In the course of a week, I normally get at least 5, sometimes up to 10, phone calls about new cases special needs children who need help. Whether that be medical needs, wheelchairs, education related inquiry, or family assistance. My phone never stops ringing, and most days I want to turn it off completely in order to get even 5 minutes of free time. Here’s an example of a few of the cases I’ve been called about in the last two weeks:
- Child is 4 years old with hydrocephalus. Can not walk, but can speak and has high cognitive function. Mother is being abused by husband, verbally and physically. Has two children, child with hydrocephalus, and a 3 year old. 3 year old attends school during the day, but mother cleans a nearby bar in the mornings to make money. Can’t take child with hydro to work with her, so she has to lock her inside their one room. Child cries and neighbors get angry at mother and tell her she needs to kill her child, or they will kick her out of the compound.
- Child is 8 and has cerebral palsy and seizures. Child was born normally developing, and had major seizure at age 2, and has since not been able to walk, talk, or be independent. Husband kicked mother and child out of the house, saying that the mother was cheating on him with another man, which is why child had seizure and is now disabled. No place mother and child to go, and no job for mother.
- Child is 7 and has Down Syndrome. Child attends our inclusive school and is excelling rapidly. Child comes crying to me one morning and mother calls to tell me child’s father has died, leaving the family with no support. Mother can’t find a job because her name has been spread in the community as having a disabled cursed child.
- Child is 3 months and has many special needs due to medicine mother took while pregnant to try and abort him. Mother plans to kill child because of baby’s “curse”, and want to poison him immediately to rid the family of the evil.
- Child is 9 months with progressing hydrocephalus. Family tried to do cultural medicine on the child to heal the child of the “curse”, and ended up injuring the child in the process. Child goes in and out of consciousness many times a day.
Five. Those are shortened versions of five cases that I got called about in the last two weeks. There are many, many more that I could share with you. These are just a few.
I will be the first one to tell you that this life and work it not easy. At all. Not one bit. There is nothing “simple” or “easy” about living in Ghana and working with special needs children. Every week I am bombarded with stories and situations like the five mentioned above. Many of the stories have overlapping themes: stigma, financial hardship, unsupporting spouses, unwelcoming community, medical emergencies, hopelessness, suffering children, joblessness, and a lot of struggle.
In all of this, its so easy for my heart to become hardened. It’s simpler to turn away from the situations rather than facing them head on. It’s less much less complicated to turn a blind eye, rather than working knee deep in the mess. It’s easier to pretend it isn’t happening. Because knowing that it is happening and not doing anything about it is seeing a problem and not working towards a solution. It’s seeing struggle and not reaching out your hand to help. It’s watching others suffer and saying, “It’s your problem, not mine”.
And if I’m being honest, thats what I want to do some days. I want to shut off my phone and take a few minutes to breathe and focus on my own personal needs, rather than constantly tending to the needs of others. But that my friends, is the ugly parts of my heart crawling their way to the surface. Because I didn’t move to Ghana to follow my own personal desires, I moved to Ghana to follow His desires for my life. To follow His plans. To pursue His calling for the time I have on earth. And that means not allowing my heart to harden in the process of hearing similar stories and situations over and over and over again. It means picking up every phone call and walking into every home visit with a clean, open, and welcoming heart. And not thinking, “what rendition of the story will I hear today?”, but “what is God trying to show me through this family’s situation, how can The Treasured Ones be off assistance to them, and how can I point them back to God in the process?” It means waking up everyday and saying “God, show me today how to be more like You, always gracious, always attentive, always loving”.