of deformed mentality has resulted in children with disabilities not going to school thereby making their conditions worse. Even their development is affected by these kinds of myths. It is a stereotype, nothing suggests that a disabled person brings bad luck. I know a number of people with genetic anomalies who are leading fulfilling lives with functional families and am one of them as mentioned earlier on. People should embrace each other unconditionally.
There are some people who still believe that disability means inability. The truth of the matter is that disability doesn’t means inability. Many capable people with genetic anomalies have been denied employment opportunities because of this wrong understanding of thinking that disability means inability. I know a lot of people who have excelled in various disciplines despite their disability challenges. I have a speech impediment but I was employed by the following organizations, Public Service Commission, the Department of Immigration Control for thirteen years of which on daily basis l was dealing with people. For the past ten years l have been lecturing at Trust Academy in Collaboration with Midlands State University. My appreciation and gratitude to my former and current employer for taking me on board through the least of these as path to salvation. Above all, I am a powerful preacher of the Gospel. Recently Samuel Deme was appointed as the Zimbabwe’s first ever high court judge with visual impairment. What a milestone achievement for people with disabilities in Zimbabwe. In sports, there are a number of athletes who went to excel against all odds. Elliot Mujaji who is amputee brought home a gold medal from para Olympics tournament. Hardlife Zvirekwi, a soccer star player whose hand was amputated because of a road traffic accident but he is still playing soccer at the highest level. A general survey across the labour market shows that some employers are yet to fully embrace equal employment opportunities because the facilities at their work place do not accommodate people with disabilities. Some elevators are not operating implying that the employer is not even considering employing someone on a wheelchair or with difficulties in walking. Apart from that, what if one of your current employees or yourself as the boss gets disabled. Buildings are being constructed without facilities for the disabled like bathrooms and restrooms. Even ramps and parking bays for the disabled are not there on a number of common places. People should not be denied equal opportunities on employment because of disability.
Another serious misconception on disability is that every disability should be healed, as alluded on chapter 3 on Mephibosheth, not everyone is physically healed. Mephibosheth who was crippled on both legs, had divine encounter with King David but his legs were not healed though he was emotionally healed. Lee (2016) pointed out that the subject of healing and special needs is extremely sensitive among families impacted by disability. I totally agree with Lee, healing is a very sensitive issue amongst people with disabilities and those who are directly affected by disability. In Zimbabwe, most of the modern day prophets or church leaders are taking advantage of desperate and poverty stricken local people to cheat them of their hard earned resources in the name of healing and deliverance sessions. My point here to caution these false prophets and church leaders of the damage and disillusionment that result when families perceive an imbalanced focus on healing inside their faith communities. If someone doesn’t experience healing, these prophets or church leaders would exonerate themselves by apportioning the blame on receiver’s lack of faith. Of which at times, healing doesn’t necessarily depends on the receiver’s faith, a good example, is found on Mark 2, where Jesus healed a paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof by his four friends. No where in the narrative do we hear about this man’s faith but of his friends’ and their determination against all odds. Verse 5 says, “When Jesus saw their faith (friends’ faith), he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Because of this kind of deformed theology of thinking that faith should always precede healing, parents, care givers and persons with disabilities will question why their prayers were not successful and then blame themselves either subconsciously or consciously. People need to be aware that God has got his own ways of dealing with these disability issues which people can not know completely. The issue of healing should not be overemphasized because it results in people with disabilities and those who are directly affected by it in missing the opportunities to be unconditionally loved and embraced for exactly who they are. Like Mephibosheth, not everyone is meant to be healed physically but at times emotionally even socially and economically. I know a number of people with disabilities who are well off emotionally, socially and economically. Even apostle Paul comes to picture with the following verses in mind, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). There are many conspiracy theories about the thorn Paul had, some say he had a hump at the back, some say he had epileptic challenges and some say he walked with a limp. But despite his emotional appeal to Jesus, he wasn’t relieved of whatever he was suffering from. These false prophets and church leaders should be wary of this verse, “Cursed is anyone who leads the blind astray on the road.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deuteronomy 27:18).Many innocent people in Zimbabwe are being lead astray by some of these modern day prophets and surely they will miss it on the least of these as path to salvation. Its upon us the enlightened theologians to question some of these deformed theologies because if we remain quite, one day we will be accountable before God and probably miss it also on the least of these as path to salvation.
