Churches Inc in Kenya 2018: 1
Kerry and Trevor from the UK, plus Pastor Shadrack from Tanzania and Pastor Davis - the host and teacher - are hard at work in Elburgon, Kenya for Churches Inc from the 7th to the 17th February. They'll be sending back updates and stories from the trip as often as time and internet connections allow. Here's their first post, covering the first few days of the trip....
We thank God for our safe arrival in Elburgon. At every stage of the journey, the team prayed and thanked God for protection. This is not a small issue as we were later told that road accidents are one of the biggest causes of physical disability in Kenya. We were privileged on the journey to get to know Pastor Davis, our host. There is a verse that ‘out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks’. The overflow of Pastor Davis’ heart are such things as abiding in Christ, listening to his voice constantly, serving God and not men, and looking for what God is doing in every situation. The other subject that is constantly coming out of Pastor Davis is how best to serve people with disabilities in Kenya.
The day we were travelling to Elburgon, they held a funeral for one of the children with disabilities from the centre - a sobering reminder of the difficult realities people are facing here. The centre was initially started in response to the death of two children with disabilities. One child was locked in the house due to disability and died of pneumonia; the other was left in the kitchen and fell on the fire.
The first aim of the centre was to provide a safe space so that children would not be left unsupervised while their parents are looking for work to survive. In this room, 10 children take turns to come each day with a parent to care for them, while the others are working.
The centre is a base for all kinds of support for people in this rural area that is remote from many services. For instance, they can arrange for a doctor or physiotherapist to visit the children when it would be too expensive for parents to take their children to the hospital for assessment. The hospital also provides nutrition supplements to children who are malnourished.
Today, we held our first Leader’s seminar.
This was a special opportunity because Ps. Davis invited the District Commissioner for Nakuru county, who gave his blessing to the aim of the training saying, ‘the government is also concerned that people with disabilities are recognised as part of the constitution of this country’.
There was a balanced tribal representation of divisional chiefs, community leaders, pastors and leaders of disability groups across the entire region. Thus, there was a sense of a large cross-section of the community being represented through whom Pastor Davis hopes to reach more people with disabilities who are hidden away. In fact, after training, one participant asked if Ps. Davis would come to his area where many people are still hidden.
Trevor was delighted to meet Smati at the event as her smiles and laughter reminded him a lot of his own daughter, Ellen. Smati’s mother shared how she developed cerebral palsy in childhood and said, ‘I thank God for her life because through this child - many people came together. Even feeding her through tubes and giving oxygen and she came back to life. When I see her now, I see God. When I see the way she is, I see her as my wealth. I know God has a purpose for this that I may reach out to others so that they will love their children with disabilities’.
When Smati heard we were doing training workshops, she insisted she wanted to come everywhere with us. Smati was carried into the workshop by her mother. She received a wheelchair at a Wheels distribution but we are finding many people use their chairs around the home because they will be too damaged if they are used on the rough roads. Pastor Davis picks up Smati every Sunday so that she is able to come to church.
We were given some statistics by the National chairman of the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya, Fredrick Owako. He told us that there 5.4 million people known to have disabilities in Kenya. However, it is not possible to determine the real number because people are still hiding their relatives out of shame.
A key message throughout the day was telling the leaders to get people to obtain a registration card from the government that enables them to receive some support. It was very encouraging to see Kenyans coming up with solutions for each other.
For example, one mother asked the chairman about her child who has spina bifida and has been attending a mainstream primary school, however the secondary schools are refusing to take him. He says he would rather not go at all than go to a special school. The chairman acknowledged that special schools should only be for those with severe disabilities. He shared how he had taken a school to court for refusing to take a child with disabilities, which is against their own laws. This same child has just completed their exams with a C+ and the school has been required to take another student who is blind. The chairman was able to tell this mother how to appeal if a school is refusing. The chairman is personally passionate because he was born with polio but his parents fully supported him to study.
Our message from Through the Roof was very focused on tackling cultural beliefs in the light of Biblical truth. Both Trevor and I (Kerry) wanted to share very openly about how disability has affected our own families and how we see the glory of God displayed even through apparent weakness and struggles. Later on, one of the chiefs asked Pastor Davis if he could have a wheelchair for his mother. Pastor Davis never knew that this man had this need so he felt confident to share today for the first time. We felt that the theme of this day has been bringing what is ‘hidden’ into the light. As we openly discussed disability, it allows others to no longer see it as taboo.