My Story: Manasseh Mwangi

I still remember the first day I heard his story. As I read, I sat at my desk and cried. His story and photos stirred something in me, and I found myself longing to somehow help him.

 
You see, Manasseh is a seven year old boy who was born with spinal bifida. This condition is so severe that he has no use of his legs. Along with other health complications, Manasseh is unable to run or jump or play. And living in Kenya, he has limited access to medical care or therapy.

When I first read his story, I heard it as one full of sadness and brokenness- a reminder that things are not as they should be.

But as soon as I walk into his home later that same year, it becomes obvious that his story is not desperately sad. Rather, it is one of hope and of redemption:

 

The Reality

The challenges are many for a family whose child is born with special needs, and even more so in Kenya. Apart from isolation and lack of support from the community, families experience a chaos that comes from within. Oftentimes, fathers will claim that they could have never produced such a child and accuse their wives of becoming pregnant from another man.

And so, mothers begin to care for their disabled children alone, lacking their husband’s emotional support if not also their financial contributions. The costs for medical care is high, and many indigenous belief systems deny modern medicine as a credible venue to healing. Even if the child receives the care he needs, the parents’ understanding of their child’s condition still remains hazy at best. Many times, caretakers are not educated on the realities that their child with disabilities will face nor are they taught much about the causes or the cures available.

Support from others is sporadic at best. Different ministries and individuals may be moved to offer assistance for a time, but their compassion and concern eventually wanes. And families are forced to watch many well-meaning supporters come and go with little consistency.

These factors compounded together create feelings of isolation and helplessness for both mother and child. To be alone with these challenges is certainly a frightening thing.
 

The Question

Much of this story was a reality for Manasseh and his mother. Lack of support from family and community along with the inconsistency of well-meaning donors has made them skeptical of anyone who shows concern.

Manasseh is paralyzed from the waist down. He spends most of his days on the couch in his home since a wheelchair hasn’t been readily accessible for him. He used to attend a preschool just down the road, but his growing respiratory challenges have made this no longer possible.

Even in the face of these difficulties, Manasseh’s buoyant spirit and quick laughter are sustained. His joy in spite of his circumstances is inspiring at the very least.

Manasseh loves to watch soccer (or football), and he keeps a soccer ball sitting beside him throughout the day. As he holds the ball, he looks up innocently and asks, “Why don’t my legs work? Why can’t I kick this ball?” 
 

The Hope

There aren’t many good answers to this question- not for Manasseh and not for us. We look around at all the things in the world that “aren’t working”, and we wonder why. Christ has promised us that He is making all things new, but for now we are left with the tension of living in a broken world.

Since Manasseh has joined the OVC Kenya program, his life has taken some significant changes. He and his mother know that we are committed to their cause; we aren’t going anywhere. We are pursuing answers and solutions for their family so that they can live as normally as possible.

Manasseh has recently started occupational therapy through the monthly gifts of his advocates. He has a tutor that comes to his home a few days each week to work with him. He has been fitted for a new wheelchair that will improve his posture and strengthen his upper body.

Manasseh is experiencing hope. His mother feels the support of a community that cares about her well-being and about the development of her son. Local leadership of OVC Kenya visits their home regularly. This hope of a better life for Manasseh reminds us of a greater Hope we all share. For both us and Manasseh’s family, this life is not easy. But we have a God who has come to us in our brokenness and has redeemed us.

The now and not yet of our salvation is highlighted in stories like Manasseh’s. The love of Christ is demonstrated through the church’s care for the least of these. When I think of Manasseh and his story, I no longer cry; I smile. I smile because I know he feels loved. I smile because God has given him the gift of joy. I smile because my heart is reminded of our Heavenly Father and of His work in this world.

-Megan Gaminde

OVC Kenya is a partnership ministry focused on caring for orphans and vulnerable children in Kenya. Through monthly gifts, these children receive schooling and care through their local church. We value the unique needs of each individual child, which means that stories like Manasseh’s receive specialized assessment and care. OVC Kenya is committed to a long-term partnership with these children and their churches in order to bring about generational change in Kenya and around the world. 

For more information, visit our webpage or follow us on Facebook.


read more

HOC Day Volunteers

In just a few short weeks, thousands of volunteers from across the Upstate will join together to serve their communities. As a church, we want the individuals and groups of our body to be key contributors to this community event.

It’s not put on by Grace Church; it wasn’t even our idea. But for us, it’s a priority. If Hands On Community Day isn’t already on your calendar, here are a few reasons why it should be:

1. We live here.

Whether you’ve only lived in the Upstate for a few months, or you’ve been here your whole life, this is your home. In Jeremiah 29, God commands the exiled Israelites to own the cause of their city, Babylon, in such a way that the city is made better by their presence. As the church, we want this to be true for Greenville.