In conclusion, myths and stereotypes associated with disabilities are all unfounded. Every disability issue should be treated as a unique case that requires an individual understanding and intervention. Disability cases needs best fit approach not best practice approach. No size fits all when it comes to disability issues. People with genetic anomalies should not be shunned off and denied opportunities that are available for everyone. Its high time all stakeholders to do with disability issues be involved in awareness campaigns against all stigma associated with disabilities. It is my sincere hope and trust that this chapter has allayed some myths, stereotypes and fears linked with everything to do with disabilities. If this has been achieved then empowerment should be focused on both people with genetic anomalies and those directly affected with disabilities. The next chapter will talk more about empowerment.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free’ (Luke 4:18)
Without mental emancipation, long lasting and life transforming empowerment programs won’t be fully implemented – Cleopas Taguma Neuso
No matter what empowerment initiatives that may be initiated, as long as there is no mental emancipation, there won’t be any significant progress. Most programs and initiatives meant to help people with disabilities have dismally failed because some implementers adopt one size fits all approach or the best practice approach. This is a recipe for disaster. Every disability situation is unique, no matter how similar it may appear to other situations. No size fits all, the best fit approach should be adopted when coming up with empowerment initiatives for people with genetic anomalies. The context in which these empowerment programs will be implemented should be considered so that the programs will be tailor made. This chapter will be focusing on spiritual empowerment, economic empowerment, social empowerment, mental empowerment, how gifts and talents of people with disabilities are being overlooked, how people with genetic anomalies are viewed on what they can not do instead of what they can do, as well as community networks in Zimbabwe.
I mentioned earlier on that people with disabilities are generally left out of church activities, of which they are supposed to belong to their faith communities. The few or no numbers of people with genetic anomalies in faith communities will tell you the sad situation of their negligence. Faith communities should ensure that people with genetic anomalies are welcomed and belong so that they assume their valued roles, express their gifts, talents and strengths, champion their preferences, exercise their full participation. Spirituality can be expressed in many ways. This can be demonstrated through practical involvement in local church services in any capacity where the services of people with disabilities are needed and fully utilized. Faith and spiritual issues mean a lot to people with genetic anomalies. They really wish to be part and parcel of congregational church gatherings. Church leaders should play a key role in availing opportunities and support for people with disabilities to fully and meaningfully express themselves. Whenever people come up with initiatives for empowering people with disabilities they will be doing what Jesus declared here, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40). That way people with genetic anomalies are being empowered. The other church members should also be made aware of the presence of people with genetic anomalies and their value to the congregation and try as much as they can to make the welcoming, presence and inclusion of people with disabilities more comfortable.. The church environment should also be welcoming and accessible for people with disabilities.
In Zimbabwe more than 95% of the adult population is not formally employed. Informal trading is now the order of the day. There is so much intense pressure in the market to get hold of the few available resources. It’s a dog eat dog situation. It’s the survival of the fittest in Zimbabwe. With that kind of scenario, you can imagine how people with disabilities are grappling with the economic downturn situation in Zimbabwe. To make it worse, municipality police is always after the vendors who will be selling their wares on the streets for survival. Once you are caught as a vendor or informal trader you will be arrested and all your goods are confiscated. To avoid being arrested and goods being confiscated, informal traders without disabilities are now employing or abusing people with genetic anomalies as vendors in the streets so that when municipality police raid them, the municipality police will feel pity for persons with disabilities. Those people who are taking advantage of people with genetic anomalies are the ones who are being referred to by Jesus here, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew 25:41). The way you relate with people with genetic anomalies will determine your salvation. They are some people with genetic anomalies who are genuinely in the Zimbabwean streets and urban centers as vendors because they can’t get formal employment in the labour market due lack of proper qualifications or experience or lack of capabilities or employment opportunities or because of myths and stereotypes associated with people with genetic anomalies. People with disabilities need to be empowered against being used as cheap labor by other informal traders. Government and other stakeholders should come up with vocational training centers that are fully equipped to train and develop people with disabilities so that they can be employable, as well as giving capital or loans to people with genetic anomalies to start self generating projects for themselves instead of being beggars on the streets.
A number of people with disabilities are shunned off from the public environment and social activities. This exclusion has affected them negatively on their social interaction and interpersonal skills. Some of their relationships with significant others and extended families has broken. All this calls for social empowerment. People with genetic anomalies can not be integrated into the society without first boosting their self confidence and working on social belonging aspects. People with disabilities have been made to believe that they are second or third class citizens who offer nothing to the society, who doesn’t add any value, they are a charity case, they are there to receive handouts. That’s the mentality which Mephibosheth exhibited when King David called him for luncheon at his palace, here is his response, Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:8). People with disabilities need to be embraced unconditionally and regarded as any other person within the society. No matter the genetic anomalies, this verse still applies to everyone, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalms 139:14). Tabgha Foundation emphasizes equality of everyone before God when it shares life with the less privileged and vulnerable people in society. As mentioned on the previous chapter, in some African societies disability is associated with witchcraft. In Zimbabwe it is a criminal offence to label someone a witch. Chances are high that in some families, relations have been strained or broken because of these allegations and accusations hence there is need for people like pastors, individuals and organizations that advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to intervene and try to make relationships right. By so doing we are socially empowering the concerned parties. Tabgha banquets are also another way of socially empowering the less privileged and vulnerable people in the society. Currently I am counseling a certain family that has been counter accusing each other on why one of the family members is mentally retarded. In Chapter one I mentioned that baba Keith ran away after falsely accusing Mai Keith that she is responsible for their son’s genetic anomalies.
