Today, I had the opportunity to go on house visits with a physical therapist from the Handicapped Center. Here’s a little bit of background about the center from SIM’s website:
“In 1989, Françoise Pedeau, a nurse and midwife, decided to borrow a wheelchair to help a disabled child named Moussa. But after seeing the profound change in the child’s life, Françoise knew that much more must be done. Soon the Centre for the Advancement of the Handicapped (CAH) was launched in Mahadaga, Burkina Faso.
Today, more than 20 years later, Handicapés en Avant provides medical treatment, post-surgery care, physiotherapy and specialty equipment to handicapped children and adults. A school on the property provides quality education for the deaf and blind. In addition, vocational and life skills training enables these children to gain independence.
Not only has tremendous expansion occurred in the last 20 years, the Centre has also physically, emotionally and spiritually transformed the lives of thousands of children and their families.”
This morning, Thomas and I walked 15 minutes down the road through Mahadaga to the center to meet Matt Walsh and the physical therapists who would be taking us with them. I went with Diassabo on four house visits from about 8 am – 1:30 pm. We drove about an hour and a half south west of Mahadaga by motorbike. Out here there are rarely any cars that pass on the road, but there are always people traveling by motorbike and bicycles. I am often surprised by the things they manage to carry on their motorbikes and even the number of people they are able to fit. Bicycles also seem very essential to their culture, today a man asked me if I could bring his son a bicycle…I wish I could. Diassabo and I spent a lot of time traveling, swerving down the dirt roads (or sometimes what just seemed to be fields), dodging pot holes, rocks, donkeys, goats and even driving (at a walking pace) straight through a large herd of cattle. It was most certainly a bumpy ride, but it was much better than I had expected. On the house visits it is the physical therapist’s job to give care to the patients, bring medication, make assessments and report to the center on the patient’s condition, take care of loan payments, and act as a social worker. Diassabo seemed to be very good at working with the families. At the first home we went to, there were two patients, one young man who was blind and his younger brother with cerebral palsy. Diassabo reported on the condition of Timotee’s wheelchair, spoke with the family, and checked the garden that the center helped the family establish. At the other homes, one family made a loan payment for a sewing machine that the center trained them with, Diassabo delivered medication to a mother who’s son has epilepsy and finally we stopped at the shop of a young deaf man who was trained to become a tailor by the center.
On these house visits, I received a much closer glimpse into Burkinabe life, a whole different world than the one that I know. A life where clean water may be miles away, where the shade of a tree is at the center of your home, where phone numbers are written on the sides of homes, where people wear winter hats and jackets on hot days, where there seems to be more kids than adults (because kids often don’t live to adulthood), where people don’t have the privilege of choosing a “vocation,” where small children are sometimes afraid of me because they have never seen a white person…I could go on with the differences both large and small, but the one thing that has stuck with me the most is that at all of the homes we visited, Diassabo and I were received with the kindest hospitality. Although I do not speak the language and I am not familiar with the culture, it is clear to me how generous the Burkinabe are. In every home, someone would immediately bring us nice chairs and offer us drinks. I was especially struck by the generosity shown to our team when we were offered lunch out well drilling yesterday. Despite the fact that there were a lot of mouths to feed, we were given very large portions. (I am glad that Eleanor had previously told me that kids receive the adults’ leftovers because my first instinct when I received the large portion of food would have been to eat it all in order to show thanks. At home you may hear people say, “finish your food, there are starving kids in Africa,” but here, that doesn’t make sense. Don’t finish your food because there are hungry kids sitting around the corner.) For subsistence farmers to offer us their food, which they do not have an abundance of and they depend on for survival, it is true generosity. I pray that these people are blessed by their generosity and better understand God’s grace because of it, “for it is in giving that we receive” (St. Francis of Assisi). I came here to serve, in hopes of giving to the people of Mahadaga through our work in oil pressing. I don’t know how successful in pressing oil we will be by the time we leave, but even if we achieve great success in pressing oil, somehow I feel like I will still have received more from the people here through their acts of generosity. I don’t know if I’m making much sense, but I came here with the intent of giving and now I feel as though I am receiving so much more. Please pray that our team is able to serve the community in Mahadaga well, in every capacity that we can, through our work with the press, other projects that we work on, and interactions that we have with people.
Today I also learned some more about the school at the Handicapped Center. While most schools have about a 50% passing rate, last year, the Handicapped Center school had all but one student pass. (Unfortunately once students fail, their parents may stop sending them to school because it is too expensive, this is especially the case for girls.) Because of its success, a lot of kids go to the school, even kids who are not handicapped. This turns out to be a wonderful thing for the community because all of the students learn sign language, which allows for the deaf to be more involved in the community. I was amazed at church on Sunday that the service was given not only in Gorma and French, but also in sign language; it was wonderful. I especially loved the youth group on Sunday afternoon. Jubilee, one of the missionaries from SIM, leads a youth group every Sunday with four other Burkinabe young adults. There were about 60 kids there probably middle school and high school aged. Half of the time was beautiful joyful song and praise and dancing and the second half was a talk. I loved the youth group so much and as Jubilee was giving the talk, I thought of my Young Life kids at home and wanted to get up there and join her in speaking to these kids. Although these kids live across the globe, speak a different language, are a part of a different culture, and have much less, the gospel is the same and their need for Christ’s love and grace is the same. Youth ministry here does not look as different as you may think; its about making disciples by loving God and loving others.