Broken Body, Living Spirit

Handicapped Compassion Child in TZ

Handicapped Compassion Child in TZ

This picture was taken on the second day I met this child.   His Compassion International sponsor is sitting on the other seat of this teeter-totter.   He’s beautiful, isn’t he?  At first glance, it would appear that this smiling boy was healthy and strong.   The grin on his face (missing tooth included) is obviously full of joy.  More importantly, there is a wonderful story behind that grin that I would like to share with you.

The first day I met this seven year-old little boy was the same day I met our own sponsored child, Witness, for the very first time.  Filled with intense emotion from meeting my own child,  I could not begin to anticipate how much more I would further be impacted that day.  Witness came with us as we traveled towards a Maasai compound a couple of miles outside of the small Tanzanian town of Namanga, located near the Kenyan border.

The Maasai (in Tanzania) believe that every cow belongs to them — because simply put, God gave the cow to the Maasai.   Thus, surrounding the compound was a fence made of thorny branches that were collected and stacked on top of each other until they formed a formidable barrier.   Its purpose:  to protect their cows and goats from the multitude of wild animals wandering in the African bush.

Within the compound were several round homes made of a mixture containing cow dung and dirt.  This mixture is pressed onto interwoven twigs shaped into a circular structure and allowed to dry.  A thatch roof is made out of collected plant material.  To enter the home, you must enter through a small entrance about 4 feet in height, squatting through the snail-like circular entrance until you are inside of the pitch-black small hut.   There is nothing in the hut except a couple of log seats, approximately 1 foot off of the ground and 8 feet or so in length.

When I entered the hut, I was immediately claustrophobic.  It was deathly dark  and had a very unpleasant smell.  The reason?  The Maasai  often bring their goats/stock animals inside of the hut at night to protect them.  They sleep communally – animals and humans squeezed together in a dark, tight space.  In Africa, everything is done in the name of survival.

Upon our arrival at this particular Maasai homestead, I noticed this young boy on the ground.  At first I thought he was playing, but as I looked closer, I saw that he could not walk.  He used his arms to drag his little body wherever he needed to go…..and he did so with a smile and a chuckle on his face.  It didn’t matter that his knees scraped in the rocky dirt and his bare feet dragged uselessly behind him.   Occasionally, he would sit back and rest his arms, balancing on his crossed, non-operative legs.2006-06-20-187a2

His life began in abandonment.  His mother chose to leave him while he was still very young, so his aunt took him into her home and became his caretaker.  They did not discover the boy could not walk until he was well over two years old and had not yet begun to take a first step of any kind.

This starts to sound like any other story until you realize that it is a rather remarkable story.  You see, within the Maasai culture, handicapped and deformed children like this little boy are often killed at birth when it becomes apparent they are not strong enough to contribute to the family.   Miraculously, God had chosen to save this little boy.  God, in His mercy, protected this little guy for the first two years of his life.  For whatever reason, his family decided to let him live even after they discovered that he could not walk.

I see it another way.  God chose for this little boy to live.

The day we visited this family, the sponsor of this boy was with us.  However, this was not the first time he had seen this boy. On this man’s first visit to this Maasai family, he was frustrated with his inability to help this little boy, afraid that if he got involved, he would be getting involved in a hopeless and impossible situation.   His rational mind prevented him from picking up and holding this child in an effort to prevent any sort of attachment to form.   A small part of him could not see beyond the handicap to see the beautiful creation of God set before him, because to do so might usher in a false sense of hope for all involved.

new-picture-1Over the course of the next year, God worked within the heart of this wonderful, compassionate man ……and changed it.   It was not something that he did on his own; it was a work that God did within him. He contacted the country office in Tanzania and asked them to inquire about the child, knowing that a child with these disabilities faces extreme hardship in the bush.  Six months later, he received notice that this child was ready to receive a sponsor…..and he became that sponsor.  Because Compassion International was able to come to the assistance of this child and offer support to the family, he was sent away from home to receive physical therapy and…….he now walks. More importantly, this little guy now has a sponsor of his very own.  This man, in turn, has been given a little glimpse of heaven — all through the eyes of this one very special crippled child.

This story holds such glory, magnificence, and significance for me.  Glory in that God was glorified! Magnificent in that a man’s heart was broken by Jesus to love others in the same way that Jesus loved him….in his brokenness.    Significant in that I, and every other human, is like this man.  We all need to be given a new vision and definition of beauty, and only a Holy God can do that within us.

On his third visit to Tanzania, God gave this man an even greater gift — the gift of seeing this young boy walk with the aid of walking sticks, thanks to Compassion’s effort to provide physical therapy to this child.

Is it not amazing that our Great God cares for little crippled boys far out in the bush of Africa and calls them valuable?

2 Corinthians 8:9   For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nancy Schultz on January 13, 2009 at 10:39 AM

    Hi Kathy–Thanks for sharing this story–it is one of my favorites in a long line of great Compassion stories. This little boy’s name is Lejeshi. Brad and I feel SO blessed to have been on the Tanzania trip with Doug West (Lejeshi’s sponsor and Compassion Southeast Regional Advocate Director). Many people know Doug as such a wonderful servant of God and of His children, and we are blessed to count him as a great friend, as well. The tears of joy on Doug’s face as he watched Lejeshi walking with his “crutches” is something that will be forever in my heart. Another touching part of this story was that we were meeting our sponsored children at a place outside of Arusha that had a playground. Lejeshi just wanted Doug to push him most of the day on the merry-go-round. I think Lejeshi felt truly free–like he was flying–on that merry-go-round. Doug, of course, gladly accommodated him and pushed him around and around, with Lejeshi beaming the whole time!

    Thanks for chronicling this amazing story. It is such a concrete example of Compassion literally saving the life of a child and fostering the blending of two wonderful hearts: Lejeshi’s and Doug’s. Praise the Lord!

  2. Posted by Phayne on January 13, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    Wow, Kathy! This story just makes you want to adopt ALL the children so not one will be left out!

  3. Kathy you asked me to read your blogs, thank you for the pictures and the lovely words you have written you have shown me what Compassion does by actually going to the country and being there.

  4. Posted by hellogoodness on January 13, 2009 at 7:21 PM

    What a wonderful story! God sure can do amazing things!

  5. Posted by Bruce on January 13, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    This is a very special story about very special little boy that was obviously chosen by God to live much longer than his local culture would normally allow.

    Damn, you’re good.

  6. Posted by Sherri on January 13, 2009 at 10:11 PM

    Kathy,
    You are a great writer with a gift of touching people’s hearts. thanks for the uplift today.

  7. Posted by Carol on January 14, 2009 at 7:56 AM

    Hey Kathy…just finished reading the story, and I agree with Bruce:) You are one great writer! Compassion should put you on as a journalist:) Your heart is so open to all these children, and I see the love in your heart as you talk about each and everyone one of them. Thank you for introducing me to Compassion. I have enjoyed the experience with Kowa, and know Compassion is doing great work with as many of God’s little children, as they can…and can find sponsors for.

  8. Posted by Susan on January 14, 2009 at 1:41 PM

    Kathy, thanks for turning me on to your website. The combination of your photos (I especially liked the elephant) and your words really brought the subjects to life. You do have a gift and a story to tell…keep it coming!

  9. Posted by Amy on January 27, 2009 at 2:39 PM

    Kathy – you write so well – to help us all feel as if we are there, present in the moment with with the people. Your photos capture the joy and hope found where Jesus is present and working. Thank you for taking the time to share you story with us. To God be all the glory.

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