Mental empowerment is another area that needs to be worked on before we talk about people with disabilities embarking on some tangible projects or activities in the society. Cultural beliefs engrained some negative connotations about disability in the mind of people with genetic anomalies that need to be worked on. No matter how much advocacy efforts are being exerted towards the integration of people with disabilities into the society without mental emancipation or empowerment, all efforts will come to naught. When I am helping and counseling people with genetic anomalies I often quote the following verse, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). In shona we say chidembo tamba tamba muswe ndaka bata (no matter how much a skunk bear tries to run away it won’t because am holding its tail), implying that as long the mind of an individual is taken hold don’t expect any meaningful progress. One common belief about people with genetic anomalies is that they are not complete human beings or they are a host of some bad spirits of which that’s a totally wrong mentality based on myths and stereotypes. The best way of dealing with mental empowerment is to first train people with disabilities on their areas of passion and interest. After performance training, opportunities and support should be availed to people with disabilities. Mistakes should be taken as learning experience. Once they prove that disability doesn’t mean inability they would then have been mentally empowered.
Many people with genetic anomalies are under-utilized in the church and in the secular world. A lot of gifts and talents are left untapped simply because people rarely take their time to assess and nurture people with disabilities’ gifts and talents. In our church there is a 39 year old man with both physical and psychiatric disabilities. The man is deaf and dumb. His mom would always come with him to church and leave him outside in the car. Then one day l asked her why she was doing that, her response was that she is not comfortable with people’s glares on her son and also that the son may disturb the Sunday service because of his sounds. I assured her that l will do my level best to make the congregation receptive and welcoming to people with genetic anomalies first before bringing her son to church. After few weeks she brought him in the church and at first he appeared not to be interested with what the congregants were doing. At times he would walk out during the service. I told the ushers not to stop him but to ensure his safety when outside. Gradually he started to enjoy the church services by joining in the praise and worship through clapping hands and dancing. Then one day I asked the ushers to involve him in welcoming the visitors, initially he was a bit reluctant but as times went on he started to enjoy it. He is now part of the welcoming team. What a value addition to our worship service. How many gifts and talents that are going unnoticed within the church and outside there within people with genetic anomalies.
Earlier on l mentioned some sports persons with disabilities who went on to defy odds and bring medals home. There is also a cricket commentator who is blind in Zimbabwe by the name Dean Du Plessis. He is the world’s first visually impaired cricket commentator to participate in international matches. In Zimbabwe we had the late Paul Matavire a musician who was visually impaired. He produced many hit songs and albums.
Once people with genetic anomalies are accepted unconditionally and regarded as part of us not as others they can freely express themselves. In so doing their gifts and talents can be identified and natured accordingly. Once gifts and talents have been identified, church leaders should provide opportunities and support for these to flourish. The Zimbabwean government and private organizations should develop sports facilities for people with disabilities. In so doing they are empowering people with genetic anomalies. Currently there are a few of such facilities in Harare such as Danhiko and Richwood.
People tends to view people with disabilities on what they cannot do instead of focusing on what they can do. I have realized that some people are too impatient with the development of people with genetic anomalies. People without disabilities want people with disabilities to operate at the same pace of which it doesn’t operate that way. People tends to focus on the negativity instead of positivity. There is something good deposited in people with disabilities and that’s what people have to extract and cherish on. Moses is a good example of someone who focused on what he couldn’t do, that is eloquence, Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Moses had a disabling speech impediment and God didn’t focus on that but on his leadership skills. God also gave him Aaron, his brother to assist on speech delivery and later on Hur, When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. (Exodus 17:12). This shows that at times there is a need for teamwork to leverage on our gifts and talents. God’s response to Moses should be an empowering tool to whoever want to give an excuse because of disability, The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:11-12). God here is taking responsibility for the disabilities. This is a startling response that we must accept and learn from it. In fact its an empowering statement to whoever may be thinking that disability means inability. In our weaknesses the Holy Spirit will help us.