2. Our neighbors live here.

When the religious leader asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus’ answer was the parable of the good Samaritan. Our neighbors are those who are within our reach and who are in need. This loving of our neighbors takes on a variety of embodiments throughout our daily life. HOC Day is a once a year event that gives us one more opportunity to love those around us.

3. Organizations need love, too.

There are a multitude of nonprofit organizations in Greenville who invest their time and energy into empowering the individuals in our community each day. During HOC Day, we get to come alongside these groups and give back to them- providing the manpower to complete projects to make their facilities better. And, who knows? You may just end up coming back to serve with that organization throughout the rest of the year on you own.

4. Serving is humbling.

Let’s be honest, each of us needs a regular serving of humble pie. Giving of our time and energy to benefit others is an opportunity for us to humble ourselves. Jesus is described as One who “took the humble position of a slave…and humbled himself in obedience to God” (Philippians 2:7 & 8). When we spend our Saturday morning mulching flower beds for the good of another, we take one small step towards looking a little bit more like our Savior.

If you haven’t already, mark your calendar for May 2, and sign up yourself, your family, or your community group below.

 

HOC Day Sign Up Form


read more

Living Homesick

 
DSC_1170

Living in Kenya, I’ve experienced varying levels of homesickness. My feelings towards home have felt a bit like a roller coaster- with moments of exhilarating excitement in my new surroundings, times when my stomach drops suddenly and feelings of loneliness and longing rush me downward, and unanticipated twists and turns of cross-culture living that leave me with feelings of discomfort and dizziness.
None of these experiences should surprise or alarm; it’s a part of the reality of living in a place that is not home. And, to be honest, these challenges are part of the draw for me to do what I do.

In all of it, I’m constantly reminded of a truth that’s a reality for each of us as Christians. This world is not our home. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we are only passing through. We are foreigners; we are not meant to feel the complete comfort or ease of home in this life. (Philippians 3:20-21)

There are innumerable implications for one who is a foreigner. Language, customs, values, and traditions differ, and I have often found myself lost and disoriented as I’ve tried to interact with those around me. In a room full of people, I’m the only one who does not speak their language. I’m easily left behind in conversations; it’s not unusual for me to smile confusedly while everyone in the room laughs at a joke or funny comment spoken in Swahili.

 

This world is not our home.Our citizenship is in heaven,

and we are only passing through.

 

The food I’m served is unfamiliar; sometimes I am unable to even identify the ingredients. Greeting friends requires a handshake or a kiss on the cheek every time you see them. Women are expected to serve the food to the men and to modestly avoid wearing anything that would show their thighs. Being on time is not as important as being invested in the conversation once you get there. An open door policy reigns; anyone is welcome in your home at almost anytime. 

These, among many other expectations and customs, create the challenge of living in a place that is not your home. However, what I find most intriguing is this: beneath all the color and music and tradition, culture presents to us something deeper and far more self-revealing. For all that is the surface of culture, there lies beneath it a set of core beliefs about reality. This worldview is the measuring stick for an entire group of people, and this explains why even as I learn to follow the cues and expectations of my host culture, I am still inherently American in my thinking and values. 

Concepts such as the importance of time and efficiency, individualism and personal freedoms, and the value of hard work reign in our culture. Time is regarded as a personal possession, therefore I must use mine well and also show respect for yours. The success of each individual is raised above that of the group; I am urged to pursue my own dreams and achievements at any cost. Laziness is looked down upon as hard work and self-improvement show great character. 

None of these values are fundamentally wrong or misplaced in themselves. But yet they are secondary. We would be remiss to claim their absolute universal value or to insist on their superiority to those priorities and values of other people groups. In as much as we find within ourselves a fierce loyalty to these above ideas, what we must remember is this: as followers of Jesus, we are called to be loyal to a different set of values and priorities. We must not allow ourselves to feel at home in this world. God’s Word often admonishes us to avoid conforming to the world in which we now live. Instead, each day should serve as a reminder to our souls that home is yet to come. The values of the world around us should stir something deep inside us and remind us that we are not where we belong. 

 

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be loyal to a different set of

values and priorities.

Granted, it’s quite possible to live comfortably in a culture that’s not yours. The feelings of unfamiliarity eventually wear off as you grow in your understanding of the people around you. Yet as Christians, we must guard against this in a spiritual sense. We must lead our minds and our hearts by setting our hope on the life to come. We must teach our souls to long for our eternal home. It is a discipline far too easy to overlook.

Even in the contentment and joy I found in Kenya, I never stopped living with my home in view. I understood that I was not a Kenyan, but a visitor in the country for a season. My daily life was inhabited by this tension- a tension of now and not yet, of hope fulfilled and hope to come, of being a part yet never quite belonging.

All too often, we are distracted by this life. We are busy rushing from one event to the next; we are comfortable building our kingdoms here in this life. The priorities of a world-focused life will eventually prove futile. We must choose to set our hope and to set our hearts on our eternal destination. For “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

 

-Megan Gaminde


read more