23 Apr 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 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.
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?”
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.
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.