Levine (2019) says, “a close reading of the initial depictions of Yosef (Joseph) and his interactions with his brothers and his father reveals a number of characteristics common to a child on the autism spectrum.” Joseph emerges as a more familiar and less enigmatic individual, exhibiting both strengths and weaknesses commonly associated with autism spectrum disorder. If you check closely all people who interacted later on with Joseph like Potiphar and Pharaoh, they didn’t focused on his weaknesses but on his strengths and leadership competences thereby leveraging on the least of these as path to salvation. Empowerment could be easily implemented if only people could focus on the strengths and positivity side of people with genetic anomalies. Joseph’s thoughtful, gracious, and heartfelt response to his brothers “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20), may offer a message of optimism for individuals on the autism spectrum, their families and their friends. People with disabilities can only do their best if significant others views them on what they can do, not the other way around.
Empowerment can be enhanced through coming up with community networks. The community network can be comprised of individual congregations, organizations of like mind, groups, and individuals. These stakeholders which constitutes community networks are rich of opportunities, resources, support, strategies, and relationships which are rarely utilized or taken advantage of. Community networks need to tap on these rich unrecognized resources for the empowerment and development of people with genetic anomalies. Many of these stakeholders remain underutilized because there is no awareness or publicity about their existence or availability. People need to be made aware of these rich unrecognized resources which have great potential to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. Many times we cry for lack of opportunities and support when it is within our communities or near us.
In conclusion, now that people are empowered, there is a serious need for self efficacy. There is a need for projects, to move out of comfort zones, to get employed. People with disabilities and those directly affected by disability need to scale the walls and rip off the roofs and access what belongs to them. The next chapter titled Its people who makes a difference not the programs will explain how people with genetic anomalies and those who take care of them should be aggressive and bring change to themselves instead of waiting for the programs.
Its people who makes a difference not the programs
Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (Mark 2:3-4)
The greatest tragedy is not to live and die, as we all must. The greatest tragedy is for a person to live and die without knowing the satisfaction of giving life for others – Cesar Chavez
Now that programs have been put in place through empowerment initiatives, there is now a serious need to walk the talk. We don’t need a program to reach out to people with genetic anomalies, we need a new practical approach that makes a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. This chapter is emphasizing action on both people without disabilities and persons with disabilities. Zimbabweans are good at strategizing or planning but when it comes to implementation they are found wanting. Few months ago I preached from the central verse of this chapter mentioned above, whereby four men (friends) brought their palsy friend to Jesus. My sermon was tilted, “Its people who can bring change not programs.” These four friends l gave them the following names, Compassion, Love, Determination/Will, and Faith. We need these types of friends in our communities if ever we want to see a difference or change amongst people with genetic anomalies or those who are directly affected by disability. The change I am advocating here can be brought by people with disabilities themselves or anyone who has got interest in disabilities issues. The church should be at the forefront of participating in God’s ongoing redemptive mission. These four friends clearly demonstrated the least of these as path to salvation declaration. Just imagine if these four men had remained indifferent to the situation of their friend in need, was there ever going to be a change or difference in his life.
To a greater extent I am focusing on four friends of a crippled man who brought change to him. I will first expound on his friend by the name Love. Friendship, is a missional Christian practice that follows the example of Jesus, who was a friend of the social outcasts such as lepers, tax-collectors, and sinners. During Jesus’ time, like ours, people with disabilities were labeled based on their conditions and sidelined. How did Jesus liberated these marginalized people from these deformed mentality and restore them to the community? It was through friendship. He loved these people unconditionally. Friendship takes the general idea of love and embodies it. Friendship is the form that love takes. If ever there is to be genuine and long lasting change on someone with disability there has to be a friend who loves you wholeheartedly despite your condition. The crippled man from Mark 2 vs1-5 whom l have referred to as Love knew that God’s love is not pampering but its perfecting. He wanted his friend to be perfected by Jesus. This friend had this very thought. Love is action. Love is not love until you give it away. How many things are you holding on to and not giving away to the need. This friend gave away his time and resources to carry his friend with disabilities to Jesus for spiritual and physical restoration. In Zimbabwe, people with disabilities are living in abject poverty, while some people are living luxuriously. Tokens of love towards people with genetic anomalies does not have to be big. These tokens will make a great difference on the recipients. It just needs someone with love to know the priorities when it comes to resources planning and management. On my last sermon before this chapter l reprimanded the church treasurer for wasting money on temporary things that do not glorify God. Some modern day churches are preoccupied with impressing the church leaders instead of God through missional activities like channeling resources towards the least amongst us. How many people out there in Zimbabwe are going on in their lives without food, water, clothes and shelter. Surely I believe Love was an embodiment of the least of these as path to salvation. At the end of Mark 2 vs1-5 narrative, look at how a friend by the name Love brought total transformation to his crippled friend. That’s the friendship that should be exhibited by the Christians. At my local church, we say our hallmark is love, I really wonder whether this is a reality or just a lip service.
