"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who found treasure buried in a field…"
What was your childhood like? Are you fond of these memories or are they a source of pain to you? Do you remember dinners around the table with your family and friends? Perhaps school was not your "thing", but you went like everyone else because the law required it and your parents knew that it was as important as eating. For some perhaps, the dinners and family times are not something you think back on fondly.
Now imagine being treated as a second class family member and community citizen because of your disability, not even being permitted to eat with the rest of the family or go to school with the others. Your siblings go off to school in the morning while you are a slave carrying water or firewood for the day. At dinner time, your family of 8 eats in the 125 square foot hut but you know instinctively that you are not welcome. Your "dining room" is under the tree at the corner of the property. In many cases, you may be told you are not even welcome at home and you are driven to an unknown town and dropped off to figure life out on your own. In this culture, if you are disabled at all, you have brought a "curse" on your family and community, you are denied your education and too often you are chased away with only promised threats if you return.
Variations on the above are the norm for most disabled children born in Kenya as well as many Third World countries. The Canadian standards of inclusion and tolerance are nowhere to be found here and too often, we westerners don't realize how good we have it.
This is Eric.
Eight years ago, Eric was living with extended family in Kakamega Forest in western Kenya. As a deaf boy, he did not qualify for government education as healthy children do and so while the other children in the area went to school, Eric stayed home. Without giving the details of Eric's background, suffice it to say that education was not in his future until someone found him and brought him to a local school that specializes in education for deaf children.
I was delighted to see Eric again yesterday at his school in Webuye, Kenya. His hugs and smiles revealed a healing heart. It was like finding treasure. Over the years, I have appreciated seeing his progress not only in education, but especially in confidence and character. His teachers describe him as a compassionate young man and have assigned him as a mentor to a class of younger children at this school. After being misunderstood for years, Eric is now in Standard 8 (grade 8) and heading into the country's national exams in another year. These exams will determine whether he will continue on into Secondary School or into a trade school.
Eric is one of thirty-four deaf children who the sponsors of ReACT have come behind over the past 9 years. Each has a unique story. Each heart is like buried treasure. Each heart is showing signs of the kingdom of God.
"…then in his joy, he went and sold all he had and bought that field."