The next friend of the palsy man is called Compassion. Compassion saw a friend in need not only that but knew that he could help him to get better. Don’t limit help to your self only. Not getting help by himself but through Jesus. The following verse clearly demonstrate this, “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalms 86:15). How many people within your circle need help? Are you compassionate towards the less privileged and vulnerable people? And you are turning a blind eye to the needy. Apostle Peter has emphasized the issue of compassion, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8). We need people who are concerned with the needs of others for change to happen. In Zimbabwe, most people are self-centered, individualism has creeped in hence so many beggars on the streets. Like mentioned in chapter three, some individuals and organizations are taking advantage of the less privileged and vulnerable people instead of being compassionate. As the founder of Tabgha Foundation l have taken it upon myself not to fall in the same trap of these unscrupulous organizations. Right now Tabgha Foundation is mobilizing the resources to come up with food hampers to share with its beneficiaries as part of Christmas gifts otherwise it will be a gloomy festive season for its members. Wilson and Keith still needs wheelchairs. Just like Jesus, I can’t remain unmoved and indifferent towards the members of Tabgha Foundation and who are in need hence my concerted effort to ensure that we make a difference in their lives through our various intervention initiatives. There has to be Compassionate amongst the friends of a person with genetic anomalies. I have seen a number of charitable organizations failing to have an impact in societies because of lack of compassion. One thing that people with genetic anomalies can easily pick out is help extended towards them without compassion, once that has been picked up then be assured that your efforts won’t make any difference.
The other friend of the crippled man was Determination/Will. Determination/Will, this friend was determined to carry his quadriplegic friend no matter what. He encouraged his other four friends to press on, no matter the challenges they faced on the way to an extend of ripping off the roof. They didn’t concentrate on the load they were carrying but the end goal (Jesus Christ). I wish all people with genetic anomalies had a friend like Determination whose ultimate goal is to make sure that his friend is perfected by the love of Jesus. Chances are high that this crippled man messed up himself along the way but his friends did not give up on him. The crippled man was an adult who could have been big but they didn’t give up because of the load. How many things have you given up because of the load? How many times have you missed on the least of these as path to salvation because of the load? From my personal experience of staying and relating with people with disabilities, its not easy staying with them. It needs someone who is determined. People with disabilities experience mood swings so often. They can be temperamental. They can be difficult to handle at times. There were times we had to carry around my mother, uncle John, and Merenzia. It wasn’t easy considering that both my mom and my sister were big in stature. Our vehicles and our houses were not structurally designed for people with disabilities and that would result in them being frustrated and snapping at us. In all this like Determination and his crippled friend, we didn’t give up on my mom, uncle John, and Merenzia until they all passed on. I believe as a family we made a great difference in their lives by our presence and support. Without determination, there is no way you can bring change to people with disabilities. In Zimbabwe, things are bad due to economic downturn situation, therefore it needs someone who is determined to scale the walls of human obstacles and rip off the roofs to access the salvation that has been reserved for those who are determined to do something for the least of these as path to salvation. Yes programs and services for people with disabilities can be lined up but its not a stroll in the park considering the Zimbabwean socio-economic challenges. Determination and will should be the driving force behind these programs.
The last friend goes by the name Faith. Faith, this friend had an amazing faith because he believed in Jesus. When they lowered the palsy, Jesus saw their faith (verse 5). I believe the paralyzed friend including Compassion, Love and Will caught the faith of Faith. Faith (believing in the unseen things) can be caught and its contagious as shown here, “That is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12). How many people have you transformed through your faith. When God gave me the vision and mission to establish Tabgha Foundation, I was in serious financial challenges but after praying about it and having faith in God, I went ahead and launched the Foundation on the 23rd of December 2017. The Foundation started with eleven beneficiaries but currently it has got thirty-five beneficiaries. Many lives have been significantly transformed. From the narrative on Mark 2 vs1-5, Jesus saw their faith meaning that faith can be seen. Faith without works is dead. Bring change through faith that can be seen and touched. Faith is all about attempting things that you know failure is guaranteed unless God intervenes. That’s what I did exactly with Tabgha Foundation, I didn’t focus on the load that was at hand but at Jesus and the change he wanted to bring through me.God as the Source will definitely raise the right resources for his missional activities to be carried towards the less privileged and vulnerable people in society but be prepared to use and sacrifice your own resources. Its not about having a lot of resources to start philanthropic activities but going with the tagline of Tabgha Foundation which says, “little is much when God is in it.”
If ever we want to make a big difference on the lives of people with genetic anomalies, those who take care of people with disabilities need also to avoid running after programs to do with disabilities. Programs are needed but as mentioned in the previous chapter, programs are there to compliment the efforts of people. Care givers should be aware of the fact that they are the ones who are directly affected by disability so they should be on the forefront of championing self-reliance on people with genetic anomalies. Service providers and care givers should be made aware that its them who improves the quality of life for genetic anomalies. Outside help can be availed and friends can make a difference but care givers or the parents should first put an effort to make a difference through accepting that disability within the family can be there for life. Having accepted that, efforts to make a difference should be made. I advised Mai Wilson to take advantage of Wilson’s basic education so that he can be a cashier in their tuck-shop instead of having him indoor always. Now that Wilson is visible and outside, a couple of times I have seen him playing games like draft picks and of late he is learning how to play chess with boys from his street. Making a difference on people with genetic anomalies start with parents and immediate family members before outsiders.
The difference on this quadriplegic was brought through his cooperation. For a difference to happen in the lives of persons with disabilities, there is a need for them to compliment the efforts of Love, Compassionate, Will and Faith. Teamwork is very important. Just imagine if this crippled man didn’t cooperate with his four friends, no change would have happened to him. I don’t how much they convinced him that his situation will be transformed by Jesus. Like I alluded earlier on that without mental emancipation and empowerment its difficult to talk about change.
It is my sincere prayer that this book will mentally emancipate and empower someone in Zimbabwe against the background of myths and stereotypes associated with people with genetic anomalies so that they scale walls and rip off roofs to start their entrepreneurial ventures. Business opportunities are there in Zimbabwe just like the air we breath. It just needs someone with big eyes to see them, big nose to smell them, big ears to hear them but small mouth to minimize talking without action. Once people with or without disabilities are mentally emancipated and empowered, there is nothing that can stop them from having self efficacy. Once people with genetic anomalies believes in themselves they can participate in the business world and church like any other person. I know a number of people with disabilities who have been liberated by the Word of God and other initiatives mentioned earlier on, who went to do great exploits as mentioned by one of my favorite verses, “Those who know their God will do great exploits” (Daniel 11;32b). From the previous chapters I mentioned a number of people in Zimbabwe who excelled despite their physical and psychiatric disabilities. Its high time, people with genetic anomalies access opportunities just like any other Zimbabwean. A word of advice to people with disabilities, don’t be ordinary in your entrepreneurial ventures, be creative and innovative. Be professional on your operations. Let no people support your business out of sympathy or pity but good business management. Add value in the business market and meet customer needs accordingly.
People with disabilities and those directly affected should leverage on the community networks. Without the help of other stakeholders, making a difference in the lives of people with genetic anomalies is virtually impossible. The importance of creating a community network can’t be overstated or emphasized enough if you want to make a difference in the ministry of special needs. Communities are a manifestation of the need to belong. Without dependence upon one another, we can not develop, grow and make a difference in each other’s life. Transforming the dreams of people with disabilities into realities sometimes requires an interconnected web of support emerging from a network of sources within a community. Many times due to lack of knowledge on community networks, many resources and capabilities are not fully utilized for the benefit of people with genetic anomalies. Efforts to improve quality of life for people with disabilities can be made if we take advantage of our resources. Tabgha Foundation has linked up with some companies and individuals so that we can make a difference in lives of the less privileged and vulnerable people in our society. The food hampers, sanitary pads, clothes and stuff that we share with the marginalized people is complemented by other stakeholders who have embraced our vision and mission. Some gifts and talents of people with genetic anomalies can be fully expressed outside the church if only we can channel or direct them to community networks that may require them. The church is also another key stakeholder in the community network. These opportunities can’t be known if the leader of a church or an organization is not connected. Many times churches and organizations are closed and isolated from other stakeholders thereby missing on making a difference in the lives of people with genetic anomalies and possibly on the least of these as path to salvation. There is a serious need for synergizing or else there will be systems disintegration within those closed and isolated entities.
We need good Samaritans in communities. We have got broken people within us. These broken people within us are in need of a good neighbor who will go out of his way to make a difference in the life of a wounded and broken friend. Jesus urged us to observe the following, He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’s ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27). If this verse is observed in sincerity as told to the expert of law then we can be guaranteed of eternal life. It all about doing the least of these as path to salvation. From the narrative, the priest (who represents the church) didn’t even bother to help a robbed and wounded man. A Levite (who represents church leaders) didn’t also bother to help the fallen and broken man. It was only the Samaritan who had compassion and mercy and had to go out of his way to make a difference in the life of this broken and wounded man. These are the kind of neighbors whom we want in the communities not the ones who look the other side when they see a friend in need. What was portrayed by the priest and Levite is exactly what the modern day church is doing.
In conclusion, brilliant programs, institutions and strategies can be put in place but that doesn’t translate into action or making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Someone has to ensure that all things are implemented and monitored to bring change to the needy. We need friends who are compassionate, with love, determination and have got faith to make a difference in the lives of the weak and broken people. The broken and weak should be willing to embrace change and be helped. Community networks are a crucial aspect of change. Good Samaritans are the good neighbors that are needed in our fallen and broken world. No matter how the situation may appear to be difficult to make a difference be assured that God’s grace is sufficient. The next topic discusses about God’s grace being sufficient for us in our brokenness.
God’s grace is sufficient for us
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
God will often permit what he hates to accomplish something richer, deeper and more eternally rewarding than an “escape” from a wheelchair – Joni Eareckson Tada
All people that are directly affected by disability must come to terms with their own brokenness and with the strength of God’s grace. This chapter is not about trivializing disability by projecting disabled persons as poor needy beggars, “the least of these,” essentially helpless people in need of grace. The chapter is there to show that broken people should depend on God’s grace rather than their own strength. For it is in inability that God’s saving presence is made real. Some of the cases that will be brought to light include that of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” Moses’ speech impediment, Veronica (the bleeding woman), Mephibosheth, Joseph’s autism. By no means does this romanticize suffering or downplay disability by somehow making it redemptive. Rather, this chapter should take us to the amazing character of God’s healing presence in human life. Its all about acknowledging our brokenness and dependence upon God’s ability and grace. The church’s spiritual worldview must be grounded upon an understanding of our weakness in sync with a much deeper understanding of the sufficiency of grace.
The first case of the sufficiency of God’s grace to be looked at is that of apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12 vs7-10). Paul admits that his weakness, his disability, a thorn in the flesh is an opportunity for God’s saving power to manifest and become complete in him. Like I mentioned in the introduction of this chapter, this is not trivializing disability but to bring forth genetic anomalies as a conduit for blessings and manifestation of God’s grace. Grace assumes that admitting your brokenness and weakness to suffering results in humility and reliance upon God There is an important issue that l want to bring out considering Paul’s stature and prominence in the Kingdom of God. Paul was not healed. Paul was not cured but that didn’t stop him from doing great exploits because he knew that in his weakness God’s grace was sufficient. Disability is not inability. In Zimbabwe some people with genetic anomalies have been made to believe that suffering or pain is a divinely designed way to sanctification of which that’s totally wrong. Zimbabwe has got so many called ministries that have been making a lot of noise about healing and deliverance. Like I alluded earlier on that not every disability is supposed to be healed. You don’t have to be fully restored or healed to have life in abundance as mentioned by John 10vs10. Life in abundance is not about removing impairments so that you can be active in the kingdom of God. Jesus’ ministry was characterized by people with infirmities or social outcasts thereby welcoming and including those who were once alienated. The person with disabilities are made complete by being accepted and embraced as they are, loved by God. As believers we should do likewise.
When God called Moses to lead Israelites out of Egypt, he did not cure or eliminate his speech impediment. God provided Moses with provisions that proved trust in God’s faithfulness and providence (Exodus 4vs10-17). Like I mentioned in the introduction of this book that I have a speech impediment but like Moses l have come to realize that the source of our ability doesn’t come from our own strength and wisdom, “but in the power of God” as pointed in following verses, “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. … I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:1,3-5). God’s grace and power is more demonstrated in our weaknesses. Whenever I am given an opportunity to preach or speak to people I make sure that I emphasize that there is no shame or embarrassment in weakness, no need to shun away from vulnerability and pretend to be strong, pretending to be somebody. I always tell people to be themselves and be natural. We are created for a divine purpose and its up to us with genetic anomalies to show that we are equal members of God’s kingdom who can equally contribute positively to its advancement.
We are saved by grace through faith. This correlation of knowing that we are saved by grace through faith was demonstrated in the Bible by Veronica, a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years and Bartimaeus a blind beggar. Veronica had become a social outcast and secluded person. I believe no one wanted to be close to her because of the strong bad smell that was coming from her. When Veronica and Bartimaeus got wind of Jesus’ presence and knowing that if we could be in his presence then our lives won’t be the same again, they defied all human resistance to access God’s redemptive and reconciling grace. These two narratives shifts the attention or focus from Jesus but to those being healed. The story of Veronica and Bartimaeus demonstrates that not by their might power or wisdom that they accessed Jesus but rather by the devout acknowledgement of their need for grace. In Zimbabwe, I wish people could be aware that real and sincere deliverance comes from Jesus not from so called modern day prophets. What needs to be emphasized here is that the predominant issue is not so much of the physical healing or removal of impairments or illnesses but the personal transformation that takes place in the presence of Jesus. Veronica said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” (Matthew 9:21). That’s the self-belief that should be oozing out of people with disabilities or those who are marginalized. People need to understand and embrace priesthood of all believers especially Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans seem to be lazy to pray directly to God through Jesus. They would want take their infirmities to a “man of God” or “Papa” (modern day prophet). Zimbabweans are so obsessed with the microwave gospel where they chant, “I receive papa.” The spirit of indolence needs to be strongly dealt with amongst Zimbabweans.
The other narrative that clearly demonstrated the sufficiency of God’s grace is that of Mephibosheth’s encounter with King David. As mentioned in chapter two, David serves as a type of Christ. David is prefiguring the Messiah. Mephibosheth who was crippled on both legs, was a nobody a resident of Lo Dabar (no thing). That’s the current status of most people with genetic anomalies in Zimbabwe. They’re treated as second class citizens. No one bothers about them. Most of them have resigned to their unfulfilling situations. From this narrative, David demonstrates a divine amazement to all sundry by applying Matthew 25 declaration. This was applied when David called Mephibosheth for luncheon at his palace and that’s exactly what Jesus is demanding his followers to do. Once we do that we will discover our deficiencies and need for grace just like Mephibosheth. As mentioned in this book, Tabgha Foundation has come up with Tabgha luncheons which are modelled from 2 Samuel 9 and Luke 14. Three times in 2 Samuel 9, the word always appears that Mephibosheth would eat always at the king’s table. What an awesome honor for the one who once regarded himself as a dog. The social outcast. The rejected became the selected. The narrative doesn’t mentioned that Mephibosheth was healed but that he always ate at high table and he relocated to Jerusalem. The encounter of Mephibosheth and David shows that despite our status or condition we don’t earn our inclusion and welcome at the high table or do we retain it through our efforts but by Jesus’ own decision, declaration, and promise as per his own word. We just have to repent of our self-reliance and trust in his redemptive and reconciling grace. All of us who have been saved by grace through faith we just need to go to his table with our deficiencies and infirmities to experience the fulfilling grace that assist in our time of need. I just wish if those with disabilities and those without could master this understanding especially those without so that they don’t miss on the least of these as path to salvation. Even those who could be in Mephibosheth’s situation if they could understand that its all by God’s grace they wouldn’t then miss some opportunities that would make a difference in their lives.
Joseph’s narrative also exhibits that God’s grace is always sufficient for us. When I think of what Joseph went through, the following verse which is frequently quoted but least exercised comes to mind, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). If believers could surely believe in this verse, they would then rest in peace in the midst of challenging and painful encounters of life such as having disabilities. Good being mentioned here is not good as in absolute sense but as in ultimate sense for us believers. In the fallenness of this world, God will bring ultimate goodness. Levine (2019) pointed out that Joseph had common signs of autism spectrum which included social challenges, punctuated by an inability to read social cues, understand and anticipate the feelings and reactions of others, and navigate social settings, attachment to animals and so forth, but by God’s grace he went on to become the governor of Egypt. The text attributes Yosef’s sudden and substantial success entirely to God’s graces, without describing any specific words, actions, or skills on Yosef’s part that might have played a role in helping him achieve his success. The following verse attest to God’s grace, “the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (Genesis 39:21). Joseph was ostracized and marginalized by the sons of Leah, leading him to seek the companionship of his less prominent brothers but all that didn’t stop him realizing his growth and potential. Levine went on to say that like many on the spectrum, having been provided with the necessary assistance and professional supports, Yosef largely learned to manage and channel his deficits, and to focus on his strengths and abilities, in so doing, he has achieved remarkable success. As previously noted by Beates (2012) that God creates some people with genetic anomalies simply for the sake of his glory, this verse alludes to it, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”(Genesis 50:20). The important thing is that Joseph wasn’t cured of his suspected autism spectrum but God’s glory was still witnessed. Joseph’s heartfelt response to his brothers and ultimate success should offer hope and optimism for individuals and families who are directly affected by any form of genetic anomalies. I hope my fellow Zimbabweans who will read this book will be encouraged and transformed by Joseph’s story.
In conclusion, people with disabilities do not exhibit a lack of wholeness, an absence of something that taints negatively the image of God. Every person was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God even if is expressed differently. As I have been emphasizing through this book, disability doesn’t mean incomplete, unequal, failure, sinner or any other myths and stereotypes associated with people with genetic anomalies. Again not every disability is meant to be physically cured or healed. Jesus didn’t cure or heal everyone in the places he visited. The church should be on the forefront of championing the sufficiency of God’s grace. The church should play a leading role in striving and preaching Matthew 25 declaration and Luke 14 mandate. The people of God much proclaim that we are all broken and weak before God but his grace is deep and strong. The gospel of Jesus is strong and sufficient for us in our brokenness and weaknesses